How Much Money Should I Take on a Cruise?

How Much Money Should I Take on a Cruise?

Your cruise fare includes the basics, such as accommodations, meals, entertainment and transportation to ports of call, so you may be ready to leave your wallet at home. Although you can easily enjoy your time on board without cash, it’s still a good idea to have some money on you. The question is — how much spending money should you bring? 

Overall, you’ll want to carry as little cash as possible and use a credit card for most transactions. A credit card keeps a record of your spending and is safer than carrying money. Plus, many businesses accept credit cards, especially in popular port cities. Cash can come in handy if you plan to travel in more isolated areas, want to tip a server or don’t want to use a credit card for small purchases. 

Finding the perfect balance can seem tricky, but we’ll help you determine the right amount of money to bring on your cruise.

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Factors That Influence How Much Money to Bring on a Cruise

The amount of cash you should bring on your cruise largely depends on what you plan to do at each port. Onshore shopping, dining and excursions do not need to be part of your itinerary, but they can enhance your trip and allow you to immerse yourself in a region fully. To help you determine how much money to bring on your voyage, consider the following factors: 

1. Destination

Are you looking forward to lounging in a coconut-scented breeze or whale-watching in an icy fjord? If you’re traveling to cruise destinations that use the U.S. dollar, such as Alaska, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, you may want to bring enough cash with you for tipping and buying souvenirs — just to save yourself the hassle of using an ATM. 

If you’re sailing to foreign ports where businesses generally do not accept dollars, such as cities along the coast of Italy or France, you may want to take out cash once you arrive rather than bringing money on board. Using an ATM in your destination is one of the easiest and best ways to get the local currency. However, you can also order currency through your bank before you leave for a Mediterranean cruise, so you don’t have to track down ATMs during your journey.

You may also want to plan ahead if you’re cruising on a small ship that can fit into tinier, more secluded ports. Remote islands may not have ATMs, and local businesses might not accept credit cards, but you can bring cash with you to treat yourself on a whim.

2. Excursions and Activities

Think about what your plans are and how you’ll spend your time in each port. For example, if you’ll be gambling in Monaco, you may wish to bring euros with you so you can start having fun as soon as you arrive. Will you be sunbathing under the Caribbean sun? Consider if you’ll need cash to pay a beach entrance fee or rent a chair. You might want to bring a little extra for an impromptu beachside cocktail!

Also, consider any excursions you plan to take and bring cash for tipping tour guides. The rule of thumb is to tip the guide 10% to 20% of the tour cost, depending on how much you enjoyed the experience. You could also tip based on the length of the tour. For example, you might give the guide $5 to $10 for a half-day excursion or $10 to $20 for a full-day tour.

If you like to be spontaneous when you travel, you might bring cash in case you decide to go on an unplanned tour when you arrive at a port. In addition, think about anything else you may do during your adventure, such as explore a local market or catch a taxi to a nature preserve. Unless you have your entire day planned, having some money on you gives you more freedom to do as you please.

3. Travel Companions

Imagine strolling through Venice hand in hand with your loved one when they suddenly spot a gelateria. They’re dying for a chocolate gelato, but they left their wallet behind. It’s the perfect opportunity to treat your partner to something too small for a credit card but too sweet to pass up. If you have cash on you, you’ll be ready to enjoy a special moment at the gelateria or anywhere an opportunity arises during your trip together.

Will you be traveling with a group of friends instead? If so, how will you divide costs? For example, if one person plans to put onshore meals and activities on a credit card, you may want to have cash ready to pay for your share immediately. That way, you won’t have to worry about owing your friend later on.

4. Shopping

Do you plan on shopping as you explore different ports of call? How much do you intend to spend? If you’re excited to shop at high-end stores in Barbados, for example, you’ll do fine with just your credit card. On the other hand, if you’re eager to pick up unique trinkets, handicrafts or fresh fruit, you’ll want to have some cash on you. Small, local businesses may not accept credit cards, especially if you venture away from touristy areas. So, it’s best to consider your shopping goals and tastes before your cruise so you can plan accordingly. 

5. Dining

What’s your dining preference? Will you be visiting each port’s highest-rated restaurant? Or do you anticipate sampling street food wherever your ship docks? If you’re looking forward to upscale dining, you should be able to use your credit card to pay for your meals, no matter where you are in the world. Still, it’s a good idea to have cash for the tip because you may not have the option to add a gratuity with your credit card. Although tipping is not expected in some countries, the standard amount ranges from 10% to 20% of your bill.

If you want to tour food trucks at each destination, plan to bring cash. The vendor might not accept credit cards, and if they do, there may be a certain amount you need to spend first. Also, it’s not required to tip street food vendors, but you might want to leave something in their tip jar if you’re impressed.

