we're about to book our first cruise.

One of the reasons we want to do it, is essentially it's a cheap way to go on a nice, relaxing holiday.

Doing my research, I know that generally, things such as food and board are covered in the initial cost. I was wondering, if anyone has been on a cruise, what other types of costs are there?

Costs such as - Drinks - I figure they wouldn't be part of the package but are they like super expensive? - Tipping - I'm from Australia, where we don't tip at all, what's the etiquete? Do I have to tip? Is it automatically taken from my account? Is it part of the fee? - Day activities - When you get to a place, how much a tours? - Internet

Anything else I've neglected?

What I would like to know is if I pay $2000 for a cruise that goes for about 15 days, how much more would I generally be spending after I get on the cruise?

5 Answers 5


My experience is with Carnival Cruise lines. It may be different on other lines.

The two biggest things that will run up your tab are drinks and shore excursions.

Drinks: Expect to pay $2-$4 for a beer or coke, and $7-$12 for a mixed drink. You can often buy a "Fountain card" or something like that that is a fixed price for sodas throughout the cruise. Probably a good deal if you are a big soda drinker or are with kids. You get juice, iced tea and water at no charge. Oh yeah, and they add an automatic tip on every drink. I'm sure you could ask them to take the tip off, but you'd look like a tool for doing it considering the (mostly) Phillipinos who serve you drinks are probably working 16 hour days for peanuts.

Shore Excursions: These can really add up. You could easily double the price of your cruise if you do a lot of the higher end ones. You can usually save a ton of money by not booking them through the cruise ship and just pre-arranging them through the internet or booking them at the kiosks that are inevitably right next to the dock at each port. The cruise director will tell you all sorts of scary stories to dissuade you from doing this, but it is mostly bunk. Often the cruise ship goes through the exact same tour companies and they add as much as a 2-3x markup.

The Fancy Dining option: There is usually a high-end restaurant that you need reservations for and charges a $25-$30/person. I never bother with them. The regular dining options are good enough for me. But if you are a surf & turf aficionado you might want to budget for that.

Internet is super expensive, around 70 cents a minute if I recall. You can buy bulk minutes, but it isn't that much cheaper. You are better off just bringing a laptop or smartphone and using them in ports. I had no trouble finding free wifi at most ports.

Cell Phone: Danger Will Robinson! Your cell phone will work on-board, but be prepared for a huge bill when you get back. I STRONGLY suggest turning off your phone on board or at least disabling the ability to receive calls and text messages. You can passively run up a bill that way.

Tips: This is one thing I like about cruises. They just add about $10/day/person to your bill for tips and there is an option at the end of the cruise to add to that tip for the room steward, maitre'd, etc. There is absolutely no pressure at all to add to that tip, i.e. there is no one standing with their palm out.

I never minded tipping for service, I always just hated having to carry cash around to do it. They make this process very easy on board. You really don't need to have cash on board at all.

Bottom Line: I tend to buy at least a few drinks/day and find my own shore excursions. With a few souvenirs thrown in here and there I typically spend about 50% of the cruise price in extras per person.

  • 2
    +1 Very thorough, great answer! On Princess we would buy a six-pack or two of local beer at each stop, and as long as we kept it in our room nobody cared.
    – Sean W.
    Jun 18, 2011 at 22:22
  • +1 good tip about the excursions! I'll have to look into that. Those prices for drinks - you couldn't get a beer for $2-4 in Australia these days!
    – Joe.E
    Jun 19, 2011 at 0:16
  • 1
    I should mention that the prices I quoted were in US Dollars.
    – JohnFx
    Jun 19, 2011 at 17:52
  • The shore excursions we took were some of the most fun and memorable parts of the cruise my wife and I took along the coast of Alaska. We basically thought of the ship as a floating hotel and meals, and it was enjoyable yes, but the real fun was the excursions, so yes, you can spend a bit there, but it's a big part of the experience. Good tip on booking those directly Jun 20, 2011 at 7:01

If you are careful, you don't need to spend much more than the cruise price. The cruises I've been on, they biggest extra was soda and alcohol (mainly wine with dinner). If you are fine drinking water or iced tea, there is no need for that. Food extras, like ice cream at the pool, may be an extra charge as well.

The way it works is that your room key acts like a credit card, and gets charged to your room. Its easy to run up a big bill if you aren't paying attention, so you may want to keep track of it as you go along. You can also go to the pursers office at any time and find out your current account.

