What Extras Do You Pay For On A Cruise? (15 Secret Costs!)

From the very first cruise I ever took, I knew I was in love.

The open sea, the cocktails, all the onboard experiences. I wanted it all.

However, due to my poor research skills, I didn’t realize my cruise wasn’t all inclusive. In fact, there are a lot of things, depending on the cruise line you book with, that you will have to pay extra for.

So in order to be better prepared, unlike myself, here are the things that will likely not be includes in your cruise fare..

Understanding Cruise Inclusions and Exclusions

Cruise at sea

Before booking your next cruise, it’s important to understand what is included in your cruise fare and what costs extra.

This will help you budget accordingly and make the most of your cruise vacation.

Cruise Inclusions: Most cruise fares cover the cost of your cabin accommodation, transportation to the various ports, and onboard entertainment.

Royal Caribbean, for example, includes performances in their Royal Theater, AquaTheater, Two70, and Studio B, as well as comedy shows, magic shows, live music, and audience participation shows.

In addition to entertainment, cruise fares cover some dining options, including the main dining room, buffet, and some specialty restaurants.

You also have access to several onboard amenities, such as pools and fitness centers.

Cruise Exclusions: While your cruise fare covers many things, there are certain aspects that will cost you extra. Some of these include:

  • Beverages: Bottled or sparkling water, specialty coffees and teas, and alcoholic beverages are typically not included in your fare. Many cruises offer a drink package to make your cruise more ‘inclusive.’
  • Spa services: Treatments such as massages, facials, and other beauty services are at an additional cost.
  • Shore excursions: During your time in port, guided tours and activities are generally not included. Expect to spend between $50-$100 per person on most excursions.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi access: Many cruise lines charge extra for internet access onboard the ship.
  • Specialty dining: While most dining venues are included, certain specialty restaurants may require a reservation and an extra fee.
  • Onboard activities: Some recreational activities, such as rock climbing, ziplines, or surf simulators, might have a separate charge.

You’ll want to thoroughly research and understand the inclusions and exclusions of your specific cruise fare, so you can fully enjoy your vacation without any surprises at the end.

By being aware of these factors, you can plan and budget for the perfect cruise experience.

Extra Costs On A Cruise

Bartender preparing drinks


Although some cruise lines include gratuitiesin your cruise fare, many still charge extra.

These fees typically cover service staff such as your cabin steward, dining room servers, and other crew members.

Keep in mind that you might also want to tip for exceptional service or award additional gratuities at your discretion.

Specialty Dining

While most cruise ships offer complimentary dining options, there are often specialty restaurants that come with an added cost.

These venues typically feature high-quality cuisine, intimate atmospheres, and unique dishes that you won’t find in the main dining areas.

Consider trying at least one of these dining experiences to treat yourself to something special.

Beverage Packages

Cruise lines offer various beverage packages that include unlimited soda, alcohol, specialty coffees, and more.

While these packs might seem costly upfront, they can be cost-effective if you plan to drink regularly throughout your trip.

Assess your drinking habits and preferences to determine whether a package is worth the extra expense.

Excursions and Day Trips

While exploring ports of call is a significant part of the cruising experience, shore excursions and guided tours usually aren’t included in your cruise fare.

Research possible day trips, activities, and excursions beforehand, and budget accordingly.

Don’t forget to account for transportation, meals, and souvenirs during your time off the ship.

Internet and Phone Service

Although many cruise ships provide limited free Wi-Fi, a faster connection and more data come at a cost.

Explore different internet packages to find one that suits your needs, whether it’s a daily or entire-cruise plan.

Additionally, phone service on board is not included, so consider international plans or roaming options through your provider.

Laundry Service

Cruise ships offer laundry and dry-cleaning services at an extra cost. While rates can be quite high, for longer cruises, you might not have a choice.

Pack wisely and use laundry facilities on the ship sparingly to keep expenses down.

Spa and Fitness Services

Basic fitness facilities are usually included, but classes, trainers, and spa treatments often come with additional fees.

Review the ship’s spa and fitness offerings and decide if any services are worth the investment for a more relaxing and rejuvenating vacation experience.

On-Board Shopping

Duty-free shops and boutiques sell everything from souvenirs to luxury items. Although tempting, these purchases are not included in your cruise fare.

Set a budget for on-board shopping to avoid overspending.


Casino games, bingo, and other onboard betting options are available on most cruise ships.

However, gambling expenses are not part of your initial fare. Allocate an entertainment budget for these activities and stick to it.

Arcade Games

Arcade games are extra on a cruise ship

Arcade games, like the casino, are not included in your cruise fare. Games typically cost between $1-3, so they can stack up quickly.

Certain cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, offer passengers the opportunity to pre-purchase arcade credits at a discounted rate.

Depending on the ongoing promotions, you might be able to buy $100 worth of arcade credits for just $79.99. Additionally, frequent cruisers who attain higher loyalty tiers can receive bonus arcade credits.

For instance, on Carnival Cruise Line, guests aged 17 and under with Platinum status are gifted a $5 arcade credit each time they sail.

This system encourages both savings and loyalty, enhancing the cruising experience for arcade lovers.

Specialty Activities and Entertainment

Many cruise ships provide standard entertainment like stage shows and live music at no extra cost.

However, specialty attractions like escape rooms, surf simulators, and wine tastings may require fees. Review the options available on your sailing and decide which ones you’re willing to splurge on.

