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Onboard Expenses – What Costs Extra On A Cruise? Gratuities, Wi-Fi And More…

In this post we talk about life onboard ship – and look at gratuities, Wi-Fi, and other onboard expenses you may end up paying for.

The last thing you want when you disembark at the end of your cruise is a massive bill, but there are many easy ways to cut down on the amount of money you spend.

The Daily Schedule

On most cruise lines a daily schedule is delivered to your cabin in the evening.

The name of the daily schedule varies from one cruise line to another, but most contain the same sort of things.

costa daily schedule in English
  • What is on, and where
    • Trivia, gameshows, theatre shows etc
  • Dress codes for the day
    • Is it a formal or informal night?
  • Predicted Weather
    • That will give you a clue what to wear if you are in an inside cabin and have no clue what it is like outside!
  • Which restaurants are open – and when
  • Discounts and Offers Available
    • There may be deals on spa treatments or reduced prices on speciality restaurant meals on certain days.
  • If it’s a port day, you will be told the time the ship will dock and the time you need to be back onboard
    • This will be in the most prominent place on the front. One of the most expensive things you can do is miss your cruise ship! The costs involved in getting to the next port and all the problems that brings doesn’t bear thinking about. Read the article below to find out more:

What Actually Happens When You Miss The Cruise Ship?

  • Message Board Area
    • On some daily schedules, you can pay to have birthday greetings or anniversary wishes printed.

Some cruise lines have done away with printed daily schedules altogether and expect their guests to use the App to find out all information.

msc cruises menu on phone app wifi and cruise card

If you have a printed daily schedule, look at it in the evening and highlight anything that is of interest to you.

You can take a photo of it so you can refer to it when you don’t have it with you.


Many first-time cruisers wrongly assume that WiFi is free on cruise ships.

Usually, this is not the case! Some luxury lines will give you free Wi-Fi, as will Virgin Voyages.

  • Cruise Ship WiFi is not always reliable.
    • It really depends on when you are sailing. If you are in a Norwegian Fjord with mountains on both sides, the WiFi is unlikely to be reliable!
  • You can normally buy different Wi-Fi packages onboard.
    • I normally buy the “Social Package” which allows me to post on social media and check my emails.
    • There is a middle-priced Wi-Fi package that allows you to stream online content.
    • There is normally a Premium Wifi package with higher internet speeds – but you can NEVER rely on the internet to be as good as on land.
  • If you do buy an internet package, it is often a cost per device, not per cabin. You will have to pay double if both people in the cabin want to use their phone.
  • You can buy a WiFi package at any point in your cruise.
    • You can also upgrade your package at any point in the cruise.
  • You can sometimes “Pay As You Go” for internet onboard. If you aren’t going to be online much, it can be cheaper than buying a package.

Remember, you don’t have to buy a Wi-Fi package to connect to the ship’s App.

Other Ways to Connect to the Internet:

  • When in port, go to McDonald’s or Starbucks and use their free internet!
    • Ask the crew members – most cruise lines don’t give their staff free Wi-Fi so they know all the best places ashore to connect to the free Wi-Fi!
  • You can often buy a hotspot from your mobile/cell provider.
    • It is basically like buying a chunk of Internet. Do your research before you cruise.

Using Mobile Data on Land

  • Look at the phone package you have with your provider.
    • You may be able to use the mobile data within your package at no extra cost.
    • Check beforehand, many countries aren’t covered. You don’t want to have a large bill for using your phone abroad.

Put your phone into Airplane mode and don’t connect to the Maritime Network when you are sailing. The Maritime Network is very expensive to use!

Learn more about this here:

​Cruise Line Apps​

Other Expenses that Can be Avoided


Cruise ships have onboard laundries, and you can send your clothes to them to be washed.

Others have washing machines and irons that guests can use. I prefer to avoid these charges and wash the odd thing in the bathroom sink with travel wash.

