Let’s face it. Money doesn’t grow on trees and cruising, however fun, can be a costly experience.

You have finally saved up enough money to take your family on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise. With your heart excitedly pounding in your chest, you call Apollo Travel Orlando, and say “Lets do it”!

Cruising, here we go!

Next, you look and see “what are my options”, they bombarded you with a myriad of options to bump up your cruise experience. You’re on vacation, so why not indulge, right? You picked a few excursions and maybe a beverage package to spice things up on your cruise. These things add up to a hefty sum. Unless you have budgeted for these hidden costs, you might end up with a substantial credit card bill on the next billing cycle.

Especially for first-time cruisers, the final bill at the end of your cruise can be jaw-dropping. Hence, we came up with a list of 18 hidden costs of cruising that bumps up your cruising budget and leaves a dent on your savings account. Ouch!

23 Things That We've Learned From Our Royal Caribbean Cruise

Automatic Gratuities

Most cruise lines automatically add a $14–$18 gratuity charge to your account per person per day. In addition, an automatic 18% gratuity is added to all bar bills and spa services. They pool together and divide gratuities among all crew members.

a. If you think you have received sub par service, you can have the amount changed at guest services.
b. Some cruise lines will allow you to prepay your gratuities before your cruise.

c. You can always give a little extra to your favorite crew member for exceptional service.

Port Excursions

Excursions are fun, but they’re not cheap. Depending on the type of excursion activities you are into, excursion fees can quickly add up, especially if you have a sizeable group.

How to save:
a. Shop around and find the best deals. You don’t have to book your excursions through the cruise line. However, be wary of the schedule and transportation availability. You don’t want to be left behind when your ship leaves.
b. Save on dining by eating your lunch on board the cruise ship.
c. You can skip them. There are enough fun activities on board the cruise ship to keep you entertained.

Dining Onboard Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas

Specialty Dining

Some people (like myself) savor a little bit of culinary luxury on board a cruise ship. However, cruise ship specialty dining options charge an extra $40- $60 per person. Sometimes, even higher.

Here are a few things you can do to save:
a. Purchase a dining package.
 It is like prepaying for specialty dining offerings at a discounted price. You’ll end up paying roughly $25 per person instead of paying full price.
b. Skip specialty dining options. There will always be an abundance of complimentary dining options onboard.

Alcoholic Drinks and Beverages

Your throat will never run dry on a cruise ship. For meals there will be water, coffee, iced tea, juices and milk that are all complimentary to your cruise fare. However, alcoholic beverages, premium coffee and tea, soft drinks, beer and wine are not, and can quickly add up especially with the automatic 18% gratuity added to bar drinks.

How to save:
a. Purchase a beverage package. Just like dining packages, most cruise lines offer prepaid options for premium beverages. Depending on your personal preferences, beverage packages are priced differently, so you can pick what you want.
b. Purchase wine by the bottle instead of by the glass. You can always save what’s left for your next meal. Note: Some cruise ships allow you to bring a few bottles of wine on board. Be sure to read cruise policy and take advantage of it.
c. Check your daily cruise newsletter for drinks specials or something like a “Drink of the day” and take advantage of reduced prices on some drinks.

18 Hidden Costs That Bumps Up Your Cruising Budget

Internet Connectivity

If you would like to stay connected on social media, or stream movies and videos at sea, you can pay for your ship’s Wi-Fi service. This would typically cost around $15–$20 per day for unlimited access, depending on the cruise line. Some lines charge based on the amount of data you use. Take the time to read about what they offer on your cruise.

How to save:
Some cruise lines have a free access area that may come with a coffee purchase. Some even have internet cafes that offer free or discounted internet service on board.


For the most of us, we do not live near embarkation ports and would need to fly to get there. This can be an enormous expense depending on where you’re at.

How to save:
a. Purchase your plane tickets as soon as possible. Airfares typically go up the closer you are to your planned date of departure.
b. Go on a road trip. Driving is a lot cheaper than flying as long as you don’t mind getting behind the wheel for hours on end. Yikes!

23 Things That We've Learned From Our Royal Caribbean Cruise

Ground Transportation

Now that you’ve arrived at the airport, you still need to get to your Port of Embarkation via ground transport. There are several options to choose from, but depending on how far the port is from the airport, it can cost over $100 per person back and forth.

How to save:
a. Go for a third party shuttle service around the area. This is a cost effective option. Paying for taxi or Uber can be costly depending on the distance between the nearest airport and your cruise’s embarkation port.
b. Ask a friend or family member who lives around the area to drive you to your embarkation port.
c. You can always take the bus (most economical)

Spa and Salon Services

Getting a massage on your cruise can be quite a luxurious experience, but paying for it afterwards can quickly pile up on your final bill especially with the automatic 18% gratuity added to the cost.

