The right amount of cash to bring on a cruise!

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cash on a cruise

A few days ago I was on Facebook and was reading a comment from a woman about to embark on a cruise.

The conversation revolved around how much money to bring, and she mentioned she was taking $2000 in cash for a 7-night cruise.

I was quite shocked by this amount: all this cash for a cruise is exaggerated for nearly any passenger.

Therefore, I thought I would share this with you to discuss what is the appropriate amount of money to bring on a cruise and explain why it’s unnecessary to carry so much cash.

Cruises are cash-free

One thing I want to clarify, especially for those who have never been on a cruise, is that cruise ships are cash-free.

Before boarding, you will receive a magnetic card that will be used to open the cabin door and pay for all things on board.

MSC cruise card
MSC cruise card

When you use the card, the charges are added to your onboard account.
Of course, before you leave the ship (either the night before disembarkation or the morning itself) you must settle the total amount you spent.

You can do this by card, although some cruise lines also accept cash to settle the total (I still recommend a card since it can be a high amount).

Another tip, which I think is useful, is to link your payment card to your onboard account during online check-in. This way, you can avoid waiting in line at the front desk when you board.

So yeah, the important thing to know is that on cruise ships you cannot pay with cash, it is not accepted.

Why do you still need some cash then?

On a cruise, you may need the cash on two specific occasions: if you want to tip, and when you get off the ship for excursions.

Let’s look in more detail at the amount you should bring for these eventualities.


The first reason you need cash is for tipping.

In the U.S., it is customary to tip between 15% and 20%. While you don’t typically pay a bill on a cruise, crew staff may still expect a tip.

On U.S. cruise lines it is common to tip your waiter, the luggage handler, the cabin steward and the bartender.
As always, it is not mandatory but highly recommended if you receive good service.

For this reason, remember to bring bills with you, especially $1, $2 and $5 bills.

Plus you might need them if you want to leave a tip during the excursion, for example to the cab driver.

Tipping on European cruises

As you probably know, I am Italian and can confirm that in Europe (except perhaps in the UK) tipping is not so common.

To be clear, a worker does not necessarily expect to be tipped, but it is still a good thing to do if you particularly enjoyed the service.

I always tip waiters, even on Italian ships like Costa Cruises.

During Excursions

Taxi near the cruise ship
Yellow cab near the cruise ship

The second reason you may need cash is for excursions.

When you get off the ship you can use cash again, even though nowadays nearly every country accepts cards.

For my experience, the only places that might not accept cards are public transportation and cabs.

Therefore, it’s always good to have cash on hand in case of emergencies.

Public toilets

Another situation where you might need cash is for using restrooms.

In Europe, it is very common that you have to pay about 1€ at automatic machines to enter the toilets.

Therefore, it might be useful to always have some coins in your pocket.

Tickets for attractions

The Pantheon in Rome
At the Pantheon in Rome you now have to pay €5 to enter

When you are on excursions you will probably visit places that might have entrance fees.

For example, churches, historical monuments, museums, and all those places that are popular among tourists.

Some of them may require you to pay cash. In my experience, these places are very rare but I have come across some of them, especially in small towns.

My advice, if you have an itinerary already set, is to buy tickets online well in advance.

This way you might save some money and avoid the line at the ticket office.

How much cash should I bring on a cruise?

I did some math. Below is the list of things you may need cash for.

The figures are “per day” so add up those that apply to you and then multiply them by the days you will be on the cruise.

  • Tips $20 per day (both on board and on land)
  • Cabs and transports $50 per day
  • Souvenirs $20 per day
  • Food and drink 30$ per day
  • Public toilets 5$ per day

According to these costs, you would need $125 in cash per day. So for a 7-day cruise a total of $875.

This is in my opinion a fairly realistic figure. According to my experience, the right amount is between $100 to $130 per day.

Don’t bring more than necessary: there are many risks!

Safe in the cabin
Safe in the cabin

Another piece of advice I want to give you is not to bring excessive amounts of cash.

Some people want to be extremely cautious and carry an unreasonable amount.

There are several risks in doing this:

  1. Risk of loss: when traveling, you often use various modes of transportation, change locations frequently, and move around a lot.
    The risk of losing your wallet or backpack is always very high.
  2. Risk of theft: as you know, tourists are the favorite targets for pickpockets.
    That is why it is always recommended to carry only small amounts of money and be cautious about where you store it.
    When you disembark for excursions bring only the amount you need for that day and leave the rest in the cabin safe.
Las Ramblas in Barcelona
Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Are there ATMs on the ship?

There are ATMs on some cruise ships, but not all.

Usually, the cruise lines that have ATMs on board are Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, Princess, and Holland America.

Note well that the costs of withdrawing on a cruise can be quite high.
My advice is to avoid using ATMs on the ship and prefer those that can be found in ports or city centers.

In addition, I can confirm that MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises do not have ATMs on board.
I have been on many cruises with them and there was no ATM on any of their ships.

Please share this article! It can be useful to another cruise enthusiast!

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