5 Cruise Ship Extras That Are Actually Worth the Splurge

When you cruise, you’re often presented with extra packages or features that have an extra charge associated with them. Cruise lines love to enhance your holiday as much as possible, and make money while they do it, of course!

A woman holding money with a cruise ship in the background. Get ready for a luxurious cruise ship splurge!

It’s true that some of these extras aren’t always worth the money – you might be able to enjoy free alternatives, or the cost just doesn’t justify what you get.

But there are some cruise extras that I think are absolutely worth the money you pay – at least, for some people.

Let’s take a look.

1. Specialty Dining Experiences

Diverse group of people sitting down for a meal, laughing and chatting.

Every cruise ship has a range of dining options – you’re never just limited to a single restaurant, even on the smallest ships. But not all venues are included in the fare – speciality restaurants, so-named because they tend to specialise in a certain cuisine or theme, tend to come with an additional charge.

That might be a la carte, or a fixed fee, depending on the venue. And the great thing is that you don’t need to use them – if you want to keep costs down, the main dining room and the buffet are often more than enough, along with the free snack bars.

But, I would absolutely recommend you check out the restaurants on your chosen cruise ship, because the food here can be a whole other level when it comes to choice and variety. 

The main dining room and buffet will start to feel samey, whereas speciality restaurants give you something different to try, including some great menus or unique concepts.

The price doesn’t tend to be super-high, either. Unless you’re eating at a Chef’s Table, then most restaurants will cost between $20 and $40 per person, which is likely cheaper than you’d pay eating at a restaurant on land.

And it gets even better if you cruise on a ship with a speciality dining plan where you can pre-pay for a package that gets you discounted meals – so look out for those.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion such as a wedding anniversary or birthday, or you just enjoy great food with plenty of variety, then speciality dining restaurants can absolutely be worth the extra cost.

2. Spa Thermal Suite Passes

One of the best ways to unwind on a cruise is in the spa – it’s a space that is peaceful, relaxing and soothing, with a range of facilities on offer, often including a thermal suite. 

That might be a simple sauna and steam room, but some cruise ships have even more features such as simulated salt caves, to really help you escape and to give your skin a deep cleanse.

Access to these thermal suites doesn’t tend to be free, but you can buy a pass for either a single day or for your entire cruise.

Your loyalty discounts can come in handy here too. When I cruised on MSC Euribia, because my cabin-mate was Diamond on Royal Caribbean, the MSC Status Match programme meant that she could access the spa for free and I paid just £20 instead of the usual £80.

If you’re someone who really enjoys visiting a spa, or you’re on a crowded family cruise ship and you want somewhere to escape when the excitement and noise gets a bit overwhelming, a pass to the thermal suites could be invaluable.

3. Drink Packages

Two smiling guests are enjoying their vacation on a cruise ship, toasting with vibrant pink drinks in a lively lounge area, sharing a moment of relaxation and joy together.

On most cruises that you book, you’ll get plenty included in your cruise fare, but drinks (soft drinks and alcoholic ones) typically aren’t covered. You’ll get a couple of free juice options for breakfast, and there’ll always be free tap water available, but otherwise, you’ll need to pay for your drinks.

Most cruise lines therefore offer a drinks package option – the chance to pay a set fee and enjoy all the drinks you want throughout your cruise (though some do set a limit, such as 15 alcoholic drinks a day – which is plenty for most people).

These drinks packages vary by cruise line and can cost as much as $100+ per person, per day!

This sounds huge, but when you then look at the bar prices and see that a cocktail might cost you $15, or a beer is $9, then you realise that the package might make sense.

It does mean you need to do a little bit of math before you book – working out how many drinks you’re likely to enjoy each day, roughly how much that’ll cost, and then checking whether the drinks package is good value.

It’s not just for booze lovers too, because most cruise lines offer a soft drinks package option as well, and those make sense for anyone teetotal or who just wants one or two alcoholic drinks a day, and is happy to pay for them individually but wants to save on their sodas and juices.

Use my cruise drinks package calculator to help – it’ll take care of a lot of the calculations for you, once you know roughly how many drinks you’ll enjoy each day.

4. WiFi Packages

It’s extremely expensive to connect to mobile internet while you’re on a cruise – the roaming charges are astronomical, and you absolutely have to make sure your phone has data turned off while you’re sailing.

Instead, if you want to get online during the cruise, you’ll have to connect to the ship’s WiFi, and most cruise lines will also only sell that in packages that last the full cruise, typically for around $20-25 per day (though prices will be higher if you want to connect multiple devices).

So it’s not cheap – but it might still be worth it, especially if you have several days at sea in a row or if you have to work. A lot of people work flexibly now and may prefer to take a cruise without completely abandoning their emails or projects.

If you only want to catch up with friends or check socials, it’s better to wait until you’re in port and can find free WiFi nearby.

There’s always somewhere you can walk to. But if you do need to get online, paying for the WiFi is worthwhile, and speeds are improving as more cruises switch to faster Starlink internet.

Suggested read: Virgin Voyages Launches ‘Work From The Ship’ Package

5. Shuttle Buses

Colorful Cruise shuttle buses parked side by side - yellow and blue.

Unless you’re on a river cruise ship, most cruise ports are not at the heart of the action when it comes to your destination – you might be a distance from the main town or city.

You could get off and try walking, but in some ports, that’s a long distance to cover, and you might only have a few hours to explore. You could also book an excursion, but that might be really expensive, especially if booking through the cruise line.

So instead, look into the shuttle buses in the port to see what’s available. It’s much better to pay a small fee to get taken right into the main city centre, and then get whisked back to the cruise ship in plenty of time before she departs, instead of walking for hours or paying for a tour.

Some ports might even have free shuttle buses, so ask around or do some research before your cruise begins to explore your options.


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Final Word

I’d always recommend looking into your cruise ship and cruise line before you book and before you sail, so that you know what to expect when you’re onboard, including any extra packages or charges that you might be presented with.

That doesn’t mean you always have to be sceptical, though. While you might get a little bit of a hard sell on the ship, some of these extras are absolutely worth paying for, especially if it’s a special cruise, or depending on your circumstances.

Always ask whether you’re getting good value – but don’t assume that you always won’t be.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

Read more about me

3 thoughts on “5 Cruise Ship Extras That Are Actually Worth the Splurge”

  1. Hi
    I’m iman from Iran .
    I enjoyed reading about your page.
    But I need visa for travel by ship .
    How must to do ?

  2. Hi Jenny
    Enjoy reading your columns.
    May I ask why you use dollars when quoting prices?

    • Thanks! Most cruise ships use $ as the onboard currency, plus, over half of the readers of this blog are from the US. In some articles I do convert into £ as well for the UK folk 🙂 Jenni

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