28 Hidden Costs of Cruising You Should Budget For

When you’re booking a cruise, you’re going to see an advertised price as a cruise fare, but that’s not always the full story.

Surprised woman pointing at bold text '28 HIDDEN COSTS!' overlaid on an aerial image of a cruise ship sailing on vibrant blue waters

There are some hidden fees that you might not see upfront that can massively increase the cost of your cruise overall. If you don’t bear these in mind, you won’t enjoy your cruise as much since you could be worrying about the cost of everything.

In this guide, I’m covering all the additional fees you might have to pay as part of a cruise holiday. 

If you’re an experienced cruiser, you might say that some of these aren’t really “hidden”, but they are definitely something that a new cruiser might not be aware of.

Many can be avoided if you’re savvy, so let’s take a look at the hidden costs of cruising and how to manage them.

1. Taxes and Port Fees

On every cruise, you’ll be paying taxes and fees. These are extra charges that are applied to the cruise ship when they travel to different ports and countries, which are passed onto guests.

Taxes and fees on a Royal Caribbean cruise

On most cruise lines, especially British cruise lines, the fees and taxes are just incorporated into the advertised fare. But on others, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the taxes and fees are only added on when you see the final total – the cruise fare advertised is without those extra charges.

You have to pay these – there’s no way around it. But make sure you budget for your cruise based on the final quote, and not on what you see when you first start browsing, as that price may be without the taxes included.

Read more: What Are Port Fees And How Much Are They?

2. Internet Charges

Want to get online during your cruise, either to keep tabs on your emails or to say hello to friends and family back home? Free WiFi is a rarity on cruise ships, and normally you’ll have to pay.

A family enjoying a relaxed time on a yacht, with a smiling woman showing a tablet to a young boy while a teenager uses a tablet on the side. They are surrounded by a luxurious setting with snacks and drinks on the table, indicating a leisurely day on the water.

And on most cruise lines, you have to buy a package that lasts the duration of the cruise, rather than just paying for what you use.

It might be better to just switch off for a week, or to try and find free WiFi when you’re in port. Just be careful to only use your mobile data if you have a plan that covers roaming charges.

3. Room Service Delivery Fees

A couple enjoying the fantastic food from room service

Some cruise lines offer room service items for an a la carte price, while others will give you room service food for free. However, there might be a one-off delivery charge instead, and if you’re not aware of it, then it can sting a little, especially if you only order one small plate.

Royal Caribbean’s a good example, where continental breakfast is free, but if you order cooked items – even just two sausages – you’ll pay $7.95.

4. Drink Costs

If you’re completely new to cruising, you might not be aware that drinks aren’t included in your cruise fare, and you’ll need to pay for these separately.

Cruise Mummy with a cocktail on board a cruise ship

Cruise lines will typically have a small selection of free drinks – tap water, and maybe juices, teas and coffees at breakfast – otherwise, you’ll be asked to pay for each drink.

You can usually get a drinks package, though some are quite expensive (often as costly as the cruise itself) so you need to decide whether they’re worth it for how much you will drink.

5. Beverage Gratuities

A waiter in a formal vest and tie presents a silver tray with a rolled banknote, symbolizing the discreet and appreciated gesture of tipping for excellent service.

It’s not just the cost of drinks that can sting you on a cruise – many also charge a mandatory gratuity for the drink, which is typically between 15% and 18%. This will be advertised on the menus, but sometimes in small print, and it won’t be included in the listed price for a drink.

So be careful, as those $15 cocktails might actually be costing over $17.50, and that extra $2.50 each time can quickly add up to a hefty sum by the end of your cruise.

If you get a drinks package, the gratuity is typically covered too.

6. Corkage Fees

Looking to bring your own alcohol onto your cruise, to save a bit of money? It’s a good idea, and most cruise lines will at least let you bring one bottle of wine with you.

a bottle of sparking wine in a cruise cabin

However, if you want to drink it in a public area of the ship, such as with dinner, then you’ll be charged a corkage fee, which is usually around $15. It’ll still be cheaper than buying a bottle of wine outright on the ship, but you might want to stick to drinking your wines in your stateroom or cabin, to keep costs down.

Or, just pour yourself a glass of wine in your stateroom and then walk out the door with it. They’ll never know…

Read more: Can You Bring Your Own Drinks on a Cruise?

7. Speciality Coffees

A cup of cappuccino with latte art on top, presented on a saucer, with the ocean glistening in the background, capturing a serene coffee moment by the sea.

One last point on drinks – some cruise lines will advertise included teas and coffees, either as part of your regular cruise fare or with a drinks package. But depending on your package, speciality coffees may not be covered.

It’s important to always check what’s covered. Luxury coffees may be charged separately, and any branded coffee stores (Starbucks on Royal Caribbean, or Costa on P&O Cruises) will also incur additional costs.

8. Adult-Only Area Access

Some cruise ships have adults-only areas that have upgraded amenities, designed to offer a little bit of respite away from the bustling crowds where the kids are being louder. 