Generally, the cruise automatically charges a certain amount per day for tips for your room steward and dining room attendants. You are expected to tip for spa services (another extra charge) and shore excursion guides.

Shore excursions vary greatly depending on what you are doing. Maybe $50-$100 per person for a bus tour to much more than that for things like scuba diving, or fishing. You can also either book tours yourself, or just get off and wander around. It depends where you are going. Many times, the ships dock far away from anything you might want to see. There are generally taxis or shuttles to the tourist places, but that is another charge.

Shipboard internet is generally charged by hour, and quite expensive (several dollars per hour). Part of the attraction for me is unplugging completely, so I generally don't bother. On older ships, you probably are limited to the internet lounge. Some of the newer ships have wi-fi in the state rooms as well.

The drinks on board aren't cheap, but not outrageous either. Probably similar to an upscale club. They also have a daily drink special, which is cheaper. Technically, you aren't allowed to bring your own alcohol on board. If you buy something in a port, you need to check it with them. This policy may vary by cruise line, but has been true on the Princess and Costa cruises I've been on. That said, as long as you are low-key, they probably won't know or care.

  • in terms of alcohol costs - would they cost more than it would at say, just a normal bar on land? And were you allowed to bring any on board?
    – Joe.E
    Jun 18, 2011 at 13:16
  • Most cruise ships will confiscate any liquor they catch you trying to bring onboard (they return it at the end of the cruise), but that's the worst that will happen if they catch you. So it is worth it to try to sneak it onto the ship at a port.
    – JohnFx
    Jun 18, 2011 at 16:11
  • 1
    As for alcohol costs. On my last Carnival cruise the beers were about $3 and the mixed drinks were in the range of $7-$12
    – JohnFx
    Jun 18, 2011 at 16:12
  • 1
    On Princess last year the beers were $4-5 and mixed drinks $6-12. We usually had a bottle of wine with dinner (in the $20-$40 range).
    – Sean W.
    Jun 18, 2011 at 22:23

If you intend to gamble, you should bring cash with you and turn your chips into cash at the end of the night. If the casino closes and you haven't cashed in your chips before docking, you'll be out of luck. Also if you use your ship card to get money for gambling, they will charge you a hefty fee.

If you use the electronic poker table or a machine that doesn't take actual money, you'll have to use your ship card. Make sure when you leave the at the end of the night that you "cash in" your electronic winnings. This is really confusing, but the machines will debit your ship card, into a 'casino account' and if you just walk away thinking it will net out your other purchases (drinks, food, etc) you will lose all of that money.

Summary: If you gamble, use real money and convert your winnings back into real money.


As I understand it, the cost of the cruise just about pays for your room, plus reasonable food. It doesn't always pay for the room service, even, which is why tipping is encouraged.

The line makes money on the EXTRAS. The largest of these are the land tours that take place on an almost daily basis. Also, they manufacture and sell a "cruise video," as well as souvenirs. They also have special events on board such as art auctions, where "concessionaires pay the ship to let them try to make money on it.


You can save a bit by getting an interior cabin, but it can be a bit weird to be in a room with NO window and NO natural daylight. It's strangely really easy to lose all track of time, especially if you don't set an alarm.

We spent very little time in our stateroom outside of sleeping, or changing clothes etc. So IMHO there's no reason to overspend on the stateroom. OTOH, A room along the outside of the ship will cost more, but might be worth the cost difference. You don't need a full balcony or any of that, however a simple window even if partially occluded by something, really changes the feel of the room and makes it a lot less 'cave' like.

JohnFx covered just about everything else I'd have had to say.

  • I pretty much agree with Chuck. But I would just add that this is strictly a personal preference thing. My wife and I didn't mind not having a window one bit. (It makes afternoon naps and sleeping in easier.) I would rather save money on the room and use that extra money for more drinks or excursions. But some people are more affected by their environment than I am. If that is you than you might need to get a room with a window to keep your sanity.
    – Stainsor
    Jun 20, 2011 at 13:09
  • I agree @Stainsor, an interior room is a great way to save, and really we don't regret doing that. That said, we felt for us, that next time we'd like a little daylight, so we would move up to the next class of room (obstructed view or something like that?) to get a window. I wouldn't spend for more than that, especially not a private balcony or anything of that sort.. there's oodles of places on the ship you can sit down and watch the world go by, no need for it to add cost to your stateroom. Jun 20, 2011 at 17:55

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