By Donna Heiderstadt | Published on July 25, 2023


If you're new to cruising and are ready to book a thrilling vacation at sea, you're probably wondering how to make the most of everything these incredible ships have to offer — from thrilling onboard activities like waterslides and simulated skydiving to Broadway style shows and live music. You also may have a few questions about what is included on a cruise. It helps to think of it this way: Your cruise fare is mostly all-inclusive — your stateroom, dining in a variety of locations, onboard entertainment and access to pools, hot tubs and other amenities and activities are typically included on a cruise.

So what is included on a cruise, and what do you pay extra for while onboard? Here's a helpful guide to everything that's complimentary. You'll also get a clear understanding of all the ways you can upgrade your getaway with memory-making experiences for an additional fee.

What Is Free?

It's hard to top the feeling of stepping onboard a ship knowing that the cruise fare you've already paid covers most expenses. Your comfortable, stateroom — whether you chose a cozy, budget-friendly interior or a suite with access to a private balcony — is part of the package. Royal Caribbean® ships also offer some of the coolest suites at sea, from the AquaTheater Suite with views of daring dive shows to the two-level Ultimate Family Suite with video games, cinema and slide. Guests with disabilities can also book an accessible stateroom in many categories.

When not exploring ashore, your sea days can be spent relaxing by one of the pools, including the adults-only Solarium pool, or enjoying free activities such as card games and dance classes. You can tame the waves on the FlowRider®* surf simulator or reach new heights on the rock-climbing wall and your smarts with trivia contests. When it's time for an adrenaline rush, challenge your squad to an epic laser tag face off. Get your adrenaline fix riding a zip line 10 decks up, or enjoy waterslides and laser-tag games, all for free.

At night, our ships rev things up with complimentary dance parties and clubs, outdoor movies and Broadway-caliber entertainment. The cruise line is known for offering some of the most innovative entertainment at sea. Performances in the Royal Theater, which include award-winning Broadway musicals such as Grease, Hairspray and Mamma Mia! as well as dive shows in the AquaTheater, multimedia performances in Two70® and ice shows in Studio B, are all included in your cruise fare. Live music in the ship's bars, lounges and public spaces, such as pool decks and atriums, along with karaoke, poolside movies and '70s, '80s and '90s-themed dance parties, are also complimentary.

It helps to think of it this way: Your cruise fare is mostly all-inclusive ... and what you choose to spend extra on to enhance your experience is mostly up to you.

Dining: What Food Is Included?

Main Dining Room A La Carte
Woman Enjoying Lobster at the Main Dining Room

All ships have at least seven dining venues, with enough free options that you can feast your way through an entire cruise without paying extra for a single meal. Complimentary dining venues vary by ship, with Windjammer and the Main Dining Room open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on all ships, along with as many as five additional free options.

Depending on your mood, you can rise and shine with a breakfast of eggs, bacon, fresh fruit and unlimited coffee at the buffet or order a big plate of blueberry pancakes in the Main Dining Room. For lunch, grab a barbecue chicken pizza at Sorrento's (included), a fully loaded hot dog with sauerkraut at Dog House (included) or choose from international buffet selections, like paella or sushi. And dinner? It can match your mood: a casual buffet or an elegant sit-down meal with a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts from inspired menus that change daily. 

The Main Dining Room offers an elegant culinary experience morning, noon, and night. At breakfast consider eggs Benedict or a chorizo-laden burrito. In the evening, you'll find rotating menus with everything from savory duck terrine and crispy Vidalia onion tarts to marinated pork loin and Moroccan-spiced ahi tuna. Windjammer Café, another popular option, is a buffet-style choice. In the morning you'll find custom-made omelets and fresh pastries; in the afternoon and evening selections feature salads, pastas, paninis, Asian and Indian dishes, grilled meats and fish and desserts galore.

