How much cash should we take on our cruise vacation?
A common question we get is "how much cash should we take onboard a Caribbean cruise?" A disclaimer here, we are NOT big cash carrying people at any time.
Most all ports of call take U.S. Dollars, so I can't recommend that you go to the expense and bother of getting local currency.
We just got done figuring for our upcoming 7N cruise aboard the Carnival Breeze with 3 ports of call. Here's what we came up with:
Porters/Drivers -- we figure $1/bag and round up to $5 denominations. So, from 2-5 bags would be $5; 6-10 would be $10, etc. If you're getting transfers from the airport to/from the pier, do the same calculations.
My wife likes the Piano Bar. If the entertainer is good, she'll usually do about $5/night.
Your wait staff and room service staff can be anything from $0 - $20 per group. Yes, they're covered in your gratuities already, but if you think they've been exemplary, an extra gratuity would be appreciated.
We're calling on Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. These are all ports we've been to before, so we know the lay of the land. Mo Bay and Cozumel are definitely taxi towns; Grand Cayman not so much. Most of these are flat rate fees and you can research these ahead of time. Unless you're being really adventurous, I can't think of anywhere that $20 one way isn't the max. Plus, lots of times the rate is based on 4 guests. While standing in line, see if one of your cruise mates want to split a cab if you're going to relatively the same place.
Doing all this figuring, we're going to take about $200 in cash for our 7 night cruise. We try to take too much vs. not enough, but there's ATM's onboard if we see we're going to run short.
Hope this helps. What about you? Tell us your calculations!
Make paying for your vacation a win-win
Make sure you look into options to pay for your vacation that would benefit you.
Many retailers offer "points" or "perks" for gift cards. Our local grocery store offers $0.10/gallon for every $50 dollars spent. Buying a $500 gift card for a vacation supplier would mean $1.00/gallon off up to 30 gallons, so that would be a savings of up to $30 off for every $500 spent.
Many vacation suppliers, like Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and others offer credit cards that you can earn rewards for all purchases, then redeem them for offers from their resorts or vacations.
Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season
It's been a horrible year for hurricanes this year. Since 2003, when we started in business, we've dealt with storms especially since 2005 which was the most active season during which 28 tropical cyclones formed, of which a record 15 became hurricanes. Since then, the Weather Channel would scare the bejsus about of everyone by announcing on June 1st that it was officially "Hurricane Season" (which officially ends on November 30th). This year, however, has been the exception.
Rule #1: if you're going to travel from August 15th through September 30th, you have to get Travel Insurance. It might not be your cruise or resort destination that's affected, it might be getting there. Even driving to a cruise port, can be an issue. Plus, even if it's not your cruise port or your cruise or during Hurricane season, you can be affected. I remember getting a call from a group leader after Katrina who was going to cruise in the following January. She was distraught because their cruise ship had been repositioned to help out housing people in New Orleans. These storms can affect people who have no idea they're going to get affected.
Rule #2: Book with a Travel Agent. A good one. We're just coming down on DEFCON 4 making sure our clients are informed, taken care of, and properly advised. Without a Travel Agent, you're travelling alone. Sometimes it ends really well (although as of today we're not out of the woods yet), sometimes it doesn't because of circumstances out of everyone's control. But at least, with a TA, you have a person vs. a huge supplier as a go to.
Stay safe, everyone.
Port of Call: Curacao
Didn't know quite what to expect from this port of call. Figured, as it was the fourth in four days, that we would want a chillaxing time on a beach. Got just what we wanted.
If you're going to take the taxi from the cruise terminal, find another couple FIRST that's going to Mambo Beach. It's $20 per cab, so $10/couple is a great price. It's $3pp to enter the beach and $3.50pp for a chair at Chill Bar & Grill. Very, relaxing. Cab let us out at Mambo Beach, which was a little hectic. This beach bar is more towards the Aquarium side. No slides, inflatables, etc. in the water. Just a nice place to relax.
Again, the cab ride will take you through a lot of the island and give you a pretty good flavor of the island.
