5 Extra Cost Items That Surprise First-Time Cruisers

teppanyaki extra cost items first cruise
Specialty restaurants, like Norwegian's Teppanyaki Grill, are not included in the fare - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

We’ve read plenty of reviews from rookie cruisers who found themselves blindsided by unexpected onboard charges. Stay one step ahead by anticipating these extra costs and learning how to pay as little as possible.

1. Gratuities

room steward extra cost first cruise

Room stewards aren't the only ones who receive the gratuities added onto your bill. - Photo by Princess Cruises

The Charge: Most new cruisers don’t realize gratuities will be automatically added to the final bill at the end of the cruise. Some luxury cruise lines include tips in the fare, but these are the exception, not the rule.

The Cost: Tips varies by line, but it’s usually around $12-$14 per person for every day of the cruise, which comes to just under $100 per person for a 7-night sailing.

How to Save: Tips can be removed from your bill, but we strongly recommend you don't. Some people think it’s fine because they can give cash to their cabin steward, servers, etc. throughout the cruise. In reality, gratuities are doled out amongst a lot more crew members working behind the scenes.


2. Non-Alcoholic Beverages

extra cost cruise coffee milkshake carnival

Specialty coffees are rarely included in the fare. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

The Charge: It’s common knowledge that alcoholic drinks aren’t included in the cruise fare. However, many cruisers don’t realize that specialty coffees, soda, milkshakes, and bottled water also cost an additional fee.

The Cost: Beverages like coffee and soda will cost you a couple bucks a pop each.

How to Save: Be sure to note what is included in your fare, and then price out whether a beverage package would be worth it. For many people, the combination of alcohol, bottled water, coffees, etc. is worth buying the package.


3. Specialty Restaurants

celebrity tuscan grille extra cost cruise

Celebrity's Tuscan Grille - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

The Charge: Gone are the days where just about anything you find to eat on the ship is complimentary. Specialty restaurants are on the rise, offering higher-end options like sushi and steak to cruisers willing to pay a little bit extra.

The Cost: Research what dining options are available on your ship and whether any of the specialty restaurants catch your eye. Then make your reservations (if necessary) and budget accordingly.

How to Save: You can find deals that will bundle in specialty restaurants into the cruise fare, and some lines, like Celebrity Cruises, offer specialty dining packages. Of course, there are always included options like the main dining room, buffet, room service breakfast, and poolside eateries. Also worth noting: some lines offer a discount or bonus (like a free bottle of wine) if you dine at a specialty restaurant on embarkation day.




4. Internet

carnival internet cafe cost cruise

Ships have internet cafes, but don't expect them to be free. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

The Charge: WiFi is so ubiquitous today that many travelers have come expect it wherever they go. While there’s a good chance that 10 years from now you won’t be able to tell the difference between the internet at sea and on land, that’s sadly not the case today. Not only will you probably pay a large price to use onboard internet, but chances are it will be much slower than you’re used to as well.

The Cost: Lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have a few specialized flat-rate packages that might suffice depending on how you want to use the internet, but most other lines charge per-minute or per-megabyte.

How to Save: If you need the internet, look into your line’s options, or ask the crew where to find the WiFi hotspots in port. For what it's worth, we strongly recommend unplugging from technology and taking full advantage of everything your ship has to offer!


5. Activities & Classes

Some guided fitness classes will cost extra, but the gyms are always free. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

The Charge: While most traditional cruise activities are still free, some higher-tier activities on your cruise will cost extra to participate in. These include most fitness and cooking classes, wine tasting, golf simulators, bingo, and more depending on what ship you’re sailing.

The Cost: Fitness classes and other activities vary in cost, but will usually be between $10 and $25 per person.

How to Save: Use free options like the onboard running tracks or ropes courses to stay in shape. Most ships have enough free activities to keep you busy for a 7-night cruise, so stick to things like mini golf and trivia.

Join the discussion

Which onboard charge surprised you the most on your first cruise?


Posted by chuckort

Carnival lets us pre-pay the gratuity when we booked

Posted by CrusinTim

Many of these amenities can be pre-purchased after booking the cruise. As a matter of fact, most cruise lines will send you email "reminders" that the extras are available to buy before you cruise. I would recommend if you are interested in any of the extras, you book them online pre-cruise because many of the popular amenities such as excursions sell out fast. If you wait till you board, some of the extra stuff either will be booked completely or (like with specialty dining) you won't be able to get the time you want.

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