How Does Payment Work On A Cruise?

Have you ever wondered how payment works on a cruise? Well, let me break it down for you. When it comes to paying for things on a cruise, there are a few different options available to you. You can either use cash, a credit card, or set up an onboard account. Each option has its own advantages and it really depends on your personal preference. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about how each payment option works and provide some tips on how to effectively manage your expenses during your cruise. So, whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned sailor, keep reading to learn more about the different payment methods available to you on a cruise.

During your cruise, you’ll have the option to use cash to pay for your onboard expenses. This can be a convenient option if you prefer to have physical money in hand. You can simply exchange your currency for onboard credit and use it to pay for things like drinks, shopping, and excursions. However, it’s important to note that most cruise lines do not accept cash as a form of payment for your daily expenses. Instead, they require you to set up an onboard account, either with a credit card or a cash deposit, to cover your expenses. In the next section, we’ll talk more about how the onboard account payment option works and why it might be a better choice for you on your next cruise.

Overview of Cruise Payment System

When you embark on a cruise, it’s essential to understand how the payment system works to ensure a seamless and stress-free experience. From pre-cruise payments to onboard purchases, gratuities, and managing your expenses, this article will guide you through the different aspects of payment on a cruise. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of cruise payments.

Different payment methods on a cruise

Cruises offer various payment options to cater to the diverse needs of their passengers. Whether you prefer using cash, credit/debit cards, or prepaid onboard accounts, there’s a payment method that suits your preferences. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Understanding the onboard account system

One of the essential aspects of cruise payment is the onboard account system. When you board the ship, you’ll be asked to provide a payment method to create your onboard account. This account will be used to charge your purchases, services, and even gratuities during your time on the cruise. It’s crucial to understand how this system works to avoid any surprises when it’s time to settle your onboard account.

Pre-Cruise Payments

Before you embark on your cruise adventure, there are two main payments you need to make: the booking deposit and the final payment.

Booking and deposit

When you’re ready to book your cruise, you’ll be required to pay a deposit to secure your reservation. The deposit amount varies depending on the cruise line and the type of cabin you choose. It’s important to check the specific deposit requirements and ensure that you have sufficient funds available to make the payment.

Final payment

The final payment for your cruise is typically due a few months before your departure date. This payment covers the remaining balance of your cruise fare, including any additional charges such as taxes, fees, and gratuities. It’s important to submit your final payment by the specified deadline to avoid any cancellation or penalty fees.

Onboard Purchases

Once you’re onboard the cruise ship, you’ll have several options for making purchases and settling your expenses.

Using cash onboard

While cash is accepted on most cruise ships, it’s essential to keep in mind that using cash for all your onboard expenses can be inconvenient. You’ll need to keep track of your spending and continuously visit the ship’s guest services desk to settle your account. Additionally, if you lose your cash or it gets stolen, you won’t have any form of protection or recourse.

Cruise line credit cards

Many cruise lines offer their branded credit cards, which can be used for onboard purchases. These credit cards often come with special perks and rewards, such as onboard credit, discounted rates, or free upgrades. If you frequently cruise with a specific cruise line, getting their branded credit card can be a convenient and rewarding payment option.

Personal credit/debit cards

Using your personal credit or debit card is another popular payment method on cruises. It offers convenience and eliminates the need to carry large sums of cash. However, before using your personal card, it’s essential to check if there are any foreign transaction fees or other charges that may apply. Inform your card issuer about your travel plans to prevent any unexpected holds or declined charges.

Prepaid onboard accounts

Many cruise lines offer the option of setting up a prepaid onboard account. This allows you to deposit a specific amount of money into your account before your cruise. You can then use this account to make purchases onboard the ship. Prepaid accounts are a convenient way to manage your expenses, as you won’t need to carry cash or worry about exceeding your budget. It’s important to note that any remaining balance in your prepaid account will be refunded to you at the end of your cruise.

Gratuities and Service Charges

Gratuities and service charges are an essential part of the cruise experience and are typically automatically added to your onboard account.

Automatic gratuity charges

Most cruise lines have a predefined gratuity charge per person per day. This includes gratuities for cabin stewards, dining room waitstaff, and other service personnel. These charges are automatically added to your onboard account and are divided among the crew members who provide you with exceptional service during your cruise.

