Exploring the High Seas: What Do You Spend Money on During a Cruise?
If you’re planning or dreaming about embarking on a cruise soon, you might be wondering.
What do you spend money on during a cruise?
So let’s get started when your ship drops anchor or docks at the right port, you want to make sure you have an amazing time ashore as you do onboard the ship. There are tons of things you can do some cost a lot, some a little and some nothing at all. From exhilarating excursions to decadent dining experiences, I’ll cover everything you might need to budget for before your cruise. Certain must-dos and indulgences make a cruise vacation truly unforgettable.
So, tighten your life jacket and fasten your seatbelt as we embark on this exciting voyage. But wait, don’t forget your map, make a budget and lets go.
Cruise Fare and Accommodation
Every cruise adventure begins with the essential expense: the cruise fare itself. This cost typically includes your accommodation, meals, and access to various amenities on board. The price can vary widely depending on the cruise line, destination, cabin type, and the length of your voyage.
Tip: To optimize your budget, consider booking well in advance, taking advantage of early-bird deals, or choosing an off-peak season for more competitive rates.
Storytime: Once, I snagged a fantastic last-minute deal for a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season. While the weather was a bit unpredictable, this is not a time people think of booking a cruise live in the US. This is just an example, also when it is gorgeous weather in Europe or a heatwave if you are from that part of the world check out some deals. There is also something called wave season. This is when cruise lines heavily discount cruises which is mid-January into mid-March.
Cruise ships are renowned for their culinary delights, and dining is an integral part of the onboard experience. While your cruise fare often covers meals in the main dining room and buffet, there are tempting options that may require an extra splash of cash. Even if it is just one night on the cruise you have to treat yourself.
Speciality Restaurants: Many cruise lines offer speciality restaurants with gourmet cuisine and intimate atmospheres. These venues often come with an additional fee, but the culinary experiences they offer are often worth every penny.
Famous Restaurants: Off the ship, for example, Alaska has the most amazing Fish and Shell fish so eating ashore in Alaska even if it is just for King crabs legs from Tracey’s King Crab Shack for lunch has to be done.
Room Service: While many ships offer complimentary room service, some may charge for late-night cravings or specific menu items.
Pro Tip: Indulge in at least one speciality dining experience to treat your taste buds to a memorable journey of flavours. Also, check the daily schedule for themed nights or culinary events that are included in your fare.
Storytime: On a Mediterranean cruise, I savoured the most delicious seafood paella in a speciality restaurant overlooking the stunning Amalfi Coast. The mesmerizing sunset and culinary masterpiece made it a truly magical evening.
One of the most exciting aspects of cruising is exploring diverse ports of call. Shore excursions are optional activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture, history, and landscapes. These excursions come in various forms, from city tours and adventurous hikes to water-based activities like snorkelling or jet skiing.
Pro Tip: When considering shore excursions, you really do need to do your research. Most ship-offered tours are at a premium. My advice is to take a look at all the tours, then google them to see if you can book directly they are usually the same tours but a fraction of the price. They are all rated so you just need to reach the reviews for each company and tour.
Storytime: In Santorini, Greece, I opted for a small-group wine-tasting tour that took me through picturesque vineyards, offering tastings of exquisite local wines. The stunning views of the Aegean Sea were the cherry on top.
Onboard Activities and Entertainment
Cruise ships are like floating amusement parks, with a plethora of onboard activities and entertainment options. While many activities are included in your cruise fare, some might come with an extra cost.
Spa and Wellness: Treat yourself to rejuvenating spa treatments, yoga classes, or a day at the thermal suite for relaxation and pampering.
Casino: If you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at the onboard casino. Just remember to set a budget before you start playing.
Art Auctions: Some cruises host art auctions where you can bid on exquisite pieces. It’s a unique way to bring home a special souvenir.
Pro Tip: Cruise ships often provide daily schedules of activities and entertainment. Plan your days wisely to make the most of the included options and budget for any premium experiences that catch your eye.
Storytime: On a transatlantic cruise, I discovered my passion for salsa dancing during complimentary dance classes. By the end of the voyage, I was dancing the night away with newfound friends at the ship’s Latin-themed nightclub.
Drinks and Beverages
Quenching your thirst on a cruise can vary from complimentary to premium options. While water, coffee, tea, and sometimes soft drinks are usually included, alcoholic beverages, speciality coffees, and soft drinks may incur additional costs.
Beverage Packages: Consider purchasing a beverage package that suits your preferences. These packages can include unlimited soft drinks, coffee, and alcohol, helping you save on individual drink prices. You often have to book this prior to your cruise to get a better price.
