Cruise industry drip pricing

The cruise industry is well known for its drip pricing practices where the cheapest possible fare is advertised for the worst room in the worst spot on the ship. You end up paying extra for a better cabin in a better position, with a window or balcony. Then there are packages for drinks, inflated cost of excursions and tips.

On a cruise we’ve recently booked, we were charged an extra amount upfront for compulsory tips.

A few days ago, I booked one of the more expensive restaurants. The price was shown as :“from* $85.68 AUD” and all time slots had this price. The * just pointed to some stuff about onboard credit being charged in $US. After booking the restaurant, the price had increased to $87.04 and there was no mention anywhere why it had become more expensive and the invoice wasn’t itemised. I contacted the cruise line and their reply was that once the payment is made, they add taxes and fees.

This wasn’t stated anywhere and I can’t complain as I don’t want to risk being subjected to any bad treatment on the cruise.

What starts out looking like a bargain cruise, turns out to be quite expensive once all the options are added along with the unexpected drip pricing - fees, taxes and tips.


If Choice hasn’t already done it this may be one that Choice can investigate similar to the Airline Super Complaint.


Thanks for the tip off @hitspacebar, I’ll be sure to let my colleagues who are working on travel issues know.


Thanks @hitspacebar - great tip.

@grahroll the cruise industry is on my radar for a future project (Australia has one of the fastest growing cruise markets in the world) however I need to finish up projects on car hire and timeshares before I can get deep into it!

It’s certainly an interesting area.


Definitely the Cruise Industry

Quite a few old leaking boats that seem to have been palmed off on the Aussie Market.


Hi hit spacebar-choice.
Booking a cruise is like buying a car, the advertised product has a price “from” which is always the most basic on offer. For a cruise this means the ‘base’ price is the least attractive stateroom (cabin), on the lowest deck with no window (internal). The prices climb just like cars as the size increases and by location. The centre of the ship is always popular due to reduced movement, so they tend to have a higher price than the forward and aft locations. Add to this ocean views (window) or balcony and the price will increase.
All these price levels are set out on the various cruising web sites and as well as the cruise lines themselves. So, the cost for a cabin should not be a shock. I believe cruising is one of the best value for money holiday options.
However, there is a trap with cruising which is the very high cost for “extras”. It is quite possible to have a cruise and incur no extra cost after paying for your cabin. The amount of food is amazing, and it is possible to have top quality meals breakfast, lunch and dinner even multi-course meals PLUS snack at all hours without costing another cent! Where the cruise lines catch people are if you want something to drink other than plain water. tea or coffee. If you want specialty coffee, “soda” or anything alcohol they are very, very expensive. On a cruise in March there was a bottle of “5-th leg Sauvignon Blanc” for US$57 - I could get the same wine from the local bottle shop for $13!! It is possible to get a drinks package, but to get value for money requires a huge number of drinks to be consumed every day. The trick is to watch for the daily specials for wine, you can save a lot with these.
The other area where cruise lines hit hard with cost is shore tours where the mark up is enormous! However, it is sometimes better to pay the extra and use the on-board booked tour to ensure that it is safe and guarantee getting you back on the ship before it sails! If you are comfortable with the port a lot of money can be save organising your own tours.

The issue raised about the different actual price compared to the stated price could be due to the exchange rate changing. The currency on ships depends on the home port. So a US based cruise line will have all costs in US$; when you display the cost in A$ the amount will vary by the exchange rate which the cruise line has determined applies at the time.
As for VAT, it again depends on the home port. For the US it is always added after the sale and it is usually not shown in the displayed price. This is quite disconcerting for Australians who expect the GST to be already included in the price. Canada has the same system as the US, and there can be different rates of VAT depending on the item - I have no idea how that works!

Yes, cruises can be very good value, but at the same time, once you are on board there are many temptations to spend, and spend a lot. Passengers are a trapped market, so thee is not a big choice, plus there is the psychological factor - you are there so why skimp, why not just enjoy yourself!


We’ve been on a number of cruises and have booked a few more already. The cost is not an issue. We always get a balcony in a good spot and don’t mind paying a lot more on a more upmarket cruise line. My issue is when the cost of a dinner is stated at one price but charged at another price with no indication anywhere that this would be the case. They could at least say there would be fees included before you hit the final payment button or even on the receipt, but when there is nothing to say why you’ve been charged more, that’s what I have an issue with.