How much does a cruise cost?

By ,   November 23, 2015 ,   Tips & Tricks

How much does a cruise cost? What is included in cruise prices? What costs extra on cruise ships? For first-timers who don't like booking all-inclusive luxury cruise ship vacation deals, these are the very first questions asked. Still, it's hard to answer those right away. To compare only the cheapest cruise prices and see exactly how much does a cruise cost per person, see the list of all vessels at our cruise tracker hub. There are listed all ships available for tracking, with their detailed sailing schedules and cabin prices per person.

The following review is integrated with How to pick a cruise?

In this article, you will learn a lot about the ship cruise cost in general, including about the hidden costs of cruises. When you budget a voyage, have in mind the following:

  • First, you'll have to pay for the voyage itself. Generally, cruise deals are inclusive of meals, accommodations and the entertainment on board.
  • Secondly, you may need significant budget for all expenses on the boat that will exceed the price you have already paid. A typical ship traveler spends additional 50% above the price paid on cruise rate. In other words, for a total fare of $2,000, you may expect to spend around $1,000 in extras, such as drinks (especially on alcohol), shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities.

Is there a way to reduce vacation spendings and keep them within budget?

How much does a cruise cost?

Cruise price is determined by variable factors, including:

  • Cuise cost depends mainly on the kind of vacation you look for. It’s like any other things you buy. The products you choose depend on the how important they seem to you.
  • Where you go and the time of year you choose for a cruise - where you live, where you’d fly from, cruise ship terminal car parking.
  • How long you’d like your voyage to be and what type of a vacation you are going to take.
  • Which line and ship you’d choose. There are very cheap, affordable, inexpensive and really expensive cruise ship lines. And there are those cruise charters for the really really rich guys who can afford to book the whole ship. I mean, to book all the cabins - say, for a special occasion or a business meeting. Me and you - nope, we are definitely not that lucky in life!
  • How quickly you'd pay for booking? Which agency you'd choose to book with.
  • What accommodations you'd choose and how many passengers would share the cabin with you. How old you are. What is your kids age.
  • What are the additional package inclusions to the cruise fare. Are there any promotional offers when you make a reservation.

The answer of the question about how much is it to go on a cruise is not simple because you have to consider lots of things. This type of travel deals typically cost up to 30% less than resort vacation deals. Cruises are priced in a different way than other types of travel and the advertised fares are not what you would pay for a ticket. Have in mind the following:

  • Double occupancy: the fares that are advertised, are based on it. If you want to travel alone in cabin, you’ll have to pay the full price of the stateroom. When you share with third/fourth person (kids on rolling beds), you'd add a little more than if you were two. The exception of this rule is booking a single cruise
  • Taxes and fees are generally not included in the price when a voyage is advertised - the usual amount is up to 5%.
  • Fuel surcharge: when fuel prices go up, major lines charge additional $5-10 per day, per person, to cover fuel costs.

All mainstream lines tempt their happy customers to spend big money in expansive spas, numerous specialty dining venues, concept bars and stylish lounges. Always have in mind that if you want to pamper in the spa, have a dinner or a fruity cocktail outside the main dining room, you must give your on board pass card and pay for all at the end of the voyage. However, since it's too hard to say no to a most fun shore excursion, or a formal night photo, or a spa discount deal in port, or to the so very good looking cocktails that some passengers enjoy all the time, be sure to set aside some "live once" cash money to cover such expenditures. Make a vacation budget, then try to stick to it.

Now you know that the answer of how much does a cruise cost is not simple and there are lots of things to consider. Cruising is an excellent value, 20-30% less than comparable land vacation. Cruises are differently priced than other travel types. Read the following review and see what the advertised cruise prices really mean, what is and what is not included.

What is included in cruise prices?

If you understand what is included in a cruise cost, this will help with budgeting and would eliminate the worries that usually spoil the vacation experience. Many travelers are so limited by necessary expenditures that they can’t experience the relaxation at all.

At first glance, your cruise ship vacation might seem more expensive than a typical land vacation. Depending on the length, itinerary, line, number of passengers per cabin, cruise prices may range from $300 to several thousand. For a budget-conscious vacationer, these may seem huge costs.

However, there is much value included in the cruise price and you don’t need to pay for basic necessities as accommodation and food, transportation, as well as for entertainment – pools, shows, contests, etc. Ship cruises allow travelers to see varied ports of call, countries and cultures. And the best part of it is you don't need to change hotels, with the packing-unpacking process that goes with it. Passenger ships are closed environments and your kids can choose from a huge variety of activities by the lines' supervised children programs. Relaxation costs of these "bonus" amenities on board are incalculable.

