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Nickel and Dimed? 22 Cruise Ship 'Added Fees' Compared
Home > Nickel and Dimed? 22 Cruise Ship 'Added Fees' Compared
Cruising a la carte. It's not a phrase seasoned big-ship cruisers like to hear. But it's been that way for decades -- and these days mainstream mega-ships have more "options," from pizza delivery to drinks packages, than ever before. Check out 22 different ways you can pay extra on a cruise, and then rank each fee on Cruise Critic's proprietary Nickel and Dime Scale, which ranges from one nickel-dime (fair fee!) to five (death by coin-ing). If there's a fee that really rusts your nickel, tell us about it in the comments.

The good news? Big-ship cruise fares still offer a great value. For one price, you get a cabin, copious food, entertainment, access to kids' facilities and the ability to stare transfixed into a lovely trailing wake. Oh, and you can also enjoy one of these 20 awesome fee-free offerings. Crave more inclusivity? Consider a luxury cruise. Upscale cruises typically include drinks and gratuities, and sometimes tours and pre-cruise hotel stays, in the fare.
The Fee What You Get Lines/Ships Nickel & Dime Score
Late-Night Room Service
$3.95
Late-night munchies? Order that room service BLT between midnight and 5 a.m. and Royal Caribbean and NCL will make you pay. Both argue the fee is about reducing food waste. Droopy-eyed passengers order food, then conk out before the knock. We understand, but a formerly fee-free service now generates revenue. It's a win-win for the line.

Hold the fee: Passengers with late-night cravings can get their fee-free fix, provided they're alert enough to stumble into one of NCL or RCI's all-night eateries.
Corkage Fee
$10 to $30
While most big-ship lines outlaw bringing liquor and beer onboard, wine is kosher. Want to drink it in the dining room? You'll pay anywhere from $10 to $30. This is a relatively standard practice for land-based restaurants with wine lists, but what really fogs our glasses are lines that charge the fee even if a waiter never gets near your cork. NCL, for instance, slaps a tariff on all wine brought aboard.

Know before you go: Check out our comprehensive guide to cruise line alcohol policies.
Most Lines
V.I.P. Perks
$49.95
Carnival recently introduced Faster to the Fun (FTTF), a program that gives a capacity-controlled number of passengers early boarding, early cabin check-in and a special line at Guest Services. The most loyal Carnival cruisers, the Diamonds and Platinums, already enjoy these perks.

FTTF, yay or nay? Catch reader reviews. Love to cruise VIP? Perks comes standard with these 13 cruise ship suites.
Private Cabanas
$30 - $145+ per day
Lines like Holland America, Oceania and Celebrity reserve prime sun deck space on some ships for upcharge cabanas. For example, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection offer private Alcoves on the grass-covered Lawn Club. Passengers rent the four-person setups, which feature wicker chairs, potted shrubs and a canvas roof, by the day. The fee -- $99 (port day) and $145 (sea day) -- includes bottled water, fruit and use of a loaded iPad 2. Wine and picnic packages start at $50. And need we forget: Alcoves occupy real estate that's open, surcharge-free, to book-and-towel-toting passengers on sister ships Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse.
Alternative Restaurants
$5 to $75
The murky origin of for-fee alternative dining seems to date to 1988, when NCL's Seaward introduced The Palm Tree. Fast-forward 25 years and every new ship is stocked with secondary dining venues. Some ships have more than a dozen. Proponents love the option to sample dry-aged steaks, Asian specialties cooked on hot rocks or multi-course tasting menus in a more intimate setting. Detractors say the proliferation of added-fee options parallels a decline of main dining room service and food quality.

Chew on this: Check out the 9 best cruise ship restaurants.
Most Lines
Spa Services
$15 - $500+
At-sea spas charge rates equal to high-end salons, and you may be surprised by the prices. A massage is typically $110 to $150, with more exotic treatments -- think being wrapped in seaweed -- running $200 to $500. Passes to thermal suites and thalassotherapy pools average $15 to $30 per day. Plus, beware of the sales pitches: Most shipboard spas are operated by Steiner's of London, and the staff, who work on commission, often give you the hard sell to persuade you to buy several of their pricey products.

