In Travel Tips on Friday 12th Apr, 2019

What you need to know about service charges on a cruise

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While many of your meals on the ship are included in your cruise fare, most cruise lines now offer 'specialty' dinning options for an additional service charge. Source: Getty

A cruise vacation may seem all-inclusive but, in actual fact, this is often not the case. In fact, you may even have to pay a service charge for some activities and services onboard and, if you’re not careful, you may be shocked when you get your final bill.

Unlike gratuities, a service charge is an integral part of the cruise and therefore the amount cannot be adjusted or removed, Travel at 60 team leader Kellie Banditt explains.

However, if you want the full cruise experience, you can keep your costs under control by planning ahead. Here are some of the most common service charges on a cruise.


One of the best parts of a cruise holiday is all the amazing food. While many of your meals on the ship are included in your cruise fare, most cruise lines now offer ‘speciality’ dining options for an additional fee. As an example, if you dine at Celebrity Cruises widely popular Japanese restaurant, Sushi on Five, a 18 per cent service charge is automatically added to your check.


Meanwhile, a corkage fee will be charged should you wish to consume your own wine or champagne onboard, however, each cruise line has its own BYO alcohol policy, so make sure to check with yours before you set sail. For example, Princess Cruises permits one 750 millilitre bottle of wine or champagne per guest, which will not be subject to a corkage fee if consumed in the cabin. However, when brought to a restaurant or bar, a $15 corkage fee applies.


Doing laundry while travelling can be a tedious chore, but unless you’re packing fresh clothes for each day and night away, it’s a necessity for long-term travel. Some cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises provide onboard laundry facilities, while others, including Royal Caribbean, requires guests to pay for each item that needs to be washed.


Onboard activities, like trivia and cooking demonstrations, are generally free, but you might find some other activities such as dancing lessons or bingo cost extra. In most cases, cruise lines list on their websites what activities are not included in the base fare. If you’re not sure, simply ask the front desk.

Spa and salon services

On a typical cruise ship, there is no charge to use the sauna or steam room, however some cruise lines ask for an additional fee for their more luxurious spa services. For example, Carnival Cruise Line requires guests to pay an extra $40 per day to have access to the thalassotherapy pool (salt water) and thermal suites.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you paid service charges on a cruise before?

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