How much money should you budget for each day on a cruise

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So, you’ve booked yourself a cruise on a big, beautiful cruise ship. Hopefully, you got yourself an awesome deal (if you haven’t booked one yet, read this blog post for the places I check for cruise deals) and you’ve budgeted out paying off the cost of the cruise, but, how much should you allocate for spending each day of the cruise?

This is a tough question because everyone is different, and just as importantly, every cruise booking is different!

So, let’s start with some things to consider about the booking itself, and then dive into you and what you like to do (or drink).

Things to take into account regarding the cruise booking

1. Length of the cruise

How long is it? Chances are, the longer you spend around the ship, the more likely you are to spend money on the paid options, be it premium speciality restaurants, paid entertainment, drinks, or other activities.

2. The ratio of port days to sea days

More ports mean you are more likely to spend money on land, and probably on excursions that are going to cost more than you might spend at sea.

Some cruises have a lot of sea days
Some cruises have a lot of sea days, like this one from Wellington, New Zealand to Tahiti, French Polynesia.

If you have a lot of sea days in a row though, like a transpacific or transatlantic cruise, you may also find that you are likely to spend more money on the ship after a couple of days in a row at sea.

3. Onboard credit

Did your booking include onboard credit? If so, how much? The more onboard credit you have then the less you are likely to spend onboard unless of course, the credit gives you the taste for paid upgrades

What do you like to do?

1. Port days

Do you like to go on excursions or do you prefer to walk around the city you are docked in and see things for yourself at your own pace. Chances are, you’ll pay more for shore excursions booked through the ship, but you might consider them separate from your daily budget if they are pre-booked.

Shore excursions can offer unmissable experiences, like hovercrafting to Taku Glacier in Alaska
Shore excursions can offer unmissable experiences, like riding a hovercraft to Taku Glacier in Alaska

Port days have lots of opportunities to spend money on other things as well, from local food to souvenirs, if that’s your thing.

2. Taste everything

Every cruise ship has complimentary dining options and most also have paid dining options. Typically referred to as speciality restaurants, these paid venues provide a unique atmosphere and higher quality dining experience (usually). Samba Grill and Chops Grille are a couple of the paid options on Royal Caribbean ships.

Dining at Chops Grille on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas
Dining at Chops Grille on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas

There are a few exceptions to paid speciality restaurants though. More expensive cruise lines tend to include more options at no cost, and surprisingly, P&O Cruises in Australia also includes a couple of premium options at no cost, like the delicious, Asian inspired Dragon Lady.

Szechuan Blackened Salmon at Dragon Lady
Szechuan Blackened Salmon at Dragon Lady on P&O Cruises

So, if you want to taste all of the delectable treats onboard a cruise ship, it’s probably going to cost you. You’ll need to budget around USD $25-$40 per person to dine these options, though prices do vary with some only requiring a single cover charge and others operating on ala carte pricing (like Izumi’s Japanese restaurant on Royal Caribbean).

3. Drink

It doesn’t really matter what your choice of beverage is, from soft drink to barista coffee to alcohol, you will have to pay for most of these kinds of drinks on most cruise ships. Typically, cruise lines offer drinks packages that are a daily price for specified included drinks. For example, a soft-drink package may include unlimited soft-drinks each day.

Different cruise lines (and even ships within the same cruise line) provide different complimentary drink options, but if you want to drink soft-drink, barista coffee, or alcohol frequently, you’ll either have to pay individually for each drink or get a drinks package.

Mocktails might set you back anywhere from $5 to $12 like this one on Princess Cruises
Mocktails might set you back anywhere from $5 to $12 like this one on Princess Cruises.

For one or two drinks a day you will be better off purchasing the drinks individually, but they can be pricey. Think around USD $3 for a can of soft-drink, USD $5+ for a barista coffee, and of course more for alcoholic beverages.