Adjusting gratuities

If you wish to adjust the gratuity amount, most cruise lines provide an option to do so. You can either increase or decrease the gratuity charge through the ship’s guest services. It’s essential to consider the hard work and dedication of the crew members before adjusting the gratuity amount.

Additional service charges

In addition to automatic gratuity charges, some onboard services may have additional service charges or fees. These can include specialty dining, spa treatments, internet packages, and beverage packages. It’s important to be aware of these charges before using the services to avoid any surprises on your onboard account.

Currency and Foreign Transactions

Cruising to different ports of call may involve dealing with different currencies and potential foreign transaction fees.

Onboard currency exchange

Cruise ships typically have onboard currency exchange services, allowing you to convert your money into the local currency of the destinations you’ll be visiting. It’s important to be aware that currency exchange rates on the ship may not be as favorable compared to exchanging money on land. Researching and being prepared with some local currency before arriving at your destination can be beneficial.

Foreign transaction fees

When using your credit or debit card for onboard purchases or in ports of call, it’s essential to check if your card issuer charges foreign transaction fees. These fees can add up quickly and significantly impact your overall expenses. Consider using a card that offers no or low foreign transaction fees to avoid unnecessary charges.

Budgeting and Managing Expenses

Budgeting and managing your expenses on a cruise can help you stay within your financial limits and avoid any surprises when it’s time to settle your onboard account.

Tips for budgeting on a cruise

  • Set a daily spending limit: Determine how much you’re willing to spend each day, including both onboard purchases and any expenses in ports of call.
  • Plan ahead for shore excursions: Research the cost of shore excursions and determine which ones fit within your budget. Pre-booking excursions before your cruise can be a convenient way to ensure availability and avoid inflated prices onboard.
  • Keep track of your expenses: Regularly review your onboard account statement to track your spending and adjust your budget accordingly.

Tracking expenses

Most cruise lines offer guest portals or mobile apps that allow you to easily track your onboard expenses. Take advantage of these tools to stay updated on your spending and make any necessary adjustments. Keeping a record of your expenses ensures that you have an accurate understanding of your overall budget.

Setting spending limits

If you want to exercise additional control over your spending, some cruise lines offer the option to set spending limits on your onboard account. This allows you to predetermine the maximum amount you’re willing to spend during your cruise. Once you reach your spending limit, any further charges will be declined, preventing any unexpected overspending.

Security and Fraud Protection

Ensuring the security of your payment information is of utmost importance when paying for your cruise expenses.

Safeguarding personal information

When using your credit or debit card for onboard payments, exercise caution and protect your personal information. Ensure that you’re using secure internet connections when making online transactions, and be wary of potential phishing scams or suspicious websites.

Monitor credit card activity

Regularly monitor your credit card statements after your cruise to ensure that all charges are correct and there are no unauthorized transactions. If you notice any discrepancies, report them to your credit card company immediately.

Disputes and Refunds

While cruise lines strive to provide exceptional service, sometimes disputes or the need for refunds may arise.

Resolving payment disputes

If you encounter any payment disputes or discrepancies with your onboard account charges, visit the ship’s guest services desk to discuss the issue. The staff will work with you to resolve the problem and, if necessary, escalate it to the appropriate department.

Cancellation and refund policies

Before making any payments or deposits, familiarize yourself with the cruise line’s cancellation and refund policies. Each cruise line has specific guidelines regarding cancellations, refunds, and any associated fees. Being aware of these policies can help you make informed decisions and minimize any potential financial losses.

Special Considerations

Certain groups of travelers may have specific considerations when it comes to cruise payments.

Solo travelers and single supplements

Solo travelers should be aware of the additional cost of single supplements on cruises. Single supplements are charges incurred by individuals occupying a cabin alone, compensating for the lost revenue of a second guest. Researching cruise lines that offer reduced or waived single supplements can help save you money if you’re traveling alone.

Children’s accounts and spending limits

If you’re cruising with children, some cruise lines offer programs specifically designed for them. These programs may also include options for setting spending limits on their onboard accounts. Such measures can help teach children financial responsibility while ensuring they don’t overspend.


Understanding how payment works on a cruise is crucial for a seamless and enjoyable experience. By familiarizing yourself with the different payment methods, managing your expenses, and taking necessary security precautions, you can ensure a stress-free and well-budgeted cruise vacation. So set sail with confidence, knowing that your payment needs are well taken care of. Bon voyage!