Planning a cruise can be challenging for many people. The most common issue that my clients and friends face is not knowing what expenses to include in their budget. Although each cruise line offers different inclusions in the price of the cruise, I will be specifically discussing Royal Caribbean Cruise lines in this case.

1. Royal Caribbean Gratuities

Gratuities on a Royal Caribbean cruise are not included in the cost of your ticket. Instead, a daily gratuity charge is automatically added to your onboard account. The standard daily gratuity rate is $16.00 per person, per day for guests staying in interior, oceanview, and balcony staterooms, and $18.50 per person, per day for guests staying in suite accommodations (these amounts can change). However, guests can adjust or remove the gratuity charge by visiting the Guest Services desk onboard. It’s also worth noting that Royal Caribbean suggests tipping additional amounts for exceptional service from specific crew members, such as your stateroom attendant or dining room waiter.

I prefer to minimize my expenses at the end of a cruise. That’s why my advice to everyone is to prepay for gratuities before the cruise starts. By doing so, you won’t have to worry about an additional bill at the end of your journey. Moreover, you can pay off your gratuities beforehand, as they will be included in your overall cruise cost.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol is an additional expense on Royal Caribbean (unless included in your package). You can buy alcoholic drinks by presenting your Royal Caribbean Sea Pass and charging them to your onboard account. Beer prices start at $7.49, wine at $10 per glass, and cocktails at $13, all in US dollars and plus 18% gratuity. You can save a few dollars on cocktails by purchasing the drink of the day. Alternatively, you can opt for the deluxe beverage package that includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The price of the package varies, and it is cheaper to purchase it before your cruise. Keep checking online for package sales.

3. Soda

Royal Caribbean does not include soda in their beverage options. However, you can purchase soft drinks on board for $3.50 plus gratuity (this price is subject to change). Alternatively, you can choose from one of the following Royal Caribbean beverage packages that include soda:

– Deluxe beverage package: This package includes alcoholic drinks as well as soda.

– Refreshment package: This package is non-alcoholic and includes mocktails, milkshakes, soda, water, and more.

– Soda package: As the name implies, this package includes only soda.

All of these beverage packages come with a souvenir cup that can be refilled with fountain soda.

4. Coffee

Some of the newer ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet have Starbucks on board, this is not included in any of the drink packages. I did find that the prices are comparable to what you would pay on land. Fortunately, you are able to purchase the refreshment package which includes certain specialty coffees from CAFÉ PROMENADE. If you don’t have a drink package specialty coffees are an additional cost.


5. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

Some Royal Caribbean ships have Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  There is an extra charge.


6. Specialty restaurants

Most of the major cruise lines offer restaurants that are included in your cruise fare, along with additional dining options that come with an extra cost. Some restaurants have a cover charge, while others have individual food item pricing (a la carte). Although the complimentary food options are more than enough to satisfy your hunger throughout the trip, you can opt for more delicious options and sometimes elevated cuisine at specialty restaurants. 

You can save a considerable amount of money and still enjoy a meal at a specialty restaurant by eating there for lunch instead of dinner or by purchasing a dining package.

7. Room service (except continental breakfast)

If you want to order room service on Royal Caribbean ships, you will have to pay an additional fee, except for continental breakfast. Continental breakfast includes items like bagels, toast, cereal, fruit, and yogurt. You can order continental breakfast room service between 6:00 am and 11:00 am at no additional cost. However, ordering any other food item will incur a flat service fee regardless of what you order.

8. Royal Caribbean Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is not included in the Royal Caribbean cruise fare. You can purchase two different internet access packages, Surf or Surf & Stream. It is recommended to check the “My Cruise Planner” on their website for any ongoing deals or discounts on internet packages. It is suggested to switch your phone to airplane mode while on board to avoid unexpected charges.  You can access the Royal Caribbean App without purchasing an internet package.

9. App chat feature

The Royal Caribbean app has a chat feature that will allow you to message other passengers on the ship. The app is free to download, and you do not need to purchase an internet package to use it. However, you will have to pay $1.99 per person per day to use the chat feature.

10. Shore Excursions

Shore excursions on your Royal Caribbean cruise are not included in the fare. You can choose to explore the port or town on your own at no extra cost. However, some ports are better suited for planned tours and activities, so it’s important to do your research beforehand. Some ports may not offer much to see or do at the port itself.

If your itinerary includes a stop at Perfect Day at Coco Cay, the private island of Royal Caribbean, you’re in for a treat. You can enjoy the beautiful beaches and lounge chairs, as well as the incredible Oasis Lagoon pool, which are free to use. However, if you’d like to snorkel or visit the water park, there will be an additional charge. 


