In a significant shift, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has announced it will cease foreign currency exchange services aboard its vessels from February 1, 2024.

The change mandates the use of the U.S. dollar for all onboard transactions, impacting the way international travelers manage their finances while at sea.

NCL’s policy update signifies a streamlined approach to onboard financial services. The cruise line has long facilitated an array of currencies to accommodate the diverse needs of its international clientele. 

However, the recent change dictates that the U.S. dollar will be the exclusive currency for settling onboard accounts, impacting guests who previously relied on the convenience of exchanging currency while on the ship.

In an official statement, Norwegian apologized for the impact this may have on travelers:

“Effective February 1, 2024, we will no longer provide foreign currency exchange services on board, and USD will be the only form of currency accepted for the settling of your onboard account. If you are in need of US currency for your upcoming cruise, we encourage you to obtain it prior to embarkation.”

The provision of foreign currency exchange services has been a significant aspect of cruise travel, offering guests the ability to effortlessly exchange money without the need to locate banks of ATMs during their journeys.

The convenience of paying in one’s local currency has been a favored feature, but with NCL’s new policy, this will no longer be an option.

Norwegian underlines the continued ease of onboard financial transactions despite the change. Guests can establish a shipboard account using a major credit card or by depositing cash and traveler’s cheques.

Norwegian Joy Open Deck

The suggested deposit varies depending on the duration of the cruise: USD 300 per person for a 7-night cruise, USD 150 per person for up to six nights, or USD 450 per person for cruises of 8 nights and more at check-in.

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NCL advises that credit card pre-authorization is necessary to activate an onboard account, which banks may hold for up to 30 days, potentially affecting the amount available on a credit card or cash from bank accounts tied to debit cards.

Given the discontinuation of currency exchange services, Norwegian recommends that travelers carry a modest amount of local currency for use in foreign ports, where travelers’ cheques and most major credit cards are also widely accepted. 

Other major cruise lines have their own set of practices regarding currency exchange. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, does not offer currency exchange services but does provide conversion for Canadian dollars on U.S. cruises.

Guests can obtain Euros on European cruises through onboard ATMs to withdraw cash, typically at a better rate than any at currency exchange locations in port.

Cruise Currency (Photo Credit: Jaime Garcia M)

In contrast, Royal Caribbean has limited conversion options with a cap of $950 per person per day. It accepts most major currencies and converts them to U.S. dollars with applicable conversion rates.

Due to Australian regulations, the cruise line cannot accept cash payments, including those in Australian Dollars, when sailing in Australia.

MSC Cruises provides a cash advance service against a registered credit card for a fee, allowing currency conversion in either U.S. dollars or euros, dependent on the cruise itinerary.

Travelers are advised to check the currency options for upcoming cruises on their cruise line websites before departure to ensure a smooth journey without unexpected financial surprises.

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