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10 day cruise to Caribbean and Panama. All excursions prepaid. How much cash to bring?

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 20th, 2018 9:42 am
[OP]
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
16559 posts
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Toronto

10 day cruise to Caribbean and Panama. All excursions prepaid. How much cash to bring?

This is our first cruise.

We're going next week on Princess Cruises from Ft. Lauderdale to Panama, with multiple Caribbean stops in between. There will be two adults and two little kids, all in the same suite. My wife likes wine so a few glasses a day some days but I don't drink much alcohol, so probably less than a dozen alcoholic drinks for the entire cruise for myself. On-board tips will be prepaid as well. I'm not sure if I should additionally tip the cabin steward or others.

I don't see myself buying a huge amount of stuff at the ports, but who knows?

Any suggestions as to how much US cash to bring? I was thinking I should get US$500-750 each for myself and my wife, although I think $1500 between the two of us might be overkill. I presume I should get some small denominations to pay for tips on the excursions too. How much to tip for an average excursion for a family of 4?
9 replies
Deal Addict
Nov 13, 2013
1571 posts
612 upvotes
Ottawa
Tipping is very optional onboard. (tips are added automatically to drinks etc.) Honestly the same for most excursions though some will argue drivers and guides deserve something.
Cash for shopping is useful thought the touristy places will take credit cards.
Personally I would bring like $50 max in your situation. (assuming you have a credit card for any onboard charges and shopping)
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May 10, 2005
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Ottawa
Tips (gratuities) on the ship will be charged to your account and on your credit card You can leave extra for you steward or favorite bartender or waiter if you wish and they like cash.
The only cash you will need is for taxi's to and from the ship (some take credit cards), buying drinks or food at the airports, any things you may want to buy at one of the gazzilion souvenir stalls at every port.
I do not think $50 USD is sufficient. I would have a couple hundred USD for the "just in case" situations.
Life is short......Make sure you spend as much time as possible on the internet arguing with strangers about politics :). Anonymous
[OP]
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
16559 posts
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Toronto
OK then so even $500 each (total $1000) is way overkill.

Maybe I’ll do $500 US split between the two of us just in case, esp since we will be staying overnight in Ft. Lauderdale. The cost re-exchanging say $250 back to CAD$ when we get back won’t break the bank.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 7, 2017
8620 posts
6055 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
Pete_Coach wrote:
Dec 3rd, 2018 7:42 am
Tips (gratuities) on the ship will be charged to your account and on your credit card You can leave extra for you steward or favorite bartender or waiter if you wish and they like cash.
The only cash you will need is for taxi's to and from the ship (some take credit cards), buying drinks or food at the airports, any things you may want to buy at one of the gazzilion souvenir stalls at every port.
I do not think $50 USD is sufficient. I would have a couple hundred USD for the "just in case" situations.
Good post, as always!
EugW wrote:
Dec 3rd, 2018 9:21 am
OK then so even $500 each (total $1000) is way overkill.

Maybe I’ll do $500 US split between the two of us just in case, esp since we will be staying overnight in Ft. Lauderdale. The cost re-exchanging say $250 back to CAD$ when we get back won’t break the bank.
$ 500 to $ 1000 in my mind sounds about right.
On board ship you won’t need much.
We usually extra tip our favourite Bartender & Room Stewards... cause they make our cruise so great
And, our Dining Room Wait Staff ... IF we have chosen traditional dining for our meals in the MDR with the same table & staff every night
Otherwise... tipping is covered by your prepaid amounts
(and Drinks & Booze Pkgs ALWAYS include tips in the price quoted / paid)

Where you do want Cash is off the ship
Getting to the cruise... and coming home
As well as ashore
But don’t carry wads of it either (especially true when on excursion)
We leave extras / valuables locked in our Cabin Safe

TIP - Hotel / Cruise Shuttles TO THE PORT in Ft L suck
They move as slow as the slowest tourist on the shuttle :rolleyes:
Take a Cab (easier than Uber for Port Authority Clearance)
And bring cash for this
Cause things are confusing enough when you arrive at the Port