In addition, there are a variety of included more-focused options. No family-friendly ship would be complete without a pool-side space that serves chicken tenders, hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies -- and Splashaway Café is as popular as you would guess. Sorrento's. with its grab-and-go mouthwatering slices topped with cheese, pepperoni and even BBQ chicken, is a real crowd pleasure. Grown-ups and kids alike flock to El Loco Fresh® for insanely delicious Mexican burritos, tacos and quesadillas. The Dog House is a popular spot that serves up a menu of hot dogs, including a classic Coney Island and a pork bratwurst. Solarium Bistro focuses on lighter fare, with a Mediterranean buffet, featuring fruit, yogurt, Greek salad, hummus, mussels and more. Looking for a snack? Mini Bites, located near the Sports Zone, serves sliders, taquitos and mini cupcakes, all with big flavor. If you're up early — or late for that matter — you'll be grateful for Café Promenade, a 24-hour café that dishes out pastries, wraps and desserts as well as plenty of coffee drinks. The Café @ Two70 and Park Café each serve light meals. Highlights at The Café @ Two70 include a tasty Thai chicken salad and three kinds of grilled cheese; Park Café may be your go-to spot for deli sandwiches. Room Service is also included and complimentary, with one caveat: You can upgrade your continental breakfast with eggs, hash browns or bacon for a $7.95 per room delivery charge.

If you're wondering what drinks are included on a Royal Caribbean cruise, the answer is simple. All guests can enjoy ice water, flavored waters, brewed coffee, assorted teas, iced tea, hot chocolate, milk, lemonade and fruit juices. These are dispensed at self-serve machines in Windjammer Café and other casual dining venues and served in the Main Dining Room and other restaurants.

What Food Is Not Included?

When you want to change things up, enjoy a favorite cuisine or celebrate a special occasion, there are a wide variety of specialty dining options, with the selection varying across the fleet. Popular venues include Chops Grille℠ for steakhouse fare, Giovanni's℠ Italian Kitchen for old-world classics, Izumi for a Far East feast and 150 Central Park for seasonal fine dining. There's even Jamie's Italian, a restaurant serving Tuscan-style fare by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. And, if trying a variety of culinary experiences is a priority, specialty dining packages are a cost-effective way to sample at least three options or as many specialty restaurants as you want. Plus, kids ages 6-12 can dine in a specialty restaurant for $12.99 and little ones age five and younger dine for free.

Not included in the cruise fare are: soda, wine, beer, liquor, cocktails, premium coffee and tea (such as Starbucks®), bottled water and fresh-squeezed juices. You can choose to pay as you go or purchase a beverage package.

What Activities Are Free?

Splashpad at Splashaway Bay on Navigator of the Seas
Boy Splashing Water at the Splashaway Bay

Most must-try activities onboard our ships are included — allowing families to enjoy hours of onboard fun at no added cost. In addition to multiple pools and hot tubs and fully equipped fitness centers, all of these activities are included (availability varies by ship): waterslides (The Perfect Storm℠, Tidal Wave℠, Riptide℠, The Blaster®), Ultimate Abyss℠ dry slide, Splashaway Bay kids aqua park, FlowRider®* surf simulator, rock-climbing wall, ice skating, laser tag, ziplining, mini golf, pickle ball, basketball, fencing, archery, bumper cars, carousel rides and more.

Icon of the Seas℠, debuting in early 2024, will offer even more included amenities, including Thrill Island, the largest waterpark at sea, and Surfside℠, a family-friendly neighborhood with an aqua park, infinity pool and climbable Playscape℠.

In addition, all supervised Adventure Ocean® youth programs — Aquanauts for ages 3-5, Explorers for ages 6-8 and Voyagers for ages 9-11 — and hosted teen programs (for age groups 12-14 and 15-17) in the Living Room and Fuel Teen Club hangout space are free.

Venue names may vary per ship. For the list of dining or entertainment venues, be sure to review things to do on your ship.

What Things Do You Pay For On A Cruise?

The gracious crew members who serve you in the restaurants and bars and keep your stateroom clean are acknowledged via a tipping system. A gratuity of $16 per person per day (in a stateroom) and $18.50 per person per day (in a suite) will be added to your account. In addition, an 18% gratuity is automatically be added to all purchased beverages, mini bar items and spa and salon services.