The NCL bliss vibe beach club beautiful outdoor sundeck

Sometimes these are included, but sometimes they require a pass to allow you to enter with day passes costing anywhere between $50-100, and some that only allow you to pay for the duration of the cruise.

If you really don’t like the crowds, just search the ship – there are usually quieter spots to enjoy. And then, on port days when most guests head ashore, you can explore the parts of the ship that are usually busier.

Read more: Is Vibe Beach Club Worth It On NCL?

9. Dining Fees

On a cruise, you’ll always get a selection of included dining options with no extra charge – the main dining room, the buffet, and usually some snack bars or other specialist restaurants.

But there will be speciality dining restaurants that incur a charge – either a fixed fee, or that will have a la carte pricing.

The Limelight Club on P&O Cruises

You also need to be careful with the menu in the main dining room, as while most items will be free, some cruise lines have premium options that cost an extra fee.

Plus, it used to be that you could order as many main courses/entrees as you want, but several cruise lines are introducing charges for second or third meals at the same sitting – so make sure you ask your waiter if you aren’t sure.

10. Spa Passes

Most cruise ships have a spa, where you can enjoy a range of massage and beauty treatments, and these will all have individual prices. But the spas will sometimes have other facilities that guests can use, like a thermal spa, and the charges for these vary.

Cloud 9 Spa thermal suite

Sometimes they’re free, or you might need to pay for a day pass. You might also get access depending on the type of stateroom you book, such as Celebrity’s AquaClass staterooms, but don’t assume you can use the spa facilities without a charge otherwise.

11. Attraction Fees

Typically, the onboard entertainment and facilities on a cruise ship are free to use. Things like the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean, or the waterslides on any ship that has them, won’t cost a penny extra.

2 guests playing a virtual reality game

But some attractions will cost extra. Arcades, for example, work in the same way as arcades on land, while bigger attractions like NCL’s go-karting tracks or the Bolt roller coaster at sea on Carnival ships have a one-off cost. Both of those are $15 but prices for other attractions will vary.

12. Fitness Classes

A person lifts weights in a well-equipped gym with rows of dumbbells in the foreground and reflections of exercise machines in the mirrored wall, highlighting an active fitness environment.

Attending the gym on a cruise is free, but if you want to take part in organised classes with an instructor, there may be a cost involved. It’s usually low – expect to pay around $10 for a half-hour or hour-long class, but it’s something else to bear in mind.

13. Bingo

A young girl in a pink top and denim overalls is focused on playing bingo, marking her card with multiple colored markers, in a social setting with people in the background.

Bingo is a really popular pastime on cruises during the day and as part of some evening entertainment, depending on the cruise line. Some games may be free, with basic prizes, but most of the time you’ll pay to play and you’ll win the pot of money collected.

If you want to play bingo, look out for special offers where buying multiple cards gets you additional free ones.

14. Casino Gambling

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that gambling in the casino isn’t free on a cruise ship, but it’s still worth mentioning as a ‘hidden’ cost because, if you don’t budget for it properly, it can be very easy to rack up a large bill that you have to pay at the end of your cruise.

Inside the casino

With various table games and jackpot slots, many passengers spend thousands on a cruise gambling. And while those passengers will likely get rewarded with free drinks and potentially even free cruises, that doesn’t mean you should just spend what you like.

Read more: Celebrity Cruises Blue Chip Club

15. Onboard Shops

Just like with any holiday, you need to make sure you budget for souvenirs when you travel on a cruise, and the onboard shops often charge high prices for the items they sell.

Marella Cruises shops

Some of them are luxury jewellers or clothing retailers, but even the stores selling branded cruise merch aren’t exactly cheap. So, if you are likely to do some shopping onboard, set aside a limit you’re happy with.

16. Babysitting Charges

Cruises are more family-friendly than ever, with many ships now catering to guests of all ages. But you might still want some time to relax without the kids in the evening, so look out for cruise lines that offer a babysitting service. 

Baby Adam on the bed

Expect to pay between $6 and $9 per hour for group babysitting in the onboard kids’ clubs with cruise lines like Celebrity, Carnival, Disney, MSC and Royal Caribbean, with some also offering in-cabin babysitting if you’d prefer, though expect to pay a much higher hourly rate.

Read more: Cruise With a Toddler

17. Daily Gratuities

On the majority of cruise lines, you need to pay daily gratuities for the crew on top of the fare you’ve paid. Only a handful of cruise lines, including the British ones like P&O Cruises and Marella Cruises, don’t ask guests to pay these tips.

Princess Cruise crew

They’re added to your account automatically, and you can either prepay before you cruise, or pay them off when you clear your account on the last day. You can technically ask for them to be removed, but it’s not a good idea, since it takes away money that the crew have worked hard for.

Read more: Should You Prepay Gratuities On A Cruise?

18. Porter Tips

When you arrive at a cruise port, your bags will be taken away by porters or baggage handlers, and you won’t see them again until they’re left outside your cabin door later that day.

Baggage handlers at Liverpool cruise port

If you’re cruising from the US, it’s custom (and usually a good idea) to tip these baggage handlers. As a guide, aim for $2 to $5 per bag, or a round figure of $10 for the family’s luggage.

