When you book a cruise, the price basically includes your cabin for the length of the cruise and meals. Though there are a lot of perks and activities, you should be aware that a lot of things are not free.
Though this should be obvious, it’s worth mentioning: if you have to fly to the departure destination, airfare is not included as part of the cruise price. Though you can arrange a travel package that includes airfare, the price estimates you see before booking a cruise do not include that kind of transportation. This is important to keep in mind because if you book your cruise first at a price that is within your budget, you might end up going over budget once you factor in airfare for everyone going on the cruise.
Another thing people don’t take into consideration when they estimate the price of their cruise are the shore excursions. There is no additional price for getting off the boat at its docked location and just sunning on the beach, but if you want to do things like go snorkeling or see the reefs or go swimming with dolphins, you’ll have to pay for each of those activities separately. Those can range in price, with the majority being around $50-100 but some of the most worthwhile excursions are over $100. You can also buy a package of shore excursions in order to save on them, instead of booking them individually, and you can do so on the cruise or before you go on your cruise from the comfort of your home.
Another thing a lot of people don’t realize is not included in the price of the cruise are alcoholic drinks and sodas. Most beverages, like juice and water, are available for free all over the boat. You can even get free room service and have someone deliver your drinks. However, if you want some wine with your dinner or a cocktail or soda by the pool, you’ll be billed.
Also not included in the price is the gratuity for the staff waiting on you at dinner and the cleaning staff. You are usually automatically billed a minimum and you can choose to tip more for exceptional service. Some cruise lines will allow you to pre-pay your gratuities when you book your cruise, either online or when you’re booking it through a booking agent. Either of these options is convenient since it eliminates the need to have cash with you all over the ship. And frankly, it’s a worthwhile expense when you consider the fact that cruise employees are collectively waiting on you hand and foot for days.
Although most activities on cruises are included in the price of the trip, some things like spa visits are a little extra. Cruises will sometimes have promotions for a free or discounted spa services, like massages. If you want an extra bit of relaxation, you’re going to have to pay up. You can choose to book spa treatments in advance as well, just like shore excursions, but they are not part of the base price of the cruise.
It is important to know what is free and what is not because when you go on a cruise, you’re given a card to identify you and for making purchases. You use your card for everything including disembarking and boarding again after stopping at a port. You can use it for things that are free, like getting a towel on the pool deck, but also for things that are not, like buying drinks. If you don’t know what is free and what isn’t, you might end up with an unpleasant surprise when you see your bill at the end of the trip. But worry not, you can usually keep track of your balance from your cabin or at the Purser’s desk. When in doubt, you can always ask before you order something.