Have you ever wondered how much a cruise really costs? I’m going to give you a hint.
It is much more than the list price you see when you’re looking into booking your first cruise.
I still think a cruise is a great value but you need to be prepared for all of the costs.
Here is a breakdown of all of the costs we paid on our first ever cruise.
The Cruise Ticket
The most obvious cost of the cruise is the cruise ticket itself.
Since I went on this cruise with my girlfriend (now wife) we bought two tickets.
Each room requires you to pay for the price of two tickets, at a minimum, so if you’re planning on having a room to yourself expect to pay 150-200% of the listed price per ticket.
We went for the cheapest class of stateroom which is the interior class. We didn’t plan on spending a ton of time in our room so we didn’t feel like we needed to pay money for extra space or a window.
Due to the fact that we booked early there were a few rooms available that were in the interior class but actually had two porthole windows. We definitely took advantage and booked these rooms at no extra cost above the price of a normal interior ticket.
We originally paid $279 for each ticket or $558 total. We managed to get $80 refunded to my credit card and $80 in on board credits due to the Early Saver program, which saved us $160 dollars.
This resulted in a total cost of $478 charged to my credit card for the cruise tickets themselves. After accounting for the $80 in on board credit the ticket price of our cruise was $398.
Taxes and Port Fees
You don’t get away that fast though! You’re also responsible for taxes and port fees which must be paid prior to the pay off date. I’m not sure what taxes are included as this cost wasn’t itemized.
I do know that each port you stop in charges a port fee which the cruise line passes on to their guests. Taxes and port fees totaled $84.60 each or $169.20 total for the two tickets.
Traveling To and From the Port
We saved some money in this area by traveling with my parents who were going on the cruise as well. We split the cost of gas, tolls and the hotel for the night before the cruise.
I ended up paying $60.00 in gas, $6.60 in road tolls and $62.44 for the hotel after splitting these costs with my parents.
While traveling we stopped for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the way to our hotel. We had some bad service at dinner so the general manager gave us our meal free. We still left a tip because the server was good.
We only stopped for lunch on the way home from the cruise. I spent $46.38 on food on the way to and from the cruise for both my girlfriend (now wife) and I. We spent a total of $175.42 on traveling to and from the cruise.
Arrival at the Departure Port
We arrived at the port and dropped our luggage off with the porter. It is customary to tip the porter $1 per bag so we paid him $2 for our two bags.
In addition to porter tips, my parents had to park their car. Parking at the port was $15 a day and totaled $90 for the six days the car was parked at the port.
We could have parked off site and taken a shuttle but my parents have had a bad experience with that in the past. I paid half for the parking making our port arrival costs $47.
Even though you’ve paid the port docking fees there isn’t any entertainment included in what you’ve paid for. We went on a history tour and snorkeling trip that included lunch at our first port in the Bahamas.
The excursion cost us $99 each or $198 total for the two of us. We did pay a premium as we organized the trip through Carnival Cruise Line.
The excursion came with guarantees that the ship wouldn’t leave without us if something happened on our excursion along with other nuances. We didn’t want to run into any problems as first time cruisers.
We just walked around the city in our second and third ports. We stopped in all of the various touristy shops near the port and only bought a straw fan for $6 and a souvenir t-shirt for $17 that we had planned on buying before we left on the cruise.
In total we spent $221 on in port activities. Think we’re close to being done on cruise spending? Nope, not yet!
On Board Drinks, Food and Entertainment
Our costs in this area were subsidized by my parents. They had bought us a first cruise gift package which included 4 drink tickets worth $5.75 each and a photo voucher worth $15, along with other gifts.
In addition to the $23 in drink vouchers we spent an additional $12.08 on drinks. We got off lucky compared to many of people on the ship who seemed to be constantly drinking.
Drinks cost about $7 to $11 per drink and there is a mandatory 15% gratuity charged in addition to the advertised drink prices.
On the first day of the cruise my girlfriend (now wife) won an $89 off certificate to the spa on the cruise ship.
She had always wanted a massage so she splurged for a hot stone massage that ended up costing $65 after the discount, which is probably similar to what we’d pay locally for a massage so it wasn’t a horrible deal.
We ordered room service for breakfast a few times and it is customary to tip them as well. We ended up spending $8 on room service tips.
There was a casino on board the cruise ship! I had always wanted to try playing blackjack but it was $6 a hand. I did decide to play three separate times. The first time I won $6 and the second time I won $16. Sadly, I lost the $30 I brought the third time I played.
Overall I lost $8 playing blackjack for a couple hours but I had a lot of fun. That isn’t too bad for entertainment dollars per hour. It could have been a lot worse though.
In total we spent $93.08 on board the ship for drinks, food and entertainment.
Pictures, Gifts and Other On Board Purchases
Every evening there are professional photographers begging you to let them take your picture. We decided to get a few pictures taken both on the casual and formal nights.
We ended up spending $16.99 on pictures after accounting for the $15 voucher from my parents. We figured it was cheaper than getting a professional photo session back at home.
We bought some duty and tax free alcohol at a large discount compared to the prices back home. It set us back $49.98 but saved us money as we would have eventually purchased it at home for a much higher cost. We also purchased a t-shirt for a gift that was only $4.88.
We discovered we weren’t drinking enough water so we bought a reusable water bottle for $6.50 to make sure we had water available to stay hydrated.
In total, we spent $78.35 on miscellaneous on board purchases. We did end up with a $13.96 on board credit for some reason so this brought our total down to $64.39 in this category.
Gratuities – Just When You Thought It Was Over There is More
Carnival adds gratuities on your statement on the last night of the cruise. They charge $11.50 per person per day which totaled $115.00 for us. We did pay this in advance of our cruise so we didn’t have to worry about it while we were cruising.
You don’t have to pay the gratuities if you don’t want to, but the crew do rely on them as a large part of their compensation.
If you had any problems with your service or don’t feel you should have to pay that much you can go to guest services and reduce the gratuity amount on the last day of your cruise. We had outstanding service so we didn’t adjust our gratuity payments at all.
That’s it! Not a short list at all. We ended up spending $1,283.09 which really isn’t that bad for a 5 day cruise. In fact, it is only $256.62 per day or $128.31 per person per day.
When you consider the fact that you get lodging, all the food you care to eat at three decent meals a day, entertainment and the chance to visit foreign countries the price really isn’t that bad at all.
We could have easily spent double that and I’m going to venture some people spent double that on just their cruise cabin. Hopefully I’ve enlightened you to some of the other expenses on cruises so you can budget for them better for your first cruise.
If you have any questions or comments about the cost or have a cruise experience you’d like to share please leave a comment below!
Photo by: James Willamor Text added by: Lance Cothern