Updated: Mar 31, 2021
One of the tops questions when it comes to cruising is how much money to bring.
The good news is that when it comes to the cruise itself, you don’t actually need any money at all. You could—quite literally—come as you are, and you wouldn’t need to spend a dime. That’s because most cruises are more or less all-inclusive.
Your fare includes your room—known as a cabin or a stateroom on a cruise ship—as well as your food, transportation to all cruise ports, and onboard entertainment. Of course, if you want to spend more money on a cruise, there are plenty of ways you can upgrade the standard offerings to make your cruise more memorable. But you don’t have to spend more than your base fare if you don’t want to.
Now, most people usually end up dropping a few dollars on the ship and in the ports they visit, so you’ll like want to stash a bit of cash in your wallet. But how much? That’s where things get a bit sticky. Check out these three helpful tips for knowing how much money to bring on a cruise.
1. Paying for Onboard Activities
When it comes to onboard activities, you actually don’t need any physical cash. In fact, the ship won’t let you pay in cash for any of your purchases. Either when you check in online or when you arrive at the port, you’ll be asked to provide a credit card for each person staying in your room. You can each use a different credit card or the same one—it’s entirely up to you.
Every time you buy a poolside cocktail, a shore excursion from the activities desk, a souvenir from the shop, or play the slots in the casino, the charges will go straight on your credit card. It’s that easy! Of course, this also has its disadvantages. It’s easy to lose track of your spending and end up with a hefty bill at the end of your cruise. A great way to prevent any unexpected surprises is to ask guest services for a breakdown of your charges every day or two if the cruise line doesn’t offer an app that lets you see for yourself.
Pro Tip: It’s easy to get carried away treating yourself to a few extras when you’re on vacation. Set yourself a daily allowance and do your best to stick to it!
2. Traveling to Popular Destinations
If your cruise itinerary is headed to popular places like Barcelona or Rome, it’s pretty safe to assume they’ll accept plastic. Pay for any purchases over $10 using a credit card to reduce the amount of cash you need to carry. Have a bit of pocket change in case you want to eat at a street vendor or buy a souvenir from a mom-and-pop shop.
I usually recommend taking the equivalent of $20 to $30 in local currency per day. It’s enough to grab a coffee and a magnet. If you need more, popular destinations will likely have an ATM where you can get more cash on the go.
Pro Tip: Your bank likely won’t accept any coins for exchange when you return home, so make sure to use them all up first. Save the bills if you can.
3. Venturing into Parts Unknown
Knowing how much money to bring on a cruise gets a wee bit trickier when you’re headed into less popular parts of the world. Typically, itineraries offered by river cruises or sailing ships venture into smaller ports that larger ships can’t get into. Sometimes, these places are so small they don’t have an ATM or the ability to accept credit cards, especially in Asia.
That said, these places tend not to offer a lot of high-priced items for sale, so you don’t have to worry about having a lot of cash on hand. You’ll likely be able to get by with $20 to $50 in local currency per day, depending on how thrifty you want to be. At markets in Southeast Asia, you can get a whole new outfit for under $10, for example.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to a place like Mexico or The Caribbean, they’ll likely accept U.S. dollars, so you may not need to exchange any money at all. However, Cuba will not accept U.S. or Canadian dollars. You must convert your money upon arrival. Take out small amounts each day so you don’t end up with more than you need.
Follow these simple tips for knowing how much money to bring on a cruise and you’ll be all set for an awesome vacation you won’t soon forget.