And while Adventure Ocean® youth and teen programs are complimentary, there is an hourly charge for the Royal Babies & Tots drop-off nursery, available on select ships for children between 6 months and 3 years old.

While Wi-Fi isn't included in your cruise fare, the rates are flexible (and there are certain suite categories that do include Wi-Fi when you book). You can surf and stream with VOOM® high speed internet access that is payable on a per day, per device basis or via a package, with discounted pre-cruise pricing. Royal Caribbean ships also offer wired iCafe internet stations, also for a fee. Royal Caribbean's free app comes in handy for keeping in contact with your group with its included guest-to-guest chat, along with many other helpful features to navigate the ship.

If your idea of relaxation includes head-to-toe pampering, you can indulge in our Vitality℠ Spa, but you'll need to pay extra for each service in both the spa and the salon as well as for fitness classes in the gym. Other activities with a fee: Royal Escape Room℠ experiences, arcade games, sushi-making and cupcake-decorating classes, professional photos and any boutique purchases.

Is that all when it comes to what things do you pay for on a cruise? We also offer shore excursions in every port — all at an extra charge — but that doesn't mean you can't explore independently. If you're cruising the Caribbean and call on our private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay®, you can enjoy quite a bit for free, including the Oasis Lagoon® pool, Splashaway Bay℠ aquapark and beaches like Chill Island℠ and South Beach. There is a charge for premium experiences, such as Thrill Waterpark (with 13 waterslides); zipline; Up, Up & Away helium balloon ride; Coco Beach Club®; as well as cabana and daybed rentals.

Guests who book Royal Suite Class (available on Oasis and Quantum Class ships) enjoy perks that range from exclusive spaces (Coastal Kitchen restaurant) and complimentary beverages to a Royal Genie (a specialty butler service) or concierge available to arrange VIP experiences. Benefits are offered on a tiered basis (Sea, Sky and Star Class suites), with the top category enjoying Royal Genie service along with complimentary specialty dining, beverage packages, gratuities, Wi-Fi and more.

Crown & Anchor® Society allows loyal guests to earn points and enjoy extra perks that include discounts on wine, beer and soda (and vouchers for free daily drinks priced up to $14 when you reach Diamond Level), as well as discounts on Wi-Fi, spa services, photos, laundry service and onboard shop purchases. Higher-tier loyalty guests also gain access to special onboard events and Crown & Anchor exclusive booking rates.

What's Included And Not Included On A Cruise

What's Included

Stateroom Complimentary Restaurants Continental breakfast delivered via room service Ice water, coffee, tea, lemonade and juices Onboard entertainment (Broadway shows, ice shows, AquaTheater shows, live music) Pools and hot tubs Onboard activities (waterslides, FlowRider®*, zipline, laser tag, rock climbing, bumper cars, mini golf) Fitness center Adventure Ocean Kids program and teen clubs (ages 3-17) Complimentary experiences at Perfect Day at CocoCay® App with guest-to-guest chat features

What's Not Included

Gratuity for crew: $16-$18.50 per guest per day Gratuity for purchased beverages, dining, mini bar items, and spa and salon services: 18% Specialty dining: $22.99-$109.99 per person per meal (kids ages 6-12 dine for $14.99, ages 5 and under eat free) 24/7 room service: $7.95 plus tax and fees per room order to upgrade from continental breakfast Alcoholic beverages, soda, bottled water: $3-$25 Specialty coffees: $3-$7 Wi-Fi: $16.99-30.99 per day per device Culinary classes: $34.99-$44.99 Spa treatments: $129-$249 Royal Escape Room℠: $34.99 Shore excursions: Starting from $39 per person per tour Perfect Day at CocoCay® experiences such as Thrill Waterpark®: $79-$289 per person Professional photography: $20 (one photo) to $179 (photo package) Royal Babies and Tots℠ Nursery: $6-$8 per hour per child Laundry services: $1.99 per item to $34.99 per bag
*Prices and offers are subject to availability and change without notice.

Written By

Donna Heiderstadt, a New York City-based freelance writer and editor, specializes in covering the cruise market and is a contributor to,,, and other travel websites and publications. She has visited more than 95 countries and has taken more than 70 cruises.

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