Cruise price inclusions

Cruise price inclusions vary between lines and also by voyages. Prices are always inclusive of cabin accommodations (excepting on ferry cruises). Just like hotel rooms, ship staterooms have televisions, sitting areas and private bathroom facilities. Expensive staterooms also include private balconies. The most exclusive rooms feature luxurious amenities, like concierge service, multiple rooms and baths. All cabins are serviced daily by attentive stewards. What usually is included in cruise price is:

  • Staterooms feature a king sized bed easily converted into twin beds. Many cabins provide space for a third (a few for a fourth) passenger on a couch or a pull-down bed. Cabin size varies according to the category. Most accommodations are comfortable but relatively compact. All staterooms feature showers, some - bathtubs.
  • Transfers to/from your ship when the air ticket has been purchased through the line, travel between call ports, ship-to-shore tendering service (in tender ports)
  • Scheduled meals, dining at the main and casual restaurants, buffets, room service
  • Special buffets and snack bars (ice cream, pizza), deck parties
  • Morning juices, coffee and tea (sometimes milk), water from a pitcher
  • Nightly entertainment – revue shows, comedians, musicians, jugglers
  • Onboard games and activities - trivia contests, group competitions, lectures
  • Kids' activities - plenty of them, but remember that some vessels are equipped better than others, and some are adults-only ships
  • Onboard theater (movies and shows), card room, library
  • Onboard facilities, including limited sporting equipment, fitness centers, pools, whirlpools, water parks.
  • Deck chairs, sunloungers, towels.

All-Inclusive Cruise Deals

The more luxury your line is, the more likely it's to include in cruise fares "extras" like tips, non-alcoholic beverages, some even are with alcohol included. Some of the luxury cruise lines do things differently and include more, for example:

  • Crystal includes in pricing soft drinks
  • Seabourn, Silversea and Regent include soft drinks and standard alcohol
  • Un-Cruise Adventures include all shore excursions/tours
  • Oceania includes specialty dining, with restriction to one visit to each of the onboard speciality restaurants.

What is not included in cruise prices?

The label “all-inclusive” is not proper for cruise vacations. Additional fee is required by several activities on board. Most of them are optional and passengers can easily moderate added costs. The list of popular items and services that cost extra on cruises includes:

Cruise Bar Drinks

Water and juice are unlimited and absolutely free on most ships, but guests pay extra for carbonated and alcoholic beverages. Several lines offer prepaid soda cards (for soft drinks) allowing to order as many as you wish. Depending on the type, alcoholic beverages will cost you $5-10 or more. Wine by the glass or by the bottle is also available to buy. Specialty coffees come with an extra fee as well.

  • Savings tip: Most ships advertise "daily drink specials" that are discounted. Also try the happy hour two-for-one martini specials. Ask for the price of a drink in a regular glass when it's offered in a souvenir glass - it may save you some bucks. Look for free booze events, such as Captain's cocktail parties and Champagne art auctions. At meals, juices, milk, coffee and iced tea are complimentary. Plus, you can order a bottle of wine and save what you can't drink for the next night - it's cheaper than if you order wine by the glass. Buy a beer or wine package only if you're sure you'll drink enough to save. Bring your own bottled water and soda six-packs. Remember that cruise lines alcohol policies are highly restricted.
  • You can compare here alcohol inclusive cruise packages (all you can drink deals) offered by Carnival and Royal Caribbean. For more cruise liquor price related information visit our alcohol-drinks-packages section.

Specialty Dining

Food in main dining rooms is always included, but most ships offer alternative dining, of course for additional charge. The contemporary vessels provide intimate meals (reservations-only) with exotic tastes. Snacks options are also at extra charge. For example, part of the Carnival dining options is Supper Clubs diner for $30 per person. You can pay from a few dollars for ice cream cone at Ben&Jerry's or up to $35 for a specialty dining meal - even the whopping $75 for "Chef's Table" or at Disney's French restaurant, Remy.

  • Savings Tip: Simply don't go. Meals in the main dining room are quite good and plenty, featuring multiple courses. And there's the 24-hour room service. Some lines, including NCL, offer dining packages which bundle several restaurants into a package deal. Also look for deals with free meals in the specialty venues as part of an incentive package.

Cruise Shore Excursions / Land Tours

Shore excursions are not always an excellent deal, but all of them include transportation to/from the ship, local guides, the equipment. Many travelers prefer the organized excursions for outdoor activities like snorkeling or parasailing. These deals can be booked through third-party vendors or the line. Most cruise tours cost between $50-150 per person, depending on their length and involved activities.

  • Savings Tip: Tour independently at fraction of the cost. Why not even for free - if you try going on a self-guided walking tour. Request from the tourist boards some free planners with calendars of events and maps for the ports of call on the itinerary. Check out books on the destination and visit websites to get an idea on things to do and see while in port. Craft displays and local festivals, can be sources of free entertainment. Art galleries, beaches and parks are other free (nominal-charge) attractions. Or simply wander through the city, browse in shops, enjoy the local coffee, beers, food specialties. Another chance is to hire a car with driver for a private tour (less expensive than a shore excursion, especially if you're in a group). This way you could just be taken to the center of town, but always agree on price before getting into the car.

