A cruise vacation offers amazing value, so it’s worth it to pay a little extra for certain cruise ship perks. We will highlight the best things that are extra-charge items on a ship.
Here are Cruise Fever we are all about saving money, but we’re also about making the most of your cruise.
Not all of the items on this list will be for you, but we think the perks on this list are worth the extra charge and should be considered the next time you walk onto a cruise ship.
Most of these perks will be included in the cruise price already if you are taking an all-inclusive cruise. However, we will be focusing on some of the mainstream cruise lines with this article.
11 things that cost extra on a cruise but are totally worth it:
1. Specialty Dining
Yes, you can eat as much food as you would like on a cruise ship without spending an extra dime. But if you’re a foodie, or just an ardent lover of food in any way, you will love some of the selections in specialty dining restaurants on a cruise.
You’re not necessarily paying for better tasting food. You’re paying for an experience, for impeccable service, for a sort of “food excursion” that will probably become one of your favorite memories from the ship.
This can range from a 5-star steak dinner to a fun Hibachi grill experience. Either way, don’t be afraid to splurge on an unforgettable night of dining. And get those reservations early, whether through the cruise line’s app or as soon as you get on the ship on embarkation day.
2. WiFi Packages
As someone who writes about cruise ships and tips having WiFi is always essential on a cruise. And I totally get it if someone just wants to get away from it all while at sea and not be distracted with work and other matters back home.
It’s a healthy thing to disconnect. But if you plan on connecting to the internet at all, whether it’s to check on your pets or read a review about a cruise port, it’s well worth it to buy an internet package. Speeds are not always reliable and some pages will load slower than you might be used to.
This is starting to change with more ships using better technologies like Starlink internet, but download speeds are still not as stable on those sea days, especially if there is some rough weather.
Related article: WiFi cost for each cruise line
3. Thermal Suite Access
I’ve been in some incredible thermal suites on cruise ships that rival five-star spas on land. We all cruise for different reasons, but if you truly desire a relaxing and calming experience, I highly recommend splurging on thermal suite access, provided your cruise ship has one.
Some thermal suites have multiple steam rooms, dry saunas, heated tile loungers, heated therapy pools, and even snow rooms to cool off.
In my experience Norwegian Breakaway-class ships (except for Norwegian Joy) and some MSC cruise ships have excellent thermal suites. Occasionally you can get access to a dry sauna in the locker room near the gym for free on a ship. Every cruise line and ship offers a different spa and thermal suite experience, so definitely look at pictures and videos of the thermal suite before you buy access.
On the first day of your cruise the thermal suite and spa will be open so you can check it out in person as well.
Sometimes ships will run deals towards the end of the cruise with discounted rates for the thermal suite. Of course if the space is already sold out you’re out of luck. Fortunately for guests, a cruise ship will only allow so many to access the thermal suite so it’s not over crowded.
4. Laundry Service
Depending on your situation, you may actually save money by bringing fewer bags and doing laundry on the ship. Every cruise line handles this differently, but some like Holland America will allow you to get unlimited laundry done throughout the cruise, one bag at a time. Some cruise lines like Carnival, Princess, and Holland America have self-service launderettes that will let you wash your own clothes as well.
While this will cost more, you have to consider something. If you’re flying to the cruise port for a longer duration cruise you probably have to bring some extra pieces of luggage. You may have to pay extra to the airline for this baggage. It can often be cheaper to bring less luggage on a longer duration cruise and just do laundry while on the ship.
As always, see what your cruise line offers in the laundry department and calculate the cost from there. If the cruise line only does laundry for you based on each article of clothing your laundry bill can add up fast.
I have a friend who just did a 2 week sailing with Holland America and he bought the unlimited laundry package. He said it saved his family of four a lot of money versus bringing extra luggage.
5. Upgraded/Balcony Cabin
If you cruise a lot it may be hard to justify getting an upgraded cabin on every trip, but if your cruise is a rare getaway, you should definitely splurge for a balcony or better cabin. The perks of having a balcony are hard to quantify.
But having amazing ocean views every morning, being able to access your own private veranda to hear to sounds of the ocean and feel the sea breeze — well, I get Cruise Fever just writing about it right now. Plus, there’s nothing better than sipping some morning coffee on the balcony while the sun is coming up and the ship is still quiet.