Barista coffee on Radiance of the Seas
Barista coffee on Radiance of the Seas

Beverage packages can add up very quickly though, with some cruise lines requiring all passengers in a cabin to purchase the same drinks package. Budget up to USD $100/day on drinks depending on the type of drinks you want. You might even find it costs more than that. We rarely buy more than 1 or 2 drinks each on an entire cruise, maybe a hot chocolate or milkshake, but that’s it.

4. Entertainment

Much of the entertainment on a cruise ship is complimentary, but, like food, there are some premium options. These paid options vary from ship to ship but can include things like murder mystery dinners, premium circus shows, behind the scenes ship tours, mechanical bull competitions and a whole lot more.

One of the complimentary shows on Jewel of the Seas
Most ships have regular complimentary shows and entertainment, like this one on Jewel of the Seas.

Premium entertainment options vary massively between cruise lines and ships, you can be looking at anywhere from USD $10 for a once-off activity or show through to USD $100 for ship tours and then premium dinner shows can get even higher.

The paid Love Riot show on P&O Cruises
The paid Love Riot show on P&O Cruises Pacific Explorer ship will set you back AUD $15 per person for standard seats or $39 for VIP seats in the front rows – which also have some interactive elements included.

Many cruise lines that offer paid activities, like the P&O Edge Adventure Park, also offer packages that include multiple or unlimited uses of certain things like zip lines, rock climbing or bull rides.

You can usually book paid entertainment options in advance as well as onboard, and you can typically get some idea of pricing beforehand.

Behind the Scenes Galley Tour on Jewel of the Seas
Behind the Scenes Galley Tour on Jewel of the Seas

5. Spa and wellness

The spa at sea is a big one for some people. You can get all sorts of treatments from botox through to massages. It tends to be pretty expensive though. I’ve previously put up a spa price list here from Radiance of the Seas. It’s a couple of years old now, but it gives you some idea of what to expect. On some ships, you may also find a full hairdressers salon and facilities as well.

Spa and wellness also incorporates the gym and related personal training programs. This kind of thing varies from exercise programs through to classes on diet and assessments to help you improve back pain and so on.

Really, there can be all kinds of things in the wellness category and it does depend both on what facilities the ship has and what crew members it has that are trained in these areas.

Sometimes the wellness programs are free or partially free, but they usually feed into paid programs with varying prices.

I personally don’t know how anyone finds the time to do these programs, but clearly people do, and if it sounds like you, then best budget some extra dollars for it.

6. Special occasions

Is there a special occasion or event happening on this cruise? A birthday? Anniversary? Wedding? Chances are, you might want to splurge on some extras here. Cruise ships can provide a lot of options, but there is always a cost attached.

So how much money should you budget for each day?

On port days, if it is a port that has shore excursions you really want to do, I’d suggest budgeting at least $200 per person. If you don’t want to do shore excursions, you can easily keep your day cost below $50 per person. Remember, just because you are in port doesn’t mean you have to spend money.

On sea days, you can easily not spend anything at all, but if you like to vary things up a bit and try different dining options and activities while drinking a couple of premium beverages a day (no beverage package), you could budget around $60 per person per day. Again, you don’t have to spend anything on the ship either.

It really just depends on what you like to do and what you prioritise. It is entirely possible to do a long cruise and not spend a dollar at all. For us, we usually pick our priority shore excursions and then we may do one or two speciality dining nights or paid entertainment option. It depends on the length of the cruise and number of sea days though.

So we usually end up spending about $100 per person plus shore excursions for the entire trip.

You might also be interested in:

How about you?

What is your daily budget on a cruise and how do you work it out? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!

Cruising Tips and Tricks

Don’t know what to budget for a cruise?
Cruise costs can vary wildly depending on your travel style, length of the cruise, number of ports, and more. Learn more about what costs to expect and how much to budget.

Save money on your foreign currency purchases
Foreign currency transactions can cost you a lot in exchange fees. On a cruise, you can visit multiple countries using multiple currencies in a single trip and foreign cash purchases can be expensive.

