Figuring out how much cash to take on a cruise is a big question that many cruisers — especially first timers — have before they even start to pack their bags. From tipping to drinks to souvenirs to excursions, there are plenty of things you’ll find yourself spending money on. So exactly how much cash should your bring?
We’ll get into the details below, but before we get too far, you will likely be surprised that the amount of cash you need on a cruise is going to be less than most people think.
You see, every cruise line now ties your room keycard to your onboard account. Once you are on the ship, you use this card just like a credit card to charge items to your account, which you pay at the end of your trip. So for drinks at the bar, souvenirs in the cruise ship gift shop, or excursions booked while on the ship, you’ll charge them to your room and pay later. There is no need for cash.
The same goes for most gratuities. Cruise lines now offer prepaid options for gratuities to your room steward and dining room waiters. They are automatically charged to your account, with no need to pay with physical cash.
So where do you need cold hard cash these days?
We highly recommend paying for anything off of the ship in cash. Ports in tourist areas are typically safe from violent crime, but petty crime like theft — or credit card fraud — do happen. So if you plan to pay for meals and entertainment with a card, there is always the risk of being overcharged, charged twice, etc.
For peace of mind, we prefer to simply pay in cash. All ports you visit will accept US dollars, so don’t worry about having to change over currency.
In addition to security, it’s also helpful to have cash as some places — such as smaller souvenir shops or taxi cabs — don’t accept credit cards.
If you are on the ship, then there are a few places where it is helpful to have cash, mainly for tipping. For example, room service should be tipped $1-2 per plate. Luggage handlers should be tipped $1-2 per bag. And if you want to tip your room steward or waitstaff above the prepaid gratuity, then bringing a little extra cash is the best option. If you are a gambler, then you’ll also want to bring cash to play with.
Of course, this all means that the amount of cash you need to carry depends on your own spending habits. If you are a big spender, then you’ll want to bring more money. More moderate spenders will bring less.
That said, there is some quick budgeting you can do. We’ve listed some quick calculations of what you can bring to make sure you have enough cash for your trip.
Cash for Day at Sea:
Tipping (those not included automatically): $5-10 per day
Gambling: Dependent on your gambling budget
Miscellaneous: $20 per day
Total: $30 per day + gambling budget
Cash for Day in Port:
Taxis: $40 per day
Tipping: $20 per day
Meals: $10-20 per person, per meal
Souvenirs: $10-20 per person, per day
Miscellaneous: $20 per day
Total: $90-130 per day
Of course, these are just guidelines. We’ve been on cruises and spent literally no cash in a day. We’ve also know that some people love to let loose on a vacation and spend a bit more.
Our rule of thumb is that you should simply budget as much as you would for any other vacation.
And what if you run out of cash on a cruise? Don’t worry. There are ATMs available on the ship. Although they charge hefty fees (around $6) to withdraw cash, they can help in a pinch.
How much cash do you bring on your cruise? Let us know in the comments below…