A cruise holiday could be just the ticket when you’re looking to get away without all the fuss of buying airline tickets, hotels, transfers, and activities. In fact, cruising is so popular that over 13.7 million of us took a cruise from a US port in 2019. It’s often a one-stop shop for many travelers where you can book, sit back, and wait for your embarkation day.
A cruise vacation can be of great value as so much is often included in the cruise fare. You’ve got your accommodation, transport to each port, and meals sorted. To work out the real costs, however, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to figure out what else you’re getting for your money and what needs to be paid for on top of the base fare.
So, how much does a cruise cost exactly? Read on for our full guide on cruise expenses down to the drinks packages, shore excursions, and even gratuities as they can all add up during your cruise ship vacation.
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How Much Does a Cruise Cost?
The average cruise cost is estimated to be $214.25 per person per day. That covers $152.12 for the base ticket price and $62.13 for onboard spending. Saying that, you can score a last-minute cruise on a budget cruise line like Carnival Cruise Line from approximately $50 per person per day or opt for an all-inclusive luxury experience for well over $1,000 per person per day with lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Cruise prices can vary widely but before getting into the nitty-gritty of what you can expect to pay, here’s a general guide to get you started.
Costs of Different Types of Cruises
Every cruise line has its own unique personality that appeals to a different style of cruise passenger. When considering ‘how much does a cruise cost?’, the cruise line you choose will have a big impact.
There are a few different ways to break up the types of cruise lines but to keep things simple, we’ve split them into three categories:
- Mainstream – $50-$450 (per person per day for a basic cabin)
- Premium – $280-$680 (per person per day for a basic cabin)
- Luxury – $600-$1,000 (per person per day for a basic cabin)
When thinking of a casual Caribbean cruise or a jaunt around the Mexican Riviera, you’re probably picturing something along the lines of a fun-filled Carnival Cruise or family-friendly Royal Caribbean itinerary. These two cruise lines along with a handful of others, are considered your wallet-friendly option with the basics included and the chance to upgrade and purchase a la carte as you choose.
Mainstream cruise lines are known for their over-the-top offering with cool features such as rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and water slides. 24-hour buffets, grand shows, kids clubs, and even nightclubs where you can party until the sun comes up mean that the fun never needs to stop.
Also Read: Here Is How to Get the Best Deal on a Cruise
Some of the ships in their collection can be a bit outdated but prices often reflect this and you can still expect a high level of onboard entertainment, meals, and service. You’ll also see thousands of people on some of these mega-ships so while service should still be up there, don’t expect anything too personal.
Premium cruise lines cater to travelers looking to explore the world in comfort. They might offer some of the similar activities of the mainstream lines but provide more upscale service and amenities. Think Cunard Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line.
Dining options tend to be of a higher caliber and oenophiles should be pleased with regional wine pairings at dinner and a well-thought-out wine list for relaxing on deck. Premium cruises can still be family-friendly but facilities won’t be as extensive as the mainstream ships.
You also won’t find the droves of thousands onboard these ships, instead, expect to share your traveling home with between 500 and 1,500 guests. This means more room for spacious cabins, public areas designed for easy-going mingling, and decor with a more elegant or conservative touch.
While this might be the most expensive cruise option when you look at the upfront costs, the all-inclusive nature of luxury lines can mean that cruise expenses might not be so far off from the premium options. Silversea, for example, includes flights, pre and post-cruise hotel nights, private transfers, shore excursions on classic voyages, and even butler service.
Luxury cruises can include mega yachts that fit around 100 people up to mid-sized ships. They have the lowest passenger-to-crew ratios and service is much more personal. Don’t be surprised when you’re greeted by your name as you wander around.
You can expect to be treated as a valued guest while on board with all the comforts and courtesies you’d demand from a five-star resort. Space will be abundant, food is prepared by top chefs, premium drinks are complimentary, and if you do need to ask for anything, you needn’t have to pull out your wallet.
Another huge consideration when it comes to cruise budgeting is which cabin you choose. Cabins can run the gamut from basic (read: small) inside cabins that don’t feature a window, up to grand suites featuring separate bedrooms, verandas, and marbled bathrooms.
The important thing to note is that there really is no ‘bad’ cabin, it’s all about your budget and how much space you’ll need when you’re not out in the common areas or exploring the next port. Think of it like choosing your class on a flight. Economy seats will get you where you want to go just like the others but forking out for a Business Class or First Class fare means you get there in style and comfort.
Also important to know, is that on some ships, the cabin you choose dictates whether you can access certain special areas on the ship or receive special services. Carnival’s Havana Staterooms, for example, gives you access to an exclusive pool and bar area, while the Cloud 9 Staterooms have additional in-room amenities, priority spa reservations, and free fitness classes.
Additional Cruise Expenses to Consider
No matter which cruise line you decide to go with, your fare should always include accommodation, meals, and some onboard entertainment. Beginner cruisers might not realize, however, that there are a lot of aspects of cruising that you might have to chip in more to round out your cruise holiday.
