Things That Are a Waste of Money on a Cruise

Before you set sail on your next trip, make sure to save as much as possible by avoiding these things that are a waste of money on a cruise.

Things That Are A Waste of Money on a Cruise

A lot is covered in your cruise fare. Your cabin, most dining, onboard activities, and entertainment are usually all part of the price you pay for the cruise. That is why we feel cruise vacations are an amazing value. Still, not everything that is on the ship is included in that price. There are several add-ons that are extra, some that probably aren’t worth paying for on your trip. To help you save money, here is our list of things that are a waste of money on a cruise.

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10 Things That Are a Waste of Money on a Cruise

Priority Boarding

Recently, cruise lines have started to offer pre-cruise packages. Among these different offerings are packages that include priority boarding. Carnival Cruise Line offers the Faster to the Fun package on some ships. Similarly, Royal Caribbean has The Key. While what is included in these various offerings differ, for the most part, these are a waste of money on a cruise.

Navigator of the Seas Cruise Tips

If you complete your check-in early enough, you will be on the ship soon after this group. The same goes for disembarking at the ports of call. While you do get on the ship sooner, and have other perks, they are usually not worth the costs. Many of the additional inclusions, such as a sit down lunch or priority Guest Services line, don’t offer much additional value. Or, they are usually not necessities for most cruisers.

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Drink Packages

One of the most frequent questions we receive has to do with cruise line drink packages. Often, cruisers want to know if these beverage packages are a good value. For many cruisers, the answer might quite possibly be no.

For the most part, you need to consistently drink 6-8 alcoholic beverages every day to “break-even”. For many, that is quite a bit to drink. Plus, if you tend to drink house wines or beer, you will need to consume even more beverages.

save money on cruise drinks

If you tend to only enjoy a couple drinks at dinner or the show, then you will save money without a drink package. If you do think that you will consume that many alcoholic beverages and also enjoy other up-charge drinks such as soft drinks, bottled water, and specialty coffees, then you might want to consider one of these packages. The non-alcoholic drinks are usually where we recognize the value in a drink package. We like the convenience of a drink package; yet, there are often times that we do not break even, especially on longer cruises.

Onboard Photos

You will see photographers everywhere you go. At the port, near the dining rooms, and especially around the promenade or atrium on cruise formal nights. Yes, it is fun to take a few of the formal portraits, or to pose with a pirate at your port of call.

For the most part though, purchasing these onboard pictures is not worth the money on your cruise. This especially goes for some of the pricier photo packages, that cost hundreds of dollars for the week. While the cruise lines have caught on to selling digital images, these are often the same price as printed photos costing upwards of $20 per image. Certainly, this is a bit overpriced.

You are better off taking some selfies around the ship or asking someone else (not the photographers) to snap a photo for you. Perhaps, if you have loyalty status with a brand, you might get a photo for a discounted rate (or free).

Cruise Line Shore Excursions

Cruises do include most of the onboard activities and entertainment during the trip. Although, one of the hidden costs of cruising is the activities occurring on shore.

Most major cruise lines do not include any tours or shore excursions in the cruise fare. While some ports are perfect for exploring at your leisure, we do recommend you book some shore excursions during your cruise.

Although, you will probably save money by opting to book outside the cruise line. Often times, similar (or even better) tours and experiences can be booked directly with local tour companies or third party vendors. Island tours, snorkeling trips, and off-road adventures are all shore excursions that we have booked on our own. These tours tend to be less crowded, and we’ve often had a better time than many of our cruise sponsored tours.

Cruising is Cancelled Now What

Some third party outlets include Viator and Shore Excursions Group. Again, we have had great luck with some of these tours in various regions, including the Caribbean, Northern Europe, and Alaska.

Either way, we recommend that you do some pre-cruise comparison shopping for your shore excursions. Of note, when cruising resumes, it might be required temporarily to book shore excursions with the cruise line due to COVID restrictions, but this will not be a permanent policy.

Specialty Dining

Most modern cruise ships offer a variety of restaurants and different dining options. A buffet of sorts featuring cuisine from around the world is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of your cruise. Other casual options include sandwich shops, burger joints, pizza parlors, and snack shacks.

