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Queen Mary 2 in Port Adelaide

How Much Do Cruises Cost?

A lot of people are under the impression that everything is included in the price of a cruise. It is true that most expenses are paid for in the ticket price, including your room, meals and entertainment, but there are other pleasures that should be factored in as part of your budget. A rough guide is to expect extra spending amounting to approximately 40-60% above the basic fare. For example, if your cruise costs $1,000, add on an extra $500 for on-board beverages, shore excursions, souvenirs, spa or massage treatments, and gratuities. With this guideline in mind, you will be able to stay within budget limitations and enjoy your cruise vacation to the fullest extent.

What does the cruise fare cover?

The up-front cruise fare generally includes your room, dining hall buffet meals, plus coffee, tea and juice. Most entertainment is also covered, including shows, children’s programs, live music and trivia contests. Many cruise lines allow the paying of gratuities as part of the upfront fare, further assisting your budgeting plan.

Onboard spending

It is possible to spend almost no money during the cruise, but this will limit your options for enjoyment, which is, after all, an important feature of any holiday. There is no limit to how much you can spend, with alcoholic beverages, gambling, shore excursions and premium restaurant options all potentially adding a lot to the basic cost. Cruise lines derive a substantial part of their revenue from expenses beyond the basic fare. Ship photographers, for example, are ever present at every available photo opportunity in every port of call.

It’s natural to loosen the purse strings a little while on vacation, but it will pay to be aware of premium prices for even the most basic pleasures such as ice creams and drinks. Stepping off the ship provides potential for prolific spending, with shore excursions and local attractions specifically designed to entice visitors. Keep in mind that many shore excursions can be paid up front as part of the ticket purchase, leaving you free to enjoy the sights without your wallet weighing you down.

Spa and massage services average at around $100 per hour plus service charge, but discounts may be available on days when the cruise is in port. The casino is another potential financial black hole for some passengers, and if money management is not your strong suit it could pay dividends to steer well clear of gaming in all forms. People often enjoy throwing a little extra money around while on vacation, and if that is your tendency, be certain to stick to a gambling budget plan for maximum fun. Who knows, you might even beat the odds and come out ahead.

Bingo and art auctions are another feature attracting interest from passengers. They are an opportunity to socialise with fellow passengers and diversify your time onboard. The art auction often includes a free wine or print of an artwork, so can be a profitable venture unless you feel the itch to get caught up in a bidding war.

Staying on budget

Your onboard account can be checked via interactive TV or at the pursers desk. This will assist you in keeping spending in check during the various stages of your trip. By avoiding temptation to splurge outside your financial comfort zone, you can keep costs to a respectable minimum without coming across as a Scrooge. A highly enjoyable time can be had onboard regardless of budget, by being discerning about purchase choices and taking advantage of special offers.


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Robert Grant

Loves cruise tips and cruise ships. Shares his personal opinion about cruise deals and cruise tips that might help other travellers. Do let me know if you'd like to read more about certain cruise related topics.


  1. Cruise spas are so wonderful! There’s nothing wrong with splurging on a spa day to enhance your trip. As long as you can afford it, why not? Have fun! You’re on vacation!

  2. Drinks are a killer. The most expensive drinks I have ever seen were on a cruise. And I am a heavy drinker sometimes so I ended up spending a lot more than I expected going into the cruise.

  3. I agree with this, BUT if you want a cheaper trip, just cut out drinking and spa extras. You’ll still have a great time with all the free entertainment…

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