The Truth Behind Living Expenses On Cruise Ships

Posted by:     Tags:  ,     Posted date:  April 14, 2012  |  15 Comments
Insert Drawing :)

Quite often people will inform me that I have no expenses while working on a cruise ship. And I’m sure that they sincerely believe it. They probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and that monsters come into your room when you turn-off the lights at night. (That last one may actually be true, good thing I have a night-light.)

As it’s not socially acceptable to punch these people in the face, I decided to write a blog post about it. The reality of it is of course we have expenses, just perhaps not as much. All we are doing is working abroad, not moving to a parallel universe where the concept of money ceases to exist. Also I’m going to be blunt, the salaries are much less than the equivalent occupations in developed countries, at least for entry-level positions. I’m not saying that you can’t save money, just that working on a cruise ship is not a magical world where everything is free, we bathe in champagne and ride unicorns to work. (Indisputably, we get free travel to dozens of ports around the world. So that’s still awesome. And I love getting huge chunks of vacation time, even if it’s unpaid.)

It’s all about living within your means and if people don’t know how to manage their money, they can always find a way to spend it all, no matter how much they earn. I think I’m reasonably sensible with my expenses while on ships. I don’t want to be a miser but I also rather spend the bulk of my money traveling during my vacation, rather than blow everything while working and stay at home while on vacation playing video games in my undies. However, it does seems like some crew members prefer the opposite. They love going ashore for lunch and drinks, and they spend so much money on taxis you’d think that they were terribly debilitated with polio, rendering them unable to walk short distances.

In fact I suspect that, this is your typical crew member’s ideal definition of traveling: take a taxi to a beach, buy an over-priced burger and a bucket of beers, get a tan, take a taxi back to the ship. Sure, it’s fun and social but I rather use my saved money to I dunno, fly to Poland for a wedding or go to Burning Man. But hey, to each his own.

Don’t get me wrong, I love trying local food when in Europe, Asia, Mexico and South America. But for the most part, food in the Caribbean seems to be your typical overpriced unhealthy North American fare. Having said that, I can see why crew members do it. It’s pretty much the same reason why most people don’t cook every single every meal at home – to try something different. Besides, anyone on-board is going to get bored of eating the same meals every day for 6 months. I’m pretty lucky though, as I’ve had years of experience with cooking for myself. You know what I mean, when you make a lasagne for one, that means you’re eating lasagne for a week.

Anyway, as I said earlier I was going to start publishing my expenses on a monthly basis. Since I’ve kept a detailed account of my expenses since working on ships, here’s a preview of things to come. For simplicity, these are average expenses incurred only during the months I worked and do not include expenses incurred in advance, in preparation for vacations (eg. flights, music festival tickets, blinky lights etc).

cruise ships expenses

cruise ships expenses

As you can see, it’s not too bad. But I did spend much more on taxis than I normally do. And what the internet figure doesn’t show you is the miserably pathetic hours (and speed) I got for it. Fortunately, I made up for it all with duty-free booze. (Evidently, quite excessively in 2011.)


This post was sponsored by How To Work On A Cruise Ship – complete eGuide.

Let's keep in touch: @roymarvelous, facebook & RSS. Love you long time!
About Me

In 2004, I sold everything I owned and left New Zealand to go see the world. In that time, I've run with bulls in Pampolona, watched the Man burn at Black Rock City, volunteered at a special-needs summer camp in New York, hosted & couchsurfed with 100+ people, taught English in Prague, trained with Muay Thai fighters in Phuket, worked on 5 different cruise ships, hugged strangers on streets in 7 countries and this one time, I even hitchhiked naked (but that was back home, so that doesn't really count). I moved to Vancouver, BC in 2012, to embark on new adventures. It's nice here, I think I may stay awhile! Let's connect: @roymarvelous, facebook & RSS.

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  • T-roy

    LOL, I love how your booze budget got larger in 2011 and your food expenses got smaller, with your taxi expenses getting higher… it all connects in the end! :)

    I am heading home to the US in a month (after 3 years of traveling overseas) and I have finally decided I want to try a contract on a cruise ship for work. Been talking with about it and am getting excited about it, though I know it’s a bad time to apply for work right now probably.

    One BIG reason why I want to do this is to save money for future travels to but also to see a new port every few days. I do street/portrait photography as a hobby and figured if I can get 2-3 hrs to walk around and take a few portraits, then I would be happy as a clam!

    Would you mind saying how much free time you get on average for each port? I guess it matters which job you have as to how much time you get as well.

    • Roy Marvelous

      Admittedly, I was a bit shocked by the 2011 numbers :)
      Actually, the cruise industry is growing so it’s a great time to apply for work. Photographers have it good, as the photo studio needs to be closed when in port.

  • Ayngelina

    I’m so glad you didn’t punch me in the face!

    • Roy Marvelous

      Don’t worry, I’ve only punched a girl once in the face. Even then, it was accidental. It was supposed to be a pillow fight and I took the “fight” part too literally…

  • Caanan @ No Vacation Required

    Nearly $300 a month in booze?! Aren’t your drinks like $1.50 each? How do you keep yourself upright?

    • Roy Marvelous

      $1.50? Don’t be ridiculous Caanan!
      It’s $1.27 :D

      Anyway that’s beer – wine and spirits cost more. And then there are martinis ;)
      But yeah that’s still a lot! You know, drinking everyday is normalized on ships and it all adds up…

  • Margyle

    Wow… and I guess since you’re on a ship they really have you cornered eh?
    I think a lot of people simply cannot budget… and have strange notions of what is an expense and what is not, paired with the most elaborate rationalization system to justify their spending.

    That being said, you spent less than a dollar a day on booze… cheers to you!

    • Roy Marvelous

      Indeed, there are lots of ways to spend money onboard if one wants. Btw, that was monthly, not yearly – so I averaged about $9/day on booze ;)

  • Will – Gap Daemon

    Great breakdown mate! Good to see that booze makes up a healthy breakdown of your expenses there. I take it with such an investment you get laid proportionately right?

    • Roy Marvelous

      Well, let’s just say that soberness = dry spell. Haha.

  • Mark

    Interesting breakdown. I like the way you don’t include booze under “frivolous things” ;)

    • Roy Marvelous

      Haha, well the “friviolous things” section was for materialistic purchases ;)

  • Hunter Mann

    Hey Roy,
    Great to find your blog! I found it because I was searching for the truth about cruise ships…(a book and obviously an animated topic).
    I worked on a cruise ship for a 14-day cruise, doing a research video for the cruise ship company and their development team. I ran the video camera and videotaped discussion groups on the deck. Any passengers could participate, and free booze for them. I only had to work 1 hour a day the whole trip, nice! Since we were working for the ship, they gave us great cabins and lots of perks. The only time I spent money on taxis was a few times needing to rush back to the dock to catch my ride back to the cruise ship! Of course, some of the ports would have been really nice to get stranded at, like Isla San Adres, Colombia(actually it’s off the coast of Nicaragua and had lots of Spanish-speaking rastas playing old tie calypso & mento music, yeh mon!).

    I like your budgeting, looks like you went light on booze compared to the people who work down in Antarctica!
    I liked reading your brief bio. Cool you’ve had lots of adventures, me too… love it or hate it, freelance lifestyle is mo betta! I’ve been to The Playa/BM many times, often on a film crew there, but always lots of fun, great art and amazing people there too.
    I toured thru Vancouver area a few times years ago with my traveling cinema… yes, little film festival traveling by bicycle & trailer. Someday I’ll take my cinema on to cruise ships, then “forget” to return to the ship when we reach c.u.b.a. :)