These Are the Most Ridiculous Fees Cruise Lines Are Scamming You With
Taking a cruise gets expensive. When you decide where you want go, you have to compare cruise lines and itineraries to find the best (or, let’s be real, the cheapest) option. Yet even when you score a good deal on your cabin, the cruise line will surprise you with all kinds of ridiculous fees and added expenses. As painful as it is to confront that reality, you don’t have to turn a blind eye to the added costs your cruise line will charge you on your vacation.
Ahead, check out some of the most common — and infuriating — fees that most cruise lines will add to your bill. Knowing what to expect can help you compare your options, and can also help you budget for your trip. Convinced? Check out some of the most cringe-worthy fees you might have to pay the next time you take a cruise.
1. Government taxes and port fees
- Average cost: 3 to 5% of your fare just for taxes, and up to 20% of your base fare in total
When you book a cruise, it’s not just the cruise line that adds extra fees onto the advertised fare. The government wants its cut, too, and most cruise lines just pass along those fees to you. As U.S. News explains, government taxes and port fees can cost anywhere from 3 to 5% of the advertised fare. The port fees vary depending on the number and location of the ports on your itinerary, but can also add a sizable sum onto the bottom line. Shermans Travel reports that government fees and taxes typically add up to less than 20% of your base fare — but can reach as high as 50% in some cases.
Next: You have to pay this fee even if you don’t like the service.
2. Automatic gratuities
- Average cost: $13 to $15 per person, per day
Gratuities are often included in what you pay for a luxury cruise. But as Cruise Critic explains, that’s not the case on mainstream cruise lines, which charge you an average of $13 per person, per day, for passengers in standard staterooms. If you stay on a suite, you’ll pay a couple dollars more (per person, per day). USA Today recently reported that those automatic gratuities can add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of your trip. As the name indicates, you’re automatically charged those gratuities. And if you’re unhappy with the service you receive on vacation, many cruise lines will only let you make adjustments while you’re still on the ship.
Next: Cruise lines will charge you this fee if oil gets expensive.
3. Fuel surcharges
- Average cost: Varies across cruise lines
TripSavvy reports that many cruise lines reserve the right to charge you extra if fuel gets too expensive. As the publication explains, many contracts “include a fuel surcharge clause that states that a specific per-passenger surcharge will be added to your fare if the price of oil passes a specific limit (for example, $70 per barrel is Holland America Line’s threshold).” You can’t avoid the surcharge. In fact, all you can do is watch the price of oil — and budget some extra money to cover the surcharge.
Next: Cruise lines make this seem like the only option, but you have other choices.
4. Charges to transfer from the airport
- Average cost: Varies depending on the destination
If you need to fly to get to your cruise ship, then you’ll need to decide how to get from the airport to the port. As Cruise Critic reports, many cruise lines offer ground transfers from the terminal. But if you go for that option, you’ll pay just as much, if not more, than the cost of a taxi or a van service. The publication reports, “It’s easy to book transfers with your cruise line, but as long as you’re arranging a ride in advance, you can sometimes save quite a few bucks by going on your own — especially if you can split the fare.”
Next: Want to order something from room service? You’ll owe more than the menu specifies.
5. Room service fees
- Average cost: $5 to $8
Anyone familiar with hotel room service knows that everything on the menu costs a lot. But did you know that cruise lines will actually charge you a service fee for each order you place? As Cruise Critic explains, you may need to pay between $5 and $8, depending on your cruise line. The publication notes that some cruise lines such as “Carnival, Disney and Holland America offer free basic room service, though some menu items (like chicken wings and personal pizzas on Carnival or popcorn and M&M’s on Disney) carry supplemental fees.”
Next: Cruise lines charge a small fortune for access to this.
6. A fee for internet access
- Average cost: $5 to $15 per day
Want to upload your photos to Instagram or email an update to your friends back home? Then you’ll need to pay extra to access the internet. U.S. News reports that rates vary across cruise lines and ships. They may also be contingent on the megabytes or minutes you use. Some cruise lines will give you access to your favorite social media apps for about $5 per day. But if you want to browse the web or check your email, you’ll need to pay $15 or more on some cruise lines. Others offer free Wi-Fi minutes if you stay in an upgraded room or suite. But bear in mind that Wi-Fi is spotty — and that you may be able to find free Wi-Fi when you stop at a port.
Next: If you want a nicer room or a prettier view, you’ll have to pay up.
7. Upcharges for a nicer cabin
- Average cost: Varies across cruise lines
It many not be entirely surprising to experienced cruise passengers. But many first-time travelers feel dismayed to find that cruise lines charge extra if you want to upgrade to anything beyond the standard cabin. A bigger room or a suite will always cost extra. Plus, ocean views cost more than a room facing the interior of the ship. But some cruise lines even will add an upcharge if you want a stateroom on a more desirable deck.
