How Much Money Should You Bring on a Cruise?

google news icon 150px
Money jar labelled for travel on a map with passport and miniature plane in the background

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive compensation when you purchase via my links at no cost to you. See my disclosure for more information.

When planning a cruise, you must bring enough spending money to make purchases when you visit the cruise port.

While the need for physical cash has lessened over the years, many cruisers still find it beneficial, especially for small transactions. Debit and credit cards make it easy to purchase in-store and online.

But, when you visit ports of call, many small merchants aren’t set up to accept debit or credit.

You may wonder how much cash you’ll need to bring on your cruise.

How Much Money Should You Bring on a Cruise?

Generally, most guests should bring between $100-$125 in cash per day. The amount of cash to bring can differ significantly based on your itinerary, budget, and spending patterns on a Caribbean cruise.

You don’t need to carry cash on the cruise ship. Your cruise card acts as a spending account. Simply swipe your card to pay for purchases on the boat and at the cruise line’s private islands.

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to pay in cash:

  • Tipping: Cruise lines include gratuities with your cruise fare. But you can bring some money to show appreciation for exceptional service to staff members like room attendants or dining room servers.
  • Purchases at Ports: When you disembark at different ports, local vendors, small shops, and markets may prefer or only accept cash. You can’t use your cruise card to purchase items in port, except at some cruise line private islands.
  • Transportation on Shore: Taxis, buses, or other local transport at port stops might require cash, especially in areas where credit cards aren’t widely accepted or there’s a high fee for card transactions.
  • Onboard Casinos: If you plan to gamble in the ship’s casino, you’ll need cash. Most cruise ship casinos operate mainly with cash. Even if you can charge the cost of your room, winnings are paid in cash.
  • Laundry Services: Most cruise ships charge laundry service to your onboard spending account. However, some older vessels have self-service laundry facilities that require coins to operate.
  • Gratuities for Porters at the Cruise Terminal: It’s customary to tip the porters who assist with your luggage at the cruise terminal.
  • Emergency Situations: It’s always wise to have a cash reserve for unexpected situations or emergencies.
  • Souvenirs and Local Crafts: Buying from local artisans or at souvenir shops in ports often requires cash, and it’s also a great way to support the local economy.

Generally, you should budget the same amount of money as you would for any other vacation. We recommend $100-$125 in cash per day for most people.

Insider Tip

While on board the cruise ship, we recommend leaving most of your cash in the safe inside your stateroom, along with important documents, passports, credit cards, IDs, and more.

Factors to Consider

Several factors come into play when you’re trying to figure out how much money to take on a cruise. Here’s what to consider:

Duration of the Cruise

The length of your cruise dramatically affects how much cash you’ll need. You don’t need to bring as much spending money on a three-day getaway to the Bahamas compared to a two-week European voyage.

Generally, the longer the cruise, the more money you should have on hand.

Longer cruises have more port visits, where you’ll have more opportunities to shop and explore.

Your Shopping Habits

A busy day on S Franklin St in Juneau Alaska where cruise tourists can shop for souvineers

Think carefully about your shopping tendencies. If you love to buy gifts, local crafts, and souvenirs, you’ll need to bring more money.

Some passengers are content with window shopping or buying just one or two mementos, while others enjoy a full-blown shopping spree. Be honest about your habits and plan your cash reserves accordingly.

Tipping

Tipping is a major part of cruise culture, and it extends beyond the prepaid gratuities that cover your cabin and dining staff.

Tipping beyond the automatic service charge is a controversial topic that we won’t dive into in this article.

But if you like to tip when you receive exceptional service, consider carrying extra cash to show your appreciation to the service staff. Consider your stateroom attendant, main dining room servers, porters, and tour operators.

The crew greatly appreciates gratuities.

Casino

Sltop machines inside casino Royal

Cash is king at the cruise ship casino. Many cruise ships have begun allowing guests to charge casino purchases to their onboard accounts. But most cruise lines only accept cash in the casino.

Even if you can charge casino spending to your account, winnings are still paid in cash.

It’s smart to set a gambling budget ahead of time to ensure you don’t overspend in the excitement of the moment. Remember, onboard ATMs have hefty fees, and it’s far better to bring what you need rather than withdraw more onboard.

Do You Need Cash on a Cruise Ship?

Norwegian Bliss Tradewinds ONBOARD Shops

You won’t need any cash on a cruise ship. Cruise ships operate on a cashless system where purchases are charged to your onboard account, which is linked to a credit or debit card.

