The 10 Most Overlooked Cruise Expenses and How to Avoid Them

How to avoid 10 most overlooked cruise expenses
As most of our readers know, if you want to get the most bang for your buck out of a vacation, it’s hard to beat a cruise.  The cost of traveling all over the world, eating like royalty, and seeing top-notch entertainment every night would come at a high price anywhere else.  But there are some extra overlooked expenses that come along with cruising that can leave you in shock at the end of your voyage.

Just because you are going on a cruise doesn’t mean you have to blow ALL your money.  Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t break your budget on your next cruise.

Cruising solo

If you are going on a cruise by yourself you will more than likely still have to pay for two people.   This is one of the biggest misconceptions with cruising.  That price you see on the brochure is probably for just one person, even though you will have to pay for two.  Cruise lines base their prices on double-occupancy and if only one person is in the room they have to re-coop their costs somehow.  However, there are some cruise lines that will offer lower rates for the second half of the fare of a solo cruiser.  Sometimes you will have to pay only 50% of the other fare.  Norwegian actually offers single cabins on some of their cruise ships as well.

Surfing Online

You will be better off surfing on the FlowRider than surfing online aboard a cruise ship.  Not only do most cruise lines charge by the minute, but the connections are so slow it will suck away even more precious minutes out of your time and out of your wallet as you wait to connect. Prices can range anywhere from $.65 to $.75 per minute and some cruise lines have connection fees as well.

Sponsored Links

If you absolutely must go online you will be better off finding a WiFi hot spot at one of your ports of call or using your phone connection when you are at a U.S. port like Puerto Rico or the Florida Keys.  Just make sure your service provider does not charge extra at these ports before you leave home.

Side note: Many cruise ships allow you to access the internet from your room on your own device while others only have certain hotspots in parts of the ship.  Alternatively you can always visit the cyber café as well but you better surf quickly because these costs can add up fast.

Buying pics from the cruise paparazzi

Cruise lines love to make passengers feel like celebrities with the constant flash of photography everywhere.  But this is not because you are exceptionally photogenic or famous.  It’s because they make a fortune off those prints which can cost $20 for one 8×10.  While these pictures don’t cost you anything if you don’t want the prints, today’s cameras can take exceptional pictures for free.    It’s not hard to find another cruiser willing to take a picture for you.  You just won’t have those nifty backgrounds in your photo.

I always like to buy at least one photo from the cruise line because I know those photographers work hard for their money, but it’s easy to get carried away and find yourself spending well over $100 for just a few prints.  Only buy the prints you simply cannot live without.

Shopping on board the cruise ship

While cruise ships will often have “sidewalk” sales and sell t-shirts for $15, for the most part items in the shopping plaza of a cruise ship will cost you more than you can get it for at home.  Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “duty-free” shopping experience, but those shops are there to make money, not cut you the deal of a lifetime.  When looking at prices for a watch on one occasion the salesperson actually pretended to be shocked at how low the price was for a particular time piece and said, “Wow, I can’t believe how low this price is.  It just can’t be right.”  Needless to say, I smiled politely and walked away.  I didn’t have an extra $300 to spare.

Two tips here:  Wait until the last day when the deals on the ship are the greatest.  And make sure you pack all the necessary toiletries, batteries, cameras etc so you don’t have to blow it in a boutique.

Shore Shopping

Some people love to shop their hearts out at each port.  Each cruise line will usually have a special talk on shore shopping tips as well.  They will tell you where to get the best deals on jewelry and offer “insider secrets” that seem too good to be true.  Just remember most of these cruise shopping lecturers get kick-backs from these different companies at the ports and this is factored into the price of what you will end up paying at those shops as well.  You’re better off avoiding the shops these “shopping experts” endorse and finding your own deals.  Of course, they also offer coupon books for getting a bunch of “free” stuff at the ports, but the coupon book is not free and when you go into a jewelry store to get that one free earring, you are pressured to no end to buy more stuff.