  • Onboard Laundries charge per item for everything laundered.
    • Clothes are taken away by your cabin steward and returned cleaned, washed, ironed and folded.
  • Self-service laundries are to be found on some ships.
    • Some are free to use, and some charge you to use the machine or for laundry detergent.
    • If you just want to iron a shirt or a dress for dinner, this is normally free.
  • Consider packing a small bottle of travel wash, and washing the odd item in the bathroom sink.
    • You can usually find a pull-out washing line in the shower cubicle to dry your clothes on.
    • ​Get yours here​.
disney cruise line self service laundry washers and dryers

Cheaper Ways To Get Your Clothes Laundered Onboard

  • Look out for “fill a bag” laundry promotions.
    • They will wash as much as you can get in the bag for a set price. This is far cheaper than paying for each item laundered.
  • If you are a member of the cruise line loyalty program, see if you can get a free bag of laundry as part of the reward scheme.
    • I have the highest loyalty status and so am entitled to a free bag of laundry with Norwegian Cruise Line.
    • I usually use this towards the end of the cruise, and take my clothes home clean!
  • If you do need to get some of your clothes laundered, choose the longest turnaround time for a cheaper deal.
    • Cruise lines often offer same-day services or 24-hour services. If you choose the 48-hour turnaround service, it will be cheaper.
  • Look out in the daily schedule for laundry offers towards the end of the cruise.
    • The cruise line laundry won’t be as busy towards the end of the sailing, and most guests take their dirty laundry home with them! Sometimes you can get cheaper deals so that you can take your clothes home clean

Find out more about Laundry services onboard here:

​Laundry Services Onboard​

Gratuities or “Service Charges”

  • If you book a cruise from the UK or Australia, tips, gratuities or service charges are often included in your fare.
  • We don’t have a big tipping culture in the UK and prefer to pay for everything upfront where possible. You may be able to pay the tips upfront when you book and pay for your cruise.
  • If you cruise with one of the big American cruise lines, you will have a daily service charge added to your bill for each day of your cruise.
  • Service charges vary greatly from one cruise line to another.
  • With the British Cruise line Marella it says “Remember your tips are included” on the cruise card.
  • On Disney Cruise lines, I paid automatic gratuities, but they still gave me envelopes to put money in to give to my waiters. I found the whole experience very uncomfortable!
Find out about the envelopes Disney leave in your cabin so you can tip the waiters extra in this video

You may be able to get the daily service charges removed from your bill by going to the reception desk and asking. I would never recommend this.

If you do remove them, you may want to tip those you think deserve it in cash. There is no problem with you doing this.

Salaries for the crew on cruise ships can be very low. Staff are expected to work a contract of between 6 and 9 months and get very little time off.

They deserve those tips, and the money from the automatic gratuities will be shared with all of the staff, even the ones you don’t see – like the laundry staff or those working hard in the kitchens.

Check out my simple guide to Gratuities and Service Charges here:

​Cruise Gratuities – a simple guide​

Other ways to make sure you get your money’s worth on a cruise

  • If you have children, look into the babysitting services and Kids Clubs– they are often free.
    • I loved the kid’s clubs when I was a child, and I have friends who tell me their children have so much fun, they never want to come out!
  • Look out for them showing new movies in the theatre or cinema.
    • Might as well save yourself the money of buying tickets and going to the cinema at home!
  • If the cruise line has free room service, use it!
    • Some cruise lines may charge, but if you can get breakfast or a snack delivered to your room at no extra cost, why not?
  • Eat in the included restaurants.
    • There is no to spend additional money on going to the speciality restaurants if you don’t want to.
  • Go to the buffet for a cup of tea or coffee.
    • If you order one in a bar, it might cost you £3 a cup!
  • Don’t bother with professional photography.
    • Take your own photos with your phone. The quality of photographs on modern mobile phones is so good, why would you need a professional?
    • Ask other guests to take photos for you! People are generally lovely on cruises so if you want a photo with the entire family in the lovely atrium – just ask someone to take it!

I know my money-saving ways may make me seem a bit odd – but I genuinely enjoy things more if they are a bargain, or I got a good deal or a discount! Blame my parents for bringing me up this way.

The last thing I want when I get off the ship is to know I am going to have a huge credit card bill to look forward to. I am sure I am not the only one!

Before You Go

If you like to save money on your cruises like me, find out the best time of year to book your cruise in order to get the best deal:

When Are Cruise Prices At Their Cheapest? Hints and Tips To Help You Book At The Right Time

You might be wondering when is the best time to visit your particular chosen destination. Read the article below to find out more:

Cruise Destinations and Timings (Peak Seasons, Popular Itineraries and Weather)

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.