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6 Hidden Cruise Costs and Ways to Save Skip to content

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6 Things That Drive Up the Cost of a Cruise

How passengers can avoid hidden charges and save money

three cruise ships docked in the Bahamas

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En español | Booking a cruise is like buying a car: The list price isn’t always the real price. Taxes and fees can cost hundreds of dollars per person. Gratuities are often $14 to $20 per passenger per day, and that doesn’t include bar tips, which are usually inserted in the bill. Other common add-ons:

Transfer costs 

Cruise lines offer transportation between the airport and cruise port, but it can cost $20 to $100 per person, according to
How to save: If you have a group of three or four people, consider a taxi or ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft. You can also split the cost with other cruisers.

Shore excursions 

Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars for snorkeling, balloon rides and other fun.
How to save: You can often find lower prices by booking excursions on your own, but there’s a catch. When you book excursions through the cruise line, the ship will wait if your tour returns late. That’s not the case with independent excursions. If you’re tardy, the ship sails.


The cost of beverages can add up fast. A glass of beer is about $5 on many cruises and soda is around $2.
How to save: Consider a drink package. Celebrity Cruises, for example, charges $59 per person, per day, for its Classic Beverage package, which includes soda, juices, coffee, tea, bottled water and alcohol. Carnival has a Bottomless Bubbles package for soda lovers that’s $7.50 a day.   

Specialty dining

Not every restaurant on the ship is included in your fare. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, for example, has eight free restaurants and ten that cost extra. 
How to save: Look for deals on your first night, when restaurants are often empty, says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of You can also buy a specialty dining package, which provides a discount when you book more than one experience.


A basic package can cost anywhere from $10 to $55 per day.
How to save: Upload your vacation videos from an internet cafe, not via the ship’s wi-fi, and turn off your smartphone when you’re on the ship.

Bad timing

Cruise lines traditionally offer some of their best deals from January through March, the period known industry-wide as Wave Season. You’ll also often find lower fares (or extras like drink packages thrown in for free) on traditional sale days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Memorial Day and Labor Day. 
How to save: Hunt for deals during one of these traditional sale periods.

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