OpinionDo Cruise Lines Nickel and Dime Passengers?

Do Cruise Lines Nickel and Dime Passengers?

The past few years have resulted in more and more cruise passengers complaining about how the cruise line “nickel and dime” them throughout their cruise.  Specialty dining charges, the ship’s photographers, and soda costs are among the most common complaints.  But the question is, do cruise lines nickle and dime passengers?

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Years ago, there was no such thing as specialty restaurants that carry a $10-25 charge per person for having dinner at them instead of the buffet or main dining room.  Your cruise fare included virtually everything on board.

Over the past 10-15 years, cruise fares have dropped even though fuel prices have skyrocketed and food prices have risen considerably. Instead of raising fares to make up for the extra costs, cruise lines have resorted to measures of creativity in attempts to make a profit and stay afloat.

Yes, cruise ships that have bowling alleys will charge you for a game of bowling.  It is not hard to find a  photographer as they are all over the ship.  They are even taking your picture before you get on the ship hoping that you will spend the $10-15 to take the picture home as a memory of your cruise.  If you want room service after midnight, there is usually a charge.

Cruisers will pay top dollar for alcoholic drinks, shore excursions while the ship is in port, and for massages, pedicures, and treatments at the spa. 

Some ships also have “mini flea markets” as I like to call them.  They will set up tables and sell chains by the inch, cheap purses and watches, and other small trinkets.

I have even read that cruisers have complained about being nickle and dimed because of the $20 bingo games the ships have.  While I don’t get the logic behind those complaints, one point is obviously clear.  Many people do not like to be offered something extra for a few extra dollars throughout their cruise.

However, what passengers need to understand is that without the cruise line making money off of these extras, they would have to pay considerably more for their cruise fare.  The great thing about them is that you can go on a cruise and not spend one extra penny, and have a great time while paying a low price.

Andrew Stuart, the Executive VP of Sales and Services of Norwegian Cruise Line, was on a CNBC special called, “Cruise Inc: Big Money on the High Seas”.  He explained that cruise lines make a majority of their money in 3 areas (besides cruise fares).  Alcohol, shore excursions, and the casino bring the cruise lines much needed revenue that help keep basic cruise fares low.

There are cruises that are truly “all-inclusive” that include virtually everything from alcohol to shore excursions.  However, don’t expect to find 7 night cruise fares anywhere near $599 a person.

Before you complain about being nickel and dimed on your next cruise, remember that the cruise lines provide extras to keep the basic costs down for everyone.  While some would rather pay more and not have to deal with it, many families enjoy the lower fares and are able to take a cruise because of them.

How do you feel about the “nickel and dime” complaints on cruises?  Leave us a comment below, we would love to hear from you.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
OpinionDo Cruise Lines Nickel and Dime Passengers?


  1. There is NO such thing as nickel and diming on a cruise ship!! Why? Because no one is forcing you to buy anything!! When I am on a cruise ship; I always have a budget and I do alot of planning ahead of time!! For example; what is free on the cruise; what has a fee etc. I don’t pay or buy anthing I don’t want too!! As far as tips are concerned; I always have my tips removed from my sign and sail card!! I like to tip in person and only if you have earned them!! The last cruise I went on; my cabin steward was the laziest person I have ever seen!! I used to be a maid; so I know how hard it is to clean behind someone. So I kept my cabin spotless!! All she had to do was put fresh sheets on my bed and fresh towels!! Everyday it would take her 8 hours to clean my room and I had the same towel animal everyday! So I did not tip her!! I should have cleaned my cabin myself!!

  2. It would be NICE if Carnival ships would invest in the new Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain drink system. Guests with bottomless bubbles cards could swipe their cards to gain access to the machine and create their favorite drinks.

  3. I have taken 20 or more cruises and have seen an increase in “extras” on most of them. Although they charge about $25 or so for a specialty restaurant, the meal that is served would cost upwards of $100. If served in a fine restaurant ashore. We make the most of our time onboard by visiting these venues 2-3 times per cruise to take advantage of the fabulous service and quality of food served. We’ve also learned not to partake in the “formal nights” which is only a revenue maker for the photographers…Everyone must make their own decisions about what’s important to spend their money on. I’d prefer a good meal over alcohol, and formal pictures any day!

  4. I’m OK with the extra “nickels and dimes” if they were disclosed up front. The soda charges were not mentioned anywhere in the HAL cruise brochure (not expected), the 19 page “before you go” on line document or our contract’s fine print. I’m OK with expected charges for items such as pictures but to provide the illusion of “all the basics are covered” (booze excluded of course) is inexcusable

  5. I just got back from an 8-day carnaval cruise from New York to the Bahamas. It was my second cruise. I absolutely loved it and the feeling I was left with is that is was one of the “best-valued vacations” I’ve ever had. I have no complaints about the cost at all. My fare for a balcony room was less per day than I’ve paid at a hotel. It included the food and basic drinks. I paid extra for gambling, alcohol and other activities, but it was my option to do so. The gratuities were added in, but that too, I felt was well worth the fabulous job they did. Can’t wait to cruise again!

  6. The way I look at it , I’m on vacation I love to gamble , I love to drink and I go on a shore excursions when available .

  7. I don’t mind the fees for extras. If u don’t want to pay for them don’t buy. I’d rather have the options n lower cruise fare.

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