Pricey or not, these six cruise ship spas are impressive.
All Lines
Bathrobes
$29.95 (AU)
This is a new one for us. Many mega-ship lines, including Carnival and Celebrity, provide bathrobes to all passengers as an included perk. P&O Cruises Australia offers free robes to suite pax only -- and charges $29.95 AU for anyone else who wants one. The one benefit: It might diminish the chances of seeing a bathrobe-clad passenger in the buffet.
Pizza Delivery
$5
NCL's for-fee pizza delivery program is available fleetwide. The 16-inch pies come in three varieties and can be delivered almost anywhere on the ship for $5 a pie. Almost anywhere means all indoor bar locations, the casino, meeting rooms and cabins. Pizza will not be delivered to bathrooms, a gym treadmill or the main dining room.

Info to use: Readers review NCL's for-fee pizza and talk cruising's best pizza.
Main Dining Room Grub
$15 - $37.50 + 15% gratuity
On several of its ships, Royal Caribbean's main dining room menus encourage passengers to celebrate their cravings with a $15 filet or $37.50 surf 'n' turf. Since cruise-time immemorial, these options were fee-free on at least one night in the MDR. The freebies are still there in some capacity, but they're shrinking in size and, many say, quality. But what might be more frightening than the food is the confusing 15 percent gratuity Royal levies. The food is certainly unique; the service and venue are not. There is no special presentation of the lobster, no dancing crustacean or opera-singing claw.

Talk steaks and more in the Gourmet Cruising Forum.
Dinner & Show
$25 - $35
Set in the 217-seat, two-floor Spiegel Tent, Cirque Dreams is a theater-in-the-round show with a surreal mix of motor-mouth monologues, singing, acrobatics, audience participation and food. Reviews have been mixed; those who like it really like it, and those who don't have a viscerally negative reaction. What we do know? Food not withstanding, it's one of the only for-fee entertainment options at sea.

Worth the fee? Readers talk Cirque Dreams.
Adult-Only Enclaves
$10 - $20+
Big-ship lines love families (and families big-ship lines). Don't want to put up with wayward whippersnappers? Princess' Sanctuary is an adult-only space featuring cushioned loungers, massage cabanas, signature drinks, light meals and on-call stewards. Enjoying the quietude comes at a price: It's $10 for a half a day, and there's a $3 service fee for dining orders. Azura, a ship sailing with sister line P&O Cruises, has a similar offering. And NCL's soon-to-launch Breakaway will have the Vibe Beach Club, a for-fee space with an oversized hot tub, bar, loungers and a water feature.

Find more kid-free escapes: Check out our list of cruise line serenity decks. And for even more solitude, explore 7 options for kid-free cruising.
Princess Cruises
P&O Cruises' Azura
Coming soon:
Norwegian Breakaway
Gratuities
$12+ a day
Tipping policies vary by line, but most recommend about about $12 per person, per day, to be distributed among those who provide key services -- dining room waiters, assistant waiters and cabin stewards. If you have butler service, be prepared to tip extra. Additionally, bar tabs are automatically charged a 15 percent gratuity. (Note: most luxe lines include gratuities in the fare.)

Related: Ultimate Guide to Tipping at Sea
All Lines
Internet
$0.30 - $0.75 per minute
Whether you bring your own laptop and take advantage of shipboard Wi-Fi or park yourself at the computer center onboard, you will pay high rates for often lethargic Internet connections. Most lines charge an "activation fee" (usually $3.95), then levy about 75 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go plans and as little as 30 cents a minute if you buy time in bulk. Lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have also been recently testing unlimited Internet packages.

