In the digital age, where plastic cards and mobile payment apps dominate our transactions, the idea of carrying cash may seem outdated. However, when it comes to a cruise vacation, bringing cash along can still be a smart and practical choice.

While cruise ships have embraced modern payment systems, there are several compelling reasons why having cash on hand can enhance your cruise experience and provide peace of mind. In this article, we will explore the advantages of bringing cash on a cruise vacation and how it can contribute to a smooth and enjoyable journey at sea.

Table Of Contents

Cruising: A Cashless Society

On Ship Reasons For Needing Cash

Off Ship Reasons For Needing Cash

Where to Get Cash if You Forgot to Bring Any

How Much Cash To Bring Along?

How to Protect Your Cash on a Cruise

Cruise Time?

Cruising: The Cashless Society of a Cruise Ship


Does anyone still use physical currency these days? These questions may come to mind when considering whether to bring cash on a cruise. In our cashless society, it seems unnecessary to have those green bills with you, especially on a voyage at sea.

It’s true that you can go completely cashless on your cruise and have a fantastic time. Most cruise lines expenses, such as specialty dining, spa treatments, and excursions, can be conveniently charged to your onboard account through your cruise card. Your cruise account becomes a hub for all additional purchases, making it easy to keep track of expenses for the entire cruise until the end of your voyage. Drinks, souvenirs, and even gratuities can be settled through this account, eliminating the need for cash transactions onboard.

With everything covered by your card, you might wonder why bother bringing cash at all? However, there are a few compelling reasons to consider tucking some cold hard cash away for your cruise experience. Once your cruise fare is paid, spending money for onboard expenses might involve a bit of extra cash. Let’s go over why taking cash might be needed.


Reasons For Bringing Cash For On-Ship Usage


When preparing for a cruise vacation, we always make sure to include some cash the my packing list. While tipping is one of the primary uses for cash on a cruise, there are other aspects that shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly for first-time cruisers. The Cruise largely depends on passengers treating the employees well and tipping is one of the best ways to show this.

  • Tipping the porters: At the start of your cruise, porters are there to assist with your luggage. Allowing them to handle your large bags while you keep your carry-on makes navigating the ship easier. It’s customary to tip porters around $2 to $3 per bag, and having small bills on hand is useful, as they only accept cash.

  • Tipping for room service: Although free room service is becoming less common, it’s still considerate to tip the person delivering your breakfast or other meals. A general guideline is to tip around $2 for a small order and $4 to $5 for a larger order. Handing over cash to the room service attendant is appreciated.

  • Tipping room steward or waitstaff: Cruise lines often add gratuities of around $15 to $20 per person per day to your bill, which covers the room stewards and dining staff. While this is already included, if you receive exceptional service, it’s a kind gesture to show appreciation with a cash tip. Leaving a cash tip in the cabin along with a note of thanks is also a thoughtful gesture. If you ate in the main dining room every night and rave about your server, there is no better way to show your appreciation than carrying enough cash for a cruise end tip.

  • Tipping Laundry services: This might be a stretch, as almost all cruise lines charge a small fortune to do a load of laundry. But if you feel so inclined to leave a cruise tip for laundry services, physical cash is always king.

  • Tipping Spa services or Other Crew Members: Just like everything else, the cruise line will charge you automatic gratuities for tipping crew members. It is a widely accepted practice if you are happy with your service, to leave cash tips.

It’s always wise to have a modest amount of cash available for any unforeseen circumstances or emergencies that may arise during your voyage. If you find yourself in a situation a credit or debit card are not accepted, it’s a good bet it will require cash to settle up.

Reasons For Bringing Cash For Off-Ship Usage

When exploring ports during your cruise, having cash on hand can help you avoid fees and potential fraud, especially in high tourism areas. Here’s why carrying cash is beneficial:

  • Buying local souvenirs: Cash is particularly useful when shopping at straw markets or local downtown markets in foreign countries. It allows for easier bargaining and is often the only form of currency accepted by the sellers, as many vendors in these markets don’t have credit card machines.

  • Using local taxis and public transportation: Many taxis and public transportation services prefer or only accept cash payments. While some larger taxi services at cruise ports may accept credit cards, it can come with a small risk. Having cash allows you to conveniently pay for transportation and tip the driver if desired.

  • Eating at local restaurants: Trying local cuisine at restaurants in port is a delightful experience. However, some of these establishments may not have credit card processors, making cash the preferred payment method. Having cash on hand ensures you can enjoy the local culinary delights without any payment issues.

  • Booking local excursions: When booking tours and excursions off the ship, having cash is essential. Many local tour guides or attractions may not accept credit cards, and having cash readily available allows you to pay for these experiences.

  • Taking a restroom break in Europe: In Europe, it’s common for restrooms to charge a small fee for use. Having local currency, such as coins or small bills, ensures you can easily access restroom facilities without any inconvenience.

  • Tipping Wait Staff or Your Tour Guide: If you decide to eat or tour off the cruise ship, whether a domestic cruise or in a foreign country, a few reasons to have more money in cash is tipping your server or tour guide. How much cash to bring on cruise can be factored in by how much spending money is needed for off the ship activities.

