Like everything in life, money makes the world go ‘round, and making sure you have enough money allocated for a cruise vacation is a responsible concern.
Luckily, cruise vacations are quite affordable and cruise lines offer a variety of options at different prices that make a cruise economical for many families.
To help anyone budget for their cruise, let’s break down what to expect in terms of overall costs. Keep in mind that cruises are global, and we cannot possibly account for every scenario, budget, and cost.
To help give a ballpark idea of what to expect, we have an in-depth look at the cost of a cruise, from the base cruise fare to optional add-ons and typical costs you’ll encounter when planning a cruise vacation.
In this guide:
- How much does a cruise cost?
- What determines the cost of a cruise?
- When is the best time to book a cruise?
- Cost of a cruise by cabin type
- How much does a cruise cost for a solo traveler?
- What’s included in your base cruise fare?
- What costs extra on a cruise?
- How to save money on a cruise
How much does a cruise cost?
A cruise can cost anywhere between $550 for 2 adults on a 3-night weekend sailing to upwards of $80,000 total for a family to sail in the most luxurious multi-story suites. The cost of a cruise changes based on itinerary, ship, cruise length, number of passengers, and time of year you sail.
Cruise prices are also dynamic, meaning you can find a fantastic deal one day only to have the price increase the next. Knowing this, let’s take a look at a few sample prices of various Royal Caribbean cruise itineraries.
These cruises are pricing examples on the total (not per person) cruise fare of an interior cabin versus a balcony cabin for two adults:
- A 3-night Bahamas weekend cruise in April: $700 (interior), $1000 (balcony)
- A 7-night Caribbean cruise in September: $1500 (interior), $1900 (balcony)
- A 7-night Alaska cruise in June: $2400 (interior), $3200 (balcony)
- A 12-night Holy Land cruise in October: $3857 (interior), $4300 (balcony)
- A 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise in February: $1100 (interior), $1800 (balcony)
The prices above should be used as a guide, but actual cruise fares may be higher or lower depending on day to day pricing.
What determines the cost of a cruise?
Cruise pricing is influenced by a number of factors, and knowing the trends of what makes one cruise more expensive than another can help you in the booking process.
Ship size and age: a 20-year old cruise ship will usually be significantly cheaper than a brand new ship. You should never book a ship based solely on price, though, as you want to make sure the ship you book has the amenities, activities, and entertainment choices you’re looking for in a cruise vacation.
Related: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship
Length: You’ll pay far less for a 4-night cruise compared to a 10-night cruise. You’ll often find exceptions to this rule, however. 3-night cruises over the weekend tend to be more expensive than 4-night cruises during the week, and long transatlantic/transpacific cruises can have a much lower cost per day compared to other sailings.
Time of year: Cruising during peak season can see cruise fares up to double what the same ship and itinerary would cost in low season. For Caribbean cruises, you’ll find some of the lowest fares from late August to early November, the first two weeks of December, mid-January to mid-February, and in May.
Related: The best time to go on a Caribbean cruise
Supply and demand: While there are general trends when it comes to cruise pricing, there are no set price rules. Supply and demand will affect the price of any cruise, and you may find hidden deals based on low demand for a sailing you’re interested in, even on a newer ship.
When is the best time to book a cruise?
In addition to itinerary, ship, and length affected the price of a cruise fare, the time of year you book can also affect cruise pricing.
Generally speaking, the best time to book a cruise is as soon as possible. Waiting to book a cruise to hope for a price drop is unnecessary, as Royal Caribbean allows residents of most countries to reprice a cruise until final payment date.
Related: When is the best time to book a cruise?
Some of the cheapest fares on Royal Caribbean cruises can be found as new itineraries are released, which typically happens around two years before the sail date. Keeping an eye on when new itineraries will be released can be helpful for those looking to find the best deals.
Wave Season, running from January through March, can also bring lower prices. Royal Caribbean runs a Wave Season sale at the start of the year, where you may find up to 60% off a second guest and extra onboard credit.
If you can travel on short notice, you can sometimes find elusive last-minute cruise deals. For more information on booking a cruise at the last minute, check out these helpful tips:
- Pros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute
- How to get last-minute cruise deals
- Why booking a last-minute cruise isn’t always a good idea
Kids Sail Free can save you money
Booking during a Kids Sail Free promotion is one of the most lucrative times to book a cruise. This is a promotion during which kids under 12 qualify for free cruise fare if staying in the same cabin as two adults.
Royal Caribbean offers Kids Sail Free promotions throughout the year, so keep an eye on Royal Caribbean’s website for updates.
