I’m always surprised when people are using the ATM on Cruise Ships, especially for small amounts, or use the Guest Assistance Desk as the fee structure for either service is a complete rip-off.
The general rule of traveling is that one should only use ATM’s of real consumer banks and never apply the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) option when taking cash out.
We have covered “scam ATM’s” and their high surcharges as well as ways where they try to trick users into choosing the expensive convenience conversion into their home currency (DCC) many times.
I just got off a two week cruise with Celebrity Cruises in the Mediterranean and I couldn’t believe how often I’ve seen people use the ATM on board the ship (EDGE) and there were even receipts laying around, showing small amounts of withdrawals.
Keep in mind, that every time you make a withdrawal on a Celebrity cruises onboard ATM you incur a $6.50 charge plus whatever your bank charges for using an ATM outside their system. These fees can add up quickly and keep in mind that the onboard currency will always remain the same (USD) no matter where in the world the cruise is sailing. The ATM will likewise only dispense U.S. Dollar. This might be different when you pick a cruise ship such as AIDA, TUI Mein Schiff, MSC, Costa etc which have mostly European audiences.
The same goes for the exchange of cash at the Guest Assistance Desk. I overheard a conversation where a gentleman tried to exchange 50 Euro to US Dollar and he was offered an even $40. Never mind that it’s usually almost impossible to get an even exchange amount, this was on a day when XE showed me pretty much parity (US$50 = 50.02 EUR). Why on earth would Celebrity take a $10 fee on such a small transaction?? Jesus, that’s 20%!!
I’m sure these fees are pretty representative of most other cruise lines as well.
There are better ways of getting cash on a cruise ship!
One option is the casino, you can always do a room charge for example for slot credit and the charge will then be applied to your credit account as a charge from the cruise company via the final folio. You won’t incur a cash advance fee this way. Depending on your booking type, the cruise line will charge a 5% fee for standard bookings. This transaction fee is waived for Blue Chip Club Onyx level and above, similar MGM Rewards tiers associated with the booking, as well as onboard suite guests.
If you’re one of the people who have a waiver for the 5% fee you can also generate a huge amount of credit card points and hit a new credit card minimum spend level simply by charging a lot of slot credit to your room and then cashing it out 1:1. You can withdraw up to $5000 per day via your Seapass account as long as your bank keeps authorizing your credit card. I usually cycle ~ $20k per cruise and later on deposit it with the bank after disembarkation IF the cruise ends in the U.S. so I can access my bank.
The onboard currency on Celebrity as I mentioned, remains U.S. Dollar no matter where the ship is sailing at the moment. This means it’s very difficult to make use of this in Europe as you’d end up with USD notes in your hand and how would you offload them without incurring a loss for the exchange fee, even at the best bank.
Cruising and cash access is always an illustrious topic. Some people travel with a stash of cash while cruising and also tip the crew very generously in addition to the automatic gratuities that most cruise lines apply. If you need other currencies it largely depends on the cruise route. In European ports, you pretty much need Euro, having USD cash isn’t helpful. For sailings in the Caribbean and Middle America, you can use USD almost everywhere.
If you get into a situation where local cash is required, try in advance to find a bank that offers free international ATM withdrawals and then use a retail bank in the town. Right at the port, you often find “scam ATMs” with super high fees that aren’t associated with a retail bank. They often look sketchy as well, and given how much credit card skimming is going on, I feel better using an ATM attached to a known bank.