What Are Some Hidden Costs On A Cruise?

Going on a cruise is an exciting experience, filled with adventure and relaxation. But did you know that there can be hidden costs that you may not be aware of? In this article, we’ll explore some of the hidden costs on a cruise and how they can impact your overall vacation experience. Whether it’s gratuities, specialty dining, or shore excursions, we’ve got you covered. So, keep reading to learn more about these hidden costs and how you can prepare for them to ensure a smooth and enjoyable cruise vacation.

When you think about going on a cruise, you might envision yourself lounging by the pool, enjoying delicious meals, and exploring exotic destinations. While these are certainly key aspects of a cruise vacation, there are additional costs that can add up quickly. For example, many cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your onboard account, which can range from $10 to $15 per person, per day. Additionally, specialty dining options, such as gourmet restaurants or chef’s table experiences, often come with an extra fee. And let’s not forget about the exciting shore excursions – while they offer unique experiences and opportunities to explore the ports of call, they can also come with a hefty price tag. In this article, we’ll delve into these hidden costs in more detail, providing you with valuable information to help you budget and plan accordingly for your next cruise adventure.

Booking your cruise

Travel agency fees

When planning your dream cruise vacation, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to book through a travel agency or directly with the cruise line. While using a travel agency can sometimes be beneficial in terms of personalized service and expertise, it’s essential to be aware of any additional fees that may be associated with their services. Travel agency fees can vary, with some agencies charging a flat fee for their assistance, while others may add on a percentage of your total cruise fare. Before making a decision, it’s worth comparing these fees and understanding what services they include to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Cruise line fees

In addition to travel agency fees, it’s important to consider the various fees that the cruise lines themselves may charge. These fees can vary depending on the cruise line and the specific itinerary you choose. Some common cruise line fees include gratuities, onboard service charges, and port fees. Gratuities are typically charged per person, per day, and cover the service provided by the ship’s staff, including housekeeping, dining room service, and other onboard amenities. Onboard service charges are usually incorporated into the overall cost of your cruise and cover the use of amenities such as the gym, spa, and entertainment facilities. Port fees are charges imposed by the local authorities at each port of call and are typically included in your cruise fare. However, it’s worth double-checking to ensure you’re not surprised by any unexpected costs.

Cancellation fees

While no one likes to think about canceling their cruise vacation, life sometimes gets in the way, and cancellations are inevitable. It’s crucial to be aware of any cancellation fees that may apply if you need to change your plans. Cruise lines often have a cancellation policy that outlines when and how much you’ll be charged for canceling your reservation. These fees can vary depending on the timing of your cancellation and the type of cabin you have booked. It’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of your booking to understand the potential financial impact of canceling your cruise and whether travel insurance can mitigate any potential losses.

Accommodation and onboard fees

Upgrade fees

Once you’ve booked your cruise, you may find yourself tempted by the allure of upgrading your cabin to a higher category. While this can provide a more luxurious experience, it often comes with a hefty price tag. Upgrade fees can vary greatly depending on the cruise line and the specific cabin category you desire. The additional cost can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to carefully consider if the added benefits are worth the expense. It’s also worth noting that upgrade availability is often limited, so it’s advisable to book early if you have your heart set on a particular cabin category.


While we mentioned gratuities earlier in relation to cruise line fees, it’s worth highlighting again as an additional hidden cost. Many cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your onboard account, which you are then expected to settle at the end of your cruise. These gratuities can add up quickly, especially if you’re traveling with a family or in a large group. While it’s important to recognize the hard work of the ship’s staff, it’s worth considering whether the automatic gratuity charge aligns with your views on tipping, as some cruise lines do allow guests to adjust or remove the gratuity charge if they wish.

Room service charges

One of the perks of cruising is the ability to order room service and enjoy a meal in the comfort of your cabin. However, it’s essential to be aware that room service is not always included in the cost of your cruise. Some cruise lines charge a fee for room service, particularly during certain hours or for certain menu items. While the fees may be nominal, they can still add up over the course of your cruise. Before dialing for that late-night snack or breakfast in bed, be sure to review your cruise line’s policy on room service charges to avoid any surprises on your final bill.

