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What's included on a cruise?

Lorna Cowan / 26 July 2016 ( 11 June 2019 )

Considering a cruise for your next holiday? Find out what's commonly included on a cruise and what to look out for when choosing the right cruise for you.

Close up of red wine and pizza
Dining on-board a cruise is generally included. However, you may need to pay extra for specialty restaurants and drinks.

Considering a cruise for your next holiday? Cruises can represent great value for money, but before you book, take a close look at what’s included in the price. The cost of your cruise usually includes meals, some drinks, entertainment, on-board activities and cabin service. However, companies differ, as do the cruise ships operated by each cruise company. If you are in any doubt, speak to your travel agent or cruise company.

Find out what's included on a Saga cruise


Being on a cruise is a bit like enjoying full board at a hotel, as your breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in the price. A variety of hot and cold cuisine, including healthy options, will be available throughout the day. Some cruise companies will even offer afternoon tea with scones or sandwiches, as well as snacks to nibble on. Specific dietary needs shouldn’t be a problem – just tell your travel agent at the time of booking and get your cruise line to confirm that the chef can cater for you.

The type of restaurants you can dine in will depend on the cruise company and the number of passengers on board. More often than not, though, breakfast and lunch will be a self-service affair, with waiter service in the evenings. A la carte restaurants, pizzerias, grills and al fresco dining may also be options – some with an additional charge. 

Find out the policy with regards evenings sittings. On large cruise ships there may be two sittings, so you will be given a specific time for dinner. Other cruise ships, such as those offered by Saga, allow you to dine at your leisure, and have no strict seating arrangements.

Q I’m almost totally deaf and don’t want to be distracted by, or embarrass, other passengers on a cruise when dining. Can I arrange for a table for two at all meals, or will I just have to take pot luck with larger tables?

This will not be a problem for any cruise line worth its sea salt. Saga Cruises recommend that your dilemma is brought to the attention of the ship’s maitre d’ as soon as you are on board so that a suitable table can be provided at whichever sitting you prefer. Indeed, whoever is booking the trip should flag it up to the customer service adviser and check that your requirements have been noted when you receive written confirmation.

Extract taken from Saga Magazine, February 2018. For more travel tips, subscribe to the magazine today!


When it comes to what’s included with regards drinks on a cruise, it can often be a complicated matter. Complimentary tea and coffee is usually available throughout the day, but if you order a speciality coffee, for example a latte, then you may be charged.

Some cruises give you a choice of wines to enjoy with your lunch and evening meal. A few others will allow you to bring your own wine, but charge you corkage. If you’re on a cruise where wine is an extra cost, don’t worry about having to drink it all at one meal. Your waiter will cork it and keep it for the following evening.

Alcohol and soft drinks packages can be bought in advance so you can enjoy unlimited beverages without worrying about mounting costs. However, be aware that spirits may be local brands and not your usual choice.

Most cruise ships won’t allow you to buy duty-free alcohol to consume on board. If you are out on an excursion and buy a bottle of rum, for example, you will be asked to hand it over for ‘safe keeping’ until disembarkation.

All inclusive cruises: what you need to know

Daytime cruise activities

On a cruise you’ll find an amazing amount of activities to keep you occupied throughout the day while at sea.. Deck quoits, a bowling alley, table tennis, ballroom... when will you fit everything in? You may want to play bingo and bridge, attend a talk about painting with watercolours, or perhaps listen to a string quartet. And the great news is, many of these activities are included in your cruise price.

On a smaller cruise ship, or on an expedition cruise, you’ll be able to attend lectures and talks to learn more about the destination you’re sailing to, or about the history and archaeology of the area. Regular quizzes may be on the itinerary too.

What to expect on a shore excursion

Evening entertainment on board

Go on holiday to London and you’ll spend a fortune on theatre tickets to see a West End show. On board a cruise, seats to watch impressive productions with a talented cast will be included in the price. You may get the chance to see a musical stage show, a circus cabaret act or even a spellbinding illusionist.

If you prefer something a little more intimate, you’ll be free to relax in the lounge bar and listen to a pianist tickling the ivories or a jazz band performing a few tunes.

TV screens in communal areas will ensure you don’t miss any big sporting events. And on some ships, you’ll find a cinema on board, showing new blockbusters as well as timeless classics. Your ship may even have an open-air big screen, allowing you to watch a romantic film under the stars.

Social get-togethers

Regardless of whether you’re travelling in a group, as a couple, or alone, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet up with other passengers on a cruise. Whether you share a laugh during a keep-fit workout or swap tips at the welcome cocktail party, new friends are often made at sea.

For solo travellers, small cruise ships can be more friendly and welcoming, and Saga organise many social get-togethers as part of your cruise. At a singles lunch or drinks party, you can meet like-minded independent holidaymakers. Saga will also make sure you will find a companion for a day ashore and a dance partner to glide with across the ballroom floor.

Discover why Saga Cruises are the perfect holiday option for solo travellers. Find out more here

Learning experiences

Want to learn how to cook a Thai meal, dance the Argentine tango, or more about the legends of Greek mythology? There’s a whole wealth of learning experiences to be enjoyed aboard a cruise ship. And it’s easy to get involved as workshops with experts and talks by educational speakers are often included in the price.

Book a themed cruise, with a focus on music or food and drink for example, and many additional activities will be on offer. Wine connoisseurs and world-class chefs will be on hand to share tips and advice, allowing you to indulge a new interest or hobby.

Swimming pool and gym

When cruising in sunny waters, it’s nice to cool down by taking a dip in an outdoor swimming pool. On larger ocean cruise ships these pools may come with waterslides and surf simulators, on smaller vessels they may be more of a dip pool.

Use of a fully-equipped gym, as well as a sauna and steam room, is also often included in the price. However, you will need to check to see what keep-fit sessions are free and which exercise classes incur a fee.

Keeping fit on a cruise

Fun for all the family

Even if you don’t book a cruise that caters mainly for children, unless you’re on an adults-only cruise there will be activities for the younger members of your family included in the price. Many cruises offer a kids’ club and an activity programme to suit teenagers, as well as child-friendly pools (few ships have lifeguards on duty, though) and games rooms. Take note that babysitting is usually an extra charge.

Chauffeur service

An excellent chauffeur service is now included in the price of ocean cruises offered by a few cruise companies, including Saga. If you’re leaving from a UK port, your holiday can start from home as a chauffeur will turn up at your doorstep and take you, and all your luggage, to the ship. You just sit back, relax and let someone else do the driving. A car will be waiting to take you home at the end of your holiday too.

On Saga’s river cruises, if your selected cruise does not include the chauffeur service, travel by rail or coach is included to the port or departure airport. Of if you’d prefer to drive, free off-airport parking is arranged.

Booked your holiday? Protect it from the moment you buy Saga's Travel Insurance.

Unlimited baggage

Not sure what to pack in your suitcase to wear on your cruise? Don’t worry. If you are departing from the UK, then some cruise lines will give you unlimited baggage allowance, so you can bring your whole wardrobe. If you are using the chauffeur service, you won’t even need to transport your bags as they will be picked up from your home, carried onto the ship and left in your cabin.

Cabin service

When you book a cruise, a cabin steward will be allocated to you, regardless of the grade of cabin you have paid for. They will make your bed, clean your cabin and, on some cruises, offer a turn-down service every evening. On Saga cruises, free 24-hour room service is included.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.