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17 Extra Costs of Cruising



While your cruise fare includes your accommodations, food, entertainment, and travel to the ports of call, there are many extra costs of cruising that can surprise you (and your wallet) without proper planning.

1. Specialty Dining

Today’s cruise ships offer unparalleled quality and variety in dining that sometimes comes with an added charge. Be prepared to charge to your onboard account if your ship has some specialty restaurants that entice your taste buds.

2. Bar Bill

At the Carnival Freedom’s cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, mixologist Daniel Zanoaga prepares custom-designed cocktails using herbs, spices and other interesting ingredients. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Unfortunately for many of us, alcohol is not included in the cruise fare. And while cruise lines all offer their own versions of an “all-inclusive” beverage package to ease the blow, it’s still an extra expense in addition to your cruise fare to budget for.

3. Other Drinks

Along with alcohol, other drinks like sodas, sports drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, energy drinks, smoothies, and milkshakes are not included in your fare – only tap water, regular coffee and tea, and lemonade, apple juice, and orange juice typically found on the lido deck. You can either purchase these à la carte or look for the non-alcoholic beverage package offered by your cruise line.

4. Shore Excursions

What you do in the ports of call is on your tab. Luckily, there are plenty of third-party companies like that offer exciting activities for competitive prices.

5. Spa

Spa treatments, packages, and some fitness classes are not included in your cruise fare. If you plan on taking advantage of these, anticipate some onboard expenses.

6. Room Service

photo NCL

Whether or not there’s a fee for room service depends on which cruise line you’re sailing on, and sometimes on what time you order food, too.

7. Gratuities

photo credit: flickr/Pictures of Money

Gratuities can either be prepaid or added to your onboard expense account at the end of your cruise. Costs vary depending on cruise line, length of cruise, and type of stateroom. These go to your steward, dinner waiters, maître d, and other hardworking behind-the-scenes staff.

8. Casino

What fun would blackjack be if you weren’t playing for money?

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9. Internet

Want to stay connected at sea? Plan to pay for a wifi connection, whether the rate is per minute or per day.

10. Pictures

Photographers will be taking your photo during the cruise to sell these professional shots to you before you leave the ship. And who can resist a family portrait in front of a starry background or the classic sailaway photo?

11. Shopping

Whether you shop on the ship or ashore, don’t forget to factor souvenirs and travel knick-knacks into your travel budget.

12. Laundry

Cruise ships almost always have a self-service laundry room for guests, but you’ll need to bring some change to be safe, as only select newer ships support using your sailing card to pay. You can also pay more for valet laundry.

13. Travel Insurance

It may be an extra expense, but this one should not be skipped. A trip to the ship’s medical bay or an emergency trip cancellation can end up costing you thousands, so purchasing insurance could actually end up saving you big time.  

READ MORE: Why You Should Buy Cruise Travel Insurance

14. Transportation

Depending on how you’re getting to the port, your extra costs may include airfare, a taxi or Uber, parking expenses, shuttle transfers, buses, etc. Plan ahead and factor these costs into your budget.

15. Tipping

In addition to the gratuities for your room steward and dinner waiters, don’t forget to bring some cash to tip miscellaneous people throughout your cruise like your porter, shore excursion tour guide, taxi driver, etc.

16. Before/After Hotels

photo: Hilton

Of course, if you’re staying near the port for the night before or after your cruise, this will be yet another expense to add to your travel.

17. Texas Taxes

If you’re cruising out of Texas, you’ll be subject to a state tariff enacted against the Port of Galveston by the (rather unpopular) Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision. If you bought any alcohol or cigarettes on the ship or at any duty-free store, expect to pay about $3.75 per liter of alcohol and $1.50 per pack of cigarettes thanks to this special state import tax.

Despite these extra expenses, cruising continues to be one of the most budget-friendly ways to travel!

What are some extras costs of cruising that you’ve experienced? 

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Ultimate Guide to Cruise Tipping



A big part of your cruise vacation is the memories that you’ll create. And while you’re creating those memories with your friends and family, there’s a whole slew of people working their butts off to help make it the best experience it can possibly be. Some of them you’ll see and interact with, others are toiling behind the scenes. You know that daily gratuity charge that shows up on your bill? These are the people working hard to earn it.

But one of the things we’re asked all the time is: Should I be giving additional tips? That is, of course, a decision each cruiser must make for themselves. But over the years, we’ve developed personal guidelines that might help you make decisions about who – and how much – you decide to give a little something extra to.