Mini-bar charges

If you’re partial to enjoying a cold beverage or a late-night snack from your cabin’s mini-bar, be prepared for additional charges. Cruise lines often stock their mini-bars with a variety of tempting items, but these come at a price. Each item has a set cost, which can quickly add up if you indulge frequently or if you have a family sharing your cabin. It’s worth considering whether you truly need the convenience of a mini-bar or if a trip to the ship’s lounges or buffet can satisfy your cravings without the additional cost.

Dining and beverages

Specialty restaurant fees

While most cruise ships offer a variety of dining options included in your cruise fare, there are often specialty restaurants onboard that require an additional fee. These restaurants often offer a more intimate dining experience or showcase a specific cuisine or celebrity chef. The additional fees can vary depending on the restaurant and the menu, so it’s worth considering whether the added expense is worth the culinary adventure. Many cruise lines also offer specialty dining packages that allow you to sample multiple specialty restaurants for a discounted price, which can be a more cost-effective option if you’re eager to explore the ship’s culinary offerings.

Beverage packages

Quenching your thirst onboard can sometimes come at a cost. Most cruise lines offer beverage packages that allow you to enjoy unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for a fixed price. These packages can be a convenient way to budget for your bar tab and avoid any surprises at the end of your cruise. However, it’s essential to carefully consider whether you’ll truly make use of the package and consume enough beverages to justify the expense. It’s also worth noting that not all beverages are included in these packages, and some premium or specialty drinks may incur an additional charge.

Corkage fees

If you’re a wine lover, you may be tempted to bring your own bottle onboard to enjoy with your meals. While many cruise lines allow you to bring a limited amount of wine or champagne onboard, they often charge a corkage fee for consuming it in the dining venues. These fees can vary depending on the cruise line and the size of the bottle, but they are worth considering if you’re planning to bring your own beverages. It’s also worth noting that most cruise lines offer an extensive selection of wines and beverages onboard, so you may find it more convenient and cost-effective to sample their offerings instead.

Gym and spa charges

Maintaining your fitness routine and indulging in some pampering at the ship’s gym and spa facilities is often a popular activity for cruise guests. However, it’s important to be aware that these services usually come with an additional cost. Access to the ship’s gym facilities is typically included in the cost of your cruise, but certain classes, personal training sessions, or specialized equipment may incur a fee. Similarly, spa treatments such as massages, facials, and salon services come at an extra cost. While it’s tempting to treat yourself to some relaxation or a rejuvenating spa treatment, be sure to factor in these charges when budgeting for your cruise.

Entertainment and activities

Shore excursion fees

Exploring the various ports of call on your cruise itinerary often involves taking part in shore excursions that showcase the destination’s highlights. While these excursions can provide enriching experiences, they can also come with a significant price tag. Shore excursion fees can vary depending on the activity, duration, and destination. Popular excursions such as guided tours, snorkeling trips, or adventure activities like zip-lining or scuba diving can often be quite expensive. If you’re budget-conscious, consider researching and booking independent tours or exploring the ports on your own to save money and potentially have a more personalized experience.

Casino expenses

If you enjoy the thrill of gambling, a cruise ship’s casino can be a tempting place to try your luck. However, be prepared for potentially hidden costs associated with your casino visits. Cruise ship casinos operate similarly to land-based casinos, with various slot machines, table games, and other gaming options available. These games have minimum bets and can quickly add up if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but remember to set a gambling budget and stick to it to avoid any unexpected expenses on your cruise.

Internet charges

In today’s digital age, staying connected while on a cruise is often a priority for many passengers. However, accessing the internet onboard can come with a hefty price tag. Most cruise lines charge for internet access, with packages available for different durations and usage levels. Before purchasing an internet package, consider whether you truly need to be constantly online during your vacation or if you can embrace the opportunity to disconnect and enjoy the ship’s amenities without the distraction of email and social media. If you do require internet access, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a package that offers a specific amount of data rather than paying per minute or per megabyte.

Photography fees

Capturing the memories of your cruise is important, and cruise ship photographers often offer their services to document your journey. These photographers will take photos of you and your loved ones during various moments of your cruise, from embarkation to formal nights and port visits. While it’s tempting to purchase these professional photos as a memento of your trip, be prepared for the potential high cost. Cruise ship photo packages can be quite expensive, and individual prints can quickly add up. Consider if you truly want and will cherish these photographs, or if you’re content with using your own camera or smartphone to capture your memories.

Onboard shopping and services

Souvenir purchases

Shopping onboard a cruise ship can be a fun and convenient way to pick up souvenirs for yourself or gifts for loved ones back home. However, it’s important to be aware that the prices in onboard boutiques are often higher than what you would find on land. The convenience and unique selection may be worth the extra expense to some, but if you’re looking to save money, it may be more cost-effective to shop at the ports of call or wait until you’re back on land to make your purchases.

Art auctions

Many cruise ships also host art auctions, where you can bid on and potentially purchase various artworks. While these auctions can be an exciting experience, it’s crucial to approach them with caution. The prices of the artwork at these auctions are often inflated, and additional fees, such as buyer’s premiums and delivery charges, may apply. It’s best to research the artists and their work beforehand and set a budget for yourself to avoid getting caught up in the excitement and overspending.

Laundry services

Cruise vacations often involve relaxing by the pool, participating in activities, and exploring ports of call, which can result in a significant amount of laundry. While many cruise ships offer self-service laundry facilities for a nominal fee, others only provide laundry services through their housekeeping department. These services often come at a cost per item or per bag, and the prices can quickly add up if you choose to have your laundry done onboard. Before you leave for your cruise, consider packing enough clothing for the duration of your trip or bring travel-sized packets of laundry detergent to do your own laundry and save on these additional charges.

Medical expenses

While no one wants to think about falling ill or getting injured while on vacation, it’s worth considering the potential cost of medical services onboard a cruise ship. Most ships have medical facilities staffed with qualified medical professionals who can provide necessary treatments or medications. However, these services often come at a premium price. There may be charges for both consultations and medications, so it’s important to have appropriate travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical needs. Review your policy carefully to ensure it includes coverage for onboard medical expenses.

Transportation and transfers

Airport transfers

If your cruise departure port is different from your home city, you may need to arrange transportation from the airport to the cruise terminal. While some cruise lines provide complimentary transfers, others charge a fee for this service. Additionally, if you choose to use a private transportation service or a taxi, you’ll need to factor in this cost when planning your budget. It’s worth exploring all available options, comparing prices, and considering whether the convenience of a direct transfer is worth the additional expense.

Port parking fees

If you’re driving to the cruise terminal, you’ll likely need to park your vehicle for the duration of your cruise. Most cruise ports offer parking facilities, but they often come at a price. Port parking fees can vary depending on the location and the length of your cruise. It’s important to research the parking options in advance, as some ports may offer discounted rates for online pre-booking. Additionally, considering alternative transportation methods such as carpooling or using ride-sharing services can help reduce parking costs if available and suitable for your situation.

Taxis and transportation at ports

While exploring the ports of call on your cruise itinerary, you’ll likely need to use transportation to get to your desired destinations. Whether it’s a taxi, shuttle bus, or private tour, these modes of transportation often come with a cost. Taxis, in particular, can be expensive in some ports, and unscrupulous drivers may try to take advantage of tourists. It’s advisable to research transportation options in advance, consider sharing rides with fellow passengers, or book excursions that include transportation to efficiently explore the ports while minimizing costs.

