- Your cruise fare most likely includes meals, accommodations, and entertainment, but you will probably encounter some hidden fees and unexpected charges, too.
- Surprise gratuity fees and drink packages with unexpected catches can quickly add up and make your vacation more expensive than you thought.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On an all-inclusive cruise, your fare will include meals, accommodations, and some entertainment options.
But that doesn’t even begin to cover all the money you’ll actually spend on your vacation.
While all-inclusive cruises can offer passengers great value, there are some hidden and unexpected fees that can catch cruisers off-guard and quickly make a dent in their wallets, including surprise gratuity fees and drink packages that come with a catch.
Whether you’re a new cruiser or have sailed for years, be on the lookout for these fees which may surprise you at the end of your trip.
Here are some fees that you may not realize you’ll have to pay on your next cruise.
For US travelers, gratuities at land-based hotels and restaurants is often discretionary — expected, but your responsibility to add yourself.
That isn’t the case on every cruise ship.
"On a cruise ship, because of the many people to have a part in making your trip extraordinary, gratuities are automatically added to your final bill at the conclusion of your trip, with the exception of select luxury lines that often include them in the base fare," Colleen McDaniel, editor in chief of Cruise Critic, told Business Insider.
For the most part, McDaniel says, you can expect a mainstream cruise line to add around $14 to $15 in gratuities per person every day. For a family of four taking a week-long cruise, that can add more than $400 to the cost of your base fare. That surprising fee can catch you by surprise at the end of a seven-day voyage.
"Prior to booking, be sure to familiarize yourself with your cruise line’s gratuity policy so you can more accurately budget your total costs," McDaniel said. You can see a list of the gratuity policies of several major cruise lines here.
Getty Images/Matt Cardy
Many cruisers are aware that soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included and incur an extra fee, but many don’t realize that bottled water is an upcharge.
"On many ships, this is true even if you have purchased a beverage package," Mia Burwell, co-owner and senior travel curator with Genesis Travel Group, told Business Insider. "Bottled water is often not included and can cost you $3 to $10 if purchased onboard."
If you want a bottled water package, see if you can take advantage of a pre-cruise discount to save.
Drink packages with sneaky fees
Jerod Harris/Getty Images
One fee that will surely catch some passengers by surprise comes up when buying drink packages.
A typical drink package will allow passengers to drink their fill for a fixed price per day. However, most cruise lines make every adult in the cabin buy the package, even if they don’t drink.
"This is to keep passengers from sharing the package, but it often means there’s an extra fee of an additional drink package for many couples traveling together," Tanner Callais, founder and editor of Cruzely.com, told Business Insider. "The good news is that cruise lines will sometimes work with you on the extra package, especially if there is some circumstance like being pregnant or a health issue that means the other person can’t or won’t drink alcohol."
There are also unexpected gratuity fees, even on free food or drink by the cruise line. For instance, some cruise lines offer perks where if you book the cruise, you can select perks like free drinks or free specialty restaurants.
"What’s in the fine print is that even if you aren’t charged for these items, you will be charged the gratuity of their original cost," Callais said.
Take a drink package that costs $100 per day. A 20% automatic gratuity is still charged, even if the package is free. In other words, on a week-long cruise those free drinks would cost the passenger $140.
"Be sure to read the fine print on any free perk offer from the cruise lines," Callais recommends. "If you don’t like the overall deal, you can often skip the perks altogether and save the extra cash."
- 9 of the best car parts and accessories you can buy at Sam’s Club
- I drove a $27,000 Final Edition of the VW Beetle to see if it lives up to its iconic history. Here’s the verdict.
- Ford’s most iconic cars through the years — and how they evolved