You’ve just booked an All Inclusive cruise and you know what that means – room and board taken care of, endless gourmet food and incredible live entertainment every night. If you’re feeling extra luxurious, it even means unlimited soft drinks and alcohol.
But before you pull out your sandals and sun hat, it’s important to consider what your All Inclusive cruise might not cover. As with any holiday, there will always be a few extras in the ways of souvenirs, excursions and tips for your servers that will call for a little extra cruise money.
Budgeting to have a little more cruise money than you need will ensure you’ve got the cash to cover any essentials onboard, as well as any fun extras along the way, so you can have the cruise of your dreams without worrying about breaking the bank.
It’s a good idea to set out a budget you can stick to throughout your holiday before you go. A smart way to do this is by setting a certain amount of money per port, per person. Before setting this number, you’ll need to think about what kind of holidaygoer you are – if you like to shop, set aside a little extra cruise money for a few treats.
If you know a port you’re visiting has an incredible modern art gallery, you’ll want to budget for its entrance fee, which can usually be found on the website. In addition to this, you’ll then need to budget for onshore excursions and tips for crew members, if it isn’t already included in your specific package.
To make things simple, here’s a breakdown of how money on cruise ships work, and what you might need to consider when budgeting for an All Inclusive cruise.
Most cruise lines operate on a cashless basis when it comes to making small, daily purchases like coffee or an ice-cream cone. Instead, you’re given a spending card, which acts as a credit card for all purchases onboard that aren’t included in your All Inclusive package. This can range from excursions – if you haven’t already pre-booked them – to spa treatments and premium alcoholic drinks.
When you arrive on your cruise ship, you can choose to pay your final bill in cash or with a credit/debit card, and in both cases you’ll be charged a set, upfront holding fee, which will be refunded if you haven’t spent it by the end of your journey. You can usually check what your cruise line’s holding fee in advance, so you know what to expect.
Excursions and other onshore activities
Most All Inclusive cruises don’t include excursions, so you’ll need to set aside an additional amount of cruise money specifically for onshore activities if you don’t book them before departure.
Get a feel for what you might want to do in each of the ports beforehand – if you’re travelling far and wide, you might choose to try a little bit of everything, so your budget will need to accommodate for this. Most excursions cost between £30 and £150 per person, depending on length and the activities involved.
You can also arrange excursions of your own once you reach land, and in that case, you’ll need that country’s currency as your ship card won’t get you very far onshore! Regardless of what you do, you’ll also need to factor in smaller fees like taxi rides, additional tickets or snacks and drinks. Depending on how much shopping and eating you’ll be doing, anywhere from £50 to £75 per person will typically do the trick.
Make sure you check in advance what your port’s currency is, though odds are, you’ll be able to exchange money onboard and/or take cash out at the ATM, though you should always check in advance what currency the ATM’s cash will be in and the exchange rate, too.
Out on the high seas, it’s easy to lose track of your spending when you aren’t dealing with physical cash. And if drinks aren’t part of your All Inclusive package, your bill can quickly grow, with lattes, glasses of wine and cocktails.
Depending on your drink of choice and how frequently you indulge, you’re looking at anywhere from £2 to £7 per drink, so think in advance about what you might want. But be advised, a service charge is often included in the price of the drink, so you won’t need to give your server an additional tip.
Tipping policies vary widely across individual cruise lines and cruise types. Luckily, cruise lines are upfront about their policies, which you should check before boarding. Some All Inclusive cruise fares include tipping, but most recommend an average of £12.50 per person, per day.
Most cruises have in place an automatic suggested gratuity service too, which will be charged daily or at the end of your stay. It will also ensure, no matter what you tip, it’ll be distributed to all of the people who have served you, including wait staff, cleaning staff and their managers.
You’ll have the chance to adjust the gratuity you pay at the end of your trip or eliminate it entirely, should you want to. And you might find you want to tip a special server with a little extra at the end of your stay, just to say thank you – so be sure to keep some bills for the very end!