A lot of first time cruisers ask about what kind of money to use at some of the most popular ports in the Bahamas and Caribbean, so this post will address that. Keep in mind that cruises that take place in Europe, Asia, and other places around the world will be different, so this will focus mainly on spending money at the island ports of the Caribbean.
Usually, you are better off just bringing cash with you. Some credit card companies will charge a fee for using them in the Caribbean, so if you plan on just using your card make sure you call your credit card company first just to verify.
The Caribbean islands will accept U.S. currency, but be careful to bring small bills. If you give the guy behind the counter a $50 dollar bill for a $5 item, you will most likely get $45 back in another currency.
In fact, I once made the mistake of using an ATM at Freeport and unknowingly ended up with $60 in Bahamian dollars. So, I had to spend all I could at the island because that money would only be good as a souvenir back in the US (which I still have somewhere).
If you are going to make a large purchase you may want to use a credit card just for security purposes. You will have to pay a high fee, but at least you have some extra coverage if things don’t work out.
At St. Thomas and other U.S. Virgin Islands the currency is in U.S. dollars since they are in fact U.S. territories.
The currency of Dutch St. Maarten is the ANG (Netherlands Antilles Guilder) and French St. Martin is the Euro, but both sides still do take American credit cards, and not all credit cards have an exchange fee, but again, you should call first before you use your card just to be sure.
At many of the ports there are street vendors all over the place, and it’s actually hard to avoid them. If you want to buy anything from them you will most likely have to have cash on hand, as most do not have credit card machines.
So should you choose cash or credit card? It really depends on where you are going and what you are buying, but most experienced cruisers recommend just using cash in small bills. Some of these other places are known for credit card fraud, so you might want to put that plastic away unless you really need it.
Tip- If you plan on using a credit card on your cruise, be sure to tell your credit card company so as not to trigger a fraud alert on your account.