How to save:
a. Check your daily newsletter for special discounts on spa and salon services.
b. Some cruise lines offer bundled services at discounted prices. Watch for special discounts on embarkation and port days.

Onboard Shopping and Souvenirs

Cruise ships offer a lot of fun activities including duty-free shopping on board your cruise. With so many cruise memorabilia to choose from, it is at times tempting to buy that little figurine, or maybe that nice-looking T-shirt you’ve been eyeing as a souvenir. Remember that for the most part, cruise ship prices aren’t exactly deals. From spending $10 on souvenir key chains to spending thousands of dollars on jewelry, there are enough things to buy on a cruise ship that might burn a hole through your wallet.

How to save:
a. Research and compare prices online.
b. Have a budgeted amount for shopping. (Okay this doesn’t really help you save, but it helps you avoid overspending.)

Souvenir Photos

For immortalizing precious moments, souvenir photos are great and it might tempt you to buy a few prints to take home. However, 8×10 photos can easily cost over $20 each.

How to save:
a. Ask for deals and discounts. Some would offer discounted prices if you buy a certain number of prints.
b. Learn to take better photos on the cruise ship. You can take the photo yourself, or ask a fellow cruiser to snap a photo for you.


Gambling on a cruise ship can be costly. According to some sources, the odds of winning slots on cruise ships are lower than that on land because some gambling and gaming laws don’t apply. I am not a gambler myself, and I have no way to prove the above statement. But if you rack up gambling losses, you’ve just made your cruise a whole lot more expensive than you budgeted for.

Only tip I have on gambling is to have some gambling money set aside and stop playing once it is gone. Set limits and stay with them. Some cruise ships even give out free onboard gambling credits just to get you hooked into playing big.

Travel Insurance

Getting sick on a cruise ship can be very costly. This is completely optional, but purchasing a short-term travel insurance is the one thing you can do to offset unforeseen health care charges on your trip. Get you a travel insurance quote here

How to save:
Shop around and try to find the best deal for your state of health. Always read the fine print and read what’s covered or not. Travel insurance can cost as low as $20 for your trip to $400 depending on its terms and conditions.



Onboard Activities

Part of the allure of cruising is the plethora of activities on board the cruise ship. Although most of them are free of charge, some activities do incur additional charges. Some of these “non-free” activities include fitness classes, cooking classes, wine tasting events, and other fun activities like laser tag, Go Karts, IMAX movies and even ice skating.

How to save:
a. Watch for deals on your daily cruise newsletter. Some cruise ships offer discounted rates if you bundle.
b. There are others things to do on a cruise ship that will not cost you extra. You can watch Broadway-like productions, exhilarating game shows, comedy shows, trivia games, BINGO, karaoke showdowns, and other fun-filled activities to keep entertained.

Port Fees and Taxes

The cruise line pays for tax and port charges on every port the ship docks. These charges usually translates into a 12%–15% on top of your cruise fare depending on the cruise line.

Hotel Accommodations

To avoid the possibility of airline delays and the eventual outcome of missing your cruise, Apollo Travel always advise for would-be cruisers to arrive a day ahead especially if you’re flying in. However, that also means you’ll be staying overnight in a hotel.


Parking Fees

Whether you fly or you drive to your port of embarkation, deal with long-term parking fees is a real possibility. This will usually run around $8–$20 dollars per day depending on the location and the level of security they provide.

How to save:
The only way to save on parking fees is to shop around for the best parking rate in and around the area. If you have someone who can take you to the port, that’s even better.

Room Service

Most major cruise lines will now charge a small fee for room service to your stateroom account. For instance, Royal Caribbean charges around $7.50 per room service order. Carnival has recently announced that they are now charging a nominal room service fee per item effective mid January 2019.

How to save:
You can always enjoy the cruise’s complimentary dining options whether buffet style or at the main dining room. If you prefer, you can take some food items from the dining room to your stateroom as a snack for later with no extra charge.

Babysitting Services

In-stateroom babysitting services are no longer available on some of the major cruise lines. However, late night babysitting are still offered so parents can enjoy some late night activities while someone looks after their little ones. Typical charge is around $8 hourly.


One of the few things I adore about cruising is the way you can define your own cruise experience. For the true cost of cruising, it all depends on how much you want to indulge and spend money on. Except for automatic gratuities, port fees and transportation costs, you can choose to spend nothing more than the cruise fare you’ve already paid for. There are plenty of things to do, food to eat, activities to enjoy and sights to behold on a cruise ship that makes them worth your while without having to pay anything extra.

This list should not discourage you from cruising. Rather, it should encourage you to plan your next cruise, calculate your expenses ahead of time and have a better perspective of what to expect from your cruise to get the biggest bang out of your buck. Bon Voyage on you


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