Room Service

Room service is often viewed as a vacation luxury, with many guests relishing the chance to have breakfast on their private balcony.

While cruises offer a plethora of complimentary food options, it’s a misconception that room service is always free, even if it seems like it’s just buffet or dining room fare being delivered.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Generally, the food ordered is free of charge, but there might be service charges applied, depending on the cruise line and the time of day.
  • Continental breakfast is often part of your cruise package. Yet, there are exceptions. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line charges $4.95 + 20% gratuity for breakfast. This fee, however, covers hot menu items like ham and cheddar omelettes and french toast.
  • Outside of breakfast hours, there are service fees for room orders. As examples, Royal Caribbean charges $7.95 + 18% gratuity, while Norwegian and Celebrity Cruises charge $9.95 + 20% gratuity per order.

Corkage Fees

Corkage fees refer to the charge applied when guests bring their own bottles of wine or champagne onboard and wish to consume them in the ship’s dining areas or restaurants.

While many cruise lines allow passengers to bring a limited amount of wine or champagne on board, drinking it outside of your private stateroom usually incurs this fee.

The corkage fee varies by cruise line, but typically ranges from $10 to $30 per bottle.

This ensures that the staff opens, serves, and provides the necessary glassware for your beverage. It’s worth noting that if you choose to enjoy your bottle in your stateroom, you can often avoid this fee.

Before bringing your own wine or champagne, always check the specific cruise line’s corkage policy to ensure you’re aware of any associated costs.

Fitness Classes

On cruises, travelers keen on maintaining their fitness routines have options. The ship’s fitness center is typically accessible at no extra cost for those who prefer solo workouts.

However, for those inclined towards group activities:

  • Many cruise lines provide fitness classes, such as spin or pilates, for a fee, usually ranging from $12-$20 per session.
  • For more personalized attention, some ships offer personal training sessions. These are pricier, often exceeding $80 per session.

Onboard Photos

Onboard photos are extra on a cruise ship

While on a cruise, many guests are met with professional photographers capturing moments from formal night poses to candid shots during excursions.

These photos provide a tangible memory of your voyage, but they come at an additional cost.

Throughout the cruise, the taken photos are usually displayed in the ship’s photo gallery. Passengers can browse through these and decide if they wish to purchase any.

Prices can vary widely based on the cruise line, the size of the photo, and whether it’s part of a package or a single print.

Typically, individual photos might range from $15 to $30, with packages offering better value for those wanting multiple pictures.

It’s also worth noting that many cruise lines are now offering digital photo packages, allowing guests to receive all their photos digitally for a set price.

If you’re keen on keeping these professionally-taken mementos, ensure you budget for them, as onboard photos aren’t included in the initial cruise fare.

How To Budget For Cruise Extras

When planning your cruise vacation, it’s essential to consider the potential extra costs that come with it. By doing so, you ensure a smooth sailing experience without any financial surprises.

Here are a few tips on how to budget for cruise extras:

First, make sure to research your desired cruise line and ship thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with their policies and fees to avoid unexpected costs.

Some add-on expenses to keep in mind include specialty dining, shipboard spa treatments, guided shore excursions, and Wi-Fi access.

To prepare for these extra charges, create a detailed budget before booking. Allocate funds for the must-have experiences you don’t want to miss.

For example, if you love trying different cuisines, reserve a portion of your budget for tasting menus at specialty restaurants on board.

When accounting for shore excursions, bear in mind that prices can vary greatly depending on the destination and activity.

Make a list of your preferred experiences and research their costs to set aside the appropriate amount.

Remember, you don’t have to join every excursion; consider alternating between group tours and exploring ports independently to save money.

For some travelers, upgrading to a stateroom with a balcony is worth the extra cost. Consider if this is a priority for you and adjust your budget accordingly.

It might seem like a luxury, but the breathtaking views from a balcony can enhance your overall cruise experience.

Lastly, take advantage of any cruise deals or promotions that can help reduce extra costs.

Early booking discounts, group rates, and loyalty programs can significantly offset your expenses, leaving more room in your budget for additional experiences and amenities.

Ways to Save on Cruise Extras

Back of cruise ship

Pre-Purchase Packages

Before you board the ship, explore the available pre-purchase options for excursions, dining, drinks, or internet access.

By planning and paying for these packages in advance, you can often secure better deals and discounts. This will help you save money and manage expectations for your onboard spending.

Take Advantage of Promotional Offers

Keep an eye out for special promotions when booking your trip. Cruise lines may offer perks such as onboard credit, complimentary drink packages, or discounted excursions.

When taking advantage of these offers, you will be able to enjoy more services and amenities without spending extra money.

Remember to always compare different offers to determine which ones best align with your preferences and travel style.

Limit On-Board Spending

It’s easy to get carried away with spending once you’re onboard. To keep your expenses in check, set a budget for yourself and stick to it.

Focus on the activities and experiences that truly matter to you, and be cautious about purchasing expensive services, such as spa treatments or guided shore excursions.

Here are some additional tips for limiting onboard expenses:

  • Use the ship’s complimentary facilities, such as the buffet, main dining room, and pool.
  • Avoid the temptation of shopping in onboard stores, as the prices might be inflated.
  • Choose free activities over those with an extra charge, like trivia games, dance classes, or movies.

Incorporating these strategies will help you save money on your cruise vacation while still having an unforgettable time.

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