What are hidden secrets about cruise ships

Additional costs of a cruise: hidden and obvious

Additional costs always annoy cruise passengers when they didn't expect it. There applies to cruises as well as package tours: The cruise price only includes the services which are also expressly listed in the catalog. Some cruise lines now offer all-inclusive packages, but even then you should expect extra expenses on board - for example for shore excursions, souvenirs, cocktails, spa treatments.

Cruisetricks.de has put together, What additional costs you have to expect on a cruiseif they are not expressly included in the travel price. This covers things as obvious as travel and drinks on board, as well as hidden costs such as credit card fees and automatically booked service fees.

Occasionally, passengers complain about the in discussion forums "Rip off" at ancillary costswhich often stems from the fact that passengers on cruise ships - for whatever reason - assume that the cruise price includes all additional costs, although the travel conditions and information in the cruise catalog indicate the additional costs; often a little inconspicuous, of course. To save yourself frustration and anger, you should therefore also take the Read the travel conditions carefully and include the corresponding additional costs in the travel budget - as with any other vacation.

Tips: Up to 18 euros per day per person

For tips you have to come with you - depending on the ship and cabin category a total of around 10 euros per day and person calculate. Only at AIDA, TUI Cruises, Costa, Hurtigruten and some premium and luxury shipping companies, the tip is already included in the cruise price. With all other cruise lines, cabin stewards and service staff in the restaurant expect tips, the amount of which is usually officially “recommended”. Some companies have also started to automatically and almost inevitably debit tips from the on-board account. Details - and the background to the topic of tips - we have in detail in the article "Tipping on cruise ships: how much is appropriate?“Described. Since 2015, Norwegian Cruise Line has also charged an additional 18 percent service fee for specialty restaurants.

Drinks on board

Drinks are not included on very few cruise ships. On this subject, you should read the travel conditions very carefully. Iced tea, (tap) water and lemonade (the American version) are almost always included. Some cruise lines also include house wine with dinner. Beer, wine, soft drinks such as cola and cocktails almost always have to be paid for separately.

You can find all details and beverage price tables from all shipping companies in our article "Drink prices on cruise ships“.

Depending on your drinking habits, drinks can put a considerable strain on your travel budget. If you are satisfied with iced tea and lemonade, you can travel very cheaply. On the other hand, if you like to sit at the bar for a while or prefer to drink soft drinks from Coca Cola or Pepsi, you should also take a closer look at the ones that are often offered Beverage packages throw - but always compare the prices exactly with your own consumption. Because you don't always travel cheaper with the packages.

The drink prices on board can usually be found in forums on the Internet, a little googling is worthwhile here. Contrary to the occasional moaning escapades in forums, the drink prices on board cruise ships are mostly moderate and correspond to the prices one is used to from bars in German cities. Examples (be careful, some cruise lines may ask for more):

  • Soft drinks: $ 2
  • Beer: from around $ 5
  • Cocktail: from around $ 5
  • Wine: from around $ 6 per glass, from $ 18 per bottle

15-18 percent service fee on drinks from the bar

Many ships enjoy drinks from the bar, i.e. soft drinks as well as beer, wine and cocktails automatically 15%, sometimes too 18% service fee on the invoice (e.g. Royal Caribbean, Oceania, Princess), at Celebrity Cruises and NCL even 20 percent. This is practically the tip for the bar steward, you don't have to give additional tips here, even if the bill provides an additional field for tips. Incidentally, this service charge for drinks often also refers to drinks that the bar steward brings to the table in the restaurant.

Credit card fees

The smallest in terms of amount, but also the best hidden additional costs Credit card fees. If you pay for your on-board account with a credit card, you should check in advance in which country the cruise company will charge your credit card. With US cruise lines, but also with MSC, for example, billing takes place outside the euro area - for example in the USA or in Geneva (MSC). Even if the billing is in euros, most credit card companies charge a fee of 1-2% for using the card abroad. Even if the cruise goes from Kiel to Hamburg or from Barcelona through the Mediterranean - what matters is where the cruise company bills the credit card. However, these fees are not a reason to take another ship. Because with an on-board bill of 500 euros, these fees still only amount to 5 to 10 euros. All details about the credit card fees and information about which cruise company bills where can be found in our article "On-board currency and credit card fees".

