For many travelers, understanding cruise price inclusions helps with budgeting, and eliminates worry that can dampen your cruise experience. Knowing prices for meals, accommodations, attractions, transportation, and souvenirs is essential to controlling expenses. Many vacationers are limited by these necessary expenditures and cannot experience as much relaxation and enjoyment as they would like. On a cruise vacation, however, these expenses are often incorporated into the initial fare which allows you to enjoy your vacation without counting every penny.
The High Cost of Cruises
At first glance, a cruise may seem far more expensive than a typical vacation. Depending on voyage length, itinerary, cruise line, and number of passengers per cabin, prices can range from as low as $200 to as high as several thousand. For many budget-conscious travelers, that may seem like a prohibitive cost for a simple vacation. What they fail to consider, however, is how much value is actually included in that price.
Typical Cruise Price Inclusions
First of all, cruise price inclusions will vary slightly from one cruise to another. A cruise price naturally includes the cabin accommodations. Like any hotel room, the cabins include televisions (many with new release movies), bathroom facilities, and sitting areas. More expensive cabins include ocean views or private balconies, and the most exclusive staterooms feature multiple rooms, mini refrigerators, concierge service, and other luxurious amenities. All cruise cabins are serviced daily by attentive stewards who replenish towels, tidy the room, and perform other housekeeping duties.
In addition to accommodations, your cruise fare automatically includes:
- Travel between ports
- Use of shipboard facilities, including pools, whirlpools, fitness centers, and limited sporting equipment
- Nightly entertainment including revue shows, comedians, jugglers, and musicians
- Sumptuous dining at main restaurants, casual restaurants, and showcase buffets
- Onboard games and activities such as trivia contests, lectures, and group competitions
If you were to itemize the costs of a typical vacation and compare it to what is automatically included in a cruise, you would find a modest cruise quite comparable to a similar vacation on land, with the added bonus of less stress and worry throughout your getaway.
In addition to not needing to pay for basic necessities (food, hotel, transportation) separately as well as included entertainment (pools, shows, contests), you should consider the non-monetary costs of a typical vacation. A cruise allows you to see several different ports, even different countries, without needing to pack and unpack at different hotels. You are not bound by hotel check-in and check-out times, flight schedules, and traffic patterns. Because the ship is a closed environment, children can roam among different activities with only moderate supervision and family members can choose different ventures without inconveniencing others. Many ships also provide children's programs for young passengers with numerous activities geared toward different age groups. The relaxation and stress reduction costs of these amenities are incalculable, no matter what the price of the cruise.
What is Not Included in a Cruise Price
Of course, no vacation is perfect, and cruises are not all-inclusive. Several types of activities require additional fees, but most of them are optional and budget-conscious cruisers can easily moderate the added costs. Items requiring extra fees include…
Shore excursions: Though tours and island activities may seem expensive, shore excursions are a good deal and frequently include knowledgeable guides, transportation to and from the ship to the excursion site, and necessary equipment.
Gambling costs: Nearly all ships offer state-of-the-art casinos with slot machines, video poker, and table games. Events such as tournaments and bingo games are also frequent cruise activities and prices vary.
Exclusive dining options: Most ships, particularly larger vessels, offer reservations-only dining venues for more intimate meals and exotic tastes. Fees may be per person or based on the food ordered. Exclusive snack options, such as gourmet ice cream, may also have extra charges.
Carbonated and alcoholic beverages: While water and juice are free and unlimited on most vessels, carbonated sodas and alcoholic drinks are not. Several cruise lines offer prepaid cards for carbonated drinks that allow the bearer to order as many as they wish, and alcoholic drinks range in price from $3 to $10 or more depending on the type of drink. Wine can be purchased by the bottle or by the glass. Specialty coffees may also incur an extra fee.
Photographs: Professional photographers are available to capture every moment of your vacation, and while you can always preview your photos, there is no obligation to buy. Prices average $6-15 per photo depending on the size and are usually available throughout your cruise so you do not have to make your decision immediately.
Souvenirs: Every cruise ship offers onboard, duty-free shopping at a variety of stores, including jewelry boutiques, clothing stores, and standard souvenir ships with magnets, shot glasses, hats, toys, and other merchandise to commemorate your vacation. Prices are similar to land-based stores.
Spa treatments: Massages, facials, and manicures are available in every ship's spa. Fees vary depending on the length of treatment, but specials are available throughout the cruise, such as in-port discounts and package deals.
Specialized fitness classes: Certain fitness classes may require a minimal charge, typically if the class involves specialized equipment or a reserved area.
Gratuities: Most cruise ships do not include tips in their fares, and the typical charge is $10 per passenger per day. You do have the option to adjust tips based on your experiences, however. Depending on the length of the cruise, tips may be prepaid or automatically placed on your shipboard account, though you can still exercise your discretion.
Different cruise lines include different items in their fares that other lines may not. Typically, the more exclusive and luxurious the cruise line, the more likely they are to include incidental items such as tips and beverages in their fares.
Payment Methods On Board
Most cruise ships do not accept cash for onboard purchases. Instead, every passenger is issued an identification card that serves as the key to their onboard charge account for gift shops, photographs, and other purchases. Whenever you make a purchase, crew members charge it to your account, which you can pay at the end of your cruise in cash or via a major credit card. Most cruises require a deposit to activate your shipboard account, and any unspent funds (if you use a cash deposit) will be refunded at the end of the voyage. Credit cards are not charged until the end of the trip, so passengers are advised to be aware of their spending limits.
Dollar for dollar, cruise vacations are among the best value for travelers. Despite a slew of additional fees, the basic cruise fare includes all the necessities of a luxurious getaway, and savvy vacationers can easily avoid extensive additional charges.