Stay in touch: Check out the feature, Connecting at Sea: Internet and Phone Use Onboard.
All Lines
Babysitting
$6+ per hour
We can't imagine anyone expects a line to include 24-hour childcare in the fare, but there's an associated fee nonetheless. Kids' clubs typically accommodate the 3 to 11 set for free until 10 p.m. Some lines offer in-cabin sitting, but outside the designated hours, parents will generally have to rely on extra-fee group babysitting. Kids usually have to be potty trained.

Looking for a kid-friendly cruise? Check out the best family cruise ships.
Most Lines
Onboard Photos
$10 - $20+
Go ahead and ogle (which, coincidentally, is many passengers' favorite goodtime "free" activity). Anything more will cost you. Cruisers are often lured into dropping big bucks at the onboard gallery, where 8x10 glossies can easily cost $20 or more. Buying additional batteries, memory cards and other camera supplies will also cost you more money than they do back home.

Take your own pics: We've got seven tips from a pro photog.
All Lines
Gambling
How much do you have?
You know how this one usually works. You plunk down money and the house takes it immediately or eventually.

Casino buff? Sit down at the Cruise Ship Casino Forum.
Most Lines (Disney's quartet and NCL's Pride of the America are the big-ship exceptions.)
Jewelry & Apparel
$5 - $5,000+
Most people purchase something to remember their cruises, and it may take a lot of willpower to pass up on the beautiful -- and expensive -- figurines, perfumes, designer fashions and leather goods if your budget doesn't allow for them. Even tacky trinkets and T-shirts can add up if you're buying for your extended family-and-friends network. Prices can range from a $5 tee to a piece of jewelry valued in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
All Lines
Shore Excursions
$19 - $5,000+
Lines sell shore tours so you can make the most of your time in port -- but they do inflate prices, citing the "convenience" factor. Costs range from about $20 for a quick city tour to $300+ for some all-day tours, overland programs including meals and snacks, and such over-the-top offerings as helicopter flightseeing and hot-air ballooning. (In the past, Silversea even offered a package with a stint in a Mig fighter jet ... for $30k.) Most tours are priced somewhere between $50 and $150, depending on length and activities involved.

Two ways to save: Read Ship-Sponsored vs. Independent Shore Excursions and join a Roll Call.
All Lines
Adult Beverages
$5 - $7,800+
Alcoholic beverages and wine are not included in the cruise fares on most lines (exception: luxe lines). So be prepared to pay up at the pub, for mini-bar items and for wine-tasting events. Plus, many will also charge for soda, bottled water and certain juices. Your drink tab can quickly add up: You'll be paying restaurant, not grocery store, prices for beverages.

Like your drinks included? Try a luxury cruise or buy a drinks package, which many big-ship operators now offer. And another thing, check out our Ultimate Guide to Drinking at Sea, which includes the popular 5 Lines That Let You BYOB feature.
Most lines
Buffet Food
$TBD
Royal Princess, the first of two 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger prototypes, will debut in June 2013. Among myriad bells and whistles will be a pair of for-fee options in the buffet complex. These include a "crab shack" and a fondue area. Princess will levy what it called a "nominal" fee for the melted cheese and chocolate, and fried seafood. "It's not really done for revenue purposes -- it's done for controlling demand," Rai Caluori, Princess' executive vice president of fleet operations, explained when the almost unprecedented news broke.
Specialty Coffee
$2.95+
Some lines think serving syrupy sludge is enough to sate a passenger's java jones. Putting hair on your chest not part of the morning routine? Stop by an onboard cafe, a big-ship staple where servers whip up coffee drinks based on beans from Starbucks, Seattle's Best and Lavazza. The takeaway: These days, finding a good cup of coffee is easier than ever -- provided you're willing to pay.

Related: 12 Top Spots for Coffee at Sea
All Lines
Fitness Classes
$10 - 60+
The "tums and bums" class may be included in the fare, but anything more intense, like Pilates, yoga or black light spinning, will cost you. So, naturally, will tutoring from a fitness instructor.

Like to stay active at sea? Check out our guide to cruising fit.
Most Lines


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