The Viking Jupiter Restaurant

Not to mention, there is the main dining room. This venue offers three-course dinners every night with a different menu. So, with all of these dining options, you don’t have to spend your money on specialty dining on a cruise. Many cruise lines will try to sell you on these up-charge venues. Often, they include a steak house, seafood restaurant, Italian venue, and other experiential dining. While we have certainly tried some of these restaurants in our 30+ cruises, we would suggest that infrequent cruisers stick with the complimentary options.

The same goes for those additional cost items on the main dining room menu. Remember, you can order as much as you want, so you can always order a couple of items to sample. That way you are sure to have plenty to eat and don’t waste any extra money.

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Art Auctions

We actually can’t believe the cruise lines still have art auctions. You will receive flyers in your cabin. You might even accidentally step into a venue hosting an auction or one of these “classes” about art history or styles.

No matter what you do, skip these completely. Don’t waste your time trying to get a free glass of champagne out of the deal. You might accidentally end up with some overpriced piece of art to display in your home. Even if you are an art expert, we suspect you will find these art auctions to not be worth your time and certainly not worth the cost.

Spa Treatments

Many people cruise to enjoy some rest and relaxation. While you might be tempted to visit the onboard spa for a treatment, we suggest you save your money and skip the massage. Many cruise lines charge above and beyond for these treatments, and they often include attempts to up-sell you on products used during the treatment.

If you must get a spa treatment, we suggest you do some pre-cruise investigating of your ports of call. We have heard from many individuals who find great deals on these treatments while ashore. Not to mention, some resorts and beach breaks offer massages by the ocean!

Thermal Spa on Norwegian Escape Review

Further, many cruise lines neglect to inform you that there is an extra 18-20% service charge on top of the treatment price.

Similarly, some ships now offer a thermal suite. Week long passes for a couple can cost upwards of $400 for the entire week. Sometimes, you can get a day pass, especially when docked at a port of call. In our opinion, one day of rejuvenation at this reduced price is enough.

Seminars and Classes

Trivia, game shows, dance classes, the belly flop contest. There are so many day time and night time activities that are completely free on a cruise ship. So, we recommend that you don’t waste your money on a cruise for those up-charge classes and seminars. Cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, mixology classes, and other for-fee courses on a cruise are typically not worth the money to most cruisers.

When reviewing the daily schedule on your cruise, always look to see if a certain event has a dollar sign next to it. If the advertised activity has such an indicator, there will be an associated cost to attend. We strongly suggest you save your money and find another activity to occupy your time instead.

Norwegian Encore Bars

Now, there are also other activities which might be “free” such as port talks or shopping guides, but really, these are also attempts to sell you stuff that you really don’t need. Cruise ships still promote coupon books or other VIP booklets for shoppers promising to save you money or get you premium access to certain retailers once ashore. But, let your commonsense prevail in these situations.

Onboard Shops

Speaking of shopping, we are all for getting a souvenir or two on a cruise. We always get a cruise t-shirt and an ornament for our holiday tree.

However, we strongly advise that you skip the “duty-free” shops onboard. Often times, there are no true savings on many of these items, such as alcohol, tobacco products, or jewelry. Even items like sunscreen or other essentials should not be purchased on the ship if at all possible. If you forgot to pack something, we suggest waiting for the ports of call if you can. Here, these items will be much cheaper to purchase.

When it comes to keepsakes, you will probably be able to find something cheaper and more authentic at your ports of call as well.


It is easy for us to say not to waste your money at the cruise ship casino as we are not big gamblers. For those who are inclined to spend some money at the slots, make sure to check the payouts. Cruise ship casinos are not as well regulated as casinos on land.

Casino 1 Enchantment of the Seas Review

When it comes to table games, these might be different than on land as well, giving the “house” a greater advantage at cruise ship casinos.

For most cruisers, casinos at sea are just like those on land, an easy way to lose your money. So, we suggest you invest those funds in something more fun, like a drink at the bar or perhaps another cruise.


What do you think is a waste of money on a cruise? Do you spend money on any of these cruise extras? Drop us an anchor below with your money saving tips.

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
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  1. Jeez, you covered just about every amenity on the ships.

    I have signed up and participated in art classes. Yes there is a fee, but the classes have been fun and you are creating a keepsake as well

      That’s not real, at least for the onboard shops… Please investigate properly. Liquor, tobacco, watches, everything is cheaper onboard that on land, but you keep mentioning to buy on the ports of call, seems a little bit odd, you may work at a port for sure ?

