Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Comp cruises aren’t exactly free

Comp cruises aren’t exactly free

  • 0
cruise ship

So you’ve received an offer for a “complimentary cruise” from your favorite Atlantic City casino.

Even though the fare is free, it’s still going to cost you.

First, read the offer carefully. There probably will be restrictions on where and when you can sail, as well as the type of stateroom.

You’re going to pay a daily service charge, i.e., gratuity for stateroom attendants, dining room servers and others, that will range from $13 to $18 depending on the cruise line and stateroom type.

Plus there are sales taxes and port fees. These will vary depending on your departure port, how many nights and when you sail, and how many — and which — ports you visit.

And these charges are per person.

To determine your final cost, here are some other factors to consider:

• Insurance — If you get sick or something forces you to cancel, or you become ill during your cruise, insurance can save you a lot of money.

• Optional snacks, meals and beverages — While some sort of food is generally available 24 hours a day, you may be in the mood for pizza at 1 a.m. Then there are those tempting “specialty coffee drinks,” maybe a freshly-baked pastry, or a mid-morning Bloody Mary or a pre-dinner cocktail. Aside from the retail cost — which can get expensive — crew members preparing and delivering your order share an additional mandatory service charge. Alternatively, all cruise lines offer packages that include unlimited alcoholic beverages and/or soft drinks, but these can get pricey ($50 to $100 per person per day, plus a mandatory gratuity. (And both parties sharing a stateroom must take the package.) Related to this, if you want to skip the main dining room for dinner — included in your fare — most ships offer à la carte options ($25 to $50 per person per meal, plus that mandatory gratuity).

• Promotions — If a cruise line is advertising promotions, ask if you’re eligible. With Carnival and Royal Caribbean, they generally are not, but Norwegian Cruise Line frequently offers beverage, dining, WiFi and excursion credits that can save hundreds of dollars; however, NCL also is the only major cruise line that charges an “administrative fee” – another $200 to $250 per person.

• Shore excursions — Planning to sightsee? Sometimes these tours can double the cost of your trip. Yes, you can save money by booking on your own, but, keep in mind, if your excursion gets delayed and returns to the port after your ship departs, you’re on your own to get to the next port or return home.

Finally, there will be transportation costs to get you to the port, parking if you arrive using your own vehicle, and, if necessary, hotel accommodations and other expenses the night before your departure. Even though most cruises begin in late afternoon, it’s probably not wise to fly in the same day.

Recreational gambler Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. Have a comment on this or a question specifically related to an Atlantic City casino, players club or other promotion? Email Darryl at and he’ll try to respond to you personally. Your question – without your name – may appear in a future column.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.