If you’re planning a cruise you may be wondering how much cash you should bring. I’ve been on 22 cruises to date and in this post, I explore how much cash you should bring and what you will need to budget for.
How Much Cash Should I Bring on a Cruise?
On a cruise, guests on average bring between $100-$120 in cash per day to be spent on transportation, tips, gifts, food, and shopping. In a survey of 850 cruisers, 71% stated that they took over $100 per person per day when cruising.
Most purchases made on board will be made using your cruise card so you’ll only need cash for purchases made on land.
Booking excursions ahead of time can reduce the amount of cash you’ll need to bring.
The amount of money you need will vary based on a number of factors. In this post, we will cover everything that you need to budget for.
I recently conducted a survey where I asked people that had cruised with Royal Caribbean how much cash they bought on a cruise per day, the following is the results from that survey:
Factors That Affect How Much Money You’ll Need:
How Much Cash Will I Need in Ports?
Budget example: £15 ($20) per port
If you are likely to use public transport or taxi’s in any of your ports it is a good idea to budget some cash for these. In most places, you are able to use credit/debit cards but this isn’t always true. In many countries, public transport and taxi’s may only be payable by cash.
It is definitely worth spending some time researching the ports that you are visiting to determine if you need to pay extra for transport.
Cruise Tip: A very popular cruise port in the Mediterranean is Marseille. When docking in Marseille the cruise lines will tell you that the best way to get into town is by taking a shuttle bus with them, at a cost. They’ll tell you that the town is far away and you can’t walk it. What they won’t tell you is that there is a free bus just outside the port which goes straight into town! I’ve used it before and it’s really easy to do.
Start by visiting websites like WhatsInPort.com.
Entrance to Attractions
Budget example: £40 ($50) per port
If you are going to want to visit certain paid-for attractions it is important that you factor the cost of this into your cruise. I very rarely pay using cash, preferring to pay by card or prebook tickets online before visiting the port.
I do know a number of people who prefer to pay for attractions using cash and if this is you make sure you bring extra cash to do so.
If you book online before going you may be able to find a discount or skip the line/queue when you arrive so it definitely is worth looking into doing this.
Budget example: £10 ($15) per port
I might be the odd one out here but I very rarely buy souvenirs! I just don’t need any more fridge magnets or keyrings. That said if you do like to buy souvenirs and gifts it may be worth bringing some cash. Shops will almost always take credit/debit cards but you may want to buy something from a market stall or smaller trader which doesn’t have credit card functionality. A few small(ish) notes can be really helpful in situations like this.
Budget example: £20 ($15) per port
If you are going to be off the ship for a full day, or just like your local cuisine, it is worth bringing cash to dine out with. In most places, you’ll be able to pay for your meal on your credit/debit card but leaving a tip in cash is usually easier which leads me on nicely to my next point.
Budget example: £7 ($10) per port
As a general rule in most of Europe we tip between 10-15%, this isn’t mandatory and it isn’t rude to not tip. We tip only for good service. In the USA it is expected that diners will tip between 15-20%, it is extremely rude not to do so. In the USA you’re also expected to tip your porters who carry your bags (approximately $1 per bag) and taxi drivers etc.
Bringing small notes can make this much easier, $1 and $5 for Americans and £5 for us brits. It’s a bit annoying that we don’t have £1 or £2 notes in this situation, handing somebody a bundle of coins discretely isn’t so easy!
Budget example: £2 ($3) per port
Public toilets aren’t always free! If you can bring a few local coins this is usually a good idea. I wouldn’t say that this is completely necessary as you could always find a local McDonalds and use their toilets… but if you do have a few euro coins hanging around it might be worth bringing them for your trip, just in case.
Cash Machines on Cruises
Almost all cruise ships will have cash machines onboard. These can have hefty charges and expensive conversion rates so they are best avoided.
If you are going to use the cash machines onboard make sure you take out all money you think you may need at once, it’ll work out more expensive if you keep going back to the machine because you’ll have to pay the fee each time.
A cash machine is available on most Royal Caribbean® ships ($5 fee per transaction will be levied for this service). Currency exchange is available on board for a 3% surcharge – source.
Cruise ships also usually have a currency exchange although the rates you’ll get here won’t be very good. If you are able to try and change your currency before your cruise.
How Much Cash do Cruisers Really Spend?
It’s all very well me giving you these budget numbers but what do cruisers actually spend when cruising? I asked our Facebook group and this is what they had to say. All quotes below are based on a 7-night cruise.
I normally sail NCL and have a beverage package. I really only bring enough for extra tips or in case of emergency. Around £2200. – David
I always take too much! Usually about £500. If it’s Euros then I just save them for my next holiday – Joy
£0 – Gavin
I budget $50 for a sea day and $100 for a port day and $5 a day for the casino! – Clodagh
Usually about $500 for the casino, $200 for misc expenses, and $300 for additional tips. – Paul
Are you paying for your onboard expenses in cash?
The majority of cruisers will pay off their onboard spend using a credit or debit card. Most cruise lines do have the option to pay in cash but this is usually a little more tricky. You may be required to load your cruise account with money at the start of the cruise which is returned to you at the end of the cruise.
When embarking your cruise you’ll be asked to register a credit or debit card to your account. This allows you to spend whatever you’d like on board and it’ll automatically be deducted from your card shortly after disembarkation.
If you decide to pay your balance off in cash you’ll usually have a limit placed on your account and you’ll have to go to reception on the last day to pay off the balance. On some cruise lines, like MSC, you are able to ‘load’ money onto your account using machines around the ship.
What Currencies Should I Bring?
If you are taking a Caribbean cruise US dollars are widely accepted. It is worth noting that if you get any money out of cash machines on land you will get local currency, not US dollars.
In a lot of Europe, Euros are accepted. In some countries, you will only be able to use local currency. The UK only accepts pounds and Norway only accepts Norwegian Krone.
How Much Cash Will I Need Onboard?
In most situations, this will be £0.
I have personally always paid off my cruise balance using a credit or debit card but it is possible to pay it off in cash too.
£30-£50 ($35 – $60) per port
Excursions can get really expensive if you don’t do some pre-planning. When cruising it is totally possible to not take any excursions at all, I often do this and have no problems wandering around ports by myself.
If you do want to take excursions there are a number of options, the first is to take an excursion with the cruise line, this is the easiest option but also the most expensive. The second option is to take an excursion with a third party company, these take a bit more planning but are a bit cheaper. The last option is to do your own thing and book any transport/attraction tickets that you may need.
To learn more about how to make the most out of your excursions check out this post: 67 Cruise Tips from 67 Cruisers, Embarkation to Disembarkation. The amount that excursions cost does vary dramatically by cruise location.
£100 ($120) per person per cruise
There are usually a number of specialty dining options on cruises which cost extra. Almost all cruise lines include food in the main dining room and buffet so it isn’t necessary to pay extra for any of these. That said, specialty restaurants on cruise ships are usually of an extremely high standard and provide additional options from those offered in the main dining room.
Specialty dining is usually charged either by the meal or by the item. They can get quite expensive so if you do plan on eating at specialty restaurants and paying your bill in cash make sure you budget quite a bit extra for this.
To learn more about what is included in a standard cruise fare check out this post: Are Cruises All Inclusive? Your Guide to What is Included.
Budget example: £15 ($20) per day
On most cruise lines gratuities are automatically added onto your onboard account. These range from around £10-£15 per day and go towards tipping the wait staff, chefs, housekeeping and more. Many cruisers like to additionally tip in cash although this is not mandatory.
If you do want to tip in cash this always appreciated. Tips in any currency are accepted.
To learn more about what housekeeping do on a cruise, including how much the automatic gratuities they receive. Check out this post:
Budget example: £50 ($60) per cruise
There are a number of beauty and spa treatments available on cruises which aren’t included in the cruise fare. Most cruise ships will also have a hairdresser on board and will also offer beauty treatments.
Spa treatments can be quite expensive with a massage costing over £100 on some cruise lines.
Budget example: £50 ($60) per cruise
I personally would never spend £50 in the casino but I had to put something in the budget example right!? I know many people gamble much more than this and many gamble much less.
I like to gamble a little when I cruise, usually in slot machines which do take physical cash. On occasion, I have bought along $1 bills to use in the slot machines.
Budget example: £10 ($12) per day
If you want to use WiFi during your cruise you do have to pay extra for this. The internet on cruise ships can sometimes be slow and is relatively expensive so I do try to avoid this where I can. You can buy a package either by the megabyte or the minute. Some cruise lines also have packages by the day or the entire cruise.
I now do buy packages when I cruise so that I can keep up to date with you via my social media accounts. You can find me on Twitter here: EmmaCruises. Instagram here: EmmaCruises and Facebook here: Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People. I share daily updates when I cruise as well as cruise tips and tours.
Want to learn how to cruise well on a budget? Start here: How to Cruise For Less
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