You will have to show Passports & Cruise Tkts / Boarding Docs at the gate ... out the window of the cab
Put one person in charge of those documents...
getting them back and tucked away again until the check in
(Wife with purse comes in handy here)

Taxi will then drive you to your terminal
Everyone unloads
Make sure nothing gets left IN CAB or TRUNK
Pay taxi in cash... less hassle than credit
Tip if you like

Then you check the bags with the Porter curbside
It is customary to tip these guys
Lol, old joke goes they are the ones making sure your bags make it on the ship
And a cruise without baggage is not fun

Grab your carryons
(which you have stocked with needs for the Aft... swimsuits, suntan lotion, plus your valuables... and if your ship allows bottles of wine for your cabin)
And head into the terminal
Time to get out your Passports & Boarding Docs, and get in line for check in
Then after you have your picture ship cards, you won’t need this stuff again
(Best Place for Passports in your cabin is in your Safe... so you’ll know where they are when not needed)

Have a great cruise!
[OP]
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
16559 posts
3590 upvotes
Toronto
PointsHubby wrote:
Dec 3rd, 2018 10:10 am
$ 500 to $ 1000 in my mind sounds about right.
On board ship you won’t need much.
We usually extra tip our favourite Bartender & Room Stewards... cause they make our cruise so great
And, our Dining Room Wait Staff ... IF we have chosen traditional dining for our meals in the MDR with the same table & staff every night
Otherwise... tipping is covered by your prepaid amounts
(and Drinks & Booze Pkgs ALWAYS include tips in the price quoted / paid)

Where you do want Cash is off the ship
Getting to the cruise... and coming home
As well as ashore
But don’t carry wads of it either (especially true when on excursion)
We leave extras / valuables locked in our Cabin Safe
Thanks. That answers another question, whether the drink packages include tips or not.

BTW, do you recommend a fixed seating time for meals, if all our excursions are booked through the cruise? Right now our booking is not a fixed time.
TIP - Hotel / Cruise Shuttles TO THE PORT in Ft L suck
They move as slow as the slowest tourist on the shuttle :rolleyes:
Take a Cab (easier than Uber for Port Authority Clearance)
And bring cash for this
Cause things are confusing enough when you arrive at the Port
Good to know. I had assumed I could just pay the cab by credit card.
You will have to show Passports & Cruise Tkts / Boarding Docs at the gate ... out the window of the cab
Put one person in charge of those documents...
getting them back and tucked away again until the check in
(Wife with purse comes in handy here)

Taxi will then drive you to your terminal
Everyone unloads
Make sure nothing gets left IN CAB or TRUNK
Pay taxi in cash... less hassle than credit
Tip if you like

Then you check the bags with the Porter curbside
It is customary to tip these guys
Lol, old joke goes they are the ones making sure your bags make it on the ship
And a cruise without baggage is not fun

Grab your carryons
(which you have stocked with needs for the Aft... swimsuits, suntan lotion, plus your valuables... and if your ship allows bottles of wine for your cabin)
And head into the terminal
Time to get out your Passports & Boarding Docs, and get in line for check in
Then after you have your picture ship cards, you won’t need this stuff again
(Best Place for Passports in your cabin is in your Safe... so you’ll know where they are when not needed)
I will encourage the wife to pack light for herself and the kids. We are a family of 4, but we are all in a single mini-suite. I've been told there is not a huge amount of storage space. They say the mini-suite is usually about 323 square feet including balcony. Not sure how much of that space is taken up by the balcony.

BTW, regarding safety of documents, etc., I just purchased a Pacsafe Vibe 300 anti-theft bag, so that adds a little bit of peace of mind. It's on sale for 40% off at Canada Luggage Depot, and MEC will price match. I got mine at MEC. Got a different Pacsafe bag for the wife too.

https://forums.redflagdeals.com/pacsafe ... 9-2245092/

P.S. I have paid for unlimited internet on-board too. Apparently our ship just got outfitted with high-speed internet, with is probably around 1 - 1.5 Gbps for the ship, shared amongst the customers with WiFi support. We'll see if it works OK, but FWIW, previous cruisers have said they were able to even stream Netflix with it.

https://www.globaltravelerusa.com/princ ... -sea-wifi/

Also, our Fido plans support WiFi calling too, so that's a bonus. Our plans also support $12 a day for calling and internet with Fido Roam on the days at port and on excursions, but I don't think we'll need it most days since we'll all be together.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 7, 2017
8620 posts
6055 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
Dining Style is a personal choice IMO ... and also dependent on the Cruise Line & Ship you sail on.