In other words, you can use your keycard like a credit or debit card. Cruise lines provide you with a cruise card, which you’ll use for purchases on the ship. Some cruise lines like Princess Cruises and Virgin Voyages give you a wearable device instead.

The drink Are We At Sea from the On The Rocks Bar
The drink Are We At Sea? from On The Rocks

You can use your cruise card to purchase drinks, souvenirs, spa treatments, shore excursions, specialty dining, and more.

When you swipe your card at the bars or shops, the purchases are charged directly to your onboard account.

The purchases are paid at the end of the vacation when you receive the statement of transactions.

You’ll also pay the automatic gratuities through your onboard account. Many first-time cruisers make the mistake of overlooking the automatic gratuities. The automatic tips mean you don’t need to tip throughout the cruise.

Of course, you can always tip more by giving cash to the hard-working bar staff, room steward, or wait staff. Many people prefer to give cash tips to crew members so they know that the money is going to the right people.

Just don’t forget that cash tips are on top of the automatic gratuities that cruise lines charge. It’s a great way to thank the hard-working staff that makes cruise vacations so relaxing.

Slot machines at the casino on Scarlet Lady

Aside from onboard tips, the only other place you may need cash is at the casino. If your ship has a casino, you can often use some money to purchase chips. And, if you win, you’ll be paid out with cash.

Even if you use your cruise card to play, the cruise casino often pays winnings in cash.

Swiping your keycard is super convenient. It eliminates the need to carry cash around the ship and minimizes the risk of theft or loss.

However, it can be challenging to keep track of all that swiping. And it’s easy to get carried away.

Remember, you won’t receive your account balance until the final day on the ship. If you’re not careful, you may spend more money than anticipated.

Tips for Managing Your Money on a Cruise

Hundred dollar bills next to a passport as someone packs for a cruise. One hundred dollers per day is how much money should you bring on a cruise.

Set a Daily Spending Limit

When relaxing under the warm sun on the pool deck, money matters are the least of your concerns. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get carried away with your spending.

Setting a daily spending limit is best to ensure you stay on budget throughout your cruise vacation.

Think about how much money you’re comfortable spending each day outside of prepaid expenses like excursions or drink packages.

Keep Track of Your Expenses

On a cruise, you’re in a self-contained world where all your needs are just a swipe of your room key away. But that convenience makes it too easy to lose track of your spending.

To avoid the sticker shock at the end of your trip, keep a close eye on your expenses.

You can check your onboard spending through the cruise line’s mobile app, stateroom TV, or visiting guest services. Regular check-ins help you adjust your spending and keep your budget on course.

Take Advantage of Onboard Promotions and Discounts

Who doesn’t love a good deal? Cruise ships are full of opportunities to snag a bargain, so watch for onboard promotions and discounts.

From spa specials on port days to happy hour prices at the bar, there are plenty of ways to indulge and spend less.

Check the daily itinerary for special offers and plan accordingly — maybe you can treat yourself to that massage if you skip the afternoon piña colada. Remember, the goal is to find balance and enjoy your cruise without sailing into a sea of debt.

What Currencies Should You Bring?

Pink piggy bank, straw hat, money, passport and sunglasses on wooden table

All ports in the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, and the Bahamas accept US dollars. If you sail around Europe, it’s best to take Euros as the local currency, which is accepted in most countries (except the UK and Norway, which only accept pounds and Norwegian Krone, respectively).

Do Cruise Ships Have ATMs?

Most cruise ships have ATMs on the boat, so there’s no need to panic if you run out of cash.

It’s important to note that cruise ship ATMs charge hefty fees to withdraw cash (usually around $7).

You’ll also find ATMs in most ports of call. However, these cash machines also charge substantial fees and might not be all that trustworthy.

It’s uncommon, but the ATMs on cruise lines might run out of money during the cruise. If you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic.

You can get a cash advance at the Casino Cashier using a credit or debit card. But be prepared to pay a “convenience fee” of around 5% (typically with a $5 minimum fee).

Cruise ships also offer currency exchanges.

But be warned… the exchange rates are awful, and there’s always an exchange fee paid to the cruise line.

It is best to do so if you need to convert currencies before you set sail.

Keep Your Money Safe

Remember to keep your money secure in your stateroom safe. Cruise ship cabins always have a safe. Use the safe to store cash, travel documents, credit cards, jewelry, and valuables when you’re not using them.

Remember to clear out the safe before you disembark at the end of the cruise.

Marcello De Lio
Marcello De Lio

Marcello's been cruising since he was 12 years old. He loves the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. Marcello created High Seas Cruising to share his passion for cruising and travel with readers and grow a community of passionate voyagers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *