While we know many cruise lines say you can go on a cruise for less than $50/day, what does that actually mean? What is typically included in the cost of a cruise vacation, and what costs are considered extra? What costs should you budget for after you get on board?
What Does Base Fare Cover?
The base fare for a cruise may be less than fifty dollars per person, per day on the ship. This means that a family of four should plan on paying two hundred dollars per day as a minimum for their trip. This is a good deal considering it includes the cost of your room, meals, taxes and port charges.
Remember that the price of the cruise doesn’t include the cost of flying to the port where the ship leaves. And it won’t cover the cost getting from the airport to your ship.
The cost of the cruise vacation also depends on the itinerary you choose. Cruises in Alaska cost more to support, so you’ll be paying a premium to explore The Last Frontier. If you’re considering a Hawaiian cruise, your airfare could cost as much as the cruise depending on the embarkation port and where you live.
Things that Will Increase the Cost of a Cruise Vacation
Type of Stateroom – The cruise fares that you see in commercials and ads are always based on inside staterooms. You will pay more for larger rooms, windows and balconies.
Expect to pay upwards of $30 or more dollars per person per day for an oceanview room. Balconies can cost a hundred dollars or more per person. The luxury suites with hot tubs, extra rooms and dedicated staff will come with a hefty price tag as well.
Cruise Ships – Sailing on newer ships with more amenities will cost more than cruising on an older one – but the activities and amenities offered may be a fair trade-off. The newest ships cost more because cruise lines are trying to offset the cost of their construction.
Cruise Ship Activities & Amenities – Base cruise fare includes many shipboard activities and amenities, but not all. It won’t include meals at specialty restaurants and may not include childcare during certain times of the day. The exercise room and jogging track is always free, but specialized fitness classes may be extra.
Some cruise ships have self-service laundry facilities and some only offer dry cleaning or ironing services. Make sure you account for these additional costs – especially if you’re traveling with babies and toddlers – more family members mean more clothes to pack and more laundry to do!
Tips & Gratuities – One of the biggest expenses that aren’t included in the base cruise fare you see being advertised are tips for housekeeping and dining staff. Cruise lines have a recommended daily rate for tipping and it’s nice to recognize crew members who have made your vacation a memorable one.
Excursions & Tours – Shore excursions and tours are an out of pocket expense. Don’t forget to budget for transportation to and from attractions if you’re going the DIY route for port days. Same goes for meals on shore.
Pre & Post Cruise Stays – If you’re planning on extending your vacation with a pre or post cruise stay, you’ll need to calculate the cost of accommodations, food and activities for the entire family and add this number to your budget tracker. This can get costly especially if you are flying into Orlando International Airport and departing from Port Canaveral and you are planning to visit Orlando’s theme parks before or after your cruise!
While it’s often recommended to arrive at least a day prior to a cruise – just so kids can get adjusted to the area or time change – this can drive up vacation costs significantly. You’ll find hotel recommendations for every budget level in the Port of Call Guides for Departure Ports.
Easy Ways to Stick to a Cruise Vacation Budget
The cost of the cruise depends on the demand for it, and the highest costs are during Spring Break, Winter Break and the summer. If you can travel during off peak months like September or early December, you could save significantly on the cost of the cruise.
Depending on the cruise line, drinks other than coffee, tea and water are extra. Learn about the alcohol and drink policies of the cruise line before you board – you might be able to bring your own drinks onboard or their drink packages may be more cost effective for your family.
While you’re in the research phase – choosing the cruise line or itinerary – make sure you look into which activities are free and which require a fee. When cruising with kids these small fees can quickly add up once you set sail.
Looking for more ways to stick to your vacation budget? Check out our 22 Ways to Save Money on Your Family Cruise Vacation post.