Everyone wants to go on a cruise ship. It has the potential to be one of the most invigorating and relaxing experiences for a person, especially people who have been wound up from work or life. The burning question for people who have never been on a cruise is simple: How much does a cruise cost?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of cruise that you go on and the things that you want while you are pampering yourself. You can get away with a great experience for little more than a utility bill, or you can spend more money than you ever thought possible.

So how much does a cruise cost? Let's take a look at some of the options that you might have when you cruise and what these amenities may cost you.

How Much Does a Cruise Cost? The Distance Traveled

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The first variable in how much a cruise will cost you is based on the distance you will be traveling from home. Those huge ships you will be on are not cheap to move, and the fuel becomes more expensive the farther your cruise goes. When you start in Florida and you end up by the Indian Ocean, you are going to pay more than if you take a cruise to the Caribbean from the same location.

Consider that certain cruise companies have docks in many locations around the world. If a ship can dock in its own location and refuel, it may cost you less than if it has to dock at another's port, or worse, keep going somehow. This is the difference in price that you may see between companies for the same cruise. Bigger companies will have lower prices for exactly this reason.

How Much Does a Cruise Cost? Time Spent

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​The second variable that you must take into account is the time that you will spend on the high seas. Certain cruises may simply dock at a location and let you disembark to spend time there. Although the ship is docked, you are still paying for the amenities on the ship and the privilege of having the ship wait on you. There is insurance, international fees (if applicable), and many other costs of business that have to do with waiting.

This is the reason you will see slightly different prices for cruises that spend longer in a location. The difference in price will not be as noticeable as the price changes for distance traveled, however. When a ship is moving, it is generating much higher expenses than if it is docked. However, you cannot expect any cruise company to dock and wait for you for free. If you want to stay in a place for a longer period of time, expect to give the cruise ship company a premium for that period.

How Much Does a Cruise Cost? Crossing International Lines

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​Cruise ships also have to consider the territory that they are going into when they are following the cruise routes. If these cruises cross into international waters, the company may be responsible for certain fees that they would not have to pay if they stayed in domestic territory. If this is the case, they will pass those costs along to you, the consumer, in the form of higher prices.

If you're going to a part of the world that is less traveled, you will likely experience much higher fees than you would if you are going to locations that are popular. Why? These less traveled locations do not have as much traffic in their waters, so they must take advantage of the traffic that they do get. It is also possible that companies from certain countries do not have advantageous agreements with all of the countries that they sail into. This is how politics can affect the price that you pay for your cruise ship vacation. Be careful about going into places that your government may have noted are high-risk areas. Even if they are not physically dangerous to you, they may be dangerous for your wallet.

How Much Does a Cruise Cost? The Amenities

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​Now we get to the good stuff – the amenities that you will have on your cruise ship. The luxuries that you can experience while on one of these amazing vacations are virtually limitless. From free food to games to entertainment, you basically have your choice here depending on how much you want to spend.

Even the most basic cruise ships will have a great deal of food and drink for you to take advantage of. In most cases, these amenities will be included in the price of the cruise. You should not have to pay extra for meals; ships stock themselves quite well for long cruises (and short ones as well). Cruise ship companies realize that once your feet are removed from solid ground, you do not necessarily have the expertise to fend for your basic needs anymore! They consider keeping you well fed one of the basic tenets of good business here, so don't worry about not bringing enough extra money to eat.

​Keeping you well fed one of the basic tenants of good business here keeping you well fed one of the basic tenants of good business here, so Cruise ship companies realize that once your feet are removed from solid ground they will often be served in a buffet style format, giving you the ability to take in all that you can eat. Ships stopped themselves quite well for long cruises.

Another basic luxury that you can count on is gaming and entertainment. Virtually all cruise ships will give you a selection of free ways to keep yourself and the kids busy. Some ships will come equipped with full floors that are dedicated to gaming with things like shuffleboard, horseshoes, and other games that can be played on a flat, wide surface. You will usually have a selection of board and card games as well. This can be one of the best ways to meet new people, something that is always encouraged on a cruise ship.

You will always need to bring extra money if you want to drink like a sailor, however. Alcohol is one of the primary ways that cruise ship companies upsell you on the high seas. Although you will be able to eat and drink healthy foods and liquids, you will have to pay for the experience of being drunk on the high seas. You will usually pay a pretty penny, too. Ships do not allow alcohol beyond the ship's borders, so they have the ability to sell you more without any competition from pre-drink champions.

The more high-end cruise ships will have amenities and entertainment options that may add to the initial cost of the cruise, or you may be able to buy access to VIP parts of the ship once it is on the seafront. One of the easiest rules to remember is that you can always go broke on a cruise ship, no matter how much of the free stuff they advertise up front. No matter how much money you bring, there is ALWAYS a way to spend it on the ship!

In many cases, exclusive ship cruises will give people an incredibly low initial price to get them on the ship. The upfront price is actually a loss leader because the cruise ship operators know that the "keep up with the Joneses" effect will kick in once everyone is in close proximity! On many ships, staff will be responsible for sectioning off certain parts of the ship for performances or entertainment that is not available to the entire population. As they say, curiosity killed the cat. You will definitely feel the pull of wanting to participate if you are looking at those VIP signs for long enough. Established cruisers say that you should only bring debit cards on the ship - never credit cards. That way, even if you splurge, you won't end up putting yourself in debt before you return to shore!

In general, you can expect to pay around $1,000 for a 7-day cruise with basic amenities that stays on your side of the world. The price goes up the farther you travel, the longer you travel, and the more stuff you want to do on the ship. Keep this general price in mind for the next time you want to travel!

Take the best practices and tips above as a template for designing your cruise experience. However, you should know one thing - the secret that everyone in the know has already figured out (but may not tell you directly). The cruise industry is one of the most competitive industries on the planet. There is always, always, ALWAYS a deal that is going on somewhere. The true artists of the cruise vacation know where to find them, and with enough practice, you can do it, too!

With that in mind, don't overpay for luxury, and happy cruising!

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