      Don’t forget drink packages also include bottled waters and soda. The downside to buying a drink package is everyone in your cabin must also have one.
      I don’t agree with purchasing excursions from outside businesses. When you purchase through the cruise line, you are guaranteed to return to port on time and won’t get left behind.
      By the way, the best thing you can buy that isn’t offered by the cruise company is travel insurance!

        Actually I found out that if you buy your drink package by calling the cruise line reservation number, you can buy only one package if the person cruising with you doesn’t drink. But you don’t have that option buying online.

    While you have some good points, there are some that want to experience these things even if they may be slightly higher in cost. To many, this may be a once in a lifetime experience. Thank You

      We always purchase the spa pass when ch is for the duration on the cruise. Well worth the money for peace be and relaxation and no kids running around. Quiet place on ship to read a book or take a siesta

    You must be a real Debbie Downer on the ship.

    I agree with all of it,good tips for newer cruisers.

      You’re so right. If cruising for the first time it’s good to get your feet wet without going broke.

    Well everyone has an opinion.
    I would disagree with at least 3 of yours. Specialty restaurants are a nice change from the ordinary with a little more personalized service. Drink packages are worth the price if purchased for a discount, especially for those “sea days.” Excursions are less expensive using “outside” vendors but the tradeoff is guaranteed arrival back to port prior to ship departure if using ship based. Lastly, many alcoholic beverages can be had for less onboard if you’re willing and able to transport back home. Depends on quantity and quality.
    Once again, everyone has an opinion.

    I agree on booking shore excursions with a 3rd party. I’m in a wheelchair and Royal Carribbean had nothing avail for me. I was so upset. Then I found 2 great excursions in Cozumel. We are doing the Cacao Factory where we get a demonstration of how they made chocolate then we go off to Mayan Adventures where we learn how to make a corn tortilla and get a mini show. They were both so reasonably priced you wouldn’t believe it.

    We cruise often, 1-2 times per year, and we love the Thermal Spa package on NCL. We use it every day! We also enjoy the specialty restaurants on longer cruises. The casino can take your money but I have hit jackpots too. It’s entertainment so only spend what you can afford to lose. And if you are a big gamer you can cruise for free! If you are on a very tight budget these tips are good but otherwise check these extras out for yourself! My info is all pre-covid.

    I have been cruising since 1988 and agree with most of this list. In our younger days the drink packages made sense but now we are only getting the basic. Especially since as a Royal Caribbean Diamond we get free drinks every day. As far as the Casino goes I love to play Blackjack and I have done very well with that. Enough so to pay for my drinks and souvenirs. I never have lost money on a cruise in the Casino. My wife does not gamble so that helps. LOL

    The advantage of cruise booked excursions is if there is an accident on the road or some other mishap that makes you late getting back to the ship, they wait for you. If you book your own and you’re late wave goodbye to the ship.

    Thank you for your insights. I find that everything you said is absolutely true, although I don’t buy any packages that include gratuities. Instead, I prefer to personally tip those who have gone over and above to help me and make my cruise more enjoyable. Since it is so much easier to book excursions prior to cruising, that would be my suggestion for everyone whether it’s through the cruise line or another venue. If you’re going into a port and have nothing booked, at least get off the ship and walk around. Don’t stay on the ship on a port day because there are many options. Remember that when you booked this cruise you knew where you were going!

    You did not mention that a excursion through the ship line guarantees you will be back on the ship in time for departure.

    A lot what you just said I don’t really do on a cruise ship is I lot of things sometimes we bring our own soda with us but now I order water and soda I love to shop but when we dock in port of call

    We cruise with Viking for all the ways the cruise may cost you: specialty restaurants, drinks, tours,etc. Viking includes all the restaurants, a tour in every port and alcohol at lunch and dinner. Water, soda, espressos are free all day long. We like the ‘no hidden’ cost idea. The price tag seems high when comparison shopping, but you need to add ALL the costs of a big ship onto the price tag.
    Also, I wouldn’t throw out some of the classes. We all have our favorite things to do and having to pay a charge is fine. Ex cooking class with the chef ( 4 hours to make it and eat it!) Then we had a private tour of the kitchen for the 8 of us…..

    We always eat in the specialty restaurants, and I find the upcharge worth it. I think the main dining rooms are crowded and depressing, so I avoid them. Plus, the food in the specialty restaurants is better because they’re serving fewer people.

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