I use and recommend TransferWise Borderless accounts with an attached multi-currency debit card. These accounts can save you loads on foreign exchange.

Read more about how to save money on foreign currency purchases using TransferWise.

Book Your Before & After Accommodation
For smaller cruise terminals, like Sydney’s White Bay, your best bet is to book a nearby Airbnb. For most major international cruise terminals you can usually find hotels nearby. I use Agoda for most non-USA destinations as I find they typically return the cheapest prices. For the USA, I use

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will help to protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. On cruises, this can be a very big deal. Airlifts at sea are not cheap. I never go on a trip without it.

Not sure what to take?
I’ve got an article coming up soon all about my essential cruise gear! Make sure you sign up to be notified when it is published.

Want More Information on Cruising?
Head over to my Cruise section for more planning tips!

If this article helped make your life a little bit easier, please consider booking or purchasing through one of our links. It won’t cost you anything but will help keep this site going!

Save money on your holiday

Travel Money & Currency Conversion: We use both Up Bank and Wise for the best currency conversion rates with support for Apple Pay and Android Pay plus excellent in-app customer support while you are travelling.

Flights: We check a few sites for different prices. Travelling from Australia, I always check Qantas directly for reward flights, but otherwise, I check and compare the cost of flights with SkyScanner. It’s always worth checking alternative routes and days, especially where there are multiple stopover options or nearby alternative airports.

Accommodation: We usually book through Agoda as we find their prices are the lowest and cancellation policies + loyalty benefits work out the best. We also use Airbnb from time to time.

Car Rental: We use AutoEurope to compare rental car prices with all the big international brands like Europcar, Budget, Hertz and Avis. We usually end up using Avis or Europcar as they offer the best deals (make sure to check their current offers for bonus discounts) and both maintain their vehicles well with relatively new fleets.

Tours & Activities: We generally try to book activities through one of these third-party sites ViatorGet Your Guide & Klook due to their flexible cancellation policies (saved us a lot of money trying to travel post-COVID) and price guarantees (often better prices than booking direct). We also book through Red Balloon on occasion for more unique Aussie and NZ activities.

0 thoughts on “How much money should you budget for each day on a cruise”

  1. This was super interesting to read as I’ve never been on a cruise but definitely intrigued, ever since I got back from Sydney. It was quite the sight to see the cruise ships coming and going in the harbour so I can completely relate to your top picture. Shame the cruise ships have gained a bit of a reputation since Covid hit with the Princess Ruby disaster. Would you say this has put you off cruise ships?

    Carolin | Style Lingua

    • Hey Carolin, thanks for the comment, I’m glad you found it an interesting read. It is a shame, especially given it certainly isn’t their fault people are unhygienic. Cruises were already the most hygienic means of travel that I’ve come across – the people that intentionally avoid the hygiene rules are the sad reason for the reputation hit, that combined with the decision of NSW Health to approve everyone to debark without testing. Unfortunately, I’ve not been on Ruby Princess, but would love to, she usually has some brilliant itineraries up and down between Australia and Japan! I’ve been eyeing them off for a while and would do one in a heartbeat. Coronavirus hasn’t put me off cruising at all. If anything, it’s only made it even more hygienic than it already was. People are actually paying attention to the importance of hygiene now and are far less likely to try and avoid the hand sanitiser and hand washing requirements that have been present on every cruise I’ve ever been on. This is just something that is normal now, people are used to using hand sanitiser every time they enter a shop or public space, so it’s really becoming a habit. Can’t wait to get on another cruise!!! I’m hanging out for it soooo much!


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Who Am I?

Matt in Noumea

Matt works sort-of full time running his digital marketing business, TerraMedia. In his spare time though, he loves to travel with his wife, so they usually end up doing a lot of it.
Home is Australia, and while they don’t spend all their time travelling the world, Matt and his wife like to take the time to really explore and get to know a place, even if that means spending a lot longer there than normal tourists might.

You can read more about Matt and his story HERE.

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