7 ways to avoid the hidden costs of cruising


Cruising can be an affordable way to travel – see wonderful destinations around the world, while having meals, accommodation and the use of many facilities provided on your journey. But you may get a shock at the end of the trip when you’re settling your bill and there are a load of extra charges, ranging from bar purchases, to spa visits and shore excursions. And you might not know this as a first-time cruiser. Here are some of the ways to make sure you get the best value out of your holiday.

Rethink the specialty dining

There is now a wealth of dining options onboard ships. Lines like Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line offer up to 18 different dining options – from high-end restaurants to cafes and eateries. And that extra meal can cost anything from $15 to $45 per person. Most lines also offer Chef’s Tables which can even stretch as far as $100 per person for a full degustation menu.

But remember, all cruise lines have included dining options, and most of the larger ships also have a number of dining rooms. And their menus are extensive and change often so you won’t be eating the same thing twice. The buffet area also has tea and coffee available all day as well as some snacks. For example, on Carnival Cruise Line Australia’s ships, you can grab a burger from Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint or a taco from the BlueIguana Cantina throughout the day, at no extra cost.

The best saving tip, if you want to include specialty dining in your cruise, is to budget for those meals. Also look out for lines that offer cruise deals. Norwegian Cruise Line often offers packages that bundle several specialty dining restaurants for a discounted price. Royal Caribbean also has a specialty dining restaurant package.

Look for more affordable shore excursions

Shore excursions are the best way to experience the ports you visit in the short amount of time you have ashore. Cruise lines offer their guests a range of activities – everything from adrenalin-pumping ziplining in Costa Rica to cooking schools in the Mediterranean. These all come at a cost and some shore excursions can be extremely expensive. Luxury lines can charge guests thousands of dollars for a bespoke experience.

If you want to save some money, plan and book your own shore excursion – it may cost you only half the price of what the cruise lines offer. But be wary, if your shore excursion tour is running late, the ship will not wait for you. The cruise lines also provide information to guests on what to do in each port, so you can plan your own walking tour of the city or simply wander down to the beach. Visit the port’s website before disembarking, or visit its information desk when you’re ashore, to get an idea of how to maximise your onshore time.

Keep an eye out for spa treatment specials

Pampering yourself on ships is extremely expensive. Spa treatments can range from $120 for a one-hour massage. The exotic treatments can even cost as much as $500. But if you do want to treat yourself, check the ship’s daily program for spa treatment specials which might only be available on that day, during certain hours.

Or, you can always purchase a pass to thermal suite. Lines like Norwegian Cruise Line offer some amazing thermal suites on their newer ships and you can buy a week long pass to enjoy facilities like the sauna, snow room, steam room and thalassotherapy pool.

Choose your beverage package wisely

Most cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in fares (with the exception of some river cruises and luxury lines). So you can quickly rack up quite a fair bit on your account if you pay-as-you-go for beverages.

The best savings tip is to first of all, see whether a drinks package is worth your money. If it is, then it’s worth purchasing before your cruise. If you’re a soft-drink guzzler, it’s worth buying the soda packages offered by lines such as P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

If you want to pinch pennies, you can look for free booze at events like Champagne art auctions or the Captain’s cocktail parties. Also, another tip is if you want a glass of vino with dinner, it’s worth buying a bottle and taking it with you to dinner the following night. It’s often cheaper than buying by the glass.

Do laundry on shore

If you’re on a long voyage, you’re most likely going to have to use the laundry facilities. Like hotels, cruise lines charge an exorbitant amount to launder clothes. But most cruise ships have a self-service launderette for guests to use. Lines like Cruise & Maritime Voyages only charge guests $2 for a wash and $2 for a dry. You can either pack enough clothes for your cruise or, if you’re on a long cruise, try to find a laundromat in port.

Check the cost of activities

There are so many activities available to guests, especially on larger contemporary family ships from Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. And some activities can be extremely expensive. P&O Cruises’ Adventure Park, which is filled with adrenaline-pumping activities, can cost up to $189 for a Gold Pass. Not bad considering there are 19 different activities to try. But still costly if you have to purchase passes for two children and two adults.

Cruise lines, though, have lots of different activities you can do for free. Most entertainment on ships, such as Broadway shows are free. On Royal Caribbean, you can try things like the FlowRider, a surf simulator or the iFly. Our savings tip: make sure you budget for them. In the gym, you can find pilates and yoga classes for as little as $10 per session, which is cheaper than a yoga session on land.

Curb your internet use at sea

Staying connected on your cruise is expensive and some lines charge up to 75 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go plans. Wi-fi is getting faster as the cruise lines continually update their technology. If you are desperate to stay connected, you can purchase an internet package, rather than pay as you go. Lines like Royal Caribbean offer guests different packages, depending on their expected usage. There is a streaming package if you’re desperate to watch your favourite Netflix programs from your cabin.

Princess Cruises, which claims to have the fastest internet at sea, has a special social media package to keep you active on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. But if you don’t want to fork out up to $200 for a package, you can wait till you’re on land to use the internet. It will save you a bundle.