Pro Tip: Really research the cost of the drinks packages, seriously some cruise lines’ drinks packages are not worth it, you are better off drinking what you want from the menu and just settling the bill as usual at the end of the cruise.
Storytime: We paid for the $300 bar tab on a Virgin Cruise but of course between the two of us we got through that pretty quickly, when we booked it before the cruise we actually got a $350 bar tab for $300, but when we topped it up with another bar tab we didn’t get that complimentary $50 worth of drinks.
Souvenirs and Shopping
Cruise ships have an array of boutiques and shops where you can pick up souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, and more. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of duty-free shopping, but be mindful of your budget.
Pro Tip: Set a shopping budget before you board and stick to it. Cruise ships often offer discounts and promotions, so keep an eye out for deals. Do contact me because I have coupons, discounts and tips about shopping in all the Cruise ship ports of call. Know before you go.
Storytime: During a cruise to Turkey, I stumbled upon an amazing Carpet village seriously who knew I would fall in love with hand-woven Turkish carpets? Anyway, I bought one and it’s in my lounge I adore it. Every time I look at it I am whisked back to my amazing Mediterranean cruise to Turkey and Greece. If you want a Magic carpet experience in Turkey.
Shopping Tax and Duty-Free Ashore
While shopping on the cruise ship itself can be enticing, it’s worth venturing ashore to explore the tax and duty-free shopping opportunities at various ports of call. Many cruise destinations offer special deals on fine jewellery, watches, perfumes, and other luxury items.
Caribbean Gems: If your cruise takes you to the Caribbean, you’ll find a treasure trove of duty-free shops in ports like St. Thomas and St. Maarten. These islands are renowned for their jewellery stores, offering exquisite pieces with significant savings.
European Elegance: In European ports such as Venice, Florence, and Barcelona, you can indulge in high-end shopping for designer fashion, accessories, and iconic fragrances. Be on the lookout for boutiques offering tax refunds for non-European Union residents.
Alaskan Artistry: During an Alaskan cruise, you’ll find native art and handcrafted jewellery in places like Ketchikan and Juneau. These unique pieces are not only beautiful souvenirs but also support local artisans.
Pro Tip: When shopping ashore, inquire about the local tax and duty-free policies and make sure to keep your receipts. You might be eligible for tax refunds upon departure from certain countries.
Storytime: While exploring the charming streets of Mykonos, Greece. I stumbled upon a family-owned jewellery shop called Poniros. The owner shared the history of their creations, and I left with a stunning handcrafted necklace. A reminder of the windmills in Mykonos which is where they got their inspiration authenticity and beauty of that island. We are still friends to this day.
Gratuities and Service Charges
Cruise lines often add daily gratuities and service charges to your onboard account. These fees cover the hardworking crew members who ensure your voyage is smooth sailing. The amount can vary but is typically around $15 to $20 per person per day.
Pro Tip: When you book your cruise many cruise lines include the gratuities for the staff in the price of the fare. But some don’t which personally I think is unfair. The staff work incredibly hard and are away from their families for months at a time. So do try to budget for an end-of-cruise tip for your cabin steward, waiter and any other staff that have gone over and above for you.
Storytime: On a South Pacific cruise, I had the pleasure of meeting our cabin steward, who went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable. The gratuities were a small token of appreciation for his exceptional service.
Wi-Fi and Communication
Staying connected while at sea is possible, but it can come at a cost. Cruise ships offer internet packages that allow you to access emails, and social media, and stay in touch with loved ones back home.
Pro Tip: Consider purchasing a Wi-Fi package for essential communication but disconnect and savor the digital detox as much as possible. After all, cruising is about unwinding and exploring new horizons. To be honest the Wi-Fi connection isn’t really great on any ship in my experience. Don’twasteyour money. There are many Wi-Fi hot spots ashore and in some of the retail locations to get for free.
Storytime: On a recent cruise on P&O Iona, we paid quite a bit of money for the Wi-Fi connection to find it wasn’t working. When we went down to the front desk the cue was through the lobby everyone was there for the same reason to complain about the Wi-Fi and get their money back. Is this how you want to spend your time during a cruise? So stay in the moment, enjoy the ship, free amenities, food and of course, the company.
While the items mentioned above cover the major expenses, there are always unexpected or small costs to consider:
Laundry: If you need laundry services during your voyage, there’s usually a fee. But you can research this before your cruise, there are launderettes near the cabins but trust me get in there early or plan to go super late they get really busy. However, I have made the best friendships and got all the gossip while I was washing my smalls.
Photographs: Cruise ships have photographers capturing your moments, and you can purchase these pictures. If you want a professional photo of your amazing cruise it is definitely worth it but if you are happy with your own photos taken on your device then you just have to politely say no thanks.