Most Pax & Ships are moving more towards a flexible option where you dine when you want, wherever you want.

Which is great, for the majority of people.

We personally though enjoy a nightly set dining arrangement in the Main Dining Room for a few reasons..

1- It’s traditional... a bit of old world cruise charm. Makes cruising = not like home (less Restauranty / less food on the run)

2- It’s at a set time & place. So we know where to be when. No hassle with making reservations... or rushing somewhere from a day ashore

3- Same table & people. We often cruise with friends... everyone does their own thing during the day & meets up for Drinks & Dinner

4- If not cruising with friends it gives an opportunity to meet new people. Some folks don’t like this randomness. As we are just 2... We actually find it fun / an adventure. Better than dining alone. We have enough just 2 of us time at home (semi retired empty nesters). Have met some great people as dining mates. I equate it a bit to what it was like going away to summer camp as a kid. Went strangers, came home with new friends you got to know over the course of a week.

5- Same Wait Staff. It’s nice to get to know people from “the other side of the world”. Cruise Crew like Cdns cause we tend to genuinely take an interest in them... and treat them with respect. Have met some great crew members. And it’s nice to have the same staff, they truly get to know you and your likes. Be it your Pre Dinner Martini waiting at the table for you, a wine suggestion, or some other “I thought you might like this”

6- It’s all inclusive. Unlike other options... eating in the MDR is included in the price. We still enjoy a meal or two in the Specialty Restaurants, but that can add up quick. You’ve already paid for the MDR, Buffet, Poolside Grill in your Cruise Fare. The MDR is the nicest of the lot

7- With thradional dining there are 2 timeslots. Early, 6-ish and Late, 8:30-ish. Both are timed to coordinate with other things on the ship. So you don’t have to worry about missing for example that evenings show cause of an incompatible dinner reservation. You get out of Dinner in time to make the next show.

We are older... so we sail the ships & itineraries that fit our demographic mostly ... Princess, HAL, and Celebrity. The lines that cater more to families... Norwegian & RCL have moved away from traditional set time dining. So I don’t even know what they offer these days. But I am just saying for us, it works. One less thing to think about. Our cruises are filled with options on how to fill our days & nights... too many options in some ways cause we always come home saying... geez I never got to do ____ , or go to ___ . Having a set time & place for dinner is sort of calming for us. It incorporates a bit of routine (humans actually needing a bit of routine to maintain an even keel). It winds down our day... and makes sense ov it all in what otherwise can be a rushed go-go-go Cruise world... Which can be filled with long hectic shore days.

Mini Suites are slightly bigger than regular cabins. Regular Cabins tend around the 200 Sq foot Mark (think 10 wide x 20 long). Mini Suites are more like 300 to 400 square feet. The depth is the same, the cabin gains on width. Which translates to more empty floor / traffic space ... and a bigger bathroom usually. All nice things to have. Balcony really depends on WHERE your cabin is on the ship. Could be wider or deeper, or an odd shape. Storage... is always tight. Closets & drawer space limited. Stow your empty suitcases under your bed... and bring along plastic bags. You can use the bags in the suitcase for dirty clothes. Lol, we always say coming home our suitcases are just glorified laundry hampers.

Internet. It tends to be iffy. Simply a case of a ship on the ocean and no nearby towers. The ships can provide Internet... but it’s internet for 5000 people. So it’s only as good as the equipment aboard, and how high demand is to use it / get on. Same with phone service. Honestly... it’s a vacation. A great vacation. We use the occasion for less tech, and more of everything else THAT WE CANT GET AT HOME. Sun, surf, sand, and relaxation / recreation. Find we more apt to put down the mobile, and pick up a good book or magazine. Or just reconnect by disconnecting. Talk & laughter goes a long way.