From ziplining over Belize’s lush rainforest to snorkeling with sea turtles and rays in Bonaire, shore excursions take your cruise holiday to the next level. Sure, there’s plenty to do onboard on port days but if you’re keen to explore a new destination, shore excursions are the way to go.
Most cruise lines don’t include shore excursions in the cruise fare so whatever you choose to do will need to come out of your own pocket at the end of the trip. You can choose to join a group tour, book a private guide, or go your own way and explore on your own. Some ports make the DIY option a lot easier than others where you might be lucky enough to step off the ship right into the middle of a bustling city or glistening shoreline.
The sky’s really the limit with this one. You can opt for a walking tour in Barcelona for as little as $30 or splurge in Monaco with a private helicopter ride to Ducasse’s home in the south of France for a gourmet feast in the Michelin-starred restaurant for an impressive $1,999.
Most of your activities while onboard are included in your cruise fare but a trend in recent times is to make the most exciting activities a pay-per-use option. Mainstream lives are most well-known for this and while the wide range of activities they offer should be more than enough, there’s always a temptation to see it all and try it all.
Gyms, in particular, may have some free fitness classes and some paid options for the more unique offerings including $10 to $30 for specialty offerings like Pilates, spinning, and TRX suspension training. Kids clubs are often free during the day but there may be a fee for group babysitting in the evening starting around $5 per hour per child.
Here’s an idea of some popular onboard activities and services costs:
- Behind the scenes tour: $55 to $95
- Laser tag: from $10
- Escape rooms: $9-$20
- IMAX movies: $5.50-$14
- FlowRider private session: from $69
- Spa and Salon Treatments: from $120
Drinks and Drink Packages
On all lines, you will be able to get water, coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic drinks as part of your cruise fare. Certain juices, specialty coffees, soda, and alcoholic beverages are usually not included unless you’ve opted for an all-inclusive fare or you purchase a drinks package.
Some lines, like Azamara, include non-alcoholic drinks along with select spirits, beers, and a selection of wines by the glass in its cruise fares. Others will include drinks at lunch or dinner only. Cruisers can opt to add each drink to their cruise tab or if it seems like better value a drinks package could save you some money over the course of your trip.
Each cruise line is different with how they handle a drinks package but usually, you’ll have the option to get a non-alcoholic package or an alcoholic beverage package. Drinks packages start from around $12 for a soft drinks package up to $130 for a premium drinks package.
All ships offer free meals in the main dining room/buffet venue but many ships now have one or many extra-fee dining venues. This can include casual dining options up to multi-course degustation dinners, and some even have the opportunity to eat meals prepared by celebrity chefs or the chance to dine and chat with the captain.
You can expect to pay around $15-$50 per person to dine in an alternative restaurant and upwards of $100 for a wine-paired meal or chef’s table experience. Room service is sometimes an extra surcharge between $5-$10 per order.
More Cruise Expenses to Consider
You’ve got a steady grasp of the major expenses you might have to pay for on your next journey but there are a few other things you should factor in when considering, ‘how much is a cruise?’
Staying connected is a necessity for some and it’s important to note that the internet is rarely included in your cruise fare. Some lines provide packages for buying internet in bulk while others opt for a rate based on how much bandwidth you use. For example, Carnival Cruise Line has a social media plan for $7 per day and Disney Cruise Line offers a plan for 1,000 megabytes at $89.
Tipping policies vary by cruise line but most mainstream lines automatically add a set amount to your final bill. Charges are around $13-$20 per day which will be distributed amongst key service staff while bar tabs are likely to have a set gratuity of 15-20% added on.
Some premium and luxury lines have gratuities included in the cruise fare as do ships that sail out of Australian and UK waters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still looking for more to answer “how much does a cruise cost?” Here are our three top frequently asked questions to help you learn more.
Some ships have self-service laundry rooms which can either be free or start from $2 per load. To have your laundry done for you, you’re looking at prices from $3.49 to wash and press a shirt or blouse.
Most cruises are based on two people occupying a cabin. If you’re traveling solo you’ll need to factor in an additional cost to have a room all to yourself. Single cruisers can expect to pay between 125% and 200% of the advertised fare.
If you’re a big souvenir shopper, you’ll want to factor in some additional cash into your cruise budgeting. Clothing, jewelry, and duty-free liquor are some of the items you can buy onboard.
How Much is a Cruise?
So, how much does a cruise cost? Now you know that the answer is: As much as you want to spend. You can take the cheapest cruise and still have fun because cruises will always have the basics for you. You’ll have some good food, a quiet place to rest your head at night, and at least some entertainment to keep you occupied during the day.
The rest is really up to you. You don’t need to spend a cent more if you don’t want to or you or you can pick and choose the extras that are important to you.
When considering cruise expenses, it’s all about what kind of experience you’re looking for, which is what makes cruises the ideal vacation. For more tips and tricks, head to our First Time Cruisers guide to keep learning about what to expect.