By carrying cash in port, you can navigate these situations smoothly, avoid foreign transaction fees, and ensure a hassle-free exploration of the local culture and offerings. Many cruisers, especially first timers, forget the golden rule that cash is king.

Where to Get Cash if You Forgot to Bring Any


If you find yourself in need of cash during your cruise and didn’t bring any with you, there are a few options available:

  • Cruise ship ATMs: Most cruise ships have ATM machines conveniently located, often near the guest services desk. While using the onboard ATM comes with associated fees, it can provide a secure option for obtaining cash during your voyage.

  • ATMs in port: Another option is to use ATMs available in the ports of call. However, it’s important to exercise caution, particularly in high tourism areas, as ATM security can be a concern. Be mindful of any suspicious activity and prioritize using ATMs that are in well-lit and secure locations.

  • Considerations for using foreign ATMs: When using an ATM in a foreign port, you will typically receive the local currency. This can be advantageous if you specifically need local currency for your transactions.

  • Comparing costs: While there are fees associated with using ATMs, it’s often more cost-effective than using currency exchange offices, which may have high fees. Using a local ATM usually provides a better exchange rate and reduces the overall expense.

When accessing cash through ATMs, it’s important to be mindful of security and choose reputable machines. By taking necessary precautions, you can safely obtain the cash you need for your activities and purchases during the cruise.

How Much Cash Should You Bring on a Cruise?


This largely depends on you, but let’s look at a basic breakdown of potential cash uses and see what we come up with.

  • Porters – $6 for 3 bags

  • Room Service – $10 for a few deliveries

  • Extra tips for staff – $20, but depends on you

  • Souvenirs – $30 – $50

  • Taxis – $50

  • Restaurants – $40

  • Excursions – $100

  • Gambling – The sky is the limit

This is very subjective and depends on the length of your cruise, destination of your cruise, and what you will actually do on and off your cruise. On average you should bring anywhere from $150 to $250. 

One thing recommended for your next cruise, is to bring along small bills so you don’t have the awkward moment of asking for change of a $20 when tipping the porter $2. Having small bills handy you can negotiate souvenir prices easier than paying with a large bill and asking for cash back in return. Souvenir stands in foreign ports likely won’t be able to give you back cash in your own currency for those small purchases regardless.

How to Protect The Cash You Bring?

Protecting your cash from theft or prying eyes is crucial during a cruise vacation. Here are some of the best ways to ensure the safety of your cash:

  • Use a Travel Money Belt or Hidden Pouch: Invest in a travel money belt or hidden pouch that can be worn discreetly under your clothing. These secure accessories provide a concealed and safe place to store your cash, keeping it away from potential thieves or prying eyes.
  • Utilize the In-Room Safe: Most cruise ship cabins are equipped with in-room safes. Take advantage of this amenity by storing your cash and other valuables inside. It provides an extra layer of security and peace of mind while you’re away from your cabin.
  • Divide and Conceal Your Cash: Rather than carrying all your cash in one place, divide it into smaller amounts and stash it in different locations. Distribute cash among various pockets, bags, or hidden compartments to minimize the risk of losing everything in case of theft or loss.
  • Avoid Flashy Displays of Cash: Displaying large amounts of cash in public areas can attract unwanted attention. Keep your cash discreet and avoid unnecessary flaunting, as it may make you a target for theft. Only take out the cash you need for immediate expenses and keep the rest concealed.
  • Stay Vigilant in Crowded Areas: Be cautious when in crowded spaces such as embarkation or disembarkation areas, ports, or tourist attractions. These areas can be prime targets for pickpockets. Maintain awareness of your surroundings and keep your belongings, including cash, secure at all times.
  • Be Mindful of Cabin Security: While cruise ship cabins are generally safe, it’s important to take precautions. Lock your cabin door when you’re inside and avoid leaving large amounts of cash or valuable items unattended. Notify guest services immediately if you notice any suspicious activity or missing belongings.
  • Consider Alternative Payment Methods: Reduce the amount of cash you carry by utilizing alternative payment methods such as a credit or debit card, prepaid travel cards, or contactless payment options. These methods offer convenience and added security, as they can be easily canceled or blocked if lost or stolen.
  • Stay Updated on Port Security: Before disembarking at ports of call, research the security situation and any known risks. Familiarize yourself with common scams or pickpocketing techniques that may be prevalent in the area. Stay cautious and take necessary precautions to protect your cash and belongings.


Cruise Time?

Being prepared with cash on a cruise can enhance your overall experience, particularly when it comes to tipping and shore excursions. By ensuring you have sufficient cash on hand, you can navigate these aspects of your cruise more smoothly and enjoy a worry-free vacation.

By being prepared with cash for tipping and shore excursions, you can fully embrace the cruise experience and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. It provides convenience, flexibility, and peace of mind, allowing you to engage with the local culture, show appreciation to the hardworking staff, and make the most of your time on and off the ship. So after you have selected your cruise line, paid your cruise fare, and headed to the cruise terminal, make sure to pack a little extra cash for everything you don’t want to put on your cruise account.