The Daily Gratuity Charge

First things first: Let’s take a look at that daily gratuity charge and how it’s typically broken down. For our purposes, we’re going to use Carnival Cruise Line, which charges $12.95 per person, per day for its non-suite categories. Here’s how they break that down by department:

  • Housekeeping Team: $4.05
  • Dining Team: $6.40
  • Alternative Services: $2.50

That final category leaves many wondering what the heck it is. But simply put, “Alternative Services” includes members of the kitchen and hotel staff who are not part of the housekeeping or dining teams. It’s important to note that on most lines, you will still wind up paying an additional gratuity in venues such as bars, specialty restaurants, and the spa.

photo NCL

Now… let’s address the elephant in the room. We all know that there are people who remove the daily gratuity charge from their accounts. It’s something we’ve never done and can’t really imagine doing… and here’s why. The two reasons people most often cite for having the gratuities removed are that they received subpar service or that they prefer to give individual tips. We have no doubt that during any given cruise, a passenger might have a room steward who wasn’t as attentive as they should be or a waiter who screwed up orders. But removing gratuities is like punishing the barrel of fruit because it contained a bad apple or two.

READ MORE: The Big Lie About Cruise Tipping

As for the whole “I prefer to give individual tips” thing, we applaud that… but ask that people keep in mind the daily gratuities charge is designed to also compensate people who you never actually interact with, let alone have an opportunity to tip. That’s why, on top of the daily gratuities, we always wind up slipping a little somethin’ extra to our favorite bartenders, a particularly attentive waiter and — absolutely always — our room attendant.

Other People You Should Consider Tipping

One of the stops we always make before boarding a ship is the bank. We also make sure to get lots of small bills in order to deal with discretionary tipping. Who else might you consider tipping? If you’re like us, you start handing out dollar bills before you’ve even arrived at the ship.

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  • If you take a cab, shuttle bus, or Uber/Lyft to the pier, you’ll likely want to thank your driver. The standard is 15 percent or so… but make sure to throw in a little extra if they help with your baggage.
  • The first people you’ll come into contact with at the pier are the baggage handlers. Most people give them at least $1 per bag. We’ve been known to go higher just to make sure the luggage gods show a little extra love to our suitcases! After all, is there any worse way to start off your trip than finding out that your belongings went missing?

During The Cruise

Bar Service: Depending on the cruise line, drink and bottle service will have an automated gratuity added of 15 to 18 percent. If you’ve ordered a drink package, the final cost likely came with the gratuity added. So you could easily go the week without tipping any of the bartending staff. But if there’s one place we always grease the wheels, it’s here… especially if there’s a particular bar you know you’re going to be hitting somewhat regularly. Trust us… there may be 5,000 people on that ship, but the bartenders will remember the ones who treated them kindly, and you’ll be glad you did when the bar is packed.

Spa: Often, spa services come with an automatically-added gratuity so, as always, be sure to check in advance to see if this is true. If not, the 15-20 percent standard applies here, too. A friend actually offers half the tip at the beginning of their massage, and says, “Skip the sales pitches, and I’ll double that.”

Specialty Dining: On most cruise lines, the gratuity is included when you dine in a specialty restaurant. Carnival Cruise Line’s fee in the steakhouse, for example, includes the gratuity. And when you buy a dining package on Norwegian Cruise Line, the final cost includes gratuity. That said, if you have a great experience and want to show a little love to the wait staff, it won’t go unappreciated.

In The Port

Tour Operators: It is customary to extend a gratuity to a tour guide and excursion operator based on the experience. Some will pretty aggressively pursue a tip while others won’t mention it at all.

Dining or Drink Ashore: This is another situation where it’s important to know what was and wasn’t covered in the cost of your dining. Many restaurants and bars automatically add the gratuity into the total cost. Some add the gratuity, yet still leave an extra line for an additional tip, which can confuse some folks. Once you’ve determined whether or not the tip was included, proceed accordingly. Also, if you grab a drink at the bar before sitting down to your meal — and have the cost of the drink applied to your check — consider tipping the bartender separately, even if you aren’t paying him directly for the drinks.

After The Cruise

Photo: PortMiami Twitter

Baggage Porters: You can request a porter to collect your bags and take them to the car or curb. (One advantage to doing this: They sometimes have a separate customs lane or access to a faster line than the rest.) Definitely show these hard-working folks some love, and by love, we mean cash.

Final Thoughts

You know what we’re going to say here: At the end of the day, tipping is as personal as it is subjective. We all have that relative who could receive white-glove treatment from everyone onboard and will still remove the gratuities. We all know people who rationalize having the gratuities removed because they “tip individuals” when we all know they (often) do no such thing. But we also know plenty of people who tip often and generously. What we’ve offered here are simply thoughts and guidelines and, hopefully, some useful information.