Port of Call: Aruba
Aruba has been a bucket list port of call for many years. It's now checked, and we were very happy with the experience.
We did a Carnival Shore Excursion here, that didn't start until 4:30p (ship docked at 1:30p), so we headed out first and checked out the town and shops in the port.
We ended up at The Paddock Bar, which had a great view of the harbor and our ship, plus cold beer. Menu looked OK, but we didn't sample. Would definitely recommend it if you're wanting to stay around the ship.
Went back to the ship terminal to pick up our shore excursion, the Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus, which was the #1 rated excursion. We really enjoyed it. Stopped at five different bars, a rum punch drink at each, and dinner and a drink at one. The drive from bar to bar was a hoot. Maracas for each passenger, music blaring and at most round abouts, we went 360 at possibly more than the proper speed. Bars were a little more for the "younger than us" age group, but the trips through the neighborhoods let us see quite a bit of the island. Would definitely recommend this excursion which was $89 per person.
Port of Call: La Romana (Dominican Republic)
The Port of Roatan had always been my least favorite port. Then, Carnival built "Mahogany Bay". Loved it. Instantly climbed into my top ten ports of calls.
When I heard that Carnival was going to build "Amber Cove" in the Domincan Republic, I was equally excited. It looked great. Unfortunately, the Vista called on La Romana, which is now down where Roatan once was.
Asking crew members (something you should ALWAYS do to get recommendations), word was to NOT take the bus downtown, but take the one to Altos De Chavon. $8 one way, so let's do it.
Awful. Nice bus ride through some golf course villas, but that's the end of it. Cobblestone, uneven walkways was a pain with a wheelchair. Everything was closed. Guy that was there in maintenance told me things don't usually open till 5p (back on ship was 4p). Was a neat ampitheatre, nice architecutre, a beautiful view of a river. Ends there.
If you're visiting La Romana, hop off, do a little shopping there in port, then enjoy your privacy on the ship.
Port of Call: Gran Turk
This was our third time to Gran Turk. It's a terrific private beach and pool party. We were looking for more, so we decided to rent a golf cart and see the rest of the island.
Prior to arriving, I reserved a golf cart from Karib Golf Carts. They had good ratings, and I found dealing with "Boogie" and his wife once we got there to be pleasant. The cart we rode had some "oomph", so that was a bonus.
(A note if you're going to go this way, you will reserve a cart for $45 via PayPal; you'll need $51 USD (the balance of the reservation and $6 for fuel costs) in cash once you get there.)
It's "just outside the gate", so it's a bit of a hike if you have someone in a chair. Take the chair, and they'll store it for you.
Renting a golf cart and buzzing around the place isn't for everyone, and it definitely isn't something I would recommend at certain ports of call. Having been to Gran Turk before, we felt pretty comfortable doing it.
Our first run was out to the lighthouse. $3 admission if you want to go in. Didn't seem like much, so we passed on it.
On the way out and the way back, we noticed they had stray, wild donkeys. Not something you see everywhere. Chickens, yes. Donkeys? Not so much.
We were told at the golf cart place to go to the big radio tower, which was the highest point on the island. We did that on the way back. The island is filled with beautiful homes, homes that have either been destroyed by storms or never finished, or homes that are a bit impoverished. We never felt "unsafe".
Met some people in golf carts at one of the stops and asked them where they stopped for lunch. They mentioned Conchy Joe's and Barbie's, which was also the two places that a tour guide at the light house mentioned. We went to Conchy Joe's and it was a bit of a let down. Two tour busses had just stopped there and they were pretty overwhelmed. Changed our minds and just tried to get two local beers which we accomplished. The view was very good.
Drove around a bit more, then headed back to the party at Margaritaville outside the ship. After a couple of Landsharks and a little shopping, we hopped back aboard the Carnival Vista and had lunch.
If you've visited Gran Turk more than once, I would recommend going the golf cart (over one of the tour busses for sure) route. However, now that we've done it, I probably wouldn't do it again. Opt for the beach.