Carole is about to embark on her first cruise and wants to know if she can prepay for her onboard expenses rather than use her credit card.
I haven’t been on a cruise before but have signed up for a seven-night cruise in July, and I’m now wondering about the best way to pay for my onboard expenses. I really don’t like the idea of using my credit card for payment and rarely do so at home, but a friend has said that it is possible to prepay for my expenses and have the money returned if you don’t use it all. Can you confirm if this is possible, and how does it work? If not, can I use a debit card instead of a credit card?
A. Setting up a cash account at the start of your cruise can be a great way to go about things and you can pay into it before you sail. Not only does operating a cash account force you to keep track of your spending while you are onboard, but it can also save you money.
If your cruise line operates in US dollars it will most likely offer a poorer exchange rate than you would get from your local financial institution. You can exchange your money before you board at the best rate you can afford. Then you can walk up to the guest relations desk and load your account ready to go, knowing that you have already saved a significant amount of money.
Your friend is right. Any money that you haven’t spent at the end of the cruise can be collected from guest relations on the final evening of the cruise. Your ship will want all cash accounts settled by around 10pm the night before you get home (which then cuts you off from any last-minute purchases the next day before disembarking).
Debit cards, on the other hand, are a major headache. Most cruise lines have major problems with debit cards. While they are okay if you are making straight purchases, cruise lines like to put a daily credit hold on your card to guarantee that you will be able to pay your bill at the end of the cruise.
These pre-authorisations will freeze your money and it can stay frozen for up to a month after you get home from your cruise. If your balance is already low and your cruise line can’t access the funds it needs, your onboard account will also be frozen, and you will need to register a different form of payment.
What are your tips for paying onboard expenses while cruising?