• Meghan Bartok

How much is a cruise vacation ACTUALLY?

Updated: Apr 13

We all know you can get some awesome deals on cruises, but what added costs do you need to factor in when budgeting for your cruise vacation? Here are the five main categories you need to consider when planning for your cruise:


Gratuities

Some cruises have pre-paid gratuities included, which is super nice. Our cruise did not have that option when we booked, and so our gratuities were added to our bill that we paid at the end of our cruise. Because we stayed in an inside cabin, our gratuities were $14.50 per person, per day, meaning that we spent $72.50 each for a five-day cruise.


Drinks

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If you’re a really big drinker, the all-inclusive drinks package might be a great choice for you! I wasn’t super into this, mainly because there are other ways that I would rather spend $70 per day. Something to keep in mind is that if you get the drinks package, everyone in your cabin over 21 has to have it, which is slightly inconvenient if one person is a big drinker and the other isn’t. I personally only had about a drink per day that we were on the ship, meaning I spent about $55 on drinks. Drinks are between $7 for a can of Corona, to the $14.50 we paid for our frozen daiquiris, so budget accordingly based on your taste.


Excursions

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Playing on the inflatables at Paradise Beach in Cozumel

Again, this is something that you can either spend a lot or a little on, dependent on your tastes. If you buy an excursion run by the ship, expect to average between $75-$100 per person per excursion. Our two cruise ports were Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We stuck with a more budget-friendly option for both of these places and just did our own thing. In Grand Cayman, a lot of the excursions done by the ship center around swimming with stingrays, which I am deathly afraid of, and thus we just decided it would be better to do our own thing. We went to the Turtle Center, then Seven Mile Beach, and ended in Georgetown getting some lunch and doing some souvenir shopping – you can read about that here! Both my sister and I had already been to Mexico twice and had already done a lot of the activities that the ship was offering. Instead, we just decided to get a taxi to Paradise Beach, which is a great place to spend the day. There is a pool, inflatables to play on in the water, a bar, and food. Their food and drinks were a little more expensive but very yummy! We ended our day in Cozumel eating dinner at a restaurant in San Miguel. Each of these days we ended up spending about $55 for everything we did.


Specialty dining and activities on board

Something else to keep in mind is that while there are a plethora of free activities on board, and a majority of food is included, there are a handful of activities and a couple of specialty restaurants that cost extra. For our personal cruise, these included a sushi-making class, yoga, dining at the steakhouse, sushi restaurant, and Italian restaurant, plus a couple of others. We kept busy with other stuff and therefore didn’t spend anything at these places, but we were slightly disappointed that some of the activities we wanted to do had an extra charge.


Pre and post-cruise days

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Checking out the Florida Aquarium – right by the cruise port!


We departed out of Tampa and arrived the day before our cruise departed at around 11:30 am. Our costs while we were in Tampa included lunch, dinner, and a night in a hotel plus a couple of Lyfts pre-cruise, and brunch and the Florida Aquarium plus our Lyft back to the airport post-cruise. You could be a bit more budget conscious and eat cheaper food, but we decided that it was our vacation, so we had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Ybor City the night before we left. Overall, definitely budget for where you’re going to stay the night before your cruise (and I HIGHLY recommend getting there the day before), and at least a couple of meals, depending on when you get there and when your flight home is, as well as getting to and from the airport. I think we spent about $130 per person for our time in Tampa before and after our cruise.

Overall, how much extra you’re going to spend on your cruise is really dependent on you as a person! Do you want to enjoy a lot of drinks on board the ship and have the cruise curate your excursions? Expect to pay a little bit more. Are you not a big drinker and you’d rather do your own thing in port? Then you can budget a little less! For our five-day cruise (plus an extra day and a half in Tampa), we had about $368 in extra expenses. In total, our weeklong vacation cost $1,217 – including $550 for the cruise and $300 for the roundtrip flights.

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