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The Total Cost of a Cruise Vacation

Updated on July 5, 2012
Port of Miami
Port of Miami

Tough Economic Times Call For Tough Budgeting

Most of us know that these are touch times financially for most of us. Incomes remain flat or have decreased while costs of goods and services have increased. This makes for good budget planning in all aspects of our lives including vacations.

We all work hard and benefit from taking a week or so to spend quality time with loved ones and cruising seems to be growing year by year as more people take to the high seas for that much needed sun and relaxation break. Cruise lines today make sure that activities are available for everyone in every age group so a good time may be enjoyed by all. A question, though, when planning the budget for a cruise is, what will it all really cost. I will attempt to cover as much as possible in uncovering the potential costs of things in addition to the basic cruise fare, many of which are straight forward and some which may not even have been thought of in advance such as the added on gratuities and transfer costs. Basically, when it comes to the final price, it's not the acutual cruise pricing that finalizes the cost factors of "how much will this cruise actually cost me?"

Extras Run Up the Cost of Your Cruise

Those Extras Add Up
Those Extras Add Up | Source

Costs and Fares

Cruise lines generally insist that cruise and travel agencies list only the cruise fares in their pricing and then disclose elsewhere the fact that "government fees and taxes are additional". There is nothing wrong with this kind of advertising, however, it is plain and simple marketing to draw your attention to the low price of a cruise. However, there are always port charges and taxes that have to be added to the price. There are different pricing for the numerous "categories" of cabins available and these price additions can range from a few dollars to very up-charged premium cabins. The advertised lowest price is generally a lower level inside cabin located the furthest from the elevators. Even up-grading a cabin to having a window or portal can add hundreds of dollars to the basic fare. In addition to the above, there are a plethora of other costs that could really be a budget breaker if not planned for in advance and can end up quite a shock when the final tab is presented at the end of your cruise.

Air Fare Can Really Add to the Cost

If you are planning on a cruise from a cruise port location that is not within driving distance from your home, the cost of air fare can add substantially to the total cost of the cruise vacation. For some, they may make an extended vacation out of an extra few days in the area of the port prior or after the cruise. For those that must really stay within a tight budget, a suggestion would be to take a cruise that leaves from and returns to a port within driving distance of your home. Here is a link that will give you information on every U.S. cruise terminal as well as which cruise line utilize them. You are then able to check cruise lines directly for the itineraries of ships that leave from that port.

Other Charges

The cruise lines make their real profit not from the cruise fares but from the extras spent while on board. On most of the contemporary cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and the other lines considered in the "contemporary" class, sodas and alcohol drinks are not included. Cruise lines are very smart in their method of running a tab for all most of the extras that you must settle up on the last day of the cruise. Other additional costs that get tacked on at the end are things such as photographs that are taken of you by the ship staff, up-charge restaurants on board, on-shore excursions, gratuities, ship retail shops and stores, all of which you just sign your name and it goes on your shipboard account. I went swimming with the dolphins in Jamaica and the cost of that off-shore excursion was over $300. Another tip to keep the costs down a bit is to look at companies outside the cruise lines that offer off-shore excursions. Really check out the company before booking to make sure it is a solid reputable company, but those that are offer some great excursions for a much better price. So it is easy to understand how the total cost of a cruise can run much higher than one initially thinks. It is easy to get carried away in all the fun and not keep track of how fast the charges run up. You don't want to find that on the last day of the cruise you had far more fun then your budget allowed...oops! A good tip is to ask for your accumulated total at the end of each day, that way it is far easier to plan and stay on budget..

Ship Casino

On Board Casinos

Now this is one that can really make or break a trip. Walking into an on board casino is just like walking into a casino in Las Vegas. You can feel the excitement in the air and the activity and d├ęcor inviting you in to play, but watch out, looks can be deceiving and that fun can quickly turn into a nightmare. If you like to take a chance on those slot machines or at the game tables, unless you really can afford to lose some money, you must use self control and strictly limit the amount money you are willing to give up. Don't keep signing that tab for more chips thinking you can win back those losses...walk away. Many cruise vacations have been ruined and caused family despair by losses in the casino. The ships bank on that.

So How Much Will My Cruise Really Cost

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when adding up the total cost of a cruise. I hope this article gives you some helpful information on things to think about when planning a cruise. People's activities and lifestyles are all so different that there is no magic equation to be used. An average might be to take the cruise fare multiplied by 2.5 % and use this as a place to start. You then must factor in your own individual "extras" that you think you will spend and just keep a close eye on that running tab to ensure the best possible cruise experience.


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    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 3 years ago

      Stay out of the casinos on a cruise ship to really keep the costs down lol. but everything else might be worth it - I plan to clear two credit cards just for expenses - that'll more than cover it.

    • TravelAbout profile image

      Katheryn 5 years ago from United States

      Yes indeedy, they make it far too easy by just signing your name for everything then when you go to checkout on the last day you end up with a heart attack from shock when you see your grand total. LOL

    • myhubpage26 profile image

      myhubpage26 5 years ago from United States

      Yes because it is expensive and ten they have all these things on board that you will end up spending a fortune at the end of the day.

    • TravelAbout profile image

      Katheryn 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you myhubpages26. I'm glad you found it useful!

    • myhubpage26 profile image

      myhubpage26 5 years ago from United States

      Yes it's true it all adds up in the end. They will attract you with the low prices and then once interested they hit you with the additional fees. This is very useful this will allow people to see the expense in planning for a cruise or anything for that matter. You touched base with everything this article in very insightful.