The price difference between an interior and balcony can vary, so it’s not always that much more to upgrade your cabin. A lot depends on the cruise line, itinerary and time of year. I recently wrote a detailed article on the true cost difference between the different cabin categories if you’d like to take a look.
6. Drink Packages
A drink package is only worth the extra charge if you are paying for a package that fits you. Even as a non-drinker I find that some soda packages and non-alcoholic packages with cruise lines will save me a lot of money. Buying a few specialty drinks and coffees here and there and paying for each one individually can add up fast by the end of the cruise.
This one will take some math, but calculate what is offered in each package and be honest with yourself in how much you will actually consume. And if you cruise often you can look at your bill at the end of the week and add up the drink costs to see if you would have saved money just buying a package.
7. Room Service Breakfast
Getting room service at least once during your cruise is always a good idea. I prefer having breakfast delivered to my cabin, especially if my stateroom is a little further from the food choices on the ship.
On busy port days it’s so nice to have breakfast delivered right to the cabin and enjoy a leisurely meal out on the balcony. If you want to avoid crowds and the bustle of the first meal of the day, this is one area in which you should splurge a little. Most of the larger cruise lines do charge extra for a hot breakfast delivered to your cabin, but there are often some complimentary options as well.
8. Certain Shore Excursions
Not every shore excursion is the same. I would avoid the cruise line shore excursions that are overly generic. Excursions that are highlight tours or bus tours can be overly crowded and don’t offer a truly authentic experience.
If you are going to splurge on an excursion go for something that people rarely get to see and experience. Go for something exotic! These are often sold out early so you will want to do your excursion research early in the process.
I remember on a recent cruise I took to Iceland that some of the most incredible hikes and shore excursion experiences were already filled up before I had a chance to book them.
Remember, you will often spend more “awake time” off the ship than on it, so create lasting memories at some exotic locations and try something you could never do back home.
9. Private Island Cabanas
Cabanas on cruise line private islands come in all kinds of sizes and varieties. You can rent a floating cabana on Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay for a cool $2000 – $3,000 or rent a Carnival Amber Cove cabana for $300 – $400. Smaller cabanas can be rented for $150 or less. There are cabanas for every budget size.
So is this extra cost worth it? Private islands are great for beach days, and a cabana takes a beach day to the next level. You don’t have to hunt a spot to get refuge from the sun. You have a central place for your family or travel party to relax, grab a snack, get something to drink, and even get some AC to cool off. Some cabanas come with all the food and beverages you could ask for as well, so you really can stay right there and enjoy a gorgeous beach day in total comfort.
If you have a party size that justifies it, I highly recommend getting a spacious cabana so you can split the costs if you have to.
10. Travel Insurance
Ok, this one is not really a perk, but it does cost extra. And if you cruise without it you’re taking a big risk. Cruising with travel insurance will not only mean that you can travel with peace of mind, but it also makes your life a lot easier should something unexpected happen.
If you’re driving to the port, you’re young, and you booked a short and affordable cruise maybe it’s harder to justify buying travel insurance. But even an unexpected medical emergency can mean huge financial burdens you might not be prepared for. My rule of thumb? If you’re on the fence about travel insurance just get it and be done with it.
11. Pre-cruise hotel
So this one happens before you’re actually on the cruise ship, but I always recommend booking a pre-cruise hotel for your cruise if you plan on flying. This takes away a lot of the stress of trying to get to the cruise port on time.
Even if there is a slight delay or flight cancellation you’re much better off when your flight is the day before the cruise. Yes, it’s an extra expense that you might want to avoid, but I look at a pre-cruise hotel kind of like a poor man’s travel insurance at the very least. But even with travel insurance you should arrive a day early so your vacation can start without stressing out about every little delay in your travel plans.
Not every one of these extra-charge items may be suitable for you and your situation. And everyone has their own budget to watch. But if you can afford to splurge a little on your cruise I think you’ll get a lot of value out of the above perks and amenities.
The main thing to consider is making sure you don’t blow the budget too badly. After all, you need to have the money to go on another cruise as soon as possible!