What is included in your cruise fare?

Cruisers enjoying the view on the ocean from the sundeck of a cruise ship
Knowing what's included in your cruise fare and what's not, you can fully enjoy your cruise vacation.

Booking any type of vacation can be a confusing process. There can be countless different fees that are charged and you can end up wondering exactly what you are getting for your money. This can often be the case with a cruise fare too, as you can be left wondering exactly what is included in your cruise. Part of this confusion can come from the fact that every cruise liner operates a little differently when it comes to their cruise fare. They will often have different banding levels too, which can further add confusion when it comes to picking the best liner for you.

Here we will make all the information as clear as possible to give you confidence when it comes to booking your cruise trip. We will breakdown what each of the major companies offer in their cruise deals and what that means for you and your enjoyment.

What is always included in your cruise?

There isn’t actually a lot that is going to be guaranteed on all the major cruise lines and ships with only a few aspects that you can be sure of. One of those is your accommodation and another is obviously sailing on the ship from port-to-port, as you will be able to go to all your incredible destinations without worrying about planning or cost.

You can be fairly confident that you’ll have a wide variety of meal options that will be included in the price of your cruise too and if you chose to, you wouldn’t have to spend anything on food or drink for the duration of your journey on the ship.

As for guarantees, that is more or less it. There will be plenty of other aspects of ship life that are going to be free though but the cruise costs will vary from one cruise line to the next. This can make it confusing when trying to pick the right cruise line for you but thankfully the information is all here.

What is the total cost of a cruise?

Each cruise liner is different in regards to what exactly they are going to offer. Food is a good example, as there will be standard meals offered as part of your cruise ticket price but then there will be other areas such as specialty restaurants and snacks where you might have to pay.

Drinks also change a lot with different companies and unless you stick with the same cruise company every time, it can be complicated keeping track of them. There can also be aspects like a beverage package where money can be saved and these can differ too. 

Here we will go through all the different aspects of cruise life and also all the main companies to see exactly what they offer when compared to other liners to give you a better idea of exactly what is going into your fare.

It can seem at times that some companies are more expensive than others when it comes to the fare but a company like Regent Seven Seas, for example, has almost everything included while a company such as Celebrity Cruises offers very little with their ticket. Besides all-inclusive cruises, there are also some cruise lines where you pay extra for a lot of things. That’s why you should not just take the fare on face value but also think about what’s included too.

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The different elements of your total cruise cost

1. Flights and transfers to and from your cruise

These are almost always not going to be included in your cruise ticket with only a few exceptions to that. Regent Seven Seas offer you a discounted price that includes flights and Crystal Cruises also offer a package.

For others, you will be expected to make your own way to the ship. For shore transfers, this is also something that you will be expected to pay for when you need transferring to the center of your destination.

2. Shore excursions to explore cruise destinations

Shore excursions are almost always going to incur an extra charge as these are going to be put on at the expense of the cruise company. Not all excursions are going to appeal to everyone and others might choose to explore on their own. 

For most cruisers, they’d probably prefer to have this freedom rather than having an increased cruise cost. Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas offer excursions whereas Azamara Club offers a free evening excursion per trip. On the most part though, excursions aren’t going to be included.

A woman exploring a cruise destination, standing on a mountain and taking a picture of the green forest and the ocean
If you want to save money, discover the great cruise destinations on your own. | Author: Artem Beliaikin

3. Drinks while cruising the high seas

This is probably going to be your biggest expense while you are on a cruise, especially if you drink a lot of alcohol. Only a few cruise companies will offer alcohol as part of the cruise price and if they do, the more premium drinks that you can get will incur a charger.

On most ships, all alcohol is charged. Soft drinks can be a little different and vary hugely from ship to ship. All non-alcoholic drinks can be offered, some specific drinks, breakfast drinks or no free drinks of any kind, depending on the ship. Some can offer drink packages that can help to make it cheaper.

4. Food on your cruise ship

As mentioned previously, you could happily go a whole cruise without spending anything on food. All the main companies are going to offer you three meals a day in their dining rooms and that is something that you don’t have to worry about.