Factors That Influence How Much Money to Bring on a Cruise

Cruise Expenses That May Require Cash

Cruise ships typically run as cashless societies and require guests to set up an onboard spending account using a credit card. After activating their shipboard account, guests receive a keycard that functions as their onboard credit card and room key. Having a keycard is more convenient than carrying cash or multiple credit cards with you as you relax on your cruise.

If cruises use cashless systems, do you need to bring any money with you? Here are a few reasons why you still may want to have some cash on hand:

1. Transfers 

How will you get to your cruise ship’s embarkation port from the airport? And how will you leave the disembarkation port when your cruise is over? There are several ways to get to and from your cruise ship, which may or may not require cash. For instance, if you use a service like Uber or Lyft, you can pay for the ride and tip entirely through the company’s mobile application.

If you take a taxi to the pier, you may be able to pay for the ride and tip with your credit card if you’re in the United States. However, if you’re beginning your journey in a foreign country, it’s better to have cash in the local currency to pay for your ride in case they don’t accept credit cards. The standard tip for a driver is about 10% to 20% depending on where you are and the type of experience you have.

Are you driving your own car to the port? If so, make sure to consider if you’ll need cash for tolls and parking. 

2. Tipping

Depending on your cruise line, gratuities may be automatically charged to your onboard account every day. For example, at Windstar Cruises, we want to reward our crew members for taking exceptional care of our guests, so we add a service charge of $14.50 to each guest’s account per day — which you are welcome to adjust at the end of your cruise if we do not meet your expectations. These charges are given to the wait staff, cabin stewards and other crew members who serve you during your voyage.

Guests are also given a 15% service charge for bar expenses and wine purchases. These costs are paid wholly to crew members.

If your cruise automatically adds gratuities to your account, there’s no need to bring cash on your ship for tipping. However, cruise guests may provide extra tips for crew members who go the extra mile. Although there are no strict rules regarding how much to tip, here are a few guidelines:

  • Spa staff: 15% to 20%
  • Laundry staff: $1 to $3 per bag of laundry
  • Bartenders: $1 per drink or $5 per day
  • Wait staff: $5 per evening
  • Cabin stewards: $1 to $5 per person per day
  • Room service stewards: $1 to $5 per delivery


Cruise Expenses to Add to Your Shipboard Account

Although you don’t need cash to pay for additional onboard expenses, you’ll want to take any extras into account when determining how much money you need for your cruise. For example, you may want to leave room in your budget for the following:

1. Alcohol

Most cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in the fare, so you’ll have to charge beer, wine and cocktails to your onboard account. If you’re looking forward to spending afternoons on the deck with fruity cocktails or having a daily glass of wine under the stars, you might consider purchasing a beverage package. With a beverage package, you’ll pay a set amount every day to enjoy unlimited drinks from a diverse selection.


2. Spa Services

Cruise ships typically offer spa services for an additional charge. You might treat yourself to the ship’s spa and get a relaxing massage after a long flight or a day of hiking. There’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself just because you feel like it, too. Your cruise can be a chance to rest and recharge, and the spa can help immensely.

3. Laundry Services

You probably don’t want to think about doing laundry on your cruise, and in many cases, you don’t have to. If you want to pack as light as possible but still have the clothes you need, consider adding laundry services to your onboard account. With Windstar’s personal laundry service, you can leave your laundry outside of your stateroom before going to bed and find it fresh and clean when you wake up.

4. Celebrations

If you’re planning a cruise for your anniversary or honeymoon, you can make the occasion extra special with a gift and service package. For example, Windstar Cruises offers a wedding vow renewal package, including cake, champagne and a ceremony performed by the ship’s captain. Let your cruise line know about any occasion you want to celebrate, and they may offer something to make it more memorable. 

So How Much Cash Should I Take on a Cruise?

As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips.

Fifty to a hundred dollars a day should be enough to cover small purchases, tips and snacks at each port. However, you’ll still want to consider what you plan to do during your cruise and determine whether you need more or less than that amount. Also, remember that it may make more sense to take out cash from an ATM once you arrive at your destination, particularly if you’re in a foreign country. Using an ATM can save you from expensive money-exchange services when you need to purchase the local currency. 

Contact Windstar Cruises for More Information

With most cruises operating as cashless societies, it is possible to take a cruise without bringing any cash at all. But, when you’re craving a Jamaican patty or eyeing a Sicilian cannoli, you’ll be happy you have a few bills stashed in your pocket. Bringing money on your cruise will also help you show appreciation to servers, drivers and other helpful folks you meet throughout your journey.

Still, tipping etiquette can be confusing, especially in foreign countries. At Windstar Cruises, we’ll answer any questions you have about bringing money on board and help you determine the right amount to carry with you. We aim to help all our guests plan their cruises stress-free and enjoy every moment aboard our comfortable, uncrowded ships. To learn more about cruising with Windstar, please contact us today.

Contact Windstar Cruises for More Information

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