Creating your cruise budget
what the little "extras" can cost

Creating a cruise budget to help plan for the cost of unexpected incidentals will leave you free to enjoy your cruise vacation with no worries.

Dollar for dollar, cruise vacations are among the best vacation values. There are, however, a number of expenses not covered in your basic cruise fare. Many of the items that require additional fees are optional. We recommend you make a tentative cruise budget to estimate your onboard charges and avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of your voyage. For a one week cruise we suggest a beginning budget of $200-$300 per person spending money for onboard incidentals. Set aside more if your plans include shore excursions, spa treatments and/or casino gambling. Here is a rough idea of the added costs you’ll need to factor into your cruise budget:

Shore Excursions: Prearranged sightseeing trips to top natural, historical and/or cultural attractions offering something for everyone. These organized tours typically include knowledgeable guides, transportation to and from the ship, any necessary equipment if required and, depending on the tour length, meals and snacks. Prices range from about $25-$45 per person for a half-day city tour to more than $400 per person for unforgettable experiences such as a helicopter glacier trek or fly-out fly fishing. For more information and cost saving hints please visit our shore excursion page.

Alcohol and soft drinks: With the exception of some of the luxury cruise lines alcoholic and carbonated beverages are not included in your cruise fare. Your costs for cocktails, beer and wine will run from $3.50 - $10.00 each. Soda prices are $1.50 to $2. Iced tea, milk, coffee and juices are complimentary with your meals.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategies:

  • Review the daily onboard newsletter to find out which bars and lounges are offering drink specials
  • Order the house brand in place of your preferred name brand
  • Consider purchasing an all-you-can-drink soda package especially if you are traveling with children. These prepaid cards range in price from $15-$30
  • Pick up a six pack of soda when in port. (We do not recommend trying to bring alcohol onboard since it violates most cruise lines policies)

Alternative dining options: Many cruise lines offer specialty dining venues for more intimate meals with culinary themed menus. The cover charge for these fine dining restaurants ranges from $15-$35 per person. Be aware that some items like gourmet ice cream or that premium latte may also have extra charges you’ll need to add to your cruise budget.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Enjoy these restaurants for a special occasion or as a treat – not each evening

Gaming: Shipboard casinos offer slot machines, video poker and table games. Other activities include bingo and other tournament events. Prices will vary.
Cruise budget cost-cutting strategies:

  • Only gamble money you can afford to lose
  • Set an amount you wish to risk and stick to it
  • Pocket your winnings as you win and continue playing only with your principal bankroll. Leave if you lose it
  • Stay away from the casino completely

Photographs: Throughout your cruise the ship photographers will capture countless memories of your trip. The photos taken are usually available to preview and purchase throughout your cruise. Prices range from $7-$20 depending on the size of the photo. There is no obligation to buy.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Take your own pictures

Spa: The ship’s spa offers a wide variety of massages, facials, manicures and other related services. Fees will vary depending on the therapy selected and the treatment length. Massage prices are typically around $90-$110.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Take advantage of in-port discounts or package deals
  • Check the ship’s daily program for specials

Laundry: Dry cleaning and laundry rates are similar to those found in resort hotels. Prices are per item and vary by garment type. Your costs can add up quickly, laundering a sport shirt will run around $2.75. Some ships have self service laundry facilities. Washing and drying one load of clothes runs around $2 - $3.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Pack a little more and do the wash at home

Staying connected is not cheap: Access costs for the internet, ship-to-shore calls and cell phone usage are pricey. For instance, calling from your stateroom on Celebrity Cruise Line is $7.95 per minute. Many ships now offer an advanced roaming network allowing you to use your mobile phone at sea. This is cheaper than using the phone in your cabin but international roaming fees and other charges may apply. Check with your cell service provider. Internet minutes can be purchased as a package or you can pay as you go. Using Celebrity Cruise Line as an example, minutes with no package are $.65 each. The rate for a 125 minute package is $60 ($.48 per minute).

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategies:

  • Check pricing in advance of using your cell phone, cabin phone or the internet cafe
  • Save by purchasing bundled internet minutes from the cruise line
  • Avoid making any ship-to-shore calls from your cabin except in an emergency
  • Turn your cell phone off

Specialized activities: Every cruise line offers plenty of entertainment, games and activities that will not cost you a dime. The price tag for attending a yoga class, cooking seminar or a ceramic lesson can vary from $10 to $50 depending on the items needed for the presentation and the onboard location.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Mix free activities with those that require an additional fee

Childcare: The onboard youth programs are complimentary. Babysitting services offered in your stateroom or nighttime group sitting will require an additional fee. Group sitting rates begin at $5 per hour per child. Private in-cabin sitting starts at $8 per hour.

Cruise budget cost-cutting strategy:

  • Make sure your children are old enough to participate in the free childcare programs

Gratuities: Most cruise ships recommend about $10 per person per day. For children under 12 it’s acceptable to tip half of this amount. Please visit our Alaska cruise information page for more recommendations on gratuity guidelines.

Souvenirs: You’ll probably want to commemorate your cruise vacation by purchasing something. Add a set amount to your cruise budget for these items and hold to it.

Most cruise ships operate on a cashless system. When you check in at the cruise terminal you’ll be issued an identification card for your onboard account. Any purchases will be charged to your account and paid for at the end of your cruise. You can establish this account with a major credit card, cash or check. The cruise line will require a deposit if you are paying in cash. Any unspent funds will be refunded at the end of your trip.

You will want some cash available to cover incidentals (tour guide tips, cab fare and other small purchases) during port visits. U.S. currency is accepted in Canadian ports but any change you receive may be returned in Canadian currency.

Some ships do offer an ATM onboard. It is usually located in the casino and dispenses funds in U.S. dollars.

Finally, use your in-room safe or one available at the purser’s desk to store your cash, valuables and important papers. You can never be too careful.

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