When you read ads for cruise ships, you are usually lured in with super-cheap prices. Just what is included in those prices, and what surprise fees might appear later on?
Usually all you are shown initially is the BASE PRICE. This includes your room and perhaps meals. That is quite a lot of course, but it is NOT everything by any stretch of the imagination.
The next large item you need to consider is taxes and fees. It's not fair to blame the cruise ship for these :) The government adds HUGE taxes to cruise ship trips as they are luxury items. Blame your government rep if you're going to complain about this, these sorts of taxes is how they pay for their various plans. Also, many island destinations charge HUGE per-person fees to cruise ships to allow the ship to dock. This helps the island earn enough money to maintain the police, bus lines and other amenities that the flood of tourists needs. Look at it as a donation to the island that you want to visit for a while. Taxes and fees can sometimes be another 50% of the initial ticket price.
Hardly any cruise ship includes drinks in its base price. That is actually quite fair. Some people only drink water. Some only drink soda. Some drink a TON of alcohol. To make the water-drinking people shoulder their share of the alcoholics' bill would be unfair! Instead, everybody pays for whatever they drink. You can go bargain and drink a lot of water. You can go whole-hog and drink an alcoholic drink every hour. It's all up to you - but expect of course to be charged accordingly. And, to be fair here, the price of alcohol is usually incredibly reasonable on ships. It's up to you to be reasonable in what you consume.
Next, the tips. If you're at any resort or restaurant, you're going to tip your servers. That is how they earn their money. Tipping is a normal part of the service industry, and is a price that you have to account for in your calculations. Some ships add a tip fee to your final on-board account, while others make you walk around with cash to do the tipping. However it's done, be sure to tip fairly. Your cruise ship employees often work 10 hour days, 6 days a week, and sleep in tiny rooms to boot!
Other than those basics, most other fees are optional ones that you incur yourself. If you sign up for photographs to be taken of you, you of course pay for the photos. If you sign up to go on a day trip to swim with dolphins, you'll pay for that. Be sure to keep a record of what you're paying for as you go. It can be easy to lose track of how many optional things you have signed up for when it is just signed for on your cruise ship account.
You shouldn't ever be "surprised" at what you owe at the end of your cruise ship ride! Every single fee should clearly have been in the paperwork you signed to take your cruise - or should have been added on by you during the cruise at your request. If you're absent-minded, carry a tiny notebook in your pocket or purse and make notes whenever you add something to the account. It is completely in your control to have your cruise be a bare-bones budget ride - or a blow-the-bank, money-exploding adventure.