The cruise industry has a few secrets you probably don’t know about.

First-time cruisers are often surprised by customs within the cruise industry. You can save yourself a lot of headaches and trouble if you familiarize yourself with how the cruise industry works before you embark.

Cruise Industry Advertises Per Person Prices

Cruise lines often show attractive prices, like $299 for a cruise.

Unfortunately, the price is based on double occupancy. So, to take advantage of the $299 sale, you have to bring a friend to pay for the other $299.

If you want a room to yourself, they will charge you a “single supplement” or double price. Cruise lines require at least 2 people per cabin to meet their sales quotas.

They expect each person to spend an additional $1,000 onboard on drinks, excursions, and more.

Also, they never advertise the cruise price with fees and taxes. You don’t find out until you reach check out on their website. Typically, this adds an extra $150-$200 per person, more for a longer cruise.

Cruise Industry is Cashless

Cruise ships are cashless places.

When you check-in to your cruise, you provide a payment method like a credit card or cash deposit. Each person receives a plastic card, which is both your room key and wallet.

Whenever you pay for something on the ship, a drink, an excursion, a t-shirt, the ship charges it to your room. At the end of the cruise, you receive an invoice of all charges and the amount they will charge your card.

Tip: If you want to limit spending, put a few hundred dollars of cash on your account so you cannot exceed your budget unless you add more money at Guest Services.

Cruise Industry Can Change Schedules

Some people choose cruises because of their itineraries. Like, they may dream of visiting Puerto Rico and Saint Maartin because of something they saw on YouTube.

In my case, I wanted to visit those two ports, but Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 demolished those beautiful islands.

The cruise line emailed me that they changed the itinerary to the Western Caribbean (Mexico and Bahamas). Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed, but more so for the people who lived on those islands and the destruction they faced. There’s nothing anyone could do about it, no one’s fault, but still, I very much wanted to go.

Every cruise line has a cruise ticket or terms and conditions. It spells out what rights the cruise line has, and on occasion, what rights passengers have.

In the case of ports and itineraries, the cruise line can do whatever they want. If a port is not safe to visit, the cruise line will change to a sea day or plan a different port. This is common when visiting a cruise line’s private resort island in the Bahamas. Some days the winds are too high to dock, so the ship skips that stop.

If you plan a cruise with specific ports in mind, be aware that the cruise line can change it at any time with no notice or compensation whatsoever.

Three chefs around a very large cake that reads Thank You for Cruising With Us on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas 2018
Two chefs and a restaurant officer around a very large cake that reads Thank You for Cruising on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas

Cruise Industry Uses Automatic Gratuities

Most new cruisers are surprised that most cruise lines automatically add gratuities at the end of the cruise. Typically, you pay $14-17 per person per day. Most of that money goes to your cabin attendant and main dining room servers, but some of it is spread among other crew members. 

On a 7-night cruise, you might have an additional $200 bill at the end of the cruise you weren’t expecting. You can prepay gratuities if you don’t want an invoice when you leave the cruise ship.

Some cruisers remove the gratuities and pay cash directly to people. It’s your choice, of course, but we recommend paying the gratuities and gifting cash above that amount if you are happy with the service.

Please don’t remove gratuities and give no cash tip. Unless your service from the cabin attendant and dining room servers were terrible, you directly hurt these folks, and they do not receive pay.

Cruise Industry Doesn’t Pay Crew Members Well

You may complain about the cost of the cruise, but there are a lot of things your fare covers, like crew members’ pay.

Officers receive salaries and do not keep a portion of the automatic gratuities. Crew members take home about $600 per month, and they work 7 days a week for 12-14 hours per day.

Of those crew members are two distinctive groups: cabin attendants and dining room servers. These two types of crew members are entirely dependent on the automatic gratuities the ship charges at the end of your cruise.

Be kind and gracious to your attendants and servers, and they will be helpful and courteous to you as well. The best way to thank them is with a cash tip.

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Cruise Industry Has More Secrets

Although these are not the only secrets of the cruise industry, they are some of the most commonly asked. Cruise fans have complained for years about the unclear pricing strategies the cruise industry uses.

When planning your cruise, be sure to read the passenger ticket/contract carefully, so you are aware of what rights you have and do not have.

Be kind when tipping. Please don’t be cheap. Veteran and new cruisers alike do not care for the gratuity system to pay crew members. Unfortunately, that is how things are for now. You can do good for others by paying the auto grats and offering cash tips.

Do you have any questions about cruising? Leave a comment or send an email.