Perhaps the best tipping advice we can offer is the time-tested Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do onto you.

Especially if they spend the week bringing you cocktails by the pool.

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How To Earn An Extra Cruise This Year



If money were no option, a lot of us would cruise far more often. But given that most of us will never know what it’s like to have a hot-and-cold running cash spigot, the best we can do is find ways to cruise as often as possible without breaking the bank. With cruises becoming more popular — and thus, thanks to that whole supply-and-demand thing, more expensive — squeezing in that extra cruise each year is becoming a little bit tougher. But it’s definitely not impossible.

The Key To Cruising More

In life, you have to make sure to have your priorities straight… and that applies to cruising, too. We all know that nothing great comes easy. If you want to lose weight, you might have to avoid some of the foods you really enjoy. If you want better grades in school, you have to crack open the books and study. And if you want to take that extra cruise, you have to save more money… which is likely going to mean making some tough sacrifices.

Again, it’s about priorities.

For me, cruising is definitely a priority, as you might have guessed. And given that the money tree I planted in my yard turned out to be a weed, I’ve had to come up with a bunch of different ways to save up for my cruises. Here are just a few of the ways I do it.

1. Control Your Money

If you’ve ever listened to The Dave Ramsey Show, you know that one of his biggest mottos is “You control your money, your money doesn’t control you.” Having in the past been that guy who looks in his wallet and says, “Where did all my money go?”, I’ve found it really important to create (and stick by, as best I can) a budget. Needing a little help with that, I’ve relied on the Every Dollar app, which not only allows me to keep track of how much I’m spending on what, but helps funnel extra money into my cruise fund.

2. Making Sacrifices

In taking an honest look at my spending, I realized one big expense for me was eating out… which I tend to do a lot. I work from home, so it’s important to get out of the house and away from the computer every now and then. What better way to do that than head to a restaurant for a lunch or dinner break? Instead, I’ve been trying to eat more of my meals at home, which is a lot cheaper. I can get a week’s worth of lunches for what I’d pay to go out to eat a couple times. To shake things up, I sometimes invite people over to join me for lunch or go to their place. It’s easy to blow off lunch at a fast food restaurant when I know that doing so will help me spend a week being served great meals in the main dining room of a ship.

3. Take Advantage Of Cruise Line Programs and Offers

Harmony of the Seas.

Depending on the cruise line, you can find all kinds of ways to save money depending on how and when you book, as well as the way in which you pay off the trip. Carnival is well known for their $50 deposit offers, which are a great way to lock in a good deal without having to fork over a lot of money. (Just be careful to make sure that if the deposit is non-refundable, you’re booking a date that you can definitely sail!)

Carnival also now has the EasyPay program, which makes it really easy to spread your payments out over an extended period of time. While some see this as Carnival getting their hands on your money sooner (and it thus earning money in their account as opposed to yours), others — myself included — much prefer the convenience of a payment plan to having to cough up a big chunk of money on that dreaded “Final Payment” date.

4. Get Creative

You know how I kill two birds with one stone? I get rid of stuff I no longer need and make money at the same time by selling stuff on eBay. Another friend of mine has made a killing selling stuff she makes in her free time on Etsy. There are all kinds of ways that you can make a little extra cash if you put your mind to it. And since that’s money you wouldn’t otherwise be making, you can earmark every penny of it for your cruise fund! Speaking of which…

5. Start A Cruise Fund

photo credit: flickr/Pictures of Money

Whether it’s an empty can you throw all your change into or an actual bank account, have a place to save money that’s separate from all your other money. I thought that seemed kind of silly… until the first time I rolled six months worth of loose change and found out I’d collected a couple hundred bucks. One of my contributing editors actually has $25 a week taken out of his paycheck and put into a special “cruise account” he has set up at the bank. (This is, in many ways, an even better idea than the can-of-change thing. Why? It’s at least a little bit harder to raid your bank account than it is to stick your hand in a jar whenever you need a few extra bucks!)

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No matter which route you take, trust me: It adds up quicker than you think.

6. Befriend Your Travel Agent

It’s one thing to have a travel agent. It’s another to actually develop that relationship. Because trust me, there’s nothing better than having someone you not only trust with your travel plans, but who knows exactly what type of person — and, by extension, cruiser — you are. They’ll let you know when a great deal come up on a ship they know you’ve enjoyed in the past, or maybe point you toward something you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. The better you get to know each other, the easier it’ll be for them to make sure you wind up on the right ship for you… and at the best price possible.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

7. Give Yourself Credit (Card Points)

A plane landing as seen from Maho Beach (PC: flickr/Global Panorama)

Remember earlier, I mentioned The Dave Ramsey Show? Well, there’s one area where we definitely differ: He pretty regularly preaches about the evils of credit cards, whereas I’m a big advocate of making them work in my favor. I get why he’s against them… way too many people get in over their head by living beyond their means. But if you’re a regular traveler — and you have a good head on your shoulders — it would be crazy not to rack up the points.  I’ve flown around the world on my American Airlines card, plus they have promotions that give you up to 60,000 miles just for signing up. (As a point of reference, you can typically get a round-trip flight in the continental United States for around 25,000 miles.)

