How to Budget for a Cruise

by Dana George | Updated Jan. 30, 2022 - First published on July 31, 2021

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A smiling person standing at the railing of a cruise ship.

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If you dream of cruising the open seas, it all begins with a good budget.

You may have heard that cruise lines are reopening following the pandemic. If the idea makes your heart beat a little faster and inspires you to dream of the places you can go, there's no harm in starting to budget. It all begins with figuring out how much you're going to pay for a cruise and then putting those funds together. Here's a look at some common expenses you may want to plan for, as well as some ideas for saving up those funds.

Passage

How much you'll spend for the cruise itself depends on a number of factors, including whether you'll be traveling off-season and whether you're opting for a discount cruise line or luxury ship. If you opt for an interior cabin on a discount cruise, you could pay less than $60 per night. If you're traveling in style on a luxury cruise, it will be more like $300 to $600 per person per night.

Transportation

Unless you live in the city where the cruise will set sail from, you'll need to factor in the cost of traveling to that port.

Lodging

Budget for the night before you sail (if you'll be staying in the port city overnight) and any other nights you plan to spend off the cruise ship but away from home.

Food

Factor in how much you expect to spend on food to and from the cruise.

Drinks

Most cruises exclude specific alcoholic beverages. If your favorite drink is among those excluded, you'll need to budget for it. Even if you've purchased a drink package, it typically only covers alcoholic beverages up to a price limit.

For example, it may cover drinks up to $7. If you order a $10 drink, it will cost you the full $10 (cruise lines do not generally discount drinks by the amount covered in your drink package).

Tips

Tipping everyone, from porters to bartenders, is expected on most cruise lines. Some luxury lines (like Silversea and Regent Seven Seas) have "no tipping" policies and build gratuities into your fare. Otherwise, you'll need to check the tipping policy of your cruise line and build that expense into your budget.

Apparel

If you live in northernmost Minnesota but are sailing to the Bahamas, you'll need to make sure you have clothing appropriate for the heat. If you'll be sailing on a luxury ship, check the dress code for special events and dinner.

Extras

Stopping at ports-of-call and want to shop? Make sure you have the funds available. If there's anything special you would like to do onboard (like gamble), include it in the budget. If you have children or grandchildren at home who expect a gift from your travels, plan for that expense as well.

Emergencies

An emergency savings account is essential no matter where you are. Consider padding your budget with extra money to cover any unexpected trouble that arises.

Ideas for funding your budget

If you don't have cash to pay for the trip up front and don't want to charge the trip to your credit card, you'll need to save up. Taking time to save is not such a bad thing. It gives you time to learn more about where you'll be traveling and to make plans for what you want to see and do. Here are seven simple ways to put money away for your next cruise:

  1. Round up. Each time you write a check or use your debit card to make a purchase, round the amount up to the nearest dollar. For example, if you purchase something for $25.25, record $26 in your register. That way, you've got an extra $0.75 in your bank account -- funds you can use toward the cruise.
  2. Round down. Every time you make a deposit into your checking account, round the amount down when you record it. Let's say you deposit $215. Record it as $214. Again, your bank account will grow without any effort on your part.
  3. Donate to yourself. If you're uncomfortable "lying" to your check register or don't want the hassle of figuring out how much extra money you've left in the account after rounding up or down, try donating to yourself. Donating to yourself works best when you pay for everyday items with cash. Here's how it works: You run to the grocery store to pick up bread and milk. The bill comes to $5.50. You round up to the next dollar and put the difference in your pocket. In this case, you'd round up to $6 and donate the extra $0.50 to yourself. Once home, slip that $0.50 into a vacation jar.
  4. Alter your shopping habits. Where we shop becomes a habit, often leading us to spend more than necessary. If you're in the market for clothing, check out a nice consignment shop. If you want fresh fruits and vegetables, a farmer's market can offer better produce at a lower price. The money you save can go toward your cruise.
  5. Cut back on one thing. If you go out for drinks with friends twice a week, save money by cutting back to once a week. If you have a gym membership that you don't use, cutting it will put extra money in your bank account each month. Find one thing you can cut and direct those funds toward paying for the cruise.
  6. Check out side hustles. A side hustle (or side job) doesn't have to be uninspiring. Given our new work-from-home world, there are a variety of ways to make money from the comfort of home. If you enjoy what you're doing, it won't feel like a job. If you don't particularly enjoy it, remind yourself that you only need to keep it up until you've left for vacation.
  7. Sell "extra" stuff. Most of us have tons of stuff around the house we no longer need or use. Find things you can part with and sell them through a neighborhood website or garage sale. Your house will be tidier and your vacation account fuller.

If the idea of watching dolphins frolic makes you happy, budgeting is the first step toward cruising the open seas.

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