When you add up the major expenses for a vacation like rooms, meals, entertainment, activities and snacks you’ll find that cruise vacations are a real bargain. However, there is a big difference between what is consider as “all-inclusive” and what might just be “standard” on a cruise. There are a lot of extras offered on every ship and many of those you’ll have to pay for. That is understandable but some of those costs might be a bit hidden. Here’s what to look out for and how to avoid them:


The point of every cruise vacation is to dock at a port of call. This gives you the chance to hop off the boat and explore your destination. Cruises will sell shore excursions for that purpose. These are usually guided tours around the city that can include a meal, shopping and various points of interest. Guess what? You can get a meal, go shopping and see various points of interest without going on an excursion. There usually isn’t a charge for getting off the boat. You’ll have plenty of time to do a little research on your own before you arrive at the destination to see where you’d like to explore. You might also just want to stay on board as you’ll find a lot less crowds!

Alternative Dining

Every cruise passenger will have free dining opportunities in the main dining room or one of the ships many buffet venues. There won’t be any shortage of food options for free. However, there could also be alternative dining options made available. There will be specialty restaurants that are like landlocked restaurants complete with a bill. Some cruise lines offer free room service but most charge. Before you pay for food, be sure to take full advantage of the free dining. It might just be all you need.


With the free dining comes free drinks but just the basics. It is rare to find a cruise line that doesn’t charge for alcoholic beverages. What you’ll want to look out for are the daily drink specials like at happy hour. There are also often free events like cocktail parties. It might also be a money saver to order a bottle of wine at dinner and finish it the next night. Much better than buying by the glass.

Spa Treatments

Spa treatments like massages and facials are always extra charges but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a discount. On port days, the spas might slash their prices for the passengers who are staying behind. Just beware of a spa sales pitch. Many spas are operated by independent contractors, which means they work on commission. Be clear with what you want and you don’t need the pitch.

Onboard Activities

Much like there will be no end to the free food, there will also be no end to free activities. You just have to seek them out. Yes, there might be certain exercises classes and attractions like laser tag or IMAX movies that would have an extra charge but you might not need them when you go through the list of all the free things to do.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending a little extra on your vacation. Just be sure you don’t get it for free first!