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Things That Add to the Cost of Your Cruise

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You’ve received a quote on your cruise that you can live with, and fit into your budget, and you’re ready to book. But let’s stop for a minute and think about what your final dollar outlay might look like by the end of your cruise.
The first added cost you may run into has to do with the quote; what you think is the initial cost of the cruise.
– You have to know if the quote you received includes “non-commissionable fees” (which used to be called Port Fees & Government Taxes). Depending on the length of the cruise these fees can add hundreds of dollars per person to the cost of your cruise ticket. Be SURE to ask for the total cost of the ticket when looking at quotes.

Aside from the cost of your ticket there can be a considerable stack of optional expenses that add to the final total, even on cruise lines that are classified as “all inclusive” (where drinks, gratuities, and even sometimes shore excursions are included), they still give you opportunities to spend more.

-Insurance- Though optional, insurance should be considered a MUST pay expense by you. Depending on the length of the cruise, insurance can be purchased for just over $100 PP. and that certainly beats loosing the cost of the cruise, or even paying for a medical evacuation from the ship, should it become necessary. 

– Drinks –

This doesn’t simply reference alcoholic drinks, like hard liquor, beer, and wine, but also soda/pop, some juices, and bottled waters. Ships generally offer ice tea, tap water (which is a purified as bottled water with the ships desalinization equipment), and perhaps a fruit punch, as well as a couple of juice choices in the morning. Coffee and hot tea are available for free, but many ships now have a specialty coffee bar, where the prices are similar to your coffee houses on land.

Since you’re on vacation, and in “relax mode” it is quite likely that you’ll imbibe in at least a few more alcoholic beverages than you would in your day to day life. And, depending on the length of your cruise, you could add some pretty significant dollars to your final total. Prices for alcoholic beverages vary somewhat from line to line, but you can expect to pay the equivalent sum you’d pay on land, in a cocktail lounge (without “happy hour” pricing). So, even 3 or 4 drinks per person per day on a seven night cruise can add in the range of $250-$350 to the final tally for a couple. Add a few bottles of wine with dinner and an extra drink here and there, and you can drive that up to $600 -$800 fairly easily.

Of course those are optional costs. If you don’t drink much it’s not difficult to keep those totals much lower. You know your drinking habits best, so you should just plan accordingly, but leave a bit of flex room in the budget, because even though I don’t even drink alcoholic beverages at home, I’ll have a few “umbrella drinks” when relaxing onboard by the pool on a sunny day.

If you’re a soda/pop drinker, or just have to drink bottled water rather than tap water, depending on your level of consumption, you could add anywhere from $5 to $50 dollars per day to your total. The high end of that range may seem high, but if you had 4 sodas, and 4 bottles of water a day, that’s already around $20. Over 7 days that’s already an additional $140 per person.

– Gambling-

Except for Disney Cruise Line, all the cruise ships have casinos onboard, and also offer Bingo games a couple of times a day. If you’re not a gambler there’s of course no need to factor this in. But, even if you’re just gambling socially, and limit yourself to say $20/day to entertain yourself at the slot machines, that’s another $140 spent on a 7 day cruise. Throw in a few Bingo games while waiting for a show to begin and that number can jump closer to $200.

– Shopping-

There are numerous opportunities to shop, both onboard and during stops in ports of call. The shopping can range from candy, to the toothpaste you forgot, in the onboard Sundry shop, to clothing items like shorts or cruise wear, to high end jewelry or electronics, cameras etc. There’s the ever popular, and ever present, “inch of gold” or T-shirt sales, as well as multiple opportunities to purchase those “little souvenirs”. Onboard shopping is made very easy because no cash is accepted for purchases; you’re supplied with an onboard charge card to use for all purchases aside from casino chips or tokens.

Purchasing photographs is another area where the costs can run up considerably high. These days, with most everyone carrying around digital cameras, I have to believe that sales of photographs are lower. However, many cruisers are drawn to having some portrait style photos of them taken by ship’s photographers, of themselves in their formal finery, or family or group photos.

There’s really no way for me to come even close to quantifying the amount you’re going to spend shopping during your cruise, but it’s a number you should be aware of.

On many ships now you can check your onboard account on you’re the TV in your cabin, and on those that don’t offer this feature, I recommend checking your onboard account at the Guest Relations desk a couple of times during your cruise; just to be aware of what you’ve spent along the way.

– Alternate Restaurants –

Most ships today offer at least one “specialty restaurant” alternative where dinner requires a surcharge for diners. At the moment the popular price of most of these alternate dining choices is @$30 per person. The food will normally be a notch above the cost included choices of the main dining room or the lido deck dining, and service levels will also be higher.

