What’s included in a cruise holiday?

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you’ll be forgiven for not knowing how it all works. One of the key questions which people ask when they begin their search for their first cruise is ‘what’s included in the price?’ In this article, I’ll explain exactly what’s included in the price of a cruise. 


Let’s start with the obvious one – accommodation. On any holiday you’ll need somewhere to sleep and in the case of cruises, it’s your cabin. Another name for a cruise ship cabin is a stateroom, or a suite. 

Cruise ship cabins vary hugely. The cheapest cabins, inside cabins, are small rooms with no windows and just enough room to walk around the bed. These can sleep up to four people with beds that come down from the ceiling. 

The most popular cabin type is a balcony cabin, which is usually a little larger, it may also have a sofa bed, and it has a balcony with chairs so that you can sit out and admire the ocean. The largest rooms on cruise ships are suites, which have separate bedrooms and living areas. The top suites are often huge, many times the size of an average home. 


People are sometimes surprised that cruises include food. However, food is always included on a cruise and even on the cheapest cruises, the food is always of a really high standard. Each ship will have a main dining room and a buffet as well as several snack bars. 

Cruise ships also have what’s known as ‘speciality’ restaurants which offer cuisine from around the world. On most ships, speciality restaurants aren’t included in the cruise fare but are available for a small supplement. On luxury cruises, speciality dining is included with no extra charge. 


Usually, the only drinks that are included in your cruise fare are basic drinks like tea, coffee, water and maybe lemonade or flavoured water. However, most cruise lines offer drinks packages whereby you pay a set amount for what is essentially a free bar. On some premium and luxury cruises such as Azamara, all your drinks are included in the cruise fare. 

Entertainment and activities 

Cruise ship entertainment is usually free of charge and includes a whole host of things such as Broadway-style stage shows, live music, magicians, acrobats and jugglers. 

You’ll also find lots of activities to do on the ship, whether that’s family activities like ice skating, water slides and go karts or more reserved activities like bingo, karaoke or cookery classes. Most of these are free of charge, although there will be a small fee to pay for some activities on some ships. 


Gratuities, also known as tips, are payable as a set fee per day on some cruise lines but free of charge on others. As a general rule, the American cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival tend to charge gratuities in line with their culture, but European cruise lines like P&O Cruises or MSC Cruises include the tips in the cruise fare. 

It’s important to note that this policy is based the country where the cruise company is based, not on the destination of the ship, as American cruise ships can cruise in Europe and vice versa.  

Flights and transfers 

When you book a cruise, you’ll have the option to book a ‘cruise only’ deal or to book a ‘fly-cruise’ package. Fly cruises include flights and often overseas transfers and a pre-cruise hotel stay in to the price of your cruise. 

Booking a fly-cruise package with a travel agent can not only save you money on your cruise holiday versus buying each of the elements separately, but it’s generally safer to do this as if anything happens with any part of your package you can get a refund on the whole holiday. 

This is a guest post by Jenni Fielding who writes for Cruise118.com