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Unexpected Cruise Costs

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

There really is no such thing as an "all-inclusive vacation", because no one could include everything. However, some vacations claim to have everything, and then sneak some charges in the package. Cruise vacations are one of them. Cruises are great family getaways and a chance to see multiple countries in one trip, but while your trip is paid for before you leave, you'll be paying much more by the end of it. Know what to expect so the end of your trip is as pleasant as the beginning.


What's Not Included

Cruises do include many things in their total package price, including all meals and snacks. What they don't include are drinks. Whether you like to visit the bar or your kids just want a soda, you'll be paying top dollar for both. A kid's soda card which allows unlimited sodas or juices will cost $5 a day; an adult card is more like $7.50. Without paying extra, you'll be limited to water, coffee, and a lemonade/fruit punch option all week.

While the advertised cruise states that tipping is not allowed, don't misunderstand. You will be tipping all of your service staff, but it won't be done throughout the week. You'll be billed a per day service gratuity for each passenger on the cruise, and that bill will come at the end of the trip. The average is $10 per day. This fee applies to children as well, requiring children to give a full tip the dining room staff who may or may not have served them depending on their age. At a time, the cruise lines allowed guests to alter these amounts, but the trend is turning towards a flat fee applied to the account with little say from the traveler.


Whether it's the ride from the hotel to the ship, the airport to the ship, or from the ship to shopping in ports of call, you're on your own when it comes to transportation. While in port, you most likely will book an excursion which takes you sightseeing and shopping, but some leave you in town to shop and ask that you pay your own way back to the ship. Take some extra money for cab fares on islands as well as at the airport. Your best bet is to work with a hotel that offers transfers to and from the boat and/or airport; their rates are usually much less if at all.

Required Options

You're not obligated to do anything while cruising. You can sit in your room for eight days if you like. However, most people like to get up and move around the ship. Entertainment is free and fabulous, but there are some things that will cost you extra, all being billed to your account due at the end of the trip.


If you're looking to do anything more than walk off the boat and cross the dock to visit a few shops, you'll have to purchase excursions. Some come in under $30, but most sit around $65-$150. They're once in a lifetime opportunities, and the cruise lines guarantee them to be what they advertise. However, if you want everything paid before you go, budget another $500 for excursions for the entire family and pre-book them online.

On board shopping is hard to resist. You walk past the same shops day after day, and they advertise specials in ways that even a hard core budget shopper can't resist. Jewelry, liquor, and cigarettes are all duty free, meaning there is no tax. They are also sold at nearly 60% of their normal cost. It's a great deal if you've been eying up a new watch or planned to invest in some gemstones. There are reasonably priced luxury items and jewelry on board as well, and you're fooling yourself if you think that you're not going to purchase something.


Bingo, raffles, lottos, slot machines - cruise ships have them all, and they cost. Raffle tickets can be $5 a piece, but bingo cards promising $250-$10,000 for each winner cost $20 each. It's another temptation that's hard to resist, especially if you're feeling a little lucky.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that cruises are great vacations, and these unforeseen extras aren't meant to deter anyone from going. However, the only feeling that can top the letdown of an ending vacation is a staggering account bill handed to you upon leaving. Be prepared and know what's yet to come, then sail away and have fun. by Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

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August 11, 20100 found this helpful

I'm glad I read this, I had no idea!

What a ripoff!

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August 12, 20100 found this helpful

That does not match our experience at all.

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August 12, 20100 found this helpful

This is a good article, but all it is meant to do is make you aware that you will be spending on other items. No one needs to buy raffle tickets or gamble, and anything that you buy as a souvenir. luxury items or a bottle of wine -- naturally you would pay for it. I am sure if you read the literature for your cruise, you will understand that there are costs associated with going ashore. Why wouldn't there be? Some people don't go ashore, they sit on the ship and drink and gamble! A cruise is not a ripoff.

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August 17, 20100 found this helpful

Cruises are not a ripoff. You just have to be aware of the extra costs. I encourage everyone to take at least one cruise in their lifetime. The food that the cruise lines serve are delicious and the best that my husband and I have even eaten. You can eat all that you want. Their chefs are trained in the best culinary schools around the world.

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