Do you think you drove away with a bargain? Then you should check the fine print when it comes to cruise vacations, with a spate of add-on costs that can quickly add up.
FEMAIL examined two offered trips with two of the largest cruise lines in the world and found that the actual price of the trip is much higher than advertised.
US cruise prices never include government taxes and port fees. Other things to think about are Wi-Fi access, drink packages, specialty restaurants away from the buffet stations, and shore excursions.
Sail further down to see how a cheap cruise can quickly turn into one that lowers your vacation balance sheet.
Cruise vacations can come with a spate of additional expenses that can add up quickly
Take a ride? How a $978 cruise for two with Norwegian Cruise Line can end up costing a whopping $4,552
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Ship is offering a February 2023 voyage priced at $489 per person. The seven-day voyage travels to and from New Orleans, Louisiana, with stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
The TRUE cost of a cruise: Hidden fees when sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line
The base cost of a seven-day round trip from New Orleans, Louisiana in February 2023 with stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico for two people: $978
- State taxes and port dues for two people: $376.74
- Wi-Fi bundle for two devices: $314.93
- Basic open bar beverage package for two: $1,831.20
- Two nights at a specialty restaurant for two: $400
- A spa massage for two: $360
- Two shore excursions per person: $480
BASE COST: $978
REAL TOTAL: $4,552.50
This price is based on two people sharing a basic inside cabin with no windows.
However, the advertised price does not include state taxes and port dues, which totals $188.37.
This means that after these fees are applied, the base cruise cost is $1,354.74 for two people.
But once you’re on the 3,959-passenger ship, the hidden costs quickly add up.
If you want to stay connected on the go, the Wi-Fi bundle for two devices costs $44.99 per day. This is $314.93 for the duration of the cruise.
Then if you plan to drink alcohol, the open bar drinks package will be offered as an option.
The base package, which covers up to $15 worth of drinks, is $109 per person per day, for a total of $1,526 for the entire trip for two people.
A 20 percent gratuity and beverage service charge is then added to all food and beverage packages, bringing the total to $1,831.20.
While the base cruise cost includes all meals in certain areas, if you feel like eating at one of the specialty restaurants, you should pay at least $100 per head, including tip.
At Norwegian Breakaway’s Ocean Blue restaurant, described as a “refined and elegant” eatery, entrees for crispy shrimp start at $15, while filet mignon is $43 and lobster is $49.
Over at Le Bistro, which features “sleek interiors, crisp white linens, and attentive servers,” the menu recommends starting with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut, which costs $29.
In the next courses, appetizers start at $16 for a portion of snails, meat-based entrees from $29 for a coq au vin, and seafood dishes from $39 for a Mediterranean sea bass.
If you want to be pampered on the high seas, all Norwegian Cruise ships offer a “Mandara Spa”.
The Ocean Blue Restaurant on Norwegian Cruise Line’s breakaway ship, where filet mignon is $43 and lobster is $49
A shot of the basic cabin configuration on Norwegian Cruise Line’s breakaway ship
Massages start at around $180 for 50 minutes including tip.
On the excursions side, prices range from $29 for a paddleboard rental to $899 for a luxury private villa rental on Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, Harvest Cay, in Belize.
However, average activities are around $120 per person, gratuity included, and it’s recommended that passengers take at least two excursions per cruise.
That means couples should expect to spend at least $480 if they want to enjoy their post-mooring time.
When all of these additional costs are factored into a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage advertised at $978 per couple, the actual amount is approximately $4,552.50 – more than four times the base fare.
seared! If you take a $718 carnival cruise for two, you could end up with a $3,300 bill
The REAL Cost of a Cruise: Hidden Fees on a Carnival Voyage
The base cost for a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Miami, Florida in September 2024 for two people: $718
- State taxes and port dues for two people: $305.74
- Tips in advance for two people: USD 203 per person
- Basic WiFi bundle for two devices: $178.50
- Basic Open Bar Beverage Package: $990.37
- Two nights at a specialty restaurant for two: $300
- A spa massage for two: $250
- Two shore excursions per person: $400
BASE COST: $718
REAL TOTAL: $3,345.61
Applying the same methodology to a carnival cruise paints a similar picture when it comes to budgeting.
A seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Miami, Florida in September 2024 costs US$359 per person with stopovers in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos. The basic cabin has at least one porthole.
However, once state taxes and port dues ($152.87 per person) along with an optional $203 in tips are collected in advance, the total is $1,023.74 for two people or $511.87 per person.
The Carnival booking site notes that meals at specialty restaurants aren’t included onboard Magic, as are alcoholic beverages and the Internet.
For those who want to add a beverage package, Carnival’s ‘Cheers!’ The open bar offer is $59.95 per day and is $839.30 per couple for a week-long trip.
Add the ship’s recommended 18 percent tip for a total of $990.37.
On the Wi-Fi front, Carnival’s basic package, which only supports social media apps, costs $12.75 per person per day. For couples on a seven-day trip, that’s an additional $178.50.
For days at sea, Carnival’s Magic offers a “Cloud 9 Spa” for some rest and rejuvenation. A 50 minute Swedish massage costs around $125 including tip. So for a couple, it’s best to budget up to $250 if the sound of a spa day appeals.
A seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Miami, Florida in September 2024 with Carnival is priced at US$359 per person
For cruise-goers who really want to push the boat out, there’s a Chef’s Table experience with Carnival that costs up to $99
When it comes to dining, there are a variety of dining options included in the cruise’s base fare, but the more appealing eateries serving prime steak and seafood cost extra.
At the Steakhouse, all entrees are $23, including a grilled lobster tail and a New York striploin steak.
For cruise-goers who really want to push the boat out, there’s a Chef’s Table experience that costs up to $99 and includes a multi-course dinner hosted by the master chef, complete with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
As with all cruise lines, Carnival does not include shore excursions. On the Eastern Caribbean cruise, options range from snorkeling with stingrays to a catamaran sailing trip, with activity prices averaging around $100 per person.
Couples wanting to do two trips in one week should set aside $400.
So what started out as a $718 Carnival trip for two actually comes to just over $3,300 when all the additional costs are factored in. Again more than four times the original estimate for a sailing holiday.