Rick Gentry

Planning Your Onboard Budget for an Amazing Cruise Experience



Embarking on a cruise offers an opportunity for luxury, relaxation, and unforgettable moments. However, to fully enjoy your cruise adventure, it’s important to have a planned budget for onboard expenses. These expenses can include dining options, entertainment choices, exciting excursions, and indulgent spa treatments. By understanding and managing your finances effectively, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable journey. In this article, we will explore the aspects of budgeting for onboard expenses on a cruise so that you can navigate these aspects with ease.

Building the Foundation: Preparing Before You Set Sail

Before stepping onto the ship, it is crucial to establish a foundation for your budget. Begin by researching the cruise line and ship you will be traveling on. Different cruise lines cater to varying budgets and preferences; therefore, understanding what they offer onboard is essential.

Choosing the Perfect Cruise Line

Each cruise line has its set of amenities included in their base fare. Some may have lower upfront costs but charge extra for additional services. Take some time to research and select a cruise line that aligns with your preferences and fits within your budget.

Understanding What’s Included

Most cruise fares cover accommodations, meals at designated dining areas, and access to onboard entertainment options. However, keep in mind that certain extras, like specialty dining, excursions, spa treatments, and specific activities may require a fee. It’s important to familiarize yourself with what’s included in your cruise fare so you can plan accordingly for any extra expenses.

Cruise Offers

Many cruise lines provide packages that bundle together amenities such as drink packages, specialty dining options, or shore excursions. It’s worth assessing whether these packages align with your preferences and if they offer value for your needs.

Budgeting for Daily Expenses: Meals, Drinks, and Snacks

Once you’re on board the cruise ship, a significant portion of your budget will go towards meals and beverages. Cruise ships typically have multiple dining options available, each with its pricing structure.

Main Dining Rooms vs. Specialty Restaurants

Most cruise ships offer dining rooms where meals are already included in the cruise fare. However, keep in mind that there may be charges for dining at specialty restaurants. Take into consideration how many times you’d like to dine at these specialty venues and factor in the associated costs when planning your budget.

All-Inclusive Beverage Packages

If you enjoy having drinks every day during your cruise, it might be worth considering purchasing an all-beverage package to save on costs. These packages often include a range of non-alcoholic beverages, making them an economical choice compared to buying drinks individually.

Budgeting for Gratuities

It’s important to take gratuities into account when planning your cruise budget. While some cruise lines include gratuities in the fare, others add them as a charge. Make sure you allocate funds for gratuities to avoid any expenses at the end of your cruise.

Entertainment and Activities

Cruise ships are like floating entertainment centers, offering an array of activities for guests of all ages. From captivating Broadway-style shows to water parks and invigorating fitness classes, these onboard experiences can enhance your cruise experience but might come with additional costs.


Exploring ports of call is one of the highlights of a cruise. While certain excursions may be included in your cruise package, others come with a price. It’s wise to research excursion options in advance and allocate funds accordingly.


Treating yourself to indulgent spa treatments or engaging in invigorating fitness classes can be a way to relax while onboard. However, it’s important to note that these services often incur charges. Consider your preferences and set aside a budget for these optional experiences.

Special Events and Shows

Some cruises offer events and shows that require an extra fee. Take some time to explore the onboard entertainment schedule and decide which activities are worth the cost for you.

Additional Costs

Aside from the categories mentioned earlier, there are other expenses to consider when planning your budget for a cruise.


Cruise ships offer a range of shops where you can find clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. While it’s tempting to indulge in some shopping, it’s wise to set a limit to avoid overspending.

Internet and Communication

Stay connected during your time at sea with onboard internet packages. Keep in mind that accessing the internet may come with a fee, and making phone calls from the ship can be costly. Plan ahead to manage your communication expenses effectively.


Professional photographers capture moments throughout your cruise. Purchasing these photos can add up quickly. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to spend on cruise photographs.

When budgeting for onboard expenses on a cruise, it’s important to approach it strategically. By conducting research, planning ahead, and allocating funds for categories, you can enjoy your cruise without stress. Remember that unexpected expenses may arise, so having some extra funds in your budget will provide peace of mind.

As you embark on your cruise adventure, managing your budget well will not only enhance your experience but also ensure that you return home with cherished memories instead of financial regrets. Bon voyage!