Usually, we spend more money when we are on vacation than we do in our daily lives. A cruise vacation is no different. So, you may be wondering, “How much cash should I take on a cruise?”
One of the great things about a cruise vacation is that most of your basic major expenses are included in the cruise fare. At a minimum, the price you pay to board the ship will cover lodging and meals for the entirety of your journey. Although your cruise ticket price includes everything you need for the cruise, some amenities, upgrades, and other extras are not included. This begs the question, how much money to take on a cruise ship?
The amount of cash needed per person per day depends on which extra amenities you would like to use, if you want to provide cash tips to the ship’s staff in cash, if you are going to leave the ship at any ports, and if you plan to play in the casino.
Keep reading to learn more about which situations may warrant cold hard cash while on your cruise.
How Much Cash Should I Take On A Cruise?
Here’s the short answer: You don’t actually need any cash when on a cruise ship.
Most cruise lines operate on a cashless system. This allows you to pay for any and all of your onboard charges using your room key rather than bringing extra cash.
When you check-in for your cruise, you will be asked to provide a method of payment to use for onboard charges. Just like in a hotel. If you provide a credit card, that card will be linked to your overall account – and, importantly, to your cruise card.
A Cashless Cruise Experience
Your cruise card serves many important purposes.
It is the key to your stateroom.
It is also your entry and exit pass to the ship once you start sailing. You must swipe it at security every time you exit or board the ship (and your photo will pop up on a security screen so that security can confirm you are who you say you are).
And the card is also used for any and all purchases made onboard.
Typically, your cruise card is the sole currency used onboard. You will be running a tab throughout your cruise, and you will settle up at the end. If you want to check on your account and/or make an interim payment, you can do so at Guest Services. Otherwise, the final balance will be charged to whatever credit card you have on file. (Depending on the cruise line and ship, you will also be able to check on your bill using the television in your stateroom.)
So, if you plan to remain on board for your entire cruise, you can board without a single dollar in your pocket!
No Extra Cash Needed
If you take the amount of cash you usually carry around with you in everyday life, you should be fine. Even when you don’t want to use your cruise card to make a purchase (e.g, a pricey purchase in an onboard retail shop), you can use your regular credit cards.
Moreover, there are ATMs readily available on the ship.
Main Reasons to Take Cash On Your Cruise
Although cash is optional, here are the main reasons you may want to consider taking any significant cash on your cruise vacation.
You May Need Cash For Use During Port Calls
If you plan to step off the ship when in port, you will want to have some cash on hand. (This could be cash you brought with you or cash from an ATM.) Even if you are not planning any significant shopping, it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand. You may need it for transportation. Or where you need to buy something and the merchant won’t take credit cards. Also, if you are doing a shore excursion, you should have cash for any tips that you may want to hand out (tour guide, cabana attendant, etc.).
When going ashore, you should try to have some cash in small bills. This makes it easier to make small purchases, hand out tips as needed, navigate taxis, etc. Often small merchants or vendors won’t (or can’t) provide change for large bills.
Also, if you are dealing with local currency, don’t assume that the bills you get out of the ATM are small bills. In the U.S. (outside of a casino), any bills that you get out of an ATM will be common denominations that are usually easy to change – $5, $10, and $20. This is not always the case when traveling abroad.
Another advantage of having access to small denomination bills is that it increases your flexibility to haggle and negotiate local purchases in situations where that is appropriate. Also, in some shops, they may be willing to give you a discount or a better price if you are using cash vs. credit.
You May Need Cash For Handing Out Tips On Board
Most major cruise lines will assess an automatic gratuity to your account. But you also can provide individual cash gratuities to staff members who provided you with exemplary personal service that you would like to recognize—for instance, your stateroom attendant, your assigned table wait staff in the main dining room, or a particularly attentive wine steward. This can be in addition to (or instead of) the ship-wide gratuities that are automatically assessed. Typically, you will find small envelopes at guest services available for cash tips.
You May Need Cash For The Casino
Not surprisingly, you always have the option to use cash in the casino. You can use it for table games, and slot machines are also configured to accept cash (USD). You can bring cash with you, or you can use the ATMs you will find conveniently located inside the casino.
But even gambling in the casino can be a cashless experience — and not just because you lose all your money! As with beverages and spa services, you can also charge casino play to your cruise account using your cruise card. But, unless you satisfy certain VIP or loyalty club criteria, there will likely be a significant fee for doing so.
You May Need Cash For Settling Your Cruise Tab
Depending on your cruise line, you may have the option of using cash for your ongoing onboard charges. In that scenario, you deposit money in advance with guest services. That is credited to your account. You still use your cruise card to make purchases, but the amounts are essentially debited against the balance on your cruise account.
The required minimum deposit varies depending on the cruise line and the length of the cruise. So, for instance, in Carnival’s detailed explanation about how to set up a cruise account using cash, it recommends starting with minimum deposits in the following amounts: $100 USD per person for a 2-4 day cruise; $200 USD per person for a 5-8 day cruise; $350 USD per person for a cruise that is 9 days or longer.
If you use cash to fund your cruise account, there may be a limit on the amount of daily expenses that you will be permitted to incur. If you exceed that amount, you will be asked to provide additional funds for your account. You must pay any outstanding balance at the end of your cruise before leaving the ship.
How much cash should you bring on a cruise? It depends. If you want to use the ship’s amenities, like the spa or casino, and if you are going to leave the ship at any ports, then you will need some extra cash with you. However, today’s major cruise lines operate on a cashless system, so you won’t actually need any cash when on board. Just be sure to have your room key handy!