Home Cruise Preparation 7 Cruise Lines That Don’t Nickel-And-Dime You At Sea

ON MANY CRUISE ships, the most dazzling sleight of hand is not an evening magic show, but the extra charges the crew exacts for everything from a ginger ale to a yoga class. Yes, fares usually include all meals, but so-called specialty restaurants often impose a cover fee. Dozens of other onboard offerings, from sun-deck cabanas and golf simulators to Chiantis and cappuccinos typically cost extra. “People don’t like to be nickel-and-dimed,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises. “It’s just cheating.” In a backlash against this pricing scheme, a flotilla of cruise lines has embraced the more inclusive model that’s standard on riverboats and super luxury liners, but rarely found among the upper-middle class of vessels—until now. These aren’t bargain boats, but they spare cruisers a sticker-shock denouement. The fringe benefits included in the fare vary widely from line to line. Here’s a peek at the perks:

Azamara Club Cruises

Launching its third ship, Pursuit, this August, Azamara prides itself on staying relatively small and nimble. Vessels accommodate 694 passengers each and tend to stay in port longer than the big-ship drive-bys.

What’s Included All beer, wine, all nonalcoholic beverages and some spirits, plus room service, self-service laundry, shuttle service to and from the port and the city center (where available) and one shore excursion per person on trips that are longer than seven days, excluding the trans-Atlantic crossings.

What Isn’t Meals at the specialty restaurants—one the fancy Italian Aqualina, the other a steakhouse—cost $30 per person no matter what you order; port fees.

Sample Sailing An 11-day trip from Miami to Lima in a stateroom with balcony, $4,499 per person.

Crystal Cruises

With two medium sized cruise ships (848 and 980 passengers) and one 62-passenger yacht, Crystal is pricier than the others listed here but packs big-boat amenities and activities into smaller luxury specs. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa consults on some menus.

What’s Included One meal at each of the specialty restaurants, all beverages, room service, Wi-Fi and gratuities. Fitness classes are also complimentary so you can do yoga, Pilates and “chi-energizing” to your cardio’s content.

What Isn’t Port fees, which can add hundreds of dollars per person to each fare.

Sample Sailing A 10-day round trip to Montreal through the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a stateroom with balcony on the newly upgraded Symphony, $7,850 per person.


This French cruise line is very French, from the Veuve Clicquot to la gastronomie, and sails 10 small, stylish expedition ships: one masted sailboat, an icebreaker and eight cruising yachts. The biggest ships accommodate 264 passengers.

What’s Included Room service, open bar, port fees, and on select itineraries, airfare and shore excursions.

What Isn’t Super premium wines and spirits

Sample Sailing An 8-day trip from Panama to Martinique in a stateroom with balcony, $4,606 per person.

The Viking Sun in Hong Kong
The Viking Sun in Hong Kong
Sea Cloud Cruises

The dramatically masted 64-passenger Sea Cloud, built in 1931 for heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, is a throwback to old-world sailing to lesser known ports in Europe and the Caribbean. The company also sails a slightly larger windjammer, the 94-passenger Sea Cloud II.

What’s Included Wine and beer with lunch and dinner, all nonalcoholic beverages, gratuities (as of 2019), a bottle of Champagne in cabin, daily fresh fruit in your cabin, port fees, use of onboard laptop to send emails, and access to water sport equipment.

What Isn’t Drinks at the bar.

Sample Sailing A 10-day sail from Bilbao to Lisbon, from $3,955 per person.

Viking Ocean Cruises

Inaugurated in 2015, the four-ship fleet (930 passengers on each) is new. A fifth ship, Viking Orion, launches in June.

What’s Included Lots of breakfast herring, wine and beer at lunch and dinner, one shore excursion in each port (such as a walking tour in Jerusalem), room service, nonalcoholic drinks, port fees, Wi-Fi, self-service laundry and access to the spa’s “Thermal Suite,” where you can hop between the sauna, hot tub and snow room, Nordic style.

What Isn’t Gratuities (they’re automatically added to your bill after the cruise).

Sample Sailing A 13-day voyage from Bangkok to Jakarta in a stateroom with balcony, from $3,999 per person.

A Windstar ship in Norway.
A Windstar ship in Norway.
Windstar Cruises

The biggest of Windstar’s three sailing yachts and three cruise ships hold 310 passengers. Zodiac excursions, James Beard Foundation chefs on some journeys and scholarly lecturers add up to active, elegant trips.

What’s Included Room service, nonalcoholic beverages, use of water sports equipment and, on select itineraries, evening events—like a white-glove dinner and concert at the ruins of Ephesus, Turkey.

What Isn’t Port fees.

Sample Sailing A 10-day journey from Copenhagen to Stockholm in a balcony suite, $5,589 per person.

Silversea Cruises

With a fleet of nine ships—four expedition vessels and five cruisers with a maximum capacity of 608 passengers—Silversea just re-launched Silver Spirit after stretching it to enlarge the pool and public spaces and adding a restaurant for a total of eight.

What’s Included Butler service; drinks, including wine and spirits; room service, gratuities, excursions on expedition cruises and on some itineraries, airfare.

What Isn’t Cover chargers for some of the specialty restaurants, ranging from $40 to $60 a person.

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