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Plan for these 8 costs before your cruise for smoother sailing

What we'll cover

  • Common cruise fees and expenses

  • On-ship charges to keep an eye on

  • How to minimize cruise costs

You've saved up, purchased your tickets and are about to embark on a trip on the high seas. But how do you prepare for unexpected cruise costs? Let's review some expenses you should look for before you depart.

1. Taxes and fees

Taxes and fees on your cruise should appear early on in your booking process, but it's worth keeping an eye on the numbers. These costs may include port fees and taxes, which vary based on port location, amount of passengers and size of your cruise — they're also mandatory for all passengers. Port fees and taxes often range from 10 to 20 percent of your base cruise fare.

2. Gratuities

You may be curious about tipping etiquette, especially considering the amount of staff on your cruise. Most large cruise lines will automatically add a general service or gratuity fee, but it may also be included in your base fare. These costs can range from $15 to $20 a person per day. However, it's a good idea to keep some cash on hand for other opportunities to personally tip on services like baggage handling, room service or bartending.

Some cruise fees are unavoidable, but others can be minimized with a little planning.

3. Room service

Grabbing breakfast in bed or a late-night snack? Each order to your cabin may incur a $3 to $10 fee, depending on the cruise line. Keep an eye on whether gratuity is included — if not, it's good etiquette to tip the crew member who delivers your order.

4. Hidden costs in cabin selection

If you're particular about room selection, you could pay an additional fee to select your cabin type. To avoid this charge, let the cruise line select your room and skip the specific amenities.

5. Onboard attractions

If you'd like to enhance your cruise experience with your ship's onboard experiences, you'll likely pay extra. These additional costs can apply to attractions ranging from exclusive sun decks to onboard rides and games.

6. Dining and beverages

Your cruise will likely include meals if you stick to the main dining halls. Depending on your cruise line, you might pay extra if you'd like to upgrade to some of the more specialty dining options.

7. Shore excursions

If you'd like to take part in ship-sponsored excursions, many of these experiences will cost extra. You'll likely also have the option to explore on your own — which could help you save a little cash.

8. Wi-Fi and internet access

Just because you're at sea doesn't mean you won't want some connection to the outside world. If you're working while aboard or want to share your journey on social media, you'll likely need to pay extra for internet access. Certain cruise lines may offer higher internet speeds for high-demand access like video streaming. Opting just for the standard speed could help you save — and make sure to turn off your device's data usage once you've purchased Wi-Fi.

Tips to help minimize hidden costs

Some cruise fees are unavoidable, but others can be minimized with a little planning.

Compare cruise lines before booking

With each cruise line charging unique fees, it's important to do your research ahead of a purchase. Selecting two or three cruise lines and comparing charges can provide a better picture of the total cost of each.

Read the fine print

There's no better way to know the specific fees for your cruise than by reading the line's unique terms and conditions.

Plan and budget for onboard expenses

From tipping to taxes, it's helpful to plan for these charges in your cruise savings to ensure you're financially prepared. By factoring in these additional costs, you're better able to create an overall budget for the fun you'll be having.

Take advantage of inclusive packages and promotions

One way to potentially avoid repeat fees is by purchasing drink or meal packages. Asking bartenders for a drink price list can help you select more affordable options, and certain cruise lines offer discounts on meals depending on time of day. You can also research cruise deals — the first three months of the year are often the best to book — and sign up for newsletters to be notified of any promotions.

All aboard!

Surprise expenses are never relaxing. With knowledge of the potential costs that may come your way, you'll be able to cruise confidently.

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