Paying extra for drinks and snacks

If you want to drink from the minibar in your room, you can feel free to do so, but it won’t feel free at the end of the week.    Sodas and other drinks will cost you extra if you order them through the cruise line, but most companies offer drink cards you can purchase that allow you an unlimited number of drinks throughout the week.

Alternatively, you can usually bring aboard a 12-pack of soda if that particular cruise line allows it.

Striking it rich at the casino

While most of us know that the casino does not exist on the cruise ship to make passengers money, it helps to be reminded not to allow the one-armed bandits to have too much of your hard earned money.  Even on the high seas, the house always wins in the end.

On my last cruise the cruise director actually admitted how much of a rip-off the casino was.  Of course he was trying to be humorous, but we all knew he was telling the truth.

So how do you avoid this extra cruise expense?  Either avoid the casino altogether or make sure you have a preset spending limit in mind, and don’t try to win that money back once it’s gone.


Tipping must always be factored in to the complete cost of your cruise.  It is not optional here.  Some of the crew will rely on these tips and they work hard for it as well.  Cruise lines will either recommend or require anywhere from $10 to $12 per day per person on a cruise.  So on a 7 day cruise this can add up to about $150 for a couple.  Of course, if your room steward or waiter goes above and beyond your expectations you can tip much more than this.  Some cruise lines will automatically bill your account to include gratuities but you can still tip on top of that if you so choose.

There is no way around this one.  You should tip and tip well.  On some cruise lines the crew relies heavily on this income and what might seem like an insignificant amount could go a long way with them.

Specialty restaurants

One of the best aspects of cruising is the food.  It’s everywhere any time you want and it’s usually delicious.  But it’s not always included in the price of your cruise.  Most cruise ships have specialty dining venues that offer a more personalized dining experience for $20 to $50 a person.    These restaurants offer French or Italian cuisine and most cruise ships have their own steakhouse.  While some regular cruisers will swear that these dining options are well worth the price, it’s an extra expense that you might want to cut out if considering your budget.

When you first board the ship look at all the different dining options on the ship directory.  You might be surprised at some of the “free” options besides the main dining room and buffet if you want some variety.

Shore Excursions

Some of the most fun you’ll have on a cruise can be off the ship on an excursion.  But the cost of a few shore excursions can add up fast.    When booking an excursion through the cruise line you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you will not get left behind if your excursion goes long, but you will also pay more than if you tried to find some lower prices yourself.

Do some research ahead of time and book an island tour, jet-ski ride, or any other type of activity directly from a vendor.  It’s better to do your research before your cruise so you can check the dependability of the vendor you are wanting to book with.

I have used the public transportation at St. Thomas to get a cheap taxi ride to one of the beaches on the island.  Remember you can always negotiate with the vendors at the ports and you can’t do that with the cruise line.  If you book your own port activities ahead of time you will know exactly how much you are spending as well.

Got any more cruise expenses that we left out?  Let us know in the comments below.  I know of a few more I could have added, but 10 seemed like a nice round number.


Want to cruise like a pro? Check out some insider secrets to saving money on cruises and avoid the 20 mistakes that most cruisers make with the Intelligent Cruiser here.

Looking for the Best Cruise Deals?
Search Multiple Sites at Once
Instant Real Time Pricing
Search Now


  1. SG says

    Please don’t lie to your readers about Tipping on a cruise line being mandatory. It is not. If you don’t feel that you received the service that you expected, you can have guest relations lower the amount or remove it altogether. It is after all a “gratuity”. You may feel that it’s mandatory, but don’t pressure your readers into believing that they have to or absolutely should pay the tipping.

    • Dana says

      SG: you are totally correct!! Tipping is NOT mandatory!! My sister and I always cruise on Carnival and we always have out tips taken off. I am a firm believer in earning your tips the same way I had to when I was a waitress. If the service I recieved was good; then I would tip that person personally. If not; you wouldn’t get a thing from me. Cruise companies make billions of dollars a year; they need to pay their workers a decent salary!!

      • Tammy says

        What about those workers behind the scenes that you don’t see. They all have to split those tips. There’s more than waitressing going on. More than meets the eye.