Communication and connectivity

Cellular roaming charges

If you plan to use your cell phone while on a cruise, it’s important to be aware of potentially high cellular roaming charges. While some cruise lines offer onboard cell phone packages for a fixed fee, these packages may have limitations on the amount of data, minutes, and texts available. If you go over these limits, you may incur additional charges. It’s important to check with your cell phone provider to understand their international roaming rates or consider purchasing a local SIM card at each port of call to avoid excessive charges.

Wi-Fi access fees

Another option for staying connected while on a cruise is to access the ship’s Wi-Fi network. However, Wi-Fi access often comes with a price tag. Cruise ships typically offer various internet packages that allow you to connect to the ship’s network, browse the internet, and access social media platforms. These packages are typically priced based on usage, with unlimited options available for a higher cost. It’s worth considering whether you truly need to be online 24/7 during your vacation or if you can limit your internet usage to when you’re in port or take advantage of free Wi-Fi available at local establishments.

Satellite phone rentals

If you anticipate needing constant communication and connectivity during your cruise, you may consider renting a satellite phone. Satellite phones operate using satellite networks and can provide coverage even in remote areas or when the ship is far from land. However, renting a satellite phone can be quite expensive, both in terms of the rental fee and the per-minute charges. Unless you have a specific need for immediate and continuous communication, it is generally more cost-effective to rely on the ship’s Wi-Fi or purchase a prepaid SIM card at each port of call for localized communication.

Additional onboard services

Kids club charges

Cruise vacations are often an excellent choice for families, with many ships offering supervised kids clubs and activities for children of all ages. However, these kids clubs are not always included in the cost of your cruise. Some cruise lines charge a daily fee for each child’s participation in the kids club or require parents to purchase a package that covers a certain number of hours or days. Be sure to review the kids club policies and fees before embarking on your cruise to make an informed decision about whether these services are worth the additional expense for your family.

Nursery fees

For parents traveling with younger children, some cruise lines offer nurseries or specialized childcare services. These services often come with their own set of fees and may require advance reservations due to limited availability. If you plan to utilize the nursery services during your cruise, carefully review the associated costs and consider whether the peace of mind and convenience of having dedicated childcare are worth the additional expense.

Baby-sitting services

If you prefer to have your children cared for in your own cabin, many cruise lines offer baby-sitting services. These services typically come with an additional fee, charged on an hourly basis. It’s important to note that the availability of baby-sitting services may be limited, particularly during peak times or when the ship is in port. Be sure to inquire about the availability, cost, and age restrictions for baby-sitting services before your cruise to properly plan for childcare and avoid any surprises.

Currency exchange and gratuities

Currency conversion fees

When traveling to different countries during your cruise, you may need to exchange currency to pay for goods and services ashore. It’s worth noting that currency exchange services onboard cruise ships often come with considerable fees and unfavorable exchange rates. While it may be convenient to exchange currency onboard, it is generally more cost-effective to do so at local banks, currency exchange kiosks, or ATMs at your port of call. It’s also worth considering using a credit card that offers favorable foreign exchange rates to minimize any currency conversion fees.

ATM withdrawal charges

If you prefer to use cash while on your cruise, you may need to make withdrawals from ATMs in various ports of call. While ATMs are widely available, they often charge a fee for each transaction. These fees can quickly add up, especially if you need to make multiple withdrawals or if your cruise visits several countries with different currencies. To avoid excessive ATM withdrawal fees, it’s advisable to withdraw larger amounts of cash less frequently or consider using a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.


While booking a cruise is an exciting and enjoyable experience, it’s important to be aware of the potential hidden costs that can emerge throughout your voyage. By understanding and budgeting for these costs, you can ensure that you have a stress-free and financially responsible cruise vacation. Remember to carefully review the terms and conditions of your booking, research any additional fees associated with travel agencies and cruise lines, and consider alternatives or cost-saving measures for onboard services and activities. With proper planning and knowledge, you can embark on your cruise with peace of mind, knowing that you’re prepared for all possible expenses. Bon voyage!