Cruises are a popular vacation choice providing many complimentary activities and amenities for one low fare.
A typical cruise booking often includes common inclusions like accommodation, food, drinks, entertainment, and various activities.
With so much included, you might be wondering, are cruises all-inclusive?
Despite their vast offering, most cruises are not all-inclusive.
This post looks closely at the typical inclusions and exclusions for mainstream cruise lines and some all-inclusive luxury lines.
Are Cruises All-Inclusive?
Most cruises are not all-inclusive. While your cruise fare includes a wide variety of food, drinks, activities, entertainment, and other amenities, mainstream cruise lines charge extra for things like WiFi, alcohol, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, room service, gratuities, and more.
The most common inclusions in cruises are more than enough to keep you from spending extra money on other commodities. You can go on your whole cruise vacation without spending more than your cruise fare.
We’ve done it.
Before booking, it’s best to check what’s included in your cruise fare so you’re not surprised by unexpected fees.
What’s Included in your Cruise?
Although what’s included in your cruise varies by cruise line, you can generally expect that accommodations, basic drinks, dining, entertainment, most activities, and the kid’s program will be included in your base cruise fare.
While fare inclusions vary by cruise line, you’ll find similar inclusions on mainstream cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. If you have any questions, it’s best to check with the cruise line.
Below is a general guide on what’s included in your cruise fare.
Your cruise fare includes the cost of your accommodations for the duration of the voyage. There are different cabin classes, including interior cabins, oceanview cabins, balcony cabins, and suites.
Typical cabins will have a bed (the size will depend on your cabin class), an en suite bathroom, a closet, a desk, and a TV.
Also included in the cruise fare is your cabin steward, who will make up your room once or twice daily, depending on the cruise line. Your cabin steward is a great reference if you have questions about your cruise. And you may even find towel animals when you return to your stateroom.
Higher cabin categories provide more spacious accommodations and ocean views. Premium accommodations like suites may include added perks like priority boarding, upgraded bathroom amenities, espresso machines, or a balcony hot tub.
Drinks and Food
Cruise lines include several complementary dining restaurants and drinks for passengers. Most cruise ships provide a buffet and a more formal main dining room.
Larger cruise ships offer several more dining options, including grills, pizza places, cafes, and sandwich stations.
While many passengers opt for the buffet for breakfast and lunch, we recommend visiting the main dining room for dinner.
The sit-down dining venue provides an excellent three-course meal. And the menu changes daily so you won’t get tired of the food.
Cruise ships also offer several specialty restaurants that have an added fee. Specialty dining venues provide a more upscale menu and higher quality of food compared to the complimentary restaurants.
Your fare includes basic drinks like water, juice, coffee, and tea. You can expect to pay extra for soda and alcoholic beverages.
You’ll never get bored on a cruise ship. You’ll have access to the cruise ship gym, pools, hot tubs, and sports deck.
Newer ships boast even more impressive free activities like the cruise fitness center, surf simulators, ropes courses, bumper cars, mini golf, water slides, zip lines, go-karting, and rock climbing.
And the ship’s entertainment staff host activities throughout the day, most of which are free.
Make sure you check the daily cruise compass to find out which activities are taking place during the day. You can participate in dance classes, lectures, trivia, game shows, belly flop competitions, and baking classes.
People hesitant to cruise often worry about getting bored on a ship.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Modern cruise ships are essentially giant floating resorts offering more games, activities, and entertainment choices than you can possibly see.
In fact, it’s more likely that you won’t have time to see and do everything you want to experience than find yourself bored on today’s mega cruise ships.
There’s no shortage of entertainment on a cruise ship. Most of the entertainment options are free.
You’ll find live music by the pool and at the ship’s bars and lounges throughout the day. Cruise ships offer music from several genres with something for everyone to love.
You’ll also find a wide selection of stores where you can shop, various shows or plays, and even an onboard cinema.
The ship comes to life at night with dance parties, karaoke, broadway shows, and movies under the stars.
Most cruise ships have a large theater where you’ll find nightly headliner shows. And trust me, they are worth watching.
Each day you’ll find a different show in the theater. Think comedians, musicals, cover bands, Broadway shows, and original productions.
Since cruise lines have guests from all age groups, they try as much as possible to cater to all the possible interests each guest may have.
One of the reasons that cruise vacations are so popular is because they provide a family-friendly atmosphere. Nearly every cruise line includes a complimentary kid’s program providing age-appropriate games and activities for children.
The kid’s programs allow parents to spend their day relaxing by the pool, at the spa, or exploring the local port knowing their children are under the supervision of trained professionals.
Common Exclusions in Cruises
Now that you know most cruise lines are not all-inclusive, you must understand what might cost extra on your vacation.
Knowing about additional expenses is essential to budgeting for your cruise. Too often, we find cruisers don’t budget for the added costs.
As we’ve previously said, you can go on a cruise without paying for any added expenses. But it’s always better to be informed before you book your cruise.
