Cruise Ship Tips

Cruise like a pro, right from the get-go!

What is not included in the price of a cruise

So I’ve gone over what is generally included in the price of a cruise, and if you haven’t read that, you can find that here. If you are now wondering what is NOT included in the price of a cruise, keep reading. You will be setting up an onboard spending account when you check in. This means you will give the ship a credit card to charge all your “extras” to during your sailing. What are those “extras”?


  • Alcohol, including beer, wine, and cocktails
  • Bottled water
  • Specialty Coffee (lattes, cappuccinos, etc)
  • Milkshakes, Freshly squeezed juices & smoothies

Unless you book a cruise that advertises an open bar/all-inclusive situation, you will be charged for alcohol and soda drinks. I know that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has ships in Europe that do this, and these passengers get an all-inclusive package built into their cruise fare. Also, depending on the level of stateroom you book with NCL, you will have options of a drink package with their “free at sea” promotions.

There are options for how you choose to pay for your non-included drinks on cruises. Most lines offer a prepaid beverage package. You can either purchase these packages onboard at the guest services’ desk, or online through your cruise line’s website prior to the cruise. Or you can choose to simply pay per drink. It’s up to you.

Every cruise line has their own line of beverage packages and they vary quite a bit. From just soda to open-bar packages, the more options you want, the more you will pay. These packages will be a daily price, per person. For example, say you want the soda package, and your cruise is 7 days. Just throwing a number out there, say its $7.50 a day for all you can drink soda. That will cost you $7.50 x 7, totaling $52.50 + gratuities. Gratuities will vary by the ship, and they are automatically charged for every drink.

Whether you decide to go with a beverage package, you will pay gratuities on every drink you purchase, so keep that in mind. Only you know how much of these types of beverages you plan to consume and you should do the math to decide if it’s worth paying for all up front or as you go. Some people think its easier and less worrisome to pay for the packages beforehand because they don’t like the idea of having to keep track of their spending, and it’s much easier to just know it’s all taken care of. Others know they won’t “get their money’s worth”, so a package doesn’t make sense to them. You will need to decide that for yourself.

Specialty Dining

Tableside Guacamole in Los Lobos Cantina, NCL

Cruise ships have plenty of dining options that are included. They also offer multiple dining options that are an extra fee. Think steakhouses, Asian fare, French food, Italian.. the list goes on. Some are even land-based, well-known places such as Johnny Rockets and Starbucks. If you choose to dine in these restaurants, expect to be charged either a set fee, per person, or pay per course, just like a restaurant on land. These restaurants are generally very good and in my opinion, worth every penny.

Just like with the beverage packages, some cruise lines will offer dining packages as well. You will choose a package, say 3 specialty dining restaurants per sailing, and pay for it upfront. You’ll pay the package price, plus gratuities, and then when you sail, you don’t have to worry about the bill at the end because you prepaid and its all taken care of. Or, you can simply pay the bill as you would at any other restaurant.


Anything you do within the ship’s casino is obviously not included in the price of a cruise. Gambling on a cruise ship is a personal choice, some people love it and others avoid it at all costs. Generally, cruise ship casinos offer a large assortment of slots and table games like Blackjack, Craps and Roulette. This is the one place on a cruise ship where cash is used. You don’t have to use cash however, you can also use whatever method of payment you have linked to your onboard spending if you like.

Deal or No Deal Game Show

Other forms of gaming on a cruise ship include BINGO and games such as Deal or No Deal. These games require a buy-in to play, and is not included in your original fare. These games will be scheduled throughout the cruise and are a fun way to interact with your fellow passengers and win some money!

Premium Entertainment

Some ships are charging for some “premium” entertainment options, such as an IMAX movie showing, bowling, or a theater show performance. When you decide to engage in these activities, you’ll just swipe your sail card and will be charged on your onboard spending account accordingly.


Ships will have stores onboard for your shopping pleasure. These stores will have everything from snacks and basic necessities (what did you forget to pack?), clothing, and souvenirs in all forms, to high end, luxury items such as watches, jewelry, handbags, perfume, etc. There will also be bottles of alcohol and cartons of cigarettes and cigars, all duty-free. Many people like to take advantage of the tax-free shopping onboard, and the stores will likely run multiple sales on their items throughout the cruise. Take advantage of the “liquidation” type sales on the last day, many items will be offered at a deep discount as they get ready to load up on fresh merchandise for the next cruise after yours ends.

Art up for auction

There is usually an art gallery onboard as well, and those pieces will be up for sale. Some ships have art auctions, so if you’re an art lover – or even if you just love a particular piece that is on display, you can purchase it and bring it home with you!

Spa Services

Cruise ship spas are fabulous. Just like a spa on land, expect a list of services that includes multiple types of massages, facials, waxing, nail services, hair styling and shaving, etc. These services tend to be a bit pricier than on land, but hey, you’re on vacation – treat yourself!

Spa on the NCL Dawn

Usually when you book a spa treatment, you will gain access to the amenities. These amenities can include a private pool, hot tubs, saunas, heated seating and relaxation rooms. Or, you can purchase a spa package which will include unlimited access to these amenities throughout your cruise. Each ship is different, so inquire within how to access the spa amenities onboard.


This is a sticky topic, but must be mentioned. When you book a cruise, you have the option, right up front, to include- and pay for- all your required gratuities in your cruise price. If you chose to do so, you will not need to extend yourself beyond that during your cruise (unless you want to, and this is up to you.) However, if you decide NOT to include those required gratuities when you pay for the price of your cruise, you will be required to do so at the end of your cruise. This means, they will charge your gratuities to your onboard spending account on the last day. Some people don’t remember this and when they get their final bill just as they’re about to disembark the ship and go home, they are surprised at the total cost. To avoid this, simply prepay your gratuities and this won’t happen to you.


I hope I was able to give you guys an idea of what is and what is not included in the price of a cruise. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll be happy to get back to you. Happy cruising! -Kate


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