11. Pre and post cruise transfers

Airport transfers are not included in your cruise fare. However, Royal Caribbean does offer transfers that are convenient, albeit more expensive than other options. It is important to remember that you should always fly in at least a day before your cruise departs. If you are not staying at an airport hotel, the cruise line’s pre-cruise transfers may not be suitable for you as you would have to make your way back to the airport for pickup.

12. Pre and post cruise hotel

It’s highly recommended to arrive in your cruise departure city a day before the cruise. You should factor in the hotel cost as an additional expense when creating your cruise budget.

13. Travel insurance

Travel insurance is additional.  It is optional but recommended.

14. The spa

The Royal Caribbean Vitality Spa does have an additional charge.  You do pay extra for spa treatments. 

15. Salon

As probably expected, the salon costs extra on Royal Caribbean, as it does on other cruise lines too.

16. Some fitness classes cost extra on Royal Caribbean

The use of the Royal Caribbean gym is free to use and there are some fitness classes that are complimentary, however some fitness center classes do have a charge.

17. Laundry

Laundry services are an extra cost on Royal Caribbean ships, as it is with most, if not all other cruise lines. 

18. Photos

Photos taken by cruise ship photographers have an additional cost.  You are only charged if you purchase a photo, not to have them taken.

When you have your photo taken by one of the ship’s photographers, you are not obligated to purchase it.

19. Onboard shops

20. Casino play

No surprise here.  It costs extra to play the slot machines, table games, or other games in the cruise ship’s casino.

21. Casino tournaments

The blackjack, Texas hold’em, and slot tournaments have an entry fee to play.

22. Bingo

Bingo is a popular activity on cruise ships, there is a cost to play.

23. Arcade

There is a cost to play the games in the Royal Caribbean arcade. Games usually cost between $1.50 – $2.00, with a few higher and a few lower.

24. The Key

The Key is Royal Caribbean’s pay-for-perks program. Benefits of The Key include carry-on bag drop-off on embarkation day, a welcome lunch, private time at select activities, and more. Surf and stream internet is also included for one device. You can see the full list of Royal Caribbean Key benefits here. The prices vary depending on the ship and date. The cost is per person per day and must be purchased for everyone in the stateroom. Keep checking online as it may go on sale.

25. Babysitting

Royal Caribbean no longer offers in-room babysitting. However, they do offer group sitting as part of the Adventure Ocean program. They call it the “Late Night Party Zone”. It is available for kids aged 3-11 and is offered from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am. The current cost is $7.00 USD per hour. This cost is subject to change, but it gives you an idea of what to expect.

26. All Access Ship Tour

Royal Caribbean offers a 2-hour All Access Ship Tour on select days. The cost is approximately $97 (subject to change). It may be cheaper if you purchase it ahead of time. This tour takes you behind the scenes of the cruise ship.

Although the majority of the onboard activities on Royal Caribbean cruise ships are included in your cruise fare, there are a few activities that require an extra cost. However, it’s important to note that these activities are not available on all ships. Therefore, it’s recommended to carefully research your cruise ship before booking to ensure that you’re fully aware of any extra costs

27. Escape room

A few Royal Caribbean ships, such as Mariner of the Seas has an escape room.

28. Ripcord by iFly

Ripcord by iFly is a cool skydiving simulator.  This can be found on the Royal Caribbean Quantum class cruise ships.  This is one of the few activities that have an additional cost.

29. North Star ride while at sea

The North Star is a ride that takes you up 350 feet above sea level in a glass capsule offering amazing views.  You can find the Royal Caribbean North Star on Quantum class ships. 

There is currently a cost to ride the North Star while you are at sea, but not while you are in port.

Budgeting for a Royal Caribbean cruise can be a bit overwhelming, but with a little planning, it’s definitely doable. The cost of a cruise can vary depending on the length, destination, cabin type, and time of year. To start, determine your budget and what’s included in the cruise fare, such as meals, accommodations, and onboard activities.

Here are a few tips to help with budgeting:

  1. Research the cruise itinerary and determine the shore excursions you want to take. Some excursions can be expensive, but you can save money by booking them in advance or finding cheaper alternatives.
  1. Look for discounts and promotions. Royal Caribbean often offers deals on its website or through travel agents. You can also join the Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program to earn rewards and benefits.
  1. Choose your cabin wisely. Interior cabins are usually the most affordable, but if you want a balcony or suite, consider booking during a sale or promotion.

Remember to always read the fine print and understand the cancellation and refund policies before booking. With a little planning, you can enjoy a Royal Caribbean cruise without breaking the bank.

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