The Hidden Costs of Cruising (What a cruise will really cost you)
When searching for a cruise you might find some prices that seem very low. Don’t let these fool you, there are some hidden costs of cruising that you can expect that’s not included in that price. Cruise pricing can be confusing, but we will break it all down for you. A cruise can be a very affordable way to vacation. We just want to make sure you know exactly what it’s going to cost you before you book a cruise and spend more money than you expected.
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The First Price
The first price you see is usually the price per person, and it’s based on double occupancy. If you want your own stateroom, you might end up paying almost double for that cabin. There are some cruise lines that offer studio cabins that are for single occupancy guests and are priced accordingly. Just be aware that there are a limited number of these cabins and they can sell out quickly. See the $299 per person in the image below.
Taxes and Port fees
The advertised cruise fare does not include that taxes and port fees for the cruise. Thes are also per person and can be anywhere from $100 to $200 on top of the cruise fare. You can usually find the exact amount by looking in the small writing for taxes and fees. If not, start the booking process by selecting your sail date and cabin on a cruise lines website. Before you have to sign in or register you will see the total price on the last page including the extra fees (and taxes).
The advertised price is the lowest priced cabin available on that ship. This is usually for an interior stateroom, and can even be a guarantee room as well. A guaranteed room is one where you do not get to pick your actual stateroom or location. The cruise line guarantees you a room in that category and will assign your stateroom close to the sail date. This is a great way to save some money if you don’t care where your stateroom is onboard the ship. They usually offer guarantee cabins in each type of stateroom. Just keep in mind that the advertised price is the cheapest available. If you want an ocean view, balcony, or certain location on the ship, that’s going to cost more.
I mentioned this earlier and I highly recommend it. Just be sure you know exactly what kind of coverage you are getting before purchasing. I don’t purchase this myself, because I have a travel credit card that I use for traveling. That card includes travel protection for free (as long as I use that card to book the trip). However, this card does have an annual fee, which is the only reason they can offer that perk to cardholders. For me, the benefits outweigh the cost of having this credit card. You are not required to purchase travel insurance, but it is definitely recommended.
If you do decide to get it, read the details of the travel insurance before you purchase it. The one time I was going to add it to my cruise, I read through the details, and it didn’t really cover anything. I have seen others that do cover almost everything as well. Just make sure to read the details before purchasing it.
Travel To The Port
Obviously, you will have to make travel arrangements to get to the ship’s port. Depending on how far you are traveling, these costs can add up. I always recommend getting there the day before and staying in a hotel if possible. The last thing you would want is a delayed flight and miss your ship’s departure. If this happens, hopefully, you purchased travel protection. You can either find something else to do, cancel your trip, or fly to the ships next port to catch the ship.
If you are driving to the port, you will need a place to park your car. Parking at the port is the most convenient place, but also the most expensive. Parking at the port, you pull up, drop off your bags to the porters, and park your car a hundred feet away from the cruise ship. That convenience can cost you anywhere from $15 to $22 per day to keep your car there though. We just got back from sailing out of the Port of Miami, and they charged $22 per day (used to be $20) for parking. For a 7 day cruise, we ended up spending $154 just to park our car at the port.
Don’t worry, there are ways that you can save on parking if you don’t want to pay that much. Near every major cruise port, you should be able to find offsite cruise parking for half or a third of the price that the port charges. They are usually very close to the port and will shuttle you over to and from the ship. Just simply google (your port) cruise parking and you’ll be able to find them.
If you are planning on staying in a hotel the night before your cruise, you have another option. You can find a park and cruise hotel, same way just google it for the port you are sailing out of. Hotels that are near cruise ports offer this to get your business from other nearby hotels and it’s a way to cater to their guests. Not all hotels will offer this, but I have seen them so many times that you shouldn’t have trouble finding them. If you were already planning to stay in a hotel, you might find one that offers free or discounted cruise parking. Some also offer shuttles, and if they don’t you can just grab an Uber for a few dollars to get to and from the port.
Gratuities (or Service Charge)
Years ago, cruise lines used to leave envelopes in your stateroom on the last day with suggestions of how much to tip each crew member that served you during your cruise. Unfortunately, too many people were not tipping, and they had to change that policy. Now cruise lines charge a service fee, per person, per day. This amount goes towards the crew as their gratuities.
Service charges are different for each cruise line, and also might change depending on the type of stateroom you book, and the region you sail in. For a standard stateroom, most cruise lines charge $14 to $15 per person, per day for their service charge. For more detail about Gratuities, you can check out our Guide to Tipping on a Cruise Ship.
Or click here to see Gratuities info for a major cruise line as another example.
Cruises Are (kinda) All Inclusive
Once you pay for all of these things above and get on the ship, for the most part, everything is included. With the exception of drinks, but you can purchase a soda or beverage package that would include all of those as well. Heres what I mean by kinda all inclusive. If you booked your cruise and purchased a beverage package, the cruise is all-inclusive. However, there are some things that the ship offers at a small upcharge to make your experience even better.
Specialty restaurants are a perfect example of this. The free dining on a cruise ship is great, but they have more to offer as well. So for a small upcharge, you can have a much better meal (and level of service) from a specialty restaurant. The type of restaurant and pricing is different for every cruise line, but here are some examples. On board one of our cruises, we went to a specialty Italian restaurant one evening. I ordered lasagna and it was one of the best things that I have eaten in my entire life. That was two years ago and I still remember how amazing that meal was.
That restaurant had a $20 upcharge per person, and I would say it was well worth it. But here’s the thing with specialty restaurants on a cruise ship. Your cruise fare already includes the price of your food for each meal. So they take that into account when pricing their specialty dining. If you went to an upscale Italian restaurant anywhere else, you would end up paying at least $40 or $50 per person for that same meal. Add a few glasses of wine and the price keeps going up, but if you have a beverage package on the ship those are included too. That’s why they call this an upcharge and not a paid restaurant onboard.
Of course, there are countless other ways for you to spend money onboard a cruise ship. But everything above is what is required with the exception of beverage packages and specialty dining. Anything else that you spend onboard is simply because you choose to do so. You can shop (on and off the ship), you could visit the ships first class spa and get a massage, or you could go on some shore excursions. Whatever you decide to do once you are onboard is up to you.
Let us know if you are surprised by any of the added fee’s that add increase the price of your cruise. Or if you have been charged for anything that we didn’t mention here.