Internet access, telephone

Internet access, phone calls and texting on board via satellite links and is correspondingly expensive. Internet costs between 60 US cents and 1 dollar per minute (with connections that are not exactly fast), and you should only make calls in the most extreme emergency - satellite telephone companies charge around 10 dollars per minute. We have put together details on the costs of WLAN, Internet and telephone and inexpensive alternatives in the article "Mobile phone, e-mail, Internet & WLAN".


Let's not kid ourselves: almost nobody comes back from vacation without a souvenir - not even the biggest souvenir grouch. A T-shirt with the shipping company's logo for 30 dollars, a key ring shaped like a ship for 8 euros, or some alcohol or cigarettes from the duty-free shop on board are almost inevitable. So just plan a few euros for your cruise.

Shore excursions

Depending on the sailing area, you can completely save yourself paid shore excursions or not avoid it at all. Find out about the respective destination ports before booking: Where exactly does the ship dock? And attractions are within walking distance from there? In Rhodes, for example, it is only a few steps from the pier to the historic old town, so you really only need to book a guided shore excursion if you value the stories of a guide. Are excursion destinations from the port with public transport reachable? From Civitavecchia and Piraeus, for example, trains go to Rome and Athens, respectively.

The Shore excursion prices vary from shipping company to shipping company in some cases considerably. So don't hesitate to compare services and prices for the same excursion with different cruise lines to see whether you are offered a fair price. The tours of the cruise company are by no means always overpriced - so you should really look at the prices first before looking for alternatives that may not be cheaper on your own and at your own risk.

We have more details about shore excursions in the article "Organize shore excursions through the cruise company or yourself?" summarized.

Spa treatments

Really go into the money can treatments in the on-board spa and wellness facilities. On some ships the use of the sauna is free of charge, some cruise lines also include parts of the spa - mostly the sauna and heated loungers - from certain cabin categories onwards. Otherwise, however, the following applies: The spas are not operated by the cruise company itself, but by partner companies. And they can pay extra for each service. If you intend to be pampered in the spa on a cruise, you should definitely take a look at the price lists beforehand in order to avoid nasty surprises on board. For a massage you have to calculate with 150 dollars an hour, to name just one example. Here, too, a service charge of up to 18% is charged extra. It is important to pay attention to the fine print.

Arrival and transfer to the cruise ship

And last but not least, you have to get to the ship and back home somehow. This is often the largest additional cost item on a cruise vacation: transfer from the airport or hotel to the ship and after the cruise from the ship back to the airport, hotel or rental car station. For long-distance trips such as the Caribbean and the USA, it makes sense to also spend the night in a hotel.

Travel packages offered separately by the cruise companies usually also include the previous overnight stay and all transfers. Even if these travel packages are usually a bit more expensive than the flight you have booked yourself, it can be worthwhile if you save additional transfer costs and can travel carefree. The travel packages are often far too expensive, but it is always worth asking - we have already booked travel packages, which were ultimately cheaper than an individual booking.

Fuel surcharge

High fuel prices are currently not a hot topicHowever, if you book long-term in advance, you should expect that fuel surcharges may apply if fuel prices rise sharply - as is the case with air traffic. The surcharges can be requested as long as the cruise has not been paid for in full. In the last high-price phase for fuel, the surcharges for a 7-night cruise were between 4 and 10 euros per person per night, for a 7-night cruise that was 28 to 70 euros per person in addition to the cruise price.

Which cruise ships are all inclusive?

A real "all inclusive“There is almost no cruise ship, so you should always read the travel conditions very carefully to be safe from surprises. However, some providers have an all-inclusive concept that at least covers the essential ancillary costs: Drinks and tips. A few selected cruises even include some shore excursions.

All-inclusive cruises are usually offered by the more expensive providers on the market such as Silversea Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises or American Cruise Lines. With the AIDA, table drinks and tips are included, while on TUI Cruises most drinks are included outside of meals as well as all tips.