You’ve just booked your cruise and you know what that means – room and board taken care of, endless delicious food and incredible live entertainment every night. If you’re feeling extra luxurious, it even means unlimited soft drinks and alcohol.
But before you pull out your sandals and sunhat, it’s important to consider what your cruise might not cover. Different cruise lines include different things, but there will always be a few extra cruise costs by way of souvenirs, excursions and tips for your servers that call for some cash.
What is All Inclusive?
Cruising companies who offer truly All Inclusive cruising include Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea. Azamara Club Cruises don’t cover all drinks, but have a selection fit for even the pickiest of drinkers. Viking Ocean Cruises also include meals, flights, transfers, one excursion per port, drinks with lunch and dinner and Wi-Fi. You’ll pay more upfront for these All Inclusive cruises, but won’t have to allow for an extra budget onboard.
Go All Inclusive on other cruise lines and you’ll find all meals and most snacks in the price, but you’ll pay for pretty much everything else. As ships get bigger and come brimming with more attractions, the trend is towards paying a lower upfront price and choosing which activities you want to take part in for an extra fee.
Setting a budget
Even if you’re full-on All Inclusive, your budget will need to take into account any onboard essentials, as well as fun extras along the way and tips for crew members if they aren’t already included in your specific package. You should think about onshore excursions right down to little things like laundry charges. And for those who aren’t considering All Inclusive, there’ll be more to account for like internet and and onboard activities such as massages or fitness classes, plus fine dining that isn’t included in the cruise.
If you’re a spreadsheet kind of person, you could go technical and download the Cruise Card Controlbudget planning tool for iOS devices. At £2.99 it has an easy to use expenses tracker that creates graphs to show how much money you have left at a glance. You can create spending categories or save pictures of important receipts – it even works without using your phone data.
To make things simple, here’s a breakdown of how money on cruise ships works so that you know exactly what to consider when budgeting:
Most cruise lines operate on a cashless basis when it comes to making daily purchases. Instead, you’re given a cruise money card for spending, which acts as a credit card for all purchases onboard that aren’t included in the cost of the cruise. This can range from excursions – if you haven’t already pre-booked them – to spa treatments and premium alcoholic drinks.
You can choose to pay your final bill in cash or with a credit/debit card, and in both cases you’ll be charged a set, upfront holding fee which will be refunded if you haven’t spent it by the end of your journey. You can usually check what your cruise line’s holding fee is in advance, so you know what to expect.
Excursions and other onshore activities
Most cruises don’t include excursions, so you’ll need to set aside an additional amount of cruise money specifically for onshore activities if you don’t book them before departure. Get a feel for what you might want to do in each of the ports beforehand, as most excursions booked through the cruise line cost between £30 and £150 per person, depending on length and the activities involved.
Often a cheaper option is to arrange excursions of your own, either by booking online with independent tour guides or organising them once you reach land. In that case, you’ll need that country’s currency as your ship card won’t get you very far onshore. Regardless of what you do, you’ll also need to factor in smaller fees like taxi rides, additional tickets or snacks and drinks. Depending on how much shopping and eating you’ll be doing, anywhere from £50 to £75 per person per port will typically do the trick.
Make sure you check in advance what your port’s currency is, though odds are you’ll be able to exchange money onboard and/or take cash out at an ATM. You should always check in advance what currency the ATM’s cash will be in, as well as the exchange rate.
Many modern cruise ships are built like floating resorts, with a plethora of things to do including wine-tasting or playing bingo. While many things are usually included in the price, such as shows and live music, cooking demonstrations, pool games and informative lectures, others will be charged at an additional fee.
Unless you’ve gone All Inclusive, you should budget around £10 to £25 per fitness class for things like yoga and spinning, as well as around £150 for a massage. As a guide, most onboard spas are the equivalent of high-end salons. Other things to consider are babysitting, which can be around £4 to £7 per child.
Then there are those boring essentials like laundry, which can be as high as £3 an item, or about the same per load if there’s a self-service facility. Internet usage varies massively between ship but you can expect to pay about 50p a minute for pay-as-you-go, however the connection can be slow so you might not get much done per minute. You can always connect in port to save money too – download the free WifiMapper app to see where the best WiFi spots are when you dock.
Additional drinks and food
Out on the high seas, it’s easy to lose track of your spending when you aren’t dealing with physical cash. And if drinks aren’t part of your All Inclusive package, your bill can quickly grow thanks to speciality coffees, glasses of wine and cocktails.
Depending on your drink of choice and how frequently you indulge, you’re looking at anywhere from £2 to £7 per drink. But be advised, a service charge is often included in the price of the drink, so you won’t need to give your server an additional tip.
Another expense can be dining outside of the inclusive main restaurant and buffet, or choosing a speciality dish in the main restaurant such as prime steak or lobster. Most alternative restaurants charge between £12 and £35 per meal, but it can be as much as £80 per person for a Chef’s Table experience or wine-paired meal.
If you’re a foodie and would like to experience some of the gourmet cuisine available onboard, Norwegian Cruise Line offers dining packages where you can eat at a number of its premium restaurants for a discounted rate. You may also choose to have the premium meals at lunch, as lines like Holland America provide this at a lower cost.
Tipping policies vary widely across individual cruise lines and cruise types. Luckily, cruise lines are upfront about their policies, which you can check before boarding. Some cruise fares include tipping, but most recommend an average of £12.50 per person, per day.
Most cruises have in place an automatic suggested gratuity service too, which will be charged daily or at the end of your stay. It will also ensure that the tip is distributed to all of the people who have served you, including waiting staff, cleaning staff and their managers.
You’ll have the chance to adjust the gratuity you pay at the end of your trip, or eliminate it entirely should you want to. You might also find you want to tip a special server with a little extra at the end of your stay just to say thank you – so be sure to keep some bills for the very end.
Whether you’re going All Inclusive or not, there are usually some extras you need to account for. But with a little forward planning you can easily set a budget so you know what to expect from your bill at the end of your amazing cruise.
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