On several of the newer ships there can be anywhere from 3 to 11 or 12 of these alternate (surcharge) choices available.

I personally enjoy the alternate restaurant experiences despite the extra costs, but know it is possible to spend anywhere from $60 – $300 for a couple over the duration of a cruise.

– Shore Tours –

In each port you visit while cruising the cruise line will offer a wide variety of shore excursions, with a wide variety of costs. A simple island bus tour, or trip to the beach will likely cost you at least $35 per person. The more exotic excursions; like swimming with dolphins, or helicopter tours can cost considerably more.

In the Caribbean I find it quite easy to do things on our own; from renting a car, to booking a private excursion (which can save a few dollars from cruise line prices), to just grabbing a $5 taxi ride to a beach.

On some more exotic itineraries, further a field in the world, it might be advisable to book ship’s tours, or organized private tours. But once again, the costs can be considerable for the more adventurous tours.

-Tipping –

Tips are automatically added to your alcohol and drink purchases; at the moment the more popular rate seems to be 15% of your purchase price.

There’s also suggested gratuities for service staff onboard. At this time the “suggested” level of gratuity runs from $10 -13 per day, depending on which cruise line you’re sailing. The majority of cruise lines now offer some variation of the convenience of “allowing” the gratuities to be automatically billed to your shipboard account.

Over a 7 day cruise, that’s a minimum of another $140 for a couple.

– Odds and Ends-

There are plenty of other “odds and ends” where the cruise lines try to separate a passenger and their money.

-Some offer “special” pastry or ice cream bars.

– On most ships you can order pay-per-view movies in your cabin.

-Ships Spa services and Beauty Shop treatments are another area that can add big numbers to your final cruise tab.

-There’s also some classes available that are available for an added cost. Sometimes it’s Pilates or Yoga classes in the gym, or it can be for supplies in some arts and crafts classes.

There’s no doubt I’ve forgotten and left off several other areas and opportunities which can increase the your final cost, such as your transportation costs to get to the ship, or if a night in the hotel before your cruise to assure you get to the port on time. Perhaps those of you reading this blog can add to my list.

The fact is, if you’re careful and determined you can keep the additional costs during your cruise to a relatively small minimum; in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars.

However, to be a bit realistic, I personally recommend budgeting between 1 to 2 times the cost of your cruise ticket per person to cover the additional things you’re going to want to do or buy (excluding your travel costs, and any major purchases you may be considering). That means if you’ve spent $1000 on your cruise ticket, expect to spend at least that amount again on all the extras, in total.

A first time cruiser, or a first time visitor to some of the ports of call, are likely to spend more during their trip than the more experienced cruisers. But that’s only because “we’ve been there and have that T-shirt” already.

Of course this entire blog entry could be malarkey, because  my birthday was this week. I’ve turned 60 and my mind could be gone! I know my body is.

– A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –














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Comment from Marc
Time January 22, 2010 at 10:08 am

Not all cruise lines are created equal. On our cruise on Regent Seven Seas Navigator this summer, we ended up with a bill of ZERO which included a nice cocktail ring for my wife to use up the last of our shipboard credit.

The Mediterranean cruise fare included all port charges, air from US (we took $1000 per person credit from fare instead), free excursions, free drinks, tips included, and no photographer. As we have over 75 nights, we also got free internet, free telephone from cabin, free newspaper, and some other onboard benefits. We also had $500 shipboard credit from cruise line and $300 shipboard credit from Amex. Since we don’t use spa, we were in trouble using the credits. I got an overpriced haircut. We stocked up on some supplies in the gift shop and then got Arlene her ring.

It is nice boarding knowing that you aren’t being nickeled and dimed. This cruise ended up being a good deal (less than $400 per person after kickback from TA) even with all incuded. Taking out shipboard credit it was less than $350 per day including all of the above. This was for a 356 sq ft suite with balcony.

If you are getting nickeled and dimed too much, look at your total bill and consider moving up.


Comment from Rob H
Time January 23, 2010 at 12:03 am

Good summary Kuki,
I just realized that if you just turned 60 (happy birthday) then as a Canadian you can apply for your Canada Pension Plan monthly payment and use that for your extra expenses.


Comment from Tim Butler
Time January 26, 2010 at 2:10 am

I always figure at least $2000 extra for a 7 day cruise. It is better to be safe then sorry, plus it is nice to have extra left over if you dont use it all.

I do wish these cruise lines would be all inclusive, like some of the high end lines. I don’t like the smaller ships on the high end lines and would like to see Carnival or RCI or NCL start being all inclusive….now that would really be free style!

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