Similarly, all the major cruise lines have cards with attached rewards programs. The card affiliated with Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, offers double points on any NCL-related purchase. So if you put a $3,000 cruise on the card, you’re getting 6,000 points. Same if you charge things on board, including shore excursions or meals in the specialty restaurants. Of course, the key is to make sure you’re paying those cards off every month. Otherwise, the points you accumulate won’t be worth the interest fees you wind up paying.

8. Book A Cruise While On A Cruise

Norwegian Escape in Nassau.

Granted, most of the programs offering you discounts or on-board credit if you book a future cruise while on your current vacation aren’t nearly as lucrative as they once were. Over the years, cruise lines have stripped many of the perks away. It can, however, still work in your favor. For example, if you buy a CruiseNext certificate while on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, you pay $250 for a certificate of equal value toward your next cruise… and get $100 on-board credit to spend during your current sailing. The more you buy, the more you save. But know exactly what you’re buying, how much credit you’re getting… and any restrictions which will apply.

9. Ask For The Gift You Really Want

Whenever the Spice Girls sing “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want” the answer should be… cruise line gift cards. When your birthday rolls around, don’t be afraid to let Aunt Ruby know that instead of thermal underwear, what you’d really like is a gift card. Just make sure she knows which line you want to cruise on! Meanwhile, make sure to take advantage of good deals when they arise. For example, you can often get gift cards at a 10 percent discount through AARP or Verizon. (This is the one occasion where you can raid that cruise bank account you’ve set up… after all, you’ll be making money in the long run.) Just make sure you know how and when you can use those gift cards, and when they expire.

These are just some of the various ways I’ve developed in my never-ending quest to squeeze in an extra cruise or two each year. With a little inventiveness, foresight and yes, some sacrifice, you’ll be able to set sail too!

Got any money-saving tips for your fellow cruisers? Hit the comments and share them! 

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Cruise Honeymoon Registries: Tacky or Not



I recently read an article in my local paper debating whether or not it was tacky for engaged couples to ask for money towards their honeymoon. The debate was heated. On one side, people argued that “If they can’t afford the honeymoon on their own, they have no business going on one!” Others argued that “It’s their business how they spend their money.”

Honestly, I was shocked at the debate. Perhaps because I myself had a “honeymoon registry” at my wedding. Had my wedding guests thought I was a tacky bride?

My husband and I got married last year on Carnival Freedom. As part of our cruise wedding, Carnival set us up with a Carnival registry directly related to our cruise. We could choose specific excursions, spa experiences, photo credits, drink package credits, general onboard credit, etc., for our wedding guests to purchase. If they chose to purchase any credit for us, it would be applied to our booking through Carnival.

However, we also had the “traditional” wedding registries set up through JCPenney and Amazon, so the honeymoon registry was not the only option for our guests. But, there weren’t too many household items we desperately needed, aside from maybe some decent silverware. Not needing that many home goods, we agreed to set up the honeymoon registry with Carnival.

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Those who cry “TACKY!” should know one thing first. We never expected others to pay for our honeymoon. And that’s not the point of a honeymoon registry. We were always ready and willing to foot our own bill. The registry was there in case guests would like to choose to help us out in that way. We did have several guests purchase credit for us: some bought onboard credit and one bought an excursion for us. Again, we were not asking for any handouts. But by lessening the blow of our final bill of our honeymoon cruise, our guests in turn helped us free up more money to put towards paying off student loans or saving for a down payment on a house – things that were more important to us than a ceramic gravy boat.

That being said, there are always a few bad apples in every bunch. I’m sure there are rather ungrateful couples out there (to put it lightly) who set up a honeymoon registry and do indeed expect their guests to foot the bill. Yet, while I don’t agree with their intentions, I would still argue that it’s not tacky to ask for money for the honeymoon. To me, the point of a registry is to ask for what you need. If the couple feels they need some R&R on a dream cruise more than they need new pots and pans, then who am I to say otherwise?

Long story short, I don’t think it’s tacky to ask for money, whether it’s for the honeymoon or something else. What I do this is tacky is expecting gifts – whether they’re cold cash, home goods, or something else.

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