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.
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
Port days have lots of opportunities to spend money on other things as well, from local food to
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Premium entertainment options vary massively between cruise lines and ships, you can be looking at anywhere from USD $10 for a
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.
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.
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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.
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 Booking.com.
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?
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Want More Information on Cruising?
Head over to my Cruise section for more planning tips!