If you really have to communicate with the outside world... doing it when ashore is relatively easy... and waaaay cheaper.
Newbie
Aug 3, 2017
85 posts
41 upvotes
Some great advice here.

I usually carry about an extra $500 USD more than I think I need, then I keep anything leftover for the next trip - my philosophy is why take a loss re-exchanging it even if you won't spend it for a few years? I also see it as a bit of a currency hedge, I buy USD most months in small amounts to average my cost.

In terms of dining, it depends on the line, but most are now moved to non-traditional dining as the majority and I tend to be in that group. That was the last thing that RCCL really held onto, but even they are relenting. Unless you're a couple alone and want to make friends, I prefer the freestyle dine when you like, mostly because it allows me to eat when I like to eat which often straddles the available times (too late for early dining, to early for late dining).

My last cruise was the first time that Bell was offering competitive rates on Roam like home for the Caribbean. As a result, to combat the crummy and expensive ship wifi noted upthread, I simply used my phone while in port, usually on the ship in the early am on the balcony sailing in, while my ex shopped and during sail away in the evenings again on the balcony. At $12/day I think it was, I didn't necessarily use it every day, and I was also able to set up a hot spot for multiple devices while getting 3G speeds for the most part.

I managed to get our family of five to only use carryons our last cruise and it was great. We have a duffel bag that we bring inside one of our cases to use as a single checked bag on the way home since we usually buy/accumulate a few things. The kids' carryons were smaller than ours, so some fit inside each other on the ship. Another option is to check one bag for two people, then they fit inside each other in the cabin. We had five in a regular balcony cabin and it actually wasn't too cramped (older RCCL ship has this available).

Good luck.
[OP]
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
16559 posts
3590 upvotes
Toronto
We ended up getting US$750, but one thing I underestimated was the tipping culture, even on these so-called all-inclusive cruises. Despite the auto-paid gratuities, it seems it's common to additionally tip the cabin steward as mentioned earlier, but not only that, for those of us with young kids making use of the kids' camp, to tip the counsellors there too. While they are better paid that wait staff, they are not part of the tipping pool, and they are taking care of my kids. I think I will give them a decent tip.

Furthermore, the speciality restaurants "encourage" additional gratuity on top of the additional cover charges. I know it's not mandatory to tip but it seems people often tack on an extra $20 to their meals for two people, so the expectation is there. Certainly, the bill that came to me had a gratuities line and their info specifically mentions that the cover charge for the speciality restaurants exclude gratuity. If so, I'm just going to add 18-20% to the cover charges and not 18-20% to what a full meal would cost, since I've already pre-paid the gratuity cost to part of the meal.

BTW, unlimited broadband on a cruise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a wonderful thing. It cost me $9 per day per account and I'm getting minimum 10 Mbps and up to 125 Mbps download speeds, with enough bandwidth to stream 1080p Netflix. Each account can support one device at a time, so I got my wife one account for her iPhone, and I got myself one account to share between my iPhone and my laptop. Since we are often apart on the ship, we can use our phones to message each other whenever we want. Thread here:

https://forums.redflagdeals.com/i-cum-s ... d-2247620/
[OP]
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2009
16559 posts
3590 upvotes
Toronto
We ended up tipping the kids’ club counsellors (who don’t share in the prepaid gratuities) and the cabin steward (in addition to the prepaid gratuities), as well as the tour guides from the excursions. We also tipped various porters, etc.

That along with the baggage storage before the flight back (since we arrived 7 hours before the flight) along with the several taxis we took amounted to several hundred US bux. For some reason the taxi drivers didn’t want to be paid by credit card.

We also made some small purchases and overall we ended up spending over $500, for two adults and two young kids, with less than half of that on purchases for ourselves.

I will change my leftover $200+ now instead of just keeping it for the next trip. The exchange rate to buy US$ is decent right now.

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