Credit Cards on Cruise Ships: Don’t Leave Home Without Reading These Horror Stories

September 27, 2011 | By | 71 Comments

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Nothing can rob you of don’t-worry-be-happy vacation bliss quicker than a credit card mishap that holds your cash flