Settling your onboard account

 The great thing about cruising is that you don’t need to carry any cash with you while onboard.


Settling your account

When you board the ship, you will will be handed your cruise card (or those more modern bracelets kind of things) – this is usually all you need to carry to buy things onboard.

There are usually two main ways to settle your account, cash or card.


If paying by cash, you may still be required to register a card first, then once onboard you can go to reception and deposit your cash. You will need to keep your account in credit, when it runs out you won’t be able to buy anything.




Another option is to leave a card registered but settle in cash (or part cash/part card). If you do go down this route you will normally need to settle your account on the final night.

For more information on paying by cash, check out the links at the bottom of the page.


So what if you don’t want to pay by cash? At some point, depending on cruise line you will have registered a bank card for your onboard purchases. I say bank card as it’s important you understand the differences between debit and credit cards – which one you use is up to you, hopefully this article will help you!

When you spend in the shops and bars, this is added to your cruise account.

Every night or two the cruise line will place a ‘holding charge’ or ‘authorisation’ on your bank account to reserve this money. On the last 7 night cruise we did recently they did this 3 times. Now this might not be just what you have spent but maybe also what they estimate you will spend.

Now comes the bit that catches people out…

If on the final night, your bill has come to £500, this will processed with your bank, thank you very much… BUT the ‘holds’ or ‘authorisations’ will still ALSO be pending in your account. This means the bank may also see another £500 waiting to be taken!


Credit cards


Of course, these holds will drop off but this can take up to 30 days.

I’m going to shout the next bit… THIS IS WHY WE USE A CREDIT CARD with a high limit, so once back, these holds don’t cause any issues with any standing orders or direct debits pending. The high limit allows for the authorisation amounts and the final amount.

So it is important when settling by card you keep this in mind.

Worth noting too… Pre paid cards are not accepted on most cruise lines.

Comprehensive information about Settling your account can be found by following the links at the bottom of the page.

When things go wrong!

It’s rare, but it has happened to us…

We were on a short cruise with Cunard. I had advised my bank I was going on a cruise but we all know sometimes they don’t listen.

On the arrival back in Southampton they took an amount from my card in $, and it failed! By the time the bank had text me to check if it was genuine it was too late.

Reception rang us about 7am to advise payment had failed! Panic – Will they let us off? Joy – looks like we will have to stay and do the washing up to pay our way?!

A trip to reception was in order before they would let us disembark, they pulled out their debtors list and scrolled to our name – there were about 4 pages, so it wasn’t just us.

I had already unblocked my bank card by now, but the ship advised that they couldn’t try again and back office would do this in the next 48 hours. After taking a photo copy of my driving licence and filling in a form we were able to leave… slightly embarrassing!

What we learned was this kind of thing happens, there is no need to stress about it – just be prepared. You won’t be the first or the last!


For further information about settling your onboard account, contact the cruise line you are sailing with – the links below might also help:



Cunard line:




Royal Caribbean:

2 thoughts on “Settling your onboard account

  • Oh the card being decined is a horror! We normally register a card but pay off all or most of balance in cash at the end of the cruise to avoid CC fees. That way we don’t hit with the double whammy of repeat authorisations and the actual charge.

    I loved cruising Carnival where you could not just check the balance on the self-service point but you could pay money in at any time – like a reverse ATM 😉 Dunno if they still have that on Vista and Horizon.

    • Ohhhh… Now checking balance and paying in cash as you go seems a fab idea!

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