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The 5 Cruise Costs That Catch Out Unsuspecting Cruisers

If you haven’t done your cruise research, you might be shocked at the end of your cruise to find the additional costs on your onboard account can cost as much as the cruise fare itself!

In this article, we look at things unsuspecting cruisers might assume are included in the cruise fare, but actually come at an additional charge.


Many first-time cruisers wrongly assume that WiFi is free on cruise ships as it often is in bars, restaurants and hotels on land.

Usually, this is not the case! Some luxury lines will give you free Wi-Fi, as will Virgin Voyages, but most cruise lines make an extra charge.

Things to remember:

  • Cruise Ship WiFi is not always reliable.
    • It really depends on where you are sailing. If you are in a Norwegian Fjord with mountains on both sides, the WiFi is unlikely to be that good!
  • 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 may be 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.

With the recent introduction of Starlink – Wi-Fi on ships has improved greatly.

Starlink is a network of Low Earth Orbit satellites that fly approximately 340 miles above the earth’s surface (compared to standard satellites which orbit over 22,000 miles away)

The Introduction of Starlink means that in the near future, reliable and fast internet services will be available while cruising in remote destinations.

Starlink is also reportedly easier to install on ships. It requires a series of flat panels fixed to the upper decks, instead of bulky satellite domes that take up premium top deck space.


Some activities onboard are included in the cruise fare – but others come at an additional cost.

If you look at the cruise ship app or the daily paper schedule, you will sometimes see the dreaded words “additional costs apply” – I normally avoid those activities!

Often, you will see exercise classes such as Yoga or Pilates scheduled at an additional charge. Other gym classes may be free.

When I was invited onboard P&O’s Britannia, I was lucky enough to take a cooking class with the Celebrity Chef Marco Pierre White. This came at an additional charge.

I have no interest in cooking, and it definitely took me out of my “comfort zone”, but Marco said that my Mushroom Risotto was “very good.” I was delighted – but I have never made a Mushroom Risotto since!

marco pierre white cookery class club p&o britannia
A cooking class with Marco Pierre White costs extra. Photo by Christopher Ison.
marco pierre white cookery class club p&o britannia
Cooking with Marco Pierre White – Photo by Christopher Ison.

Gratuities or “Service Charges”

Gratuities (tips) can come as a nasty surprise to new cruisers, as they can add up to quite a lot of money. Gratuities are charged per person, not per cabin.

A reduced charge is also made for children and sometimes babies too.

Important things to be aware of:

  • 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.
    • The British Cruise line Marella 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 more about that unusual Disney cruise experience here:

Find out everything you need to know about cruise ship gratuities below:

Cruise Gratuities: A Simple Step by Step Guide For First Time Cruisers

Speciality Meals

Speciality Restaurants are becoming more and more common onboard cruise ships. They are a great way for cruise lines to make additional income.

Speciality Restaurants are “premium restaurants” that charge an extra fee if you want to eat there.

Some restaurants have a set cover charge per person, at others you just pay for the individual items on the menu, as you would in a restaurant on land.

There is absolutely no need to pay extra for food on a cruise. There is plenty of food included.

If you are celebrating a special occasion or want to “push the boat out” (No pun intended!) you might want to book yourself into a speciality restaurant.

All sorts of cuisines are available. Common ones include Indian and Mexican, steak houses, sushi and fish restaurants and others specialising in vegetarian and vegan food. There is something to suit everyone.

To find out the sort of included and additional charge meals that you will find, read the article below which gives picture examples of everything I ate onboard a cruise on Norwegian Prima.

Everything I Ate on Norwegian Prima (Menus, Speciality and Included Dining) #ad

marella cruises speciality restaurant kora la curry
Kora La Indian Speciality restaurant on Marella Explorer 2


The cruise line will offer a range of excursions in every port you visit. This allows you to make the most of your time on land.

white pass railway skagway
A cruise ship excursion to the White Pass Railway in Alaska. It was an unforgettable experience.

These excursions can include visits to historical sites, local places of interest, or activities such as kayaking or boat tours.

Excursions are often graded, so you can pick one that is right for you, ranging from “Easy” to “Strenuous.” Some excursions last just a few hours, others can be around eight hours long! Their price reflects this.

Cruise ship excursions aren’t cheap but they have the advantage that if anything were to go wrong and you were delayed getting back onboard, the ship would wait for you.

This gives cruisers added peace of mind.

Find out what really happens if you miss your cruise ship here:

What Actually Happens When You Miss The Cruise Ship?

I don’t often take cruise line excursions, but I was recently invited onboard Norwegian Encore, where I took the best Alaskan excursions the cruise line had to offer.

Find out about those amazing experiences here:

Before You Go

Find out why you don’t need to buy cruise ship WiFi to use the ship’s App here:

You Don’t Need to Pay For Wi-Fi To Use a Cruise Line App – Here’s Why

Find out ways to save on cruise expenses before you even get onboard here:

Cutting Onboard Expenses, BEFORE You Cruise. (Drinks, Speciality Meals, Excursions and More)

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.