Are cruises good value? Getting bang for your buck while aboard

cruise ship in europe

When it comes to how you holiday, cruising can be a controversial option. Those who love it are hardcore fans, and those who hate it will dismiss it as nothing more than a floating RSL club. What we want to know is the answer to a long-held question - are cruises good value?

The value of cruises comes down to how you measure value, and how you choose to cruise. Let’s break it down.

What are you actually paying for on a cruise?

With a traditional holiday, you’ll need to break down expenses into flights (or fuel, for road trips), accommodation, and then daily expenses like food and entertainment. Cruises structure things a little bit differently: your cruise fare includes almost all of your onboard costs, most notably accommodation and transportation along with all of your daily meals (at the very least).

Depending on which cruise line you choose and what inclusions you opt for, you might find yourself having to pay for certain entertainment options – or you might have all of your drinks included. Generally speaking, the less you pay for your fare, the more things will be classed as “extras”.

If you like to keep costs down on one of the major cruise lines, it’s easy enough to avoid the add ons – as tempting as they may be. It’s just a matter of knowing where the traps are, and which costs can stack up. 

Traps to avoid and tips to keep your cruise top value

  • Check your cruise account on the regular

Some cruise lines, like Princess, will have an app that allows you to check your account on your personal device while others will require you to visit the Guest Services desk for a print out. This is the best way to catch any unexpected charges, or to put a stop to any spending you didn’t realise you were doing – like going too hard on the premium cocktails.

  • Stay savvy on shore

The easiest way for costs to stack up is when you’re spending both on deck and on land. Stretch for maximum savings by passing up on the cruise’s shore excursions – which can often be replicated for far less money if you organise them yourself – and getting back on board for meal times if the port is close by.

  • Remember that transfers cost, and watch out for sales!

It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of a cheap cruise fare and to forget how much it’s going to cost you to get there. Look for departure ports close by, or remember to add on the cost of your flight or transfer to the cost of your cruise. You may be better off getting a cheaper cruise leaving from Brisbane and vigilantly watching the web for deals than you are taking a round trip from Sydney, for example.

  • Take advantage of all of your inclusions

If a cruise hasn’t seemed like your thing, you might not have considered the full array of offerings included for your fare. If getting drunk by the pool isn’t your thing (and no judgement if it is – I’ve definitely been there), most cruises cater to the full age and activity spectrum. Even if you aren’t splashing out for bingo or massages, you could find yourself trying out crafts or trivia or line dancing. Some Royal Caribbean cruises include Dodgem Cars or Rock Climbing, and some Celebrity Cruises could see you trying glass blowing at sea!

The value verdict

Cruises aren’t for everyone, with today’s offerings looking more like floating resorts than the floating RSL clubs some might have bemoaned in the past. If you need to be out exploring, they might not satisfy your need to climb mountains or immerse yourself in the culture of one place. But if you’d like to see a lot of things without having to organise them all, bundled into one fare – and get some serious value from it, it could just be the option for you.

To help you decide which cruise is for you, take a look at our guide to cruise lines. If you are planning on setting sail, travel insurance for cruises is serious business – because nothing is worse value than missing out!

Start comparing holiday insurance options - last updated 14 June 2024

Search promoted travel insurance below. Advertiser disclosure Important information on terms, conditions and sub-limits.
  • Mozo Expert Choice Badge
    International Travel Insurance
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    Yes
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    $5,000 limit per policy with option to increase limit

    Get protection in a few simple steps with Freely travel insurance all in the palm of your hand. Freely Travel offers 24/7 emergency and medical support, 24/7 customer service. Plus, you can tailor your policy so you only pay for what you need, and adapt your cover in near real time. Add-ons such as car rental excess, snow sports or other activities also available. Receive 10% off your travel insurance policy with promo code: MOZO10. T&Cs apply, go to site for full detail.

    Details
  • Mozo Expert Choice Badge
    Comprehensive
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    No
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    Unlimited

    Enjoy unlimited medical cover and 24/7 emergency assistance services when you travel. Get unlimited cover for cancellation fees and prepaid travel expenses. Cover for luggage and travel documents. $5,000,000 personal liability cover.

    Details
  • Comprehensive
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    Yes
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    Unlimited

    If you are overseas, this insurance provides access to 24-hour emergency assistance and unlimited cover for emergency medical and hospital expenses. It also includes 38 automatically included pre-existing medical conditions, plus river cruising, motorbikes and mopeds included at no extra cost (T&Cs apply). RACV Members receive 15% off RACV Travel Insurance. Winner of a Mozo Experts Choice 2024 Exceptional Quality Travel Insurance Award^

    Details
  • Mozo Expert Choice Badge
    Bare Essentials
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    No
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    $2,500

    Backed by the NIB, one of Australia’s largest travel insurance providers, Travel Insurance Saver brings you peace of mind on your travels. Compare three tiers of insurance cover, featuring benefits like 24 hour emergency assistance, emergency medical cover, luggage cover, cancellation cover and more.

    Details