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Cruise holidays – What are the hidden costs?

Most of us have probably dreamed at some point of taking a cruise holiday. Thoughts of lounging by the pool, stopping at exotic locations and dining in glamorous restaurants are most peoples’ idea of heaven.

However, once you get on-board, that all inclusive cruise might not be such good value. Many travellers are unaware of the hidden costs of some foods, activities and excursions and they can soon add a hefty chunk to your holiday budget. What areas should you be cautious of and how can you save some money?


One of the advantages of a cruise holiday is that you have the opportunity to explore a range of islands and destinations once in port. However tours and excursions booked through the cruise operator will be much higher than those run by the local companies.

If you want to get an idea of the costs involved before you travel, have a look in the guide or online and you can then budget appropriately. The costs will vary depending on the type of tour – from quick excursions around the city to full day or helicopter trips.

You don’t have to rely on the official excursions and you could save yourself a lot of money by organising your own itinerary. Before you travel research the places you’ll dock at and find the best places to visit and how to get there. You might find something truly amazing that nobody else onboard has seen.


Adverts for cruise ships are full of all the wonderful activities you can take part in whilst you’re onboard. The majority of these are free, but others aren’t and if you’re not careful they can end up costing you a fortune. Activities such as fitness classes, casinos and some babysitting services are not part of the package. Unless there’s something that you really want to do, you’re probably better just filling your days with the free activities.

cruise holidays

Food and Drink

You might think that you’re on an all inclusive cruise, but not everything is included. The majority of restaurants will be part of your package. However, more cruise liners are now adding extra exclusive areas that you will be charged for. These can include Michelin stared restaurants, the Chef’s Table or branded cafes.

If you’re travelling on a budget there are plenty of eating options without having to pay. However, if you want to celebrate a special occasion or just try something different, then make sure you’re aware of how much it will cost. Have a look for special offers when you book as you might be able to get free onboard credit or dining packages.

Alcoholic drinks are not included in the price, so you’ll need to budget for restaurant prices. You may also be charged extra for certain drinks brands.

Beauty Treatments

We all want to feel special on holiday, especially if you’re going out every night. Onboard beauty treatments, though, can usually cost the same as at an exclusive saloon and may be a lot more than you’re used to paying. You also need to be cautious of the staff that often work on commission and may try and tempt you to buy more. It’s worth seeing if they do special offers or discounts on certain days or times.


A holiday wouldn’t be the same without a spot of souvenir shopping. However, prices onboard can be extortionate, even for small knick knacks. If your budget is tight, then you’re probably better off not even browsing. Instead, checkout the local crafts and souvenirs once you’re in port, as you’ll find them considerably cheaper. There may also be the opportunity to pick up a bargain onboard near the end of your holiday, so don’t be tempted to spend up on the first day.


Now that we live in the digital age, many of us want to keep up with family and friends, by phone, text or social networks. Access to the internet onboard, either through Wi-Fi or computer terminals, is usually at extremely low speeds for a high cost. There may be the opportunity to buy a package for the duration of your trip or have a look at the rates in ports, where you might find a cafe with free Wi-Fi.

A cruise holiday should be an opportunity to relax and unwind without any worries. As long as you’re aware of all the costs and budget accordingly, you should be able to have an enjoyable trip.



About Catherine Stern

About Catherine Stern

Catherine Stern is a freelance writer with a background in marketing and PR. She currently writes web content on a range of subjects, from finance and business to travel and home improvements. As a working single mum of two young boys she understands the pressures that today’s working parents face and the topics they want to read about.

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