Aside from that, specialty restaurants and snack bars can be charged depending on the liner. This can depend on the demand of the restaurant, location and if it has any famous branding. Food bought from the stores will understandably be chargeable.

5. WiFi services while at sea

People may now expect regular coffee shops and bars to have free WiFi but most cruise companies haven’t budged, and it can be very expensive. Crystal Cruises off a short amount of free Wi-Fi each day and Regent Seven Seas include it in their fare.

6. Room service at off hours on your cruise

Most companies will have no charge for room service if it is at a sociable time of the day with only few charging for it at that time. You can expect to pay more in the small hours of the morning though but this information is freely available.

7. Laundry / Spa / Gym services involving cruise staff

It’s easy to group these three together as they generally follow the same rule that if a member of staff is involved, then there is going to be a charge. Self-service laundry, the sauna/steam room and gym equipment are usually free of charge.

Using a laundry service, having spa treatments or getting a gym class will often incur a charge though but there are some exceptions to this. Other services, such as using a salon costs extra.

A woman enjoying a hot stone massage in the spa during her cruise
If you're a real enjoyer, you can also treat yourself to massages for a little extra money. | Author: SocialButterflyMMG

8. Showtime while cruising

The shows on a cruise ship can help to make your time on board an incredible one. The vast majority of them are going to be free with only a few rare exceptions that involve participation such as Norwegian Cruise Line’s take on Deal or No Deal.

9. Extra activities onboard the cruise ship

Most activities on a ship are going to be free of charge but there are often more specialized activities that are going to cost money. A good example of this is the skydiving simulator that is on two Royal Caribbean cruise liners, the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.

All cruise liners have very different activities such as racing simulators, water parks and rock climbing. It’s always a good idea to check what activities each individual ship has and whether or not these are going to be included in your fare. 

10. Up on the cruise deck

The sun deck is the place where you go to relax, grab an ice cream and soak up the sun while you are on the ship. The vast majority of this is going to be free but there could well be certain areas where you are going to have to pay extra.

This could be due to activities or it could also be the likes of a child-free zone for any adults that want a bit of peace. You’re always going to be able to have a nice place to sit and relax while you are out on the sun deck though.

11. Onboard demonstrations, lectures and tastings

This is really one area that hugely varies from one cruise to the next, not only in the fact of whether they are charged or not but also what will be offered on your particular cruise.

As with activities, even different ships with the same company can differ in what they offer. In the same way, it’s a good idea to check this before you board and find out if there will be a charge, it there is then you can better prepare for your cruise.

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What does each cruise line include?

Costs Mainstream Cruises Premium Cruises Luxury Cruises
Flights - - -
Transfers - - X
Excursions - - X
Onboard Activities X X X
Classes - - X
Youth Clubs X X X
Room Service X X X
Self Service Laundry - - X
WiFi - - -
Alcoholic drinks - - X
Soft drinks X X X
Specialty restaurants - - X
The various costs cruise lines include in their cruise fare.
An enlightened cruise ship on the sea at sunset
Being aware of all the different elements that are included in your cruise fare, you can get the best cruise deal. | Author: Peter Hansen

The balance of cruise fare and what is included in your cruise

The clearest piece of advice here is quite evident in that you can’t judge whether a cruise is good value for money or not just based solely on the cruise fare. The minimum expectation is that all cruise ships include port-to-port travel, accommodation and food but beyond that, you simply don’t know. 

There is plenty to consider before your ship sets sail and a company offering a higher fare than another for a similar cruise might actually end up being more value for money. This is where it is worth doing your homework to see what is going to be right for you.

Taking your personal preferences into account is going to be vital. You may prefer to skip excursions and explore on your own, you might not drink alcohol or it could be that you have no interest in going to any specialty restaurants. 

It’s good to plan out how much each person per day will spend to get the right deal for you and which liner is going to best match your circumstances. Once you do that, you are not only going to have a great cruise vacation but you will also save a lot of money too.

Check out these articles for more information on the costs of cruising: