How do I Pay for Things on a Cruise?

Michael Pollick

The method by which passengers pay for things on a cruise often depends on the type of ship and the amenities already included in the price of the ticket. Many larger cruise ships work like all-inclusive resorts, with almost all typical expenses (food, lodging, entertainment, shore excursions, etc.) included in the original ticket price. Others operate more like luxury hotels, with individual accounts opened for each passenger so they can charge things to their room.

Many cruises allow you to charge things to your room.
Many cruises allow you to charge things to your room.

While a charge account on a cruise ship may allow passengers to charge nominal expenses and pay the total with a credit card, it doesn't mean a cruise is a completely cash-less environment. Passengers who wish to gamble on board, for instance, must provide their own cash to purchase gambling chips or tokens. It is not unusual to find at least one Automated Teller Machine (ATM) on board a large cruise ship with casino-type gambling.

Group playing blackjack on a cruise.
Group playing blackjack on a cruise.

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Depending on the cruise ship's food and beverage policies, passengers may also have to pay for drinks on a cruise, especially alcoholic beverages. Some cruise lines offer a separate beverage plan that allows passengers to consume unlimited amounts of non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks, tea, coffee, and water for a nominal surcharge. If this plan is not available, then passengers may need a supply of cash to pay for non-complimentary beverages. Tipping the bartender or wait staff may also require some cash if the passenger doesn't plan on tipping all of the service staff at the end of the cruise.

Shore excursions may be included in the original ticket price, but this doesn't mean all of the expenses passengers may incur are covered. Cruise packages typically cover things that are provided on the ship, not the activities the cruiser may take part in in the countries the cruise liner may visit. Transportation not arranged by the cruise line for an organized tour may not be included in the ticket price. Passengers may be able to purchase food or gift items with their own currency, but they may also have to make arrangements to exchange their cash for local currency.

In general, passengers on a cruise ship should plan to carry some cash with them on the trip, even though most of the nominal expenses can be charged to an individual guest account and paid with a credit card at the end of the voyage. If a passenger plans on spending significant time in a port city, having a supply of cash to cover food, entertainment, and travel expenses may be especially important.

People on a cruise may want to have cash handy to tip their bartender.
People on a cruise may want to have cash handy to tip their bartender.

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Discussion Comments


It is a long standing problem for people in the service industry. Workers are not well paid and tips are what make up a large chunks of their salary. On the other hand, not every client knows this and so the many workers in the service industry suffer.


@OeKc05 – I greatly prefer carrying cash to carrying a credit card on a cruise. If I bring cash, I can only be robbed of the amount of money I have on hand. If I bring my credit card, I could be robbed of thousands of dollars because the thief could charge things until he reached my credit limit.

Generally, credit card companies will not hold you liable for fraudulent charges, but think about this. If you are already on a cruise and the company sees that you are using your card there, it will be hard for you to prove that it wasn't you who made the charges. You could be held liable.

I took a cruise from Louisiana to Mexico last year, and I carried only cash. I felt much more secure than when I carried a credit card.


My cousin went on a cruise to Mexico two years ago, and she told me that the cruise tips are what will break you if you are not careful. She didn't know until her travel companion told her that people are expected to tip everyone from the person who gives you clean towels to the person who brings you a drink at the pool.

She had brought along some extra cash to spend on shopping once the ship reached its destination. She ended up spending half of it on tips for the cruise ship staff!

I think that a better plan might be for the cruise line to pay its staff better wages so that they wouldn't have to rely on tips. Even though this would probably make the ticket prices go up, at least it would be more convenient than handing out dollars to every single person who waits on you throughout your trip, which is supposed to be restful and not full of obligations.


I've never been on a cruise, but the option to pay for everything with a guest account at the very end sounds like the best plan to me. I love being able to charge things and pay for them later, and I have enough self control to keep from getting carried away.

I hate carrying cash on vacation. It makes me feel vulnerable to thieves. Any time I have to pull out a wad of bills, I get paranoid and start to sweat.

That's why I love just using a credit card. It would be even better if I could just tell the staff to put it on my account and then only have to pull out the credit card once during the whole visit.

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