Next: Want to learn something new? Most cruise lines will charge you.
8. Tuition for classes
- Average cost: $10 to $40
Most cruise lines offer lots of free activities for passengers. (They certainly advertise those activities heavily, too!) But if you want to learn something new on your next cruise, you may need to pay extra to get a spot in a class. Cruise Critic reports that a wine-blending class from MSC Divina costs $25. The America’s Test Kitchen cooking classes on Holland America cost $39. And specialty fitness classes on various cruise lines seem to start at around $12.
Next: You may need to pay extra for these meals, even in the main dining room.
9. Fees for specialty menu items
- Average cost: $17 to $20
You probably already know that you’ll pay extra to dine at one of the specialty restaurants on the cruise ship. But Cruise Critic notes that many cruise lines will charge you extra for specific menu items even at the main dining room or buffet. Thinking of ordering filet mignon? Does the Maine lobster sound good? Then you’ll pay $16.95 extra at Royal Caribbean’s main dining room and $20 at Carnival’s dining room, respectively. And if you want something like caviar, you’ll definitely pay extra.
Next: Most cruise lines will charge you for drinking your own wine.
10. Corkage fees
- Average cost: $10 to $25
You can pack your own wine when you take a cruise in order to save some money. But did you know most cruise lines will actually charge you if want to drink that wine with a meal? Cruise Critic explains that many cruise lines limit the number of bottles you can bring aboard. They also charge a corkage fee of $10 to $25 if you want to drink your wine in the dining room. The only way to get around the fee? Drink your wine in your stateroom instead.
Next: Have your kids or grandkids with you? You may end up paying these fees.
11. Babysitting charges
- Average cost: Varies widely across cruise lines
Are you a parent or a grandparent? Then you probably know that many cruise lines offer free group babysitting during the day via their kids’ clubs. But if you want someone to watch your charges in the evening, you’ll need to pay some extra fees for the same group babysitting. A few cruise lines offer in-room babysitting, which you’ll need to pay for by the hour. While babysitting services are generally available only for kids ages three and older, some cruise lines offer babysitting for even younger children for an hourly fee.
Next: Most passengers know about these fees, but still grumble about them when they get to port.
12. Costs for shore excursions
- Average cost: Can add hundreds of dollars to your bill
Most experienced cruise passengers know this. But cruise lines don’t include the cost of shore excursions in your fare — even if you can’t imagine going without them. Excursions can include sightseeing, culinary tours, or other adventures. The majority require an extra fee, which U.S. News reports is only sometimes worth it. “These experiences can be worth the splurge but those looking to save should put in a little research to evaluate if booking with a third-party operator is a more affordable option,” the publication reports. Or, you could always strike out on your own.
Next: Even these basic beverages cost extra.
13. Fees for soda and bottled water
- Average cost: $3 to $4 per bottle or can
Most cruise lines will serve you iced tea, lemonade, milk, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for free. But as Cruise Critic explains, most cruise lines will charge you for either soda or bottled water. “One can of soda costs roughly $3, and a large bottle of water closer to $4,” the publication explains. The best way to get around the fees? You can purchase a soft drink package. Or, you can bring your own soda and water on board with you.
Next: Your favorite caffeinated drink may cost you, too.
14. Fees for specialty coffee beverages
- Average cost: $3 to $5 per cup
If you pay handsomely to take a cruise, you’d think that the cruise line could serve you your morning cup of coffee the way you like it. Most will. But they’ll charge you for it! Cruise Critic reports that you can get a free cup of coffee at the buffet or in the dining room. However, if you want anything higher-quality or more complicated than a plain cup of coffee, it’ll cost you. As Cruise Critic notes, “Most cruise ships have cafes serving up specialty coffee a la carte, where a cup will typically run in the $3 to $5 range.”
Next: Many cruise lines don’t actually include this in your fare.
15. Extra charges at the spa
- Average cost: $170 to $200 per week
If you plan on taking full advantage of the spa on your next cruise, you’ll want to make sure that you know what’s included. Cruise Critic reports that you can use the spa’s saunas and steam rooms for free on most ships. But some cruise lines charge per day. Others offer a cruise-length pass for anything beyond the basics. The publication reports that Carnival’s thalassotherapy pool and thermal suites cost $40 per day or $169 for a seven-night cruise. Norwegian Cruise Lines charges $199 per week to access the sauna, steam room, hot tubs, thalassotherapy pool, and other extras.
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