If you’ve researched all the affordable vacation options for families, you are probably aware just how cheap cruising can be. Not only are cruises easy to cover with flexible travel credit cards, but their per person fares tend to be extremely low. For example, discount cruise line MSC Cruises offers seven-night cruises on their new ship, the MSC Seaside, starting at just $439 per adult.
But, fare prices are only one part of the equation; it’s what is included in a cruise that makes them such a good value. Not only does your cruise fare cover the costs of your lodging, but you get all your meals, snacks, and entertainment covered, and all while being hauled around to different ports. Some cruise lines also let kids tag along for free, which can help you save even more.
7 Hidden Cruising Expenses You Should Know About
Push all those benefits aside, however, and you’ll see that cruising has a dark side not everyone knows about. While cruise fares can be inexpensive on their own, there are plenty of “extras” and “gotchas” you should prepare for. While some of these added expenses can be avoided, others are just part of the deal.
Hidden expenses of cruising can include:
When you compare cruises online, it’s important to note that almost all cruise lines charge a mandatory fee for tips that’s assessed on top of the cruise prices you’ll see. You typically have the option to prepay your tips or pay for them at the end of your cruise, but you typically can’t avoid them unless you complain and ask they be taken off your bill.
But, how much are tips? While it depends on the cruise line, most charge a nominal daily fee ($10 - $15) per passenger. As an example, Carnival Cruise Lines automatically adds on $12.95 per day per guest for regular cabins and $13.95 per day per guest for those who book suites.
Alcohol and other drinks
While it’s possible to find cruise deals that include unlimited beverage packages, you’ll have to pay separately for alcohol if your package doesn’t include it. Many cruise lines also add an automatic gratuity to drinks you purchase on-board.
Also keep in mind that other drink choices can be limited for those who don’t have a drink package of any kind. Some cruise lines only include coffee and tea as included beverages, and you almost always need to pay extra for soda.
While a few drinks here or there may not break the bank, spending a week or longer on a cruise can become costly if you’re a big drinker or someone who drinks pop with every meal.
While cruising makes it easy to see several destinations or islands in one trip, it’s important to remember your cruise fare doesn’t cover any activities while you’re in port. You can get off the ship and walk around for free, but you may get bored unless you plan an activity.
Unfortunately, cruise excursions can be extremely expensive – especially if you book through your cruise line. Even a simple snorkeling trip can cost $80 or more depending on which port you depart from. Make sure to play around with your destinations through a website like Viator.com to see how much excursions cost where you’re stopping, then add the costs of activities you’re interested in into your cruise budget.
Upgraded dining options
Cruising makes budgeting for your trip easy since all your on-board meals are included, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick of the “free” options you get. Most cruise ships have at least one large buffet and a main dining room you can eat in for your main meals, but they also offer “upscale” dining option you can choose for a price.
If you’re someone who gets sick of buffets (who doesn’t?) or knows they don’t want to eat in the same restaurant for a week or longer, definitely make sure you check your cruise ship’s dining options to see what’s available and how much a special meal might cost.
Certain onboard activities
No matter what, hanging on the deck of your cruise ship is free. You can also spend your ship days swimming or participating in on-deck activities like ping pong or exercise classes. However, most ships offer some activities at an upcharge.
It depends on the ship, but expect to pay a nominal fee if your cruise ship offers mini golf, zip lines, or a movie theater and you want to take advantage.
While most hotel chains offer internet service as part of their bare minimum lodging package, cruises consider internet service an add-on. This means that, even though internet on cruise ships is notoriously slow, you will still need to pay if you want access.
How much will you pay? It depends on the cruise line you choose and the specific ship you’ll sail on, along with how much data you want access to. Most of the time, you can get a basic browsing package for less than $50. However, packages with more data or more allotted internet time can cost hundreds of dollars.
Laundry is another “extra” charge you need to be aware of if you need to have clothing washed on-board. Most cruise ships offer laundry service where you can pay a per piece charge to have your clothing washed and returned to your room. However, the prices can be steep – up to $10 per garment for certain types of clothing.
If you know you’ll need laundry service before your cruise, it can help you prepay for a laundry package. Very often, a prepaid package will allow you to secure a lower per-piece rate than if you set up laundry service on-board. Or example, the MSC Divina from MSC Cruises offers a 40-piece laundry package for around $50 on some of their itineraries.
The Bottom Line
If you’re trying to save money on your next cruise, there are plenty of ways to accomplish this goal. You can sign up for a travel credit card that makes it easy to book a cruise with points, for example. You can also shop around among cruise lines to find the best deal for your desired dates and itinerary.
Last but not least, make sure you know about all the hidden costs of cruising so you can plan accordingly.
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