        • Rodger says

          On Royal Carribean Tipping was mandatory. It was included in our reciept. We” tipped” our dinning staff 12$ per day per person…even though we never went to formal dining once…..because the formal dining meals cost beween 25$-45$ themselves per person

          • Amanda says

            You are incorrect. Tipping is not mandatory on Royal Caribbean, or any other cruise line. You can go to the front desk and have them remove it from your account. However that is a horribly cheap thing to do. The people helping you need the money a lot more than you do. And the argument that the cruise lines should just pay them more is a bad one. They aren’t changing their pay scale based on your opinion. So it’s still your choice / direct impact on the workers. Perhaps you should stay home if you don’t want to tip for their hard work. That would save you a lot of money.

    • Cheryl says

      We are cruising on the Norwegian Getaway this May, and found out that it is indeed mandatory. They do not call it ‘tipping’, they call it a service fee, and there is no way around it, unless my husband and I want to go throw a fit at the desk when we arrive. We are very disappointed, as when we cruised Princess, we took off the fee, and just tipped those who served us directly. Now, we are cruising with our children, and had not anticipated $13 a day for all 5 members of our family!!! Major bummer.

  2. Lenore says

    Bingo is the best! I won a free cruise on carnivals bingo, 5 days anywhere they go for 2. And it only cost me $40. They also give big cash prizes if u win.

  3. says

    Those are all good ones. We are platinum cruisers with a couple of the cruise lines. But you can find free things on cruises too. Like we always ask for extra stationary, pens, post cards and even playing cards. Also, you can get free drinks and ice cream. I never pay for the high priced stuff. Either way, I love cruising. We are taking 3 this year. What can I say. It’s so much fun and for what you get, it’s the best deal around.

    • Dana says

      Tim: Everytime I mention this on cruise blogs; I get called every name but my name. I always opt of mandatory tips!! I always tip in person. On my last cruise on the Carnival Liberty; my sister’s cabin attendant told us that they don’t receive all of their tips. If this is a lie; he told it!! So we told him that we would immediately go to the customer service desk; remove our tips and tip him in person!!! I believe in rewarding people for excellant service; not because I am forced too!!!!

      • John G says

        Dana,I’m with you.We’ve only been on Carnival,(7 times) and always go to the pursers to waive gratuity.We give directly to those who go above and beyond.Those are usually,room steward,room service,waiter and his staff. It’ll be interesting how Norwegian does it in 45 days.

  4. Lisa says

    as for shore excursions, carnival will price match if you find the exact excursion cheaper. They will pay 110% of the price difference if you find the excursion cheaper. I just did and I will get a sail and sign credit of $50 when I set sail.

  5. Dana says

    The point made about solo cruising was totally correct!!! I always get an inside cabin by myself when I cruise with my sister and her family. I have to pay double for my little cabin!! I get charged double except for the port charges!! This totally sucks!! When I first started cruising; Carnival used to have what they called the single supplement rate. Which is I was only charged 50% more instead of having to pay double. It really made a difference!! I wish Carnival would bring back their single supplement rates for us solo cruisers. Because I really don’t want to share a room with anyone!!

    • Hedda Lettuce says

      Why should you get a discount? When the ship is calculating income and expenses, it does so with a certain occupancy rate. If a rack rate is $1,000 per person … that’s $2,000 for the stateroom. If you are the only person occupying that stateroom … you get it all … so expect to pay for it all. If everyone opted to sail as a single passenger in each stateroom, the cost of the cruise would likely triple or quadruple.

      • Dana says

        Hedda Lettuce: Carnival had for a long time what they called a single supplement rate. This is the reason I started cruising in the first place!! I know that ships are pro profit businesses, but what is the difference in having a solo rate and when the ship is not full and almost ready to sail; cutting the price almost in half to make sure the ship is full? It would make better sense to have a rate just for solo cruisers. That way; you can almost guarantee a full sailing ship!!

  6. Ken says

    Australia is a non tipping zone. There are no mandatory tips on cruises that begin or end in Australia, so why not come ‘Down Under’ and cruise with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *