Are Cruises Worth It?

Cruises are most worth it for travelers who value convenience over flexibility in their travel experience.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Cruises can be a great vacation idea, especially if you’re not overly interested in trip planning.

One of the most significant benefits of a cruise is that much of the work is done for you, including the itinerary, dining and entertainment options. That convenience can sometimes come with a big price tag, so it’s normal to wonder, “Are cruises worth it?”

Let’s look at the different aspects of cruising, what’s included on a cruise and how that compares against other vacations.

What’s included on a cruise

One of the best parts about a cruise is that it's all-inclusive, at least to a certain degree.

The true extent of what’s included will depend on your cruise line and any packages that you have, but in general, here’s what's included:

  • Meals, including fast food, sit-down restaurants and some room service.

  • Shows.

  • Other live entertainment.

  • Pool access and pool towels.

  • Water, coffee and tea.

  • Housekeeping.

  • Port taxes.

What’s not included on a cruise

The free options are likely more than enough to keep you entertained, but if you’re interested in more, the following items typically incur additional costs:

  • Alcohol.

  • Specialty beverages. 

  • Specialty restaurants.

  • Spa treatments.

  • Gift shop purchases.

  • Excursions.

  • Some onboard events, such as wine tastings and cooking classes. 

  • Gratuities.

  • Internet.

  • Laundry.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some cruise lines allow you to bring a limited selection of alcohol onboard.

Pros and cons of a cruise

Is a cruise worth it? It can be, though you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of your cruise before deciding to book. Here are a few benefits and drawbacks to most cruise vacations:



Food included.

Alcohol and some meals cost extra.

Less planning required.

Less flexibility.

Itinerary can have multiple stops.

May be expensive.

All-in-one booking process.

No control over itinerary.

Entertainment provided.

Ships can be crowded.

Can budget easily.

Additional costs may be inflated.

As you can see, many of the positives of booking a cruise come from convenience. A cruise allows you to pay a single company, after which you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation.

Even if you spend more, you’re still only dealing with a single business and one point of sale. It’s simple and takes far less effort than researching all of your destinations, finding which activities are available, booking accommodations and figuring out where to eat.

But along with the convenience comes a lack of flexibility. Sure, you may be glad to stop at whatever port the cruise line chooses, but what if you’d like to stay overnight? What if you’ve already been to the location and prefer to go elsewhere?

As a guest aboard a ship, you have little control over where you’re going and how long you’ll be there.

And because most cruises aren’t totally all-inclusive, you may spend more than you planned once you're onboard. If you want to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks, dine at a specialty restaurant or take a guided onshore excursion, the additional costs can add up quickly.

Comparing a cruise to other vacations

So what does it look like when you compare a cruise with other vacations? A trip has many different aspects, including flights, accommodation, meals, activities and more.

Here’s a look at a five-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Carnival, which is typically a more budget-friendly cruise line.

It takes off in mid-July and makes three stops across five nights, including Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Carnival’s private island before returning home.

When adding in taxes, fees and port expenses, you’re looking at $2,184 for two guests — and that doesn’t include tips, Wi-Fi, port excursions or alcohol. However, you get all meals, an interior stateroom, stops in two different countries and plenty of entertainment.

In contrast, here’s a look at the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach in the Bahamas:

A five-night stay here would cost $1,785 for two adults, and this beachfront resort includes all meals and drinks, even alcohol. You’ll also have access to Wi-Fi, pools, live entertainment and other activities.

Although the resort price itself is less than the cruise, this doesn’t consider the price of flights to the Bahamas, which may cost more than you’d pay when heading to Miami for a cruise.

It also doesn’t include tipping or the cost of other excursions, similar to what you’d find on a ship.

Finally, by booking with a single resort, you’re locked into one destination, which may not work for you if you’re interested in visiting more than one country.

If you’re interested in planning a cruise

So, are cruise ships worth it? They can be, but it’s a personal decision.

Cruises aren’t right for all types of travelers, especially those who value flexibility during their vacations. However, they can present good value to guests looking for convenience, especially since so much of the effort around planning a trip is eliminated.

Before you book a cruise, compare the price of your vacation against similar options — including accommodations, transportation and meals — to decide whether it's really worth it for you.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

Cards for Cruises from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.


Intro offer


Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

on Bank of America's website

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card

on US Bank's website

U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center. 4X points on travel, gas stations, and EV charging stations. 2X points on streaming services. 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, and dining. 1X point on all other eligible purchases. Points never expire.


Intro offer


Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. That's a $500 value redeemable towards travel, gift cards, cash back, merchandise and more.

See more cards for cruises
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