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By in Saving | 18 comments

We’ve been on a Disney Cruise and another carribean cruise, and the all-inclusive concept does not apply. Cruising sounds like an ideal vacation; pay one low price and here’s what you get:

  • Room
  • 3 meals per day
  • Entertainment
  • Swimming & activities on board the ship

Sounds perfect doesn’t it? On the surface everything seems wonderful. After we paid for the trip, I expected the cruise vacation expenses to end. My understanding was that unless I wanted to buy a tee shirt or a martini, I could leave my wallet in the room. I was wrong!

Cruises are Expensive

The room is included. Our family of three was sandwiched in the five by eight foot postage stamp sized room. Definitely not a place to hang out. The food was good, if you like dining with thousands of other vacationers. Our daughter wanted a soda, so we paid an extra $10.00 for a refillable cup. Once you hit the shore, the expenses pile on. Day trips, meals, and entertainment on shore easily run into the hundreds of dollars. And if you don’t partake in some fun on shore, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to explore the beautiful and exotic locations.


video credit; YouTube TVTravelShowProducer

Taxes and tips aren’t usually included either. Actually, this misunderstanding may have been my fault. I made the assumption that once we paid up for the vacation, there would be no other costs, except souvenires. If I’d done a bit of homework, I would have realized that it’s a good idea to budget an additional 50 percent more than the cost of the cruise for all the extras.

In sum, if you go in with your eyes open, this might be a good vacation for you. But, learn a bit about this type of vacation before shelling out your cash for a cruise vacation.

Can’t Get Enough Cruise and Vacation Articles?

  • Enemy of Debt – Writes about how to minimize the hidden costs of vacations.
  • Thousandaire – Gives the inside scoop on his Mexican vacation.
  • One Money Design- Shares 6 ways Hollywood makes retirement look ridiculous in movies.
  • Debt Free Adventure-Explans how vacation planning is more about memories and less about the money.
  • The College Investor-Spells out 5 easy steps to get the cheapest vacation.

What are your favorite of vacations? Have you ever been on a cruise?



  1. I have been on 5 or 6 cruises mostly in Europe. As you said, it is hardly all inclusive. The excursions can cost as much as the cruise itself if you take a lot of them. My wife likes the concept of not have to pack all the time as an advantage of cruising. I feel it is more like a cocktail party where you get a sampling of the countries. I would rather go to a country and stay in one location for a week at a time. That way we would travel around the country. That is hardly cheap in Europe too. The only advantage from a financial point of view of cruising is you pay in American dollars. Less or no exposure to the volatile or high exchange rate.


    September 19, 2012

  2. I have never been on a cruise and I really have never had much desire to go on one. When I travel internationally I always want plenty of time to explore the cities I am in and I feel with a cruise you are so limited on your time.

    Sean @ One Smart Dollar

    September 19, 2012

  3. I never knew this! Now I’m wondering about the all-inclusive resort vacations and whether they are really all-inclusive or more like a cruise?


    September 19, 2012

  4. I’m going on a cruise later this year and knew it’d cost more than the price of the ticket, taxes, and gratuities (which I paid all up front). We are going on one excursion and hope to be able to find plenty other stuff to do.

    Lance @ Money Life and More

    September 19, 2012

  5. Hi Krantc, I’m more like you, go somewhere and stay for awhile and really explore!!! Some folks really like cruises.
    @sean, Like I told Kranc, I much prefer to explore an area at my leisure. I’m also fairly good at rooting out affordable hotels and restaurants, and am happy to buy a roll and fruit for breakfast in the room.
    @Sarah- I’ve found the all inclusive resorts don’t usually hit you with a lot of additional expenses. I’ve been to club med in FLA and an all inclusive in Mexico and didn’t pay much extra, mainly a few tips and souvenirs. Each all inclusive also included wine!!!
    @Lance, Sounds like you have planned it out and understand the extra charges. Have a wonderful time.


    September 20, 2012

  6. Anything Disney related is going to cost you more than you think 🙂 But they make it an enjoyable experience so you don’t feel all that bad ponying up the extra money.

    Money Beagle

    September 20, 2012

  7. @Money-I personally agree. It was really fun for the whole family to play ping pong with Minnie Mouse on the Disney cruise!


    September 20, 2012

  8. I’ve never been on a cruise because I always want to go explore a single location and mix with the locals more. I’d love to go on a cruise because of the staggering statistics. I think the number is something like 90% of people who go on one cruise go on a second one. The CEO of Carnival said in one interview that they don’t have to convince people to go again…the hard sell is getting someone to go at all.


