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How Much Cash Should I Take on a Cruise?

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If you are sailing on a cruise, particularly for the first time, you may be asking how much cash should I take on a cruise?

One of the great things about cruises is that you can mostly avoid using again cash at all. If you just stayed on the ship at all times, you wouldn’t even need cash for anything.

Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port Mexico

All of your cruise expenses are taken care of with your onboard account. You will already have paid your cruise fare and may have added pre-paid gratuities, and such things as a drinks package and excursions to the amount prior to sailing.

It is mostly true that cruises are a cashless society. You could sail on an entire cruise without needing any cash at all.

This is not the same as saying that they are all-inclusive. Whilst many costs are included on a cruise, there are some things that you will pay extra for.

These extra expenses vary according to each cruise line, but can include:

  • Shore Excursions and Activities
  • Spa Treatments
  • Specialty Dining
  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Beverage Packages
  • Onboard Classes
  • Photo Packages
  • Casino Spending
  • Room Service
  • Crew Member Tips and Gratuties
  • Onboard Puchases at the Stores
  • Laundry Services
  • Internet

These are some of the expenses that you may incur when you are onboard the ship.

You really don’t need cash for these. However, some guests, like to take extra for tips for the crew members.

Onboard gratuities are charged to your account by most cruise lines these days, but you may want to bring extra so you can personally give extra to the crew in cash.

Also if you go on an organized tour you will most likely want to tip the driver and guide with cash so you will need to take extra cash for that.

Will I Need Cash on My First Day on the Cruise?

disney cruise san diego 2022
Disney Wonder in San Diego Cruise Port

Yes, you most likely will want to have some cash with you and available the first day you cruise, and even before you arrive at the port to embark on your ship.

If you are staying in a hotel at the port before your cruise you may need cash for bell services, concierge, and bar services.

You may need cash for a taxi to the port. If you take a Lyft or an Uber to the cruise port you can of course take care of the charge and the top on the phone app.

When you arrive at the port there will be plenty of staff to take care of your luggage for you. You will want to tip at least $1 for each bag. You will want to be sure that you have some small bills available for this.

You will also need a similar amount of cash at the end of your cruise if you want to use the services of a porter to get your luggage from the port to your car or taxi.

Will I Need Cash on a Cruise Private Island?


Many cruise lines have their own private islands such as Disney’s Castaway Cay Carnival Cruise Lines Half Moon Cay and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay.

These private islands are run for the utmost in convenience and you do not need actual cash here either.

They are run just as things are on the cruise ships so you will just take your keycard and everything can be charged to your onboard account.

How Much Cash Should I Take According to my Cruise Destination?


It is more than likely that you will be leaving the ship to explore at least one of the ports on your cruise.

Many shopping, dining, and entertainment venues will take credit cards in your ports of call.

However, there may be some places where you do not feel comfortable using a credit card and you would prefer to use cash.

Many cruise destinations have the US dollar as their currency. Some of the main ones are:

  • Alaska
  • Puerto Rico
  • The U.S Virgin Islands
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Turks and Caicos

Others that use American Dollars alongside their own currency are:

  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • St Kitts
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Aruba
  • Cayman Islands
  • Bermuda
  • And Canada

Another major cruise destination where dollars are widely accepted is Mexico. However, you will most likely not get a great exchange rate, so for small transactions, you may want to have some Mexican Pesos with you. Always ask before you are seated at a restaurant whether or not they take credit cards – most places in popular cruise port destinations in Mexico will take cards.

If you are sailing on a cruise in Europe you will find that credit cards are widely accepted, but US dollars are not.

You will want to take cash in the local currency, which for most of Europe is the Euro.

Here are some popular foreign port cruise destinations which have their own currency and do not use the Euro:

  • United Kingdom
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Iceland
  • Russia

If you are sailing to any of these countries it would be wise to have some cash in the local currency. You may be able to easily get cash from your own bank before you travel.

An alternative would be to change cash at a local bank. For which is the best option always research your own particular destination as recommendations will vary according to whichever port you are visiting. Always watch out for ATM fees when using any cash machine as these can quickly add up.

How Can I Keep My Cash Safely on a Cruise?

Disney Cruise Canadian Deals
Disney Fantasy Adult Pool

It is relatively simple to keep your cash safe on your cruise. All major cruise line staterooms have a safe.

Most of these safes are digital now so you won’t need to safeguard the key.

You will need to pick a numerical password for the safe -usually a 4 digit number.

Always make sure you remember your password, but don’t write it down on paper and leave it next to the safe (believe me, yes some people do this).

Always carry as small an amount of cash as you think you will need when you are visiting a cruise port.

Take sensible precautions when carrying cash and do not have it visible.

This Money Belt for Men and Women with Hidden Passport Holder is a good solution.

Beware of Foreign Transaction Fees on Credit Card Purchases

Royal Princess Cruise Ship Baryjz

You will most likely be using a credit card for your port purchases.

Many credit cards have foreign transaction fees and this can add a lot to your bill.

Always check how much the charges are before you leave home, and ideally have at least one card where there are no foreign transaction fees charged.

Here are some cards which do not have foreign transaction fees:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
  • American Express Gold Card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards

Always remember to inform your Bank and Credit Card Company that you are traveling. This is usually very easy to do online or by phone.

Why should you tell your credit company? Because if you do not, your card could be stopped as they notice an unusual spending pattern.

I found this out once when I tried to use my credit card in Grand Cayman for a really small purchase. My card was declined and then stopped. Of course, this is a great security feature for your card, but not such a great feature if you need to use it.

How Much Spending Money Should I Bring For the Cruise Ports?

This really depends upon a number of factors including the destination, excursion type, and of course, your own spending style.

Many people are fine just taking a very minimal amount of cash and using a credit card in port. This will depend upon how comfortable you are using a credit card and how many smaller stores and restaurants you think that you will visit where you will need cash.

It really is a very personal choice as to the amount of money you will take in cash with you to foreign ports. It is up to you and once you have sailed on your first cruise you will find it easier to realize what the right balance is for you.

More Cruise Tips

Here are some other articles that you may find useful if you are sailing on a cruise:

Things That Surprise First Time Disney Cruisers

Is the Princess Cruise Drinks Package Worth It?

What Not To Pack on a Cruise