Cruise Spa & Beauty Treatments, Classes

Facials, manicures/pedicures and massages are always available in the cruise ship spa. Cruise Spa rates are equal (or higher) to the rates of high-end spa salons on land, so you may be shocked by the prices. A massage is about $110-150, more exotic treatments run into the $200-500 range. Beware of sales pitches. The staff works on a commission and often give the hard sell to persuade passengers to buy their pricey products. generally, fitness classes are complimentary, but some may cost minimal charges. Fitness classes like yoga, spinning or Pilates cost around $10-15 per session.

  • Savings Tip: Take advantage of the discounts in spa, typically offered on port days. Also check your ship's daily program for spa specials and resist the product sales pitch - ask not to be bothered at all.

Cruise Gratuities

Tipping is mandatory while cruising. Most ships do not normally include the tips in cruise fares. Typical charges cost around $10 per day. Gratuities, depending on cruise length, may be placed on your account automatically or to be prepaid. Bar tabs are additionally charged a 15% gratuity (automatically).

  • Savings Tip: You can save money in the area of cruise tipping. Adjust the auto-gratuities at the ship's purser desk or tip below the recommended if you think you have received subpar service. Do not forget that ship's crew works hard and they depend on tips. Unless the service is extremely poor (to really crappy), tip at least the amount which is recommended.

Cruise Gambling

All mainstream passenger cruise vessels feature modern casinos with slot machines, video poker and table games. Tournaments and bingo games are also frequent. Of course, not all depends on skills or luck - the Casino usually causes huge expenses. Guests may often find minimum bets, payouts and odds comparable to the major resorts in Las Vegas. Black Jack tables generally offer a minimum bet of $5 during the day, rising to $10 at night.

  • Savings Tip: Better avoid both of the above. The price you'll pay per card for bingo is up to $40 - added expense giving little chance of payout. Do not be greedy for the $3000 jackpot and spend your money elsewhere. Onboard art auctions with free alcohol are often offered, but no matter what the auctioneer claims, consider there is 90% chance this is not original art.
  • Here you can read more about gambling on Carnival cruises.

Internet on Cruise Ships

Extremely high rates for slow Internet connections - that's the usual you have to be prepared for. Most lines will charge about 75 cents/min for a pay-as-you-go plan and offer Internet packages to reduce the cost to 55 cents/min for buying Internet time in a bulk.

  • Savings Tip: You can find cheaper Internet spots in port, but you'll have to use part of your free time to check emails and surf the Web. If you take your own laptop with you, look for cafes with free Wi-Fi.
  • Here you can read more about Internet cost on Carnival cruises.

Duty-Free Shops on Cruise Ships

You may buy souvenirs from the duty-free shops on the boat. Onboard shops usually sell logo items, like magnets, hats, clothes, toys, and other connected with the travel. However, even the tacky trinkets and few T-shirts can add up if you buy for all your family and friends.

  • Savings Tip: Don't browse in the boutiques if you can't afford to buy. Inexpensive good souvenirs include handicrafts from street vendors and outdoor markets. Local products such as jellies, candy and coffee, purchased at the grocery stores in port. Bargain shopping offers are available on board toward the end of the voyage.

Cruise Photograph Services

Professional photographers are always at hand to capture the joyful moments of your ship cruise vacation. Don't forget that you have no obligation to buy the photo. Photos of cruise ships (depending on the size) cost around $5-15. All your photos will be available throughout the voyage and you can decide later to buy or not.

  • Savings Tip: Say "No, thanks" when a photographer asks to take a picture of you. Or, resist to check out your photo later in the Photo Gallery. Take pictures of your own, buy plenty of camera supplies and batteries at home, just in case. Don't forget the recharger!

How to pay for the additional cruise cost?

Most cruise ships today don't accept cash for paying onboard purchases and instead of it they issue each passenger an identification card which serves as key to the onboard charge account and helps in for various purchases of gifts, photographs, etc. Whenever a purchase is made, it is charged to your account, and you can pay for it at the end of cruise via a credit card or in cash. Most cruises require deposit for activating the shipboard account - at the end of voyage unspent funds will be refunded. Credit cards aren't charged until the end of trip, so guests are advised to be aware of spending limits. Cruise vacations bring the best value because despite all additional fees, basic fares include all the necessary amenities for a luxurious getaway, as vacationers can avoid additional charges easily.

Cruise lines make most of the revenue from onboard spendings. In order to spend the most valuable vacation, remember checking the spending account at purser's desk during your trip. Thus you'll get an idea of your spendings in order to keep within budget. Avoid 'drinks of the day', art auctions and bingo. If you desire spa treatments, use port day promotions and keep costs down. In order to reduce onboard charges some guests avoid additional expenses entirely. Follow our advice, and find the balance between being thrifty, and breaking the bank - how much does a cruise cost depends on you. After all, it's your vacation.