Read more: How Much Extra To Tip Cruise Staff

19. Shore Excursions

Another cost that isn’t really ‘hidden’ but that you might not expect if you’ve never cruised before – shore excursions in each port typically have an associated cost. Booking through the cruise line tends to mean you’ll pay more, too, though you get the guarantee that the ship will wait for you if anything happens to delay you while you’re ashore.

A coach ready to take guests on an excursion

It’s cheaper to book your excursions through a third party or to avoid booking them altogether and just hop off the ship to explore, although check your itinerary as you may dock far away from the main town/attractions.

20. Food and Drink Portside

One thing that people often forget to budget for is their food and drink when they’re on a port day and exploring. You may be able to carry drinks off the ship with you, but you can’t take food.

Interior of Portside BBQ restaurant featuring a cozy, modern dining area with a mix of red and silver chairs at wooden tables, a long brown leather booth, pendant lights, and exposed brick walls. A neon sign with the words 'Good Eats, Good Vibes' adds a vibrant touch to the ambiance."

You could return to the ship for lunch, but if you plan on eating out, factor that into your spending budget before you travel.

21. Laundry Services

You might want to make use of the laundry services on a ship if you prefer to pack light, or if you’re on a particularly long sailing. Prices vary by cruise line and whether the machines are self-service or if you need to use a managed laundry service instead. 

Laundry-room inside a cruise ship

It’s cheaper to just pack as many outfits as you need, though this will also depend on any airline luggage allowances if you’re flying out to meet your ship.

Read more: How To Do Laundry on Cruise Ships

22. Photo Charges

Cruise ships tend to have one or two photographers onboard, who will capture moments around the ship and offer a formal photoshoot service on formal nights. 

Couple having their photo taken on formal night on a Carnival cruise

If you want to take these precious memories home with you, be prepared for fairly high prices, even if you buy a package deal on the ship. It may be better to just work on your own photography skills instead, and ask other guests to snap a quick pic of your family when you’re all dressed up.

Read more: 8 Expert Tips To Capture Perfect Cruise Photos

23. Flights

Not cruising from your home country? Then you’ll need to factor the cost of flights into your cruise. If you book with a travel agent then they’ll arrange it for you and include the cost in what you pay them, otherwise you’ll need to source your own flights.

Tui Plane

You can also book fly-cruise deals directly with cruise lines but these may be more expensive. Some of the more expensive ultra-luxury cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas and Silversea will include your flights as standard.

24. Transfers

When putting together your own cruise package, don’t forget that it’s not enough to fly to your embarkation port – you also need to get from the airport to the cruise port.

Taxi in Barcelona

You can book transfers, or private taxis, or try public transport if you’re confident – but you will need to budget for it regardless.

25. Hotel Stays

A top tip when cruising, especially when travelling from a foreign embarkation port, is to book a hotel the night before you sail. You don’t want to risk delays on your departure day, because if you’re late then the ship will leave without you.

Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens

A hotel stay might add a larger amount to your budget, but it’s worth it to avoid the stress of rushing on your first cruise day.

26. Cruise Parking

If you’re driving to the cruise port, you’ll need somewhere to leave your car. Cruise terminals will have parking services, but they can be pricey – sometimes £15 ($20) or more per day.

Aerial view of a busy parking lot at the Southampton cruise terminal, with rows of parked cars in various colors, indicating high activity possibly linked to cruise departures or arrivals.

It’s possible to find free street parking in some instances but that’s quite the risk – better to research cheaper parking alternatives that are secure, especially if they include free transfers to the port afterwards. Hotels with cruise parking are a great combination if you want to stay the night before as well.

Read more: Southampton Cruise Parking Guide

27. Activities Pre- or Post-Cruise

If you are travelling to your port city the day before, or if your return flight after your cruise is late at night, you might want to look into activities to entertain you before or after you sail.

My family at an art gallery before a cruise

Especially in larger cities like Miami, where the airport is easily accessible and late-night flights back to the UK are common – there are so many things to see and do so that you aren’t stuck bored in the airport for 12 hours, but most have a cost – make sure you’ve factored that in.

Read more: What To Do In Miami After A Cruise & Before A Flight

28. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance really is a must for cruising. You don’t want to risk something going wrong and losing your entire fare if it’s not the cruise line at fault.


The cost of travel insurance will vary depending on your age and medical history, but I really would recommend always buying it, especially since medical costs on cruise ships can be so expensive.

Read more: Do You Need Cruise Travel Insurance?


Don’t miss these hot cruise offers…

Final Word

There are a lot of extras that you might have to pay for on a cruise, but most of these are optional. Cruising on the bare-bones fare is still great fun, though you might feel a little restricted.

Some of the attractions on cruise ships aren’t as fun as you might think, so I’d suggest reading this post – Overrated Cruise Attractions You Should Definitely Skip – before you book anything.

If you’re on a tight budget, just work out everything before you travel and set sensible limits to stick to, and you can have an amazing time without worrying about the bill on the final day.

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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.

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