7 ways to avoid the hidden costs of cruising


Cruising can be an affordable way to travel – see wonderful destinations around the world, while having meals, accommodation and the use of many facilities provided on your journey. But you may get a shock at the end of the trip when you’re settling your bill and there are a load of extra charges, ranging from bar purchases, to spa visits and shore excursions. And you might not know this as a first-time cruiser. Here are some of the ways to make sure you get the best value out of your holiday.


/ Rethink the specialty dining

There is now a wealth of dining options onboard ships. Lines like Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line offer up to 18 different dining options – from high-end restaurants to cafes and eateries. And that extra meal can cost anything from $15 to $45 per person. Most lines also offer Chef’s Tables which can even stretch as far as $100 per person for a full degustation menu.


But remember, all cruise lines have included dining options, and most of the larger ships also have a number of dining rooms. And their menus are extensive and change often so you won’t be eating the same thing twice. The buffet area also has tea and coffee available all day as well as some snacks. For example, on Carnival Cruise Line Australia’s ships, you can grab a burger from Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint or a taco from the BlueIguana Cantina throughout the day, at no extra cost.


The best saving tip, if you want to include specialty dining in your cruise, is to budget for those meals. Also look out for lines that offer cruise deals. Norwegian Cruise Line often offers packages that bundle several specialty dining restaurants for a discounted price. Royal Caribbean also has a specialty dining restaurant package.


/ Look for more affordable shore excursions

Shore excursions are the best way to experience the ports you visit in the short amount of time you have ashore. Cruise lines offer their guests a range of activities – everything from adrenalin-pumping ziplining in Costa Rica to cooking schools in the Mediterranean. These all come at a cost and some shore excursions can be extremely expensive. Luxury lines can charge guests thousands of dollars for a bespoke experience.


If you want to save some money, plan and book your own shore excursion – it may cost you only half the price of what the cruise lines offer. But be wary, if your shore excursion tour is running late, the ship will not wait for you. The cruise lines also provide information to guests on what to do in each port, so you can plan your own walking tour of the city or simply wander down to the beach. Visit the port’s website before disembarking, or visit its information desk when you’re ashore, to get an idea of how to maximise your onshore time.

/ Keep an eye out for specials at the spa

Pampering yourself on ships is extremely expensive. Spa treatments can range from $120 for a one-hour massage. The exotic treatments can even cost as much as $500. But if you do want to treat yourself, check the ship’s daily program for spa treatment specials which might only be available on that day, during certain hours.


Or, you can always purchase a pass to thermal suite. Lines like Norwegian Cruise Line offer some amazing thermal suites on their newer ships and you can buy a week long pass to enjoy facilities like the sauna, snow room, steam room and thalassotherapy pool.


/ Choose your beverage package wisely

Most cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in fares (with the exception of some river cruises and luxury lines). So you can quickly rack up quite a fair bit on your account if you pay-as-you-go for beverages.


The best savings tip is to first of all, see whether a drinks package is worth your money. If it is, then it’s worth purchasing before your cruise. If you’re a soft-drink guzzler, it’s worth buying the soda packages offered by lines such as P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean.


If you want to pinch pennies, you can look for free booze at events like Champagne art auctions or the Captain’s cocktail parties. Also, another tip is if you want a glass of vino with dinner, it’s worth buying a bottle and taking it with you to dinner the following night. It’s often cheaper than buying by the glass.


/ Do laundry on shore

If you’re on a long voyage, you’re most likely going to have to use the laundry facilities. Like hotels, cruise lines charge an exorbitant amount to get clothes laundered. But most cruise ships have a self-service launderette for guests to use. Lines like Cruise & Maritime Voyages only charges guests $2 for a wash and $2 for a dry. You can either pack enough clothes for your cruise, if you’re on a shorter cruise. But if you’re getting desperate, you can try and find a laundromat in port.


/ Check the cost of activities

There are so many activities available to guests, especially on larger contemporary family ships from Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. And some activities can be extremely expensive. P&O Cruises’ Adventure Park, which is filled with adrenaline-pumping activities, can cost up to $189 for a Gold Pass. Not bad considering there are 19 different activities to try. But still costly if you have to purchase passes for two children and two adults.

Cruise lines, though, have lots of different activities you can do for free. Most entertainment on ships, such as Broadway shows are free. On Royal Caribbean, you can try things like the FlowRider, a surf simulator or the iFly. Our savings tip: make sure you budget for them. In the gym, you can find pilates and yoga classes for as little as $10 per session, which is cheaper than a yoga session on land.


/ Curb your internet use at sea

Staying connected on your cruise is expensive and some lines charge up to 75 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go plans. Wi-fi is getting faster as the cruise lines continually update their technology. If you are desperate to stay connected, you can purchase an internet package, rather than pay as you go. Lines like Royal Caribbean offer guests different packages, depending on their expected usage. There is a streaming package if you’re desperate to watch your favourite Netflix programs from your cabin.


Princess Cruises, which claims to have the fastest internet at sea, has a special social media package to keep you active on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. But if you don’t want to fork out up to $200 for a package, you can wait till you’re on land to use the internet. It will save you a bundle.