Cruise Budget Planner

Cruise Budget Planning Essentials

Although it’s easy to book a cruise there are many things to consider to make sure you get what you want, at the price that is right for you. This is a must read before booking.

Every year (lets be honest, anytime I have free time) I start daydreaming about taking a vacation. I usually start by clicking on some ad that promises a deal that usually is too good to be true. But that exercise ignites the desire to go on a trip and at that point, I am on a mission.

My mission is to research, plan, and book a trip. For some reason when I am going to a hotel, it seems easy enough. There are plenty of ways to book a hotel. And once reserved, the other pieces start to fall into place. With a cruise vacation there are a lot more variables to consider and planning in advance can help you have a great experience.
Planning ahead, especially for those big cruises that involve a pre-cruise overnight can get costly. Budgeting ahead of time, and doing it with as much accuracy as possible, can be beneficial.
Often times newbies don’t know that there are more costs that must be accounted for besides the cost of the cruise.
Most people think that there is one-price-fits-all cruising but sadly those days are over (unless you are going on a high-end luxury cruise line).

Top Cruise Budget Tip

This is a great budgeting tip from Carnival Cruise Line.
"If you’ve picked your cruise and know the price, you still need to estimate for the total cost before working on your budget plan. To the basic fare per person, plus additional taxes, fees and port expenses, add an estimated total cost for the following onboard expenses, many of which are optional: gratuities, specialty dining and entertainment, arcade games, internet, spa treatments, and sundries such as sunscreen. Also think about potential expenses while visiting ports, such as snacks and souvenirs. When you come up with the total expected cost, consider adding another 10 percent for unexpected and spontaneous expenses."

Cruise Expenses

Cruise Fare

What is the cost of the cruise?


What if something happens?


What activies will you do in port?

Pre/Post Cruise

How will you get to the port?

Onboard Fun

What extra charges will you have on the ship?

Download Cruise Budget Planner

Cruise Fare Budget Tips

If you are looking to stretch your cruise budget, then be aware of these tips to help you cruise better.

  1. Compare like cruise line products to determine value.  For example Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruises both appeal to first-time cruisers because of their enticing cruise promotions. However, if you are looking for a more refined experience then you will need to know what is offered on those ships or shop elsewhere. For example Norwegian Cruise Line offers a ship-within-a-ship concept that offers higher-end amenities, concierge service, and access to many perks to enhance the cruise experience. But even though staying a a suite on Norwegian Cruise Line is nice, it is not the same experience as sailing on luxury liner Silversea.
  2. Know when high season and low season are for apples-to-apples price comparisons. You will see higher prices during peak times. Sailing during the holidays is a good example of when higher cruise prices can be expected.
  3. Understand what type of stateroom you are getting for your money.  Stateroom cabins vary according to size and also by location on the ship. I have recored a YouTube video explaining how to pick a stateroom cabin on Princess Cruises, you should watch it (click here).

Plan Ahead for Additional Expenses

More ways to spend money on your cruise vacation Unless you are sailing on most luxury cruise lines like Crystal, Regent, or Silversea, you will need to budget for additional expenses.

Trip Insurance

When I was in sales, I was always offered customers the option of getting trip insurance. Some people would accept, others would not. Personally, I always want it when something goes wrong, but hope that I will never need it. Make sure to research the options. There are many types of trip insurance plans, those offered through the cruise line or policies offered by travel insurance companies. Some policies need to be purchased at the time of deposit, so become familiar with the options before you make a cruise purchase.



Onboard Beverages

Some cruise lines like Azamara offer a variety of speciality drinks as part of the cruise fare. Luxury lines like Crystal and Silversea offer all-inclusive pricing, which means they have a very generous complimentary (it’s included in the cruise fare) pricing model. On other cruise lines budget for these types of beverage:  soda, bottled water, beer, wine, cocktails. Specialty coffees like Espresso or smoothies can be extra.




Pre Cruise and/or Post Cruise Expenses

How will you get to the port? Where will you stay overnight in a hotel so you can board the ship in time? Will you need to fly the embarkation or debarkation port? These additional travel expenses need to be factored into your cruise budget.


Onboard Expenses

Once you are onboard there are more ways to spend money, if you are not on a cruise that offers all-inclusive pricing for alternative dining, or premium seating at entertainment venues. There are also costs to access the ships Wi-Fi, infant care, after hours babysitting, laundry service, cabana rentals, some exercise classes, spa and beauty services, and onboard shopping. Hey, you will even have to pay for room service delivery on some cruise lines.  Another big expense you may incur on the dreaded shipboard account are shore excursions. You will want to research in advance the ports-of-call and decide what you would like to do. Some ports-of-call are very easy to navigate on your own, while other places are best suited for an escorted group tour offered by the ship. 

Gratuities and Tips

Once you get on a cruise you will immediately recognize the hardworking people who make your vacation dreams come true. Your stateroom stewards clean and tidy your space twice a day, the dining room staff and your onboard servers all deserve tips. I know I would not be able to work long hours for months on end like they do, so make sure to show your appreciation. Gratuities are included int he cruise fare of most luxury cruise lines, and mass market ships like Carnival and Princess will offer you the option of pre-purchasing gratuities at the time of your booking.  Each cruise lines’ recommend amount is listed on their website. One thing to keep in mind is that tips are automatically added to bar bills although there is a line to add an additional tip, which some people do by accident. Most spas will also add a tip to the final bill as well, so make sure to look. 

Ways to Stretch the Budget

Join a cruise line loyalty program and get special promotions. If you become a frequent cruiser you can get some sweet offers.

If you like to enjoy cocktails, sodas, bottled water energy drinks or specialty coffees then consider getting  a drinks package. Be on the lookout for information about beverage packages when you get onboard. You usually have to commit the first day or two of your cruise. 

Sail with a GroupDon’t let members of a group buy individual stateroom cabins. Instead designate a couple people to act for the group and work with a travel agent or the cruise line’s group department for additional savings and perks. Your group may qualify for a free cabin, it’s worth looking into.

Leave a Reply