Related: Royal Caribbean Kids Sail Free Dates & Tips
Keep in mind, however, that Kids Sail Free deals have blackout dates which, unsurprisingly, occur during school holidays. If you can make the available dates work with the school schedule, though, you can see big savings with Kids Sail Free.
Cost of a cruise by cabin type
The first decision you’ll make after selecting a cruise ship and itinerary is which cruise ship cabin to book. There is a cruise ship cabin for every type of traveler, from the most basic inside cabins to luxurious suites.
Here’s a general idea of what each type of cabin may cost you:
Interior cabins are the cheapest cruise cabin available. While they don’t feature a window and are usually smaller than other cabin categories, you’ll find some great deals on inside staterooms. You can expect to pay around $70-$160 per person, per night for an interior cabin.
Ocean view cabins are the next step up from an interior cabin and feature a porthole window. Prices for ocean view cabins are generally priced at around $110 to $197 per person, per night.
Balcony cabins are the most popular cruise ship cabin available, with each cabin having a private outdoor balcony space. You can expect to pay between $150 and $250 per person, per night for an ocean view balcony cabin.
Suites offer the most lavish accommodations available on a cruise ship. Prices can vary widely based on the type of suite you book, with prices ranging from $250 to $420 per person, per night for Junior Suites to between $650 and $1000 per person, per night for Owner’s Suites.
Royal Caribbean’s largest cruise ship suites can be priced in the tens of thousands for a weeklong sailing.
How much does a cruise cost for a solo traveler?
Cruising solo? You’re not alone. Solo cruising has become more and more popular in recent years, and cruise lines are following the trend by offering studio cabins on their cruise ships, built for just one passenger.
Not every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has studio cabins, and those that do only have a few studio cabins which tend to get booked quickly. Why? Studio cabins do not incur a single supplement fee, which is a means of recouping the cost of a second traveler that would otherwise be in the stateroom.
Related: Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Single and Studio staterooms
Having this fee waived in a studio room is a huge incentive for solo cruisers, and it’s common to find these cabins fully booked on most itineraries.
Studio cabins can be found on Anthem of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas.
What’s included in your base cruise fare?
It’s possible to embark on a Royal Caribbean cruise and spend nothing extra onboard. While cruise fares are not entirely all-inclusive, as extras like internet and alcoholic beverages will cost extra–you’ll find more than enough included in your cruise fare to keep you satisfied throughout the sailing.
Your base cruise fare includes the following:
- Accommodations (your cruise ship cabin)
- Meals & snacks at complimentary venues
- Drinks (water, tea, coffee, lemonade, iced tea, milk, juice, and hot chocolate)
- Continental room service at breakfast
- Adventure Ocean child programming
- Activities and shows
- Fitness center
- Pool and sun decks
Related: What’s included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare
Taxes and fees will be automatically added to your cruise fare upon checkout, and the exact cost of taxes and fees will vary based on your cruise length and itinerary.
Gratuities are not included in your base cruise fare. You can choose to pre-pay gratuities when booking your cruise or incur a daily fee once onboard the ship. Royal Caribbean’s current gratuity costs are $16 per person, per day in standard cabins (Junior Suites and below) and $18.50 per person, per day in Grand Suites and above.
What costs extra on a cruise?
While there is no shortage of dining options, activities, entertainment, and amenities included in your base cruise fare, there are many add-ons you can purchase on a cruise vacation. While spending extra on a cruise is not required, it’s helpful to know what costs extra on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
Outside of the complimentary drinks included in your cruise fare, you’ll pay extra for the following drinks on a cruise:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Specialty coffee and tea drinks
- Fresh-squeezed juices
Related: Royal Caribbean Drink Package Info, Tips, Pros & Cons
You can choose to buy drinks individually or purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package, which allows you to enjoy unlimited drinks during your cruise for one set cost. Drink package prices range from $62-78 per person, per day for the Deluxe Beverage Package, $30-38 per person, per day for the non-alcoholic Refreshment Package, and $13-15 per person, per day for the soda package.
Outside of complimentary dining venues on any Royal Caribbean ship are specialty restaurants. Specialty restaurants provide cuisines and cooking styles not found elsewhere onboard, such as the cruise line’s signature steakhouse, Chops Grille, or Japanese cuisine at Izumi.
Specialty restaurants come in two categories: à la carte or a cover charge restaurant. À la carte restaurants include Playmakers Sports Bar and Portside BBQ, where you can expect to spend around $20 per meal. Cover charge restaurants offer more formal sit-down dining at a set price, and you can expect to pay around $25 for lunch and $50 for dinner at a cover charge restaurant.
Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise
Like drink packages, Royal Caribbean also offers dining packages for use at specialty restaurants. 2-night, 3-night, 5-night, and an Unlimited Dining Package are available to purchase before your cruise.
Dining package costs are typically around $84.99 for a 2-night (Chops + 1) package, $115 for a 3-night package, and $225 for an Unlimited Dining Package.
Room service is not included in your cruise fare aside from a complimentary continental breakfast option.
Related: Royal Caribbean room service guide & tips
Wifi is not included in the cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise, and the cruise line charges a daily fee per device. If you plan on purchasing wifi for your cruise, expect to spend around $20 per device, per day for the service. Note that two devices can use the same wifi plan as long as they are not logged in to the wifi account at the same time.
Related: Top 30 extra cruise costs that are not included
Purchasing shore excursions on port days is not required, but if you elect to book an organized tour, this will come at an extra cost. Shore excursion prices can range drastically, from $25 walking tours to $400 helicopter rides. Most tours will cost between $50 and $150 per person
You can book tours directly through the cruise line or through outside providers, with the latter often offering a lower price. Before booking a shore excursion through an outside company, though, be sure to review the pros and cons of not booking through the cruise line.
Related: 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own
Booking a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean provides more security, as the ship will wait for you if the tour runs late. Booking through an independent company–while often cheaper–does not offer this sense of security.
Alternatively, you can choose to explore a port on your own without an organized excursion. This is almost always a more cost-effective way to explore a destination, as you’ll often find transportation and sightseeing costs are quite affordable in ports of call.
Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion
Getting to and from your cruise port is another added expense on your Royal Caribbean cruise. You’ll need to budget for flights, baggage fees, gas, parking, tolls, taxis, and any other transportation expenses needed to reach your embarkation port.
We always recommended that you arrive at your cruise embarkation port the day before your cruise departs. This allows for extra wiggle room in case of any unexpected travel delays. Arriving a day early will require booking a hotel room the night before your cruise, which could set you back between $150 and $400.
Aside from the major add-ons you may purchase for a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll also need to consider budgeting for the following optional cruise costs:
- Spa treatments
- Fitness classes
- Extra-cost activities (arcade, escape room, etc.)
- Laundry service
- Wine and cocktail tastings
- Backstage ship tours
- Onboard childcare for guests 6-36 months (hourly charge)
- Costs at home (pet care, childcare, etc.)
How to save money on a cruise
Book early: More often than not, the earlier you book a cruise, the cheaper prices you’ll find. Plus, residents of most countries can reprice their cruise fare up until the final payment date, so if the price drops you can take advantage of a lower fare.
Use credit card points: If you have credit card points or frequent flyer miles, put the miles toward expenses like airfare and a pre-cruise hotel. Plus, you may be able to earn more points or cashback if you pay for the cruise fare with your credit card.
Use a travel agent: The best way to ensure you are getting the lowest price on a cruise is to use a travel agent. Travel agents cost nothing extra to use, but they can find the best promotions for a Royal Caribbean cruise. They are an extremely helpful resource during the entire cruise process, from the moment you book a cruise to when you return home.
Related: Top 5 things to look for in a good travel agent for your cruise vacation
Plan shore excursions on your own: Shore excursions can be expensive, so planning port days on your own is a sure-fire way to save money on a cruise.
Research the top attractions in your ports of call to determine if you can easily visit without an organized tour. This can save hundreds of dollars on any cruise and provide more flexibility in port.
Bring soda, water, juice, or wine: You can bring up to two 750ml bottles of wine per stateroom. In addition, you can bring small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages on boarding day. Non-alcoholic beverages may not exceed 12 standard (17 oz) cans, bottles, or cartons per stateroom.
In short: how much does a cruise cost?
If this article has taught you anything about the price of a cruise, it’s that a cruise fare can vary considerably. The good news? You’ll almost certainly be able to find a cruise to fit your vacation budget, whether you book a cheap interior room or lavish suite.
A rough estimate is to expect to spend around $2000 on cruise fare for a 7-night cruise for 2 adults. This can be more or less depending on cabin category, time of year you sail, etc., but it’s a great starting point for planning a cruise budget.
Of course, you’ll have to add on the cost of transportation, gratuities, and any discretional spending you do once onboard to the total cruise cost. However, a cruise vacation still offers a fantastic vacation value considering all that is included in your cruise fare.