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

Veronica Walsingham
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Cruise ship vacations don’t seem expensive. Passengers are promised dream vacations for a bargain with lodging, meals and entertainment included in the initial price but wind up shocked by the real cost when the vacation ends. The rising price starts with the obvious additional costs such as souvenirs and premium dining fees. Then the secret costs on cruise ships sneak up on even the most frugal and aware passengers when they receive their final bill, though.

Cruise ships have lost some of their allure over time. Now that potential passengers are aware of documented 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 spilled shocking cruise secrets (like ships' mandatory room for dead bodies), but we're here to spill all the secret fees of which the average passenger may not be aware.

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

The term "all-inclusive cruise" can be misleading because 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. That's right, not even soda is included. Those tropical, frozen cocktails that passengers always have in ads can cost upwards of $10, with an added 15% gratuity tacked on to all alcoholic beverages.

Some cruise lines offer drink packages where travelers pay $50 per day for unlimited drinks per day. This also incurs a 15% gratuity and the amount of drinks one is a served is monitored to make sure no one abuses the package.

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 they’re on a cruise. This is because they simply charge everything to the cabin, which is a psychological trick. That $7 beer, $10 glass of wine, or $12 cocktail is easy to order when you aren’t paying for the drink upfront. At the end of the cruise, however, travelers receive a bill for the drinks they enjoyed every day of that week-long cruise and it adds up. Encouraging customers to avoid using cash is the same psychological trap used at 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 Will Be Amazing, But The Port Fee You're Charged Won't Be


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Cruise ships don’t just sail around for free and passengers on the ship are the ones who foot those bills. Port fees cover tolls, ship inspections, immigration and naturalization costs, baggage handling at embarkation and disembarkation, and other expenses the average passenger is unlikely to 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 that adds 12 to 50 percent on top of the base fare.

The exact amount is calculated and divided among all the passengers of the ship, but cruise lines have different ways of collecting this fee. In some cases, passengers are notified up front when they book their trip; in other cases, passengers get an additional bill weeks before their trip that they have no choice but to pay. Either way, passengers should always read the fine print when booking to prepare for port 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 as lonely as it sounds. However, it is more expensive. Because cruise ships generally book two (or more) guests to a room, they may charge a single supplement fee to those booking rooms alone to help soften the hit incurred from the single occupancy. This single supplement charge can range from 10% to 100% of what one paid for the cruise. The solo cruiser may be better off finding a stranger to bunk with rather than paying twice as much for one cruise.