Advice

Extra-Cost Items That Are Actually Worth It

extra cost cruise purchases worth it
These additional purchases can buy you peace of mind... for a price. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

It can be frustrating for new cruisers to learn not everything is included in the fare. Aside from entertainment and dining, you’ll have to pick and choose which extra-cost items are worth the cash. See what items we think are worth the upcharge, and if you're an experienced cruiser, vote and tell us which things you can't live without in the comments:

1. Beverage Packages

cruise beverage package celebrity drink alcohol

Beverage packages let you imbibe in peace without worrying about the bill. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Rather than paying for drinks individually, you can always pay for all your beverages up front. This one will take some math on your part, but keep in mind these aren’t just for alcohol as any drink aside from tap water, coffee, or tea will likely carry a charge. With beers and cocktails going for between $5 and $12 a pop, it doesn’t take as many drinks as you think to make the package worth it.

Worth it? Depends on how much you drink, but if you like to party, then almost certainly yes.

How to Save: Many lines and travel agencies will have promotions that include a free beverage package.

Keep in Mind: Children are not covered under their parents beverage packages, and most lines require all adults in the cabin to buy beverage packages.

 

 

2. Specialty Dining Packages

ocean blue specialty dining package cruise

Ocean Blue on Norwegian. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

While the main dining rooms and buffets (almost) never carry a charge, adventurous foodies will definitely want to check out the specialty options onboard like Ocean Blue on Norwegian, Jamie’s Italian on Royal Caribbean, or Sabatini’s on Princess.

Worth it? Definitely worth it. You’re missing out on some great cuisine if you don’t give these venues a try.

How to Save: Like beverage packages, lines and agencies have promotions that include free specialty dining.

 

 

3. Spa Treatments

norwegian getaway spa treatment cruise extra

Spa treatment on Norwegian Getaway - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Spa treatments on cruises are pricey, and you can almost certainly expect heavy upsells during your treatment.

Worth it? You’re on vacation. Might as well get your spa on.

How to Save: Many lines will offer discounts on spa treatments on port days, so spend a half-day in port (or skip it entirely) and hit the spa. Also, be ready to politely but firmly turn down the upsells you’re likely to get during a session.

 

 

4. Fitness Classes

fitness class cruise cost extra

Cruise ship fitness areas usually have amazing views. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Virtually every cruise ship will have fitness facilities where you can take a variety of classes like yoga, pilates, and spinning.

Worth it? Not worth it unless you really have your heart set on doing yoga during your cruise.

How to Save: Most cruise ships have running tracks you can utilize to get in your daily cardio for free, and there are plenty of ways you can stay in shape on a cruise without going to the gym.

 

 

Caribbean deals from $

 

5. Shore Excursions from the Cruise Line

glacier tour skagway alaska carnival

A glacier tour by Carnival in Skagway, Alaska. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

When it comes to booking shore excursions, you can book through a variety of tour operators before you sail or on the ship. If you choose to buy through the line, you’re guaranteed that the ship won’t leave without you if your tour gets held up, and you’ll receive a full refund if the ship doesn’t dock in port due to weather or other circumstances.

Worth it? If you have a nervous disposition, it might be worth it for the peace of mind.

How to Save: Booking shore excursions privately is the cheapest option but some lines will offer free shore excursions (luxury and premium lines in particular), and some travel agencies have promotions with shore excursion credit.

 

 

6. Sales in the Onboard Shops

onboard shop cruise extra cost harmony

Cartier on Harmony of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean / Simon Brooke-Webb Photography

Many ships will have a “mega sale” in the ship’s atrium or one of the dining rooms on a sea day, with deep discounts on jewelry, electronics and more. These are often short-duration, high-pressure events designed to separate you from your money quickly before you’ve had much time to think about it.

Worth it? Depends on what they’re selling.

How to Save: While you might find a deal or two, go in with a skeptical mindset, and, if possible, do research online to make sure the deal you’re getting is really a deal. At the end of a cruising season, for example, when a ship has just returned to the Caribbean from Europe (or vice versa), these mega sales might include t-shirts, magnets and other items marked with the names of ports the ship no longer sails to. There can be some legitimate deals among those items, as the ship doesn’t have room to store merchandise it can no longer sell.

 

 

7. Late Night Room Service

room service extra cost cruise norwegian

Morning room service is free, but it may cost you late at night. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

While room service is generally free, some lines like Royal and Norwegian charge for room service deliveries after midnight.

Worth it? If you’re hungry, absolutely.

How to Save: If you don’t mind getting dressed and heading out, you’ll find at least one spot on the ship serving complimentary food or snacks.

 

 

8. Adults-Only Relaxation Areas

The adults-only Serenity deck on Carnival Sunshine - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Cruise ship pools can be chaotic, noisy affairs with everything from rowdy kids to bands and DJs intruding while you’re just trying to relax and soak up some sun. You can get a bit of peace and quiet at the adults-only areas, but it’ll cost you on Princess, MSC and Norwegian.

Worth it? Yes. A thousand times, yes. It might be the best $20 (or so) you spend all cruise.

How to Save: Sail on Carnival or Disney, where the adults-only sundecks are gratis.

Watch Out For: “Freestyle” Sundecks on select Norwegian ships are complimentary, clothing-optional sun decks for use by adult passengers.

 
 

Join the discussion

Which extra-charge items can you not live without?

Posted by Cruisegal702

While I feel , for what you are getting, the tours offered by the cruises are overpriced , it's worth the peace of mind to go with a reputable tour company rather than take a chance on a local who may be shady.

Posted by dfrisse338872

Thanks to the plethora of websites offering user reviews of tour operators we have forsaken the cruise line offerings for those of local vendors with very good results. If you run a shoddy operation the word will rapidly spread through the online community. In our experience the non-cruise line operators have offered much more personalized service with far smaller groups and generally at a much better price. It does take a bit more effort than just selecting from a ship's offerings but we have found it to be well worth it.

Posted by spacetraveler

All the drink packages are grossly overpriced. One need to get drunk daily to get moneys worth. Just look how inexpensive it is to buy liquor on board, two drinks buys a bottle. The other overpriced option is Wi-Fi & cell phone.

Posted by MrBill

As for cruise sanctioned tours (expensive), I find if you do your homework, you can find very good values in tours provided by private vendors. First place to start in Tripadvisor. Honest reviews can be found there and you also can book tours. These private vendors depend on your good review to stay in business. Cruise ships arrive every week on the same day....8am...depart 3pm. They know these schedules like you know your cell phone number. If it is Tuesday, Carnival Sunshine arrives 8am RCL arrives 10am...etc. Their entire reputation depends on getting you back to the ship and hopefully YOU know what time you should be returning. If you don't they do! Tell your tour guide and they will make sure you are not stranded.


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