Here’s Why Cruise Ship Vacations Are Much More Expensive Than They Seem

Cruise ship vacations don’t seem expensive. Passengers get promised a dream vacation, with lodging, meals, and entertainment included in the bargain - only to discover the real cost when the vacation ends. The rising price starts with the addition of souvenirs and premium dining fees. The other secret cruise ship costs, meanwhile, sneak up on even the most frugal and aware passengers when they receive their final bill.

Cruise ships have lost some of their allure over time. As potential passengers learn about cruise ship crimes and cruise ship disappearances, they may be more hesitant to sip that piña colada while sailing into the sunset. Many employees have even spilled shocking cruise secrets (like the mandatory room for dead bodies). And now, you can get the rundown on all the hidden fees of a cruise ship vacation.


  • Alcohol Isn’t Included In Most “All-Inclusive” Packages

    The term "all-inclusive cruise" can be misleading. Alcohol is almost never included, especially on more affordable cruise ships. In most cases, only tap water, coffee, milk, and juice are covered in the all-inclusive deal. Even soda isn't part of the package.

    Those tropical, frozen cocktails passengers sip in ads can cost upwards of $10, with an added 15% gratuity tacked on to all alcoholic beverages.

    A few cruise lines offer drink packages where travelers pay $50 per day for unlimited drinks. This also includes a 15% gratuity, though, and the amount of drinks served is monitored so no one abuses the deal.

  • Charging Everything To Your Cabin Is A Psychological Trick To Make You Spend More

    Most passengers don’t realize how much they're spending while on a cruise. That's because they typically charge everything to their cabin, which is a psychological trick. That $7 beer, $10 glass of wine, or $12 cocktail is easy to order when you don't pay for it upfront. At the end of the cruise, however, travelers receive a bill for their daily drinks, and things can add up on a week-long cruise.

    Encouraging customers to avoid using cash is the same psychological trap employed by casinos, where chips replace actual currency. Cruise lines also trick passengers into overspending by offering "buy two, get one free" deals or half-off specials.

  • The Destination May Be Amazing, But The Port Fee You're Charged Is Not


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    Cruise ships don’t just sail around for free, and passengers end up footing those bills. Port fees cover tolls, ship inspections, immigration and naturalization costs, baggage handling at embarkation and disembarkation, and other expenses the average passenger likely doesn't consider when booking a cruise. Fees vary depending on the cruise line and size of the ship, and passengers can get hit with an additional bill which adds 12 to 50 percent onto the base fare.

    The exact amount is calculated and divided among all the passengers of the ship, but cruise lines use different methods of collecting this fee. In some cases, passengers receive notification up front when they book their trip; in other cases, they get an additional bill weeks before their trip that they're stuck paying. Either way, passengers should always read the fine print when booking to prepare for these fees.

  • Single Travelers Have To Pay Extra

    The activities, atmosphere, and general spirit of camaraderie mean cruises are great places to make friends, so booking a solo cruise isn’t such a lonely prospect. It is more expensive, though.

    Because cruise ships generally book two (or more) guests to a room, they may charge a single supplement fee to those lodging alone to help soften the hit. This single supplement charge can range from 10% to 100% of the cruise cost. The solo cruiser may be better off finding a stranger to bunk with, rather than paying twice as much.