    September 20, 2012

  9. I’ve been on a number of cruises and love them! There is so much information online about cruising that I find it hard to believe that a person couldn’t figure out how much extra money they would need prior to sailing.

    Some cruise lines even include all the tips in the cost of the cruise ticket, so if a person tips again, they are double tipping.


    September 20, 2012

  10. I’ve never been on a cruise and had no idea what you are saying above was the case. I would have assumed that whatever you paid up-front would be the total cost unless you wanted to do some sort of optional excursion when in dock.

    Having to budget that much extra for all the little costs makes a cruise even less appealing for me than it already was.


    September 20, 2012

  11. Hi Barb! Thanks for this information. Having never been on a cruise I didn’t realize the drinks weren’t included. I guess I assumed that cruises were similar to all inclusive resorts. Great tips to know!

    Heather Stephens

    September 20, 2012

  12. @Joe, I also prefer to explore one location and mix with the locals. I don’t like to spend several days at sea either.
    @Debra, You’re not alone, there are lots of people that love cruises (my aunt and uncle included)
    @Garrett-Before our first cruise I assumed everything was included as well… Imagine my suprise when we were paying for soda, snacks, tips, etc.
    @Heather-I much prefer an all inclusive resort-on land!


    September 20, 2012

  13. I still think its a small price to pay to wake up in a different country every morning for a week. I think cruises are a great option for people who have limited vacation time, and it allows for a much richer experience than an all inclusive resort. For what you are paying, it’s still cheaper than staying in a nice hotel, and the food is certainly better than average. If you can only take one week of vacation per year, I’d say a cruise is a great option.


    September 21, 2012

  14. I have a MASSIVE post on saving money and making money on cruises I wrote a month ago. I’ve gone on 10+ of them and love em all!

    Definitely some hidden fees! But it’s all worth it once you know them.

    Financial Samurai

    September 22, 2012

  15. @Kat, All valid points. I’m certain your rationales contribute to the success of cruising.
    @Financial-I’ll have to check it out. I’d call you an expert if you’ve gone on 10 cruises.


    September 22, 2012

  16. I’ve been on three cruises — does that make me a “sort-of” expert? I’m not sure about that…but all three, from 3 different cruiselines, were remarkably consistent in what they charged extra for.

    You mentioned sodas. We stayed away from that by purchasing sodas out in town, if we were really craving them. Otherwise, we stuck to iced tea, lemonade and coffee/tea.

    The bad part that I noticed on all three was the coffee — it was either bland or awful. The specialty coffees (which I paid extra for) were quite good. Coincidence? I think not…

    Of course, wine/beer was extra, too. So is going to one of the REALLY upscale restaurants.
    I was a little puzzled by your comment about dining with umpteen others, since we ate each night at one of the specialty restaurants — and it was quite gourmet. Sure, you could eat hamburgers out by the pool, but why do that when you could get lobster, steak — and as much as you wanted — as well as other gourmet fare in the restaurants? You could eat there at lunch, too, if you wished, and we tried to go to afternoon High Tea as much as possible. (We never paid an extra charge for any of these, either.)

    Day excursions — I’d agree, but don’t use the cruise ship’s services. Book your own online before you go. Or hop off and look around — there were ALWAYS vendors waiting and advertising day trips. We had a great time, and spent far less than the ship’s prices.

    Tips — that’s a hit. Your account is automatically charged a certain percentage of your cruise price for tips. I’d have to go look it up, but am thinking it was 15%. (On the other hand, they earn it. Big-time.)

    One surprising plus (no extra charge) was the ability to see movies 24/7 on the in-room tv…and order room service. Loved that! Also enjoyed the late-night movies out on the deck, tucked in a blanket and munching on hot popcorn.

    With care, you can find an inexpensively-priced cruise. (Don’t let them book your airfare, unless they can quote you a real steal for a price. Book your own, and save.) Would we do it again? If the price was right ($60/day or less…and you can find this quite a bit!) — you betcha.

    Last post:

    Cindy Brick

    September 23, 2012

  17. Cindy, Thanks for mapping out your experience. Sounds like you were quite deliberate in your planning. Your tips will certainly help the readers here make informed decisions about cruise vacations. We certainly could have been a bit more planful during our cruise vacations. Thank you!!!


    September 23, 2012

  18. We are headed out on our first cruise next month for our 22nd anniversary. I had already figured on 50% more than the cruise cost, since we like to drink and plan to go ashore and visit the local attractions. It still seems like a pretty reasonable deal, although not a bargain.

    Bret @ Hope to Prosper

    September 28, 2012

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