10 Hidden Costs on Cruise Ships (check them carefully)

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hidden cruise costs

In my opinion, cruising is not an expensive vacation. However, some hidden costs can significantly increase the final bill.

To avoid surprises, I thought I’d list the 10 most significant hidden costs on a cruise that you absolutely need to pay attention to! Let’s find out what they are!

1. Taxes and Port Fees

Cruise lines operate under various pricing policies. Some of them already include taxes and fees directly into the advertised fare, while other lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean add these costs later. Of course, the idea is to make the initial price appear more attractive.

During a recent trip on an American cruise, I was surprised by the final price, which was significantly higher than the advertised fare due to these additional charges. It’s a lesson…you can fall for it on your first cruises but experienced cruisers will definitely know this trick!

2. Room Service

Room Service breakfast on a cruise

The appeal of room service on a cruise is unquestionable!

I don’t use it often, mainly because the cabins on a cruise ship are generally small. But sometimes you just want to enjoy the sea while eating breakfast in your room.

However, not all room services are equal. While some lines offer it complimentary, others charge a delivery fee or a fee for certain items.
So, I want to remind you to always check it before ordering; if you’re not sure, just ask the guest services desk.

3. Internet Connection

Want to stay in touch with loved ones or manage work commitments? Well, be aware because those phone calls or emails can cost you a lot.

Complimentary WiFi is a rarity aboard ships. You usually have two choices: purchasing a pricey internet package or disconnecting from digital life. On one of my cruises, I tried to unplug completely, but it didn’t work. I bought the internet package after a few hours. I must try again with more will on the next cruise!

4. Drink Packages and Corkage Fee

Understanding the ins and outs of beverage expenses on board is crucial. Initially unaware, I quickly learned that most drinks beyond water, tea, and coffee incur charges. A drinks package can seem convenient, but remember to evaluate whether it aligns with your consumption habits.

Additionally, most cruise lines have an automatic service gratuity that is added to your account on a daily basis. Check the policy of your cruise line before boarding, some companies allow you to modify the daily amount if the service is not satisfactory.

Another hidden cost that I want you to consider is the corkage fee if you bring your own bottle of wine onboard. It can go from $10 to $30 and varies between cruise lines. You can find the different corkage fee amounts in the alcohol policies.

5. Special Activities

Some activities and entertainment facilities are not included in the cruise price. While theatre shows, live music, karaoke, mini-golf, and many other things are free, there are still some things that have a price.

For example, you will need to pay for all kinds of arcade games, escape rooms, cinemas, and simulators. MSC has a fun pass that includes all the activities.

Moreover, you will also have to pay for bingo, casino, or bowling. Some ships also have special shows that are not included in the cruise price. For example, on MSC I saw a show by Cirque du Soleil that had a ticket price of like $15.

6. Spa and Treatments

spa relaxation area on a cruise

Spa facilities and treatments are among the hidden costs that can catch cruise passengers off guard.

Most cruises offer many different options and even packages if you want to save something.

Spa facilities usually include a sauna, steam room, and a relaxation area. If you want a treatment you can choose between a massage, facial or body treatment, anti-cellulite treatment, manicure, pedicure, and much more.

The prices usually go from $100 to $300 or more for a single treatment or spa access, so they can significantly increase your expenses. If you plan to use the spa remember to look out for deals offered during or before the cruise.

7. Onboard Shopping

Another hidden cost can be the onboard shopping!

Well, it’s not very hidden if you buy something but the duty-free allure, can lead to unexpected spending.

In cruise shops, you can find anything: from designer perfumes and clothes to jewelry and watches. It is very easy to overspend. My advice is to set a budget before the trip, if you go over it just remember to stop buying! Also because you risk that not everything fits in your suitcase!

8. Fitness Classes

spa with view of the sea on a cruise

While most cruise ships include access to their gym facilities in the cruise fare, fitness classes are often a hidden cost.

Yoga, Pilates, spinning, and other group activities usually require an additional fee. This pricing strategy allows cruise lines to offer specialized services and trainers. Having once assumed a morning yoga class was complimentary, I was surprised to find a charge on my account. Remember to always check whether fitness classes are included or available for an extra fee.

Usually, classes taken on the pool deck are free, while those in the gym have a separate fee.

9. Excursions and Transfers

I think that shore excursions and transfers are the things that mostly increase cruise spending.

As you know, exploring ports of call is a key part of the cruising experience, but the fees for organized tours and transportation to and from the ship are not included in the base fare.

These costs usually vary widely. I’ve found that while excursions offer a better travel experience, opting for self-exploration can, most of the time, offer a more budget-friendly alternative. Try to weigh between convenience and costs.

10. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a crucial but often forgotten hidden cost of cruising. It’s not mandatory, but it’s strongly recommended.

I have to be honest, I rarely used to do it, but then I regretted it by learning it the hard way. A few years ago I had a medical problem while abroad and I ended up paying way more (like a lot) than I would have paid for travel insurance.

What do I do now? I do not buy insurance for cruises in Europe (because I am European) but I add travel insurance when I go on a cruise to the United States, South America, the Emirates, or Asia.

Please share this article! It can be useful to another cruise enthusiast!

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