Below are some common amenities not included in your cruise fare.
If you want to keep connected back home, post vacation pictures on social media, or keep updated at work, you might want to connect to the ship’s WiFi. Cruise line WiFi packages are not included in your cruise fare.
You’ll have to purchase an internet package to connect to the ship’s WiFi. You have quite a few options regarding these packages.
Internet plans vary by cruise line but are often sold at daily or hourly rates.
It’s important to note that the internet speed on cruise ships is very slow. But that will change as cruise lines begin to partner with satellite-based internet providers who provide high-speed internet, even at sea.
Because WiFi is not included, most passengers don’t purchase an internet plan. If you want to save money on your cruise, you can often find free WiFi at ports of call.
Cruise lines provide basic drinks free of charge. But alcohol and soda cost extra.
If you want to relax by the pool with an alcoholic beverage, you can purchase drinks individually or buy a drink package.
Before you spend the money on a beverage package, it’s a good idea to do the calculations to see if the drink package is worth it.
The high price of the package means most people would need to drink 6-8 alcoholic beverages daily to break even.
Further, most drink packages have a price limit on the drinks included in the plan.
If you want to purchase premium liquor, you’ll need to pay the difference between the price of the drink and the limit covered by the drink package.
Other beverages like soda, specialty coffee, premium tea, and freshly squeezed juices also cost extra. While they are included with an alcoholic beverage package, many cruise lines offer a soft drinks package at a reduced rate.
Free cruise ship room service is a thing of the past. While most cruise lines offer a complimentary continental breakfast, the menu option is limited and only available in the morning.
If you want room service during the day, be prepared to order from an a la carte menu or pay the delivery fee.
When you purchase your cruise ticket, it doesn’t include the automatic daily gratuities charged by the cruise line.
Gratuities are an often forgotten cost of cruising that people forget to include in their vacation budget.
Many first-time cruisers are shocked when they receive the final bill at the end of the sailing and see that daily gratuities have been added to their onboard spending account.
To eliminate the confusion surrounding cruise gratuities, many cruise lines provide the option for guests to pre-pay gratuities when booking the cruise. Celebrity CruisesAlways Included Fare and Princess Cruises Princess Plus include gratuities with the base fare, making it easier to budget for your cruise vacation.
Cruise ships provide an opportunity to relax and unwind from the stress of everyday life. And what better place to get some TLC than the onboard spa?
Before you book that couples massage, it’s important to remember that spa visits are not included in your cruise. And most cruise lines charge an automatic gratuity on spa treatments.
One of my favorite parts about cruising is the ability to explore local cultures, sites, and cuisines through shore excursions. From scenic bus tours to helicopter rides atop glaciers, there’s no shortage of shore excursions to immerse yourself in the ports of call.
Unfortunately, shore excursions are not included in your cruise fare.
Prices can vary between a $5 bus tour to more than $1000 for the most lavish excursions.
In our experience, most shore excursions cost around $50-$100 per person.
All-Inclusive Luxury Cruise Lines
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive cruise, you’re not out of luck.
Several luxury cruise lines provide all-inclusive fares for guests. As you might expect, the cost of sailing on a luxury line is higher than mainstream cruise lines, but if you’re looking for an all-inclusive vacation on the high seas, they are your best option.
All-inclusive luxury cruise lines have the most common inclusions and other services like alcohol, shore excursions, and even flights to the cruise port.
Below are some all-inclusive luxury cruise lines.
Silversea Cruises is an all-inclusive luxury operated by Royal Caribbean Group.
This cruise line brings luxury to another level by providing guests with all-suite cruise ships and a personal butler. This around-the-clock butler service ensures that all guests on the cruise are pampered and relaxed.
Silversea Cruises also has a variety of ships you can choose from. If you’re into a more intimate affair, the cruise line offers ships as few as 51 suites. Their largest cruise ships have 364 suites if you prefer enjoying the cruise with lots of company.
Silversea Cruises also offer a door-to-door transport service to ensure a luxurious experience from the moment you leave your home.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the definition of opulence and all-inclusive vacationing. Their all-inclusive cruise fare includes everything from offboard expeditions to unlimited WiFi and laundry services.
In addition, they offer unlimited beverages as well on all of the onboard bars and lounges. Some suites also have drinks in their en suite mini-bars that are replenished daily.
This cruise line’s Grand Voyages offers a customized cruising experience that sails to popular cruise ports and less traveled destinations, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for guests.
Seabourn Cruises defines its voyages as ultra-luxury. They offer intimate ships with one of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the cruise industry.
Each suite even includes a Personal Suite Host and a Suite Attendant. These staff members assist you in ensuring that everything onboard is perfectly catered to your needs.
Similar to Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn is also known as entirely all-inclusive—even some of the high-end alcoholic drinks.
Seabourn Cruises offers several unique expeditions that visit a combination of remote destinations. These itineraries take you on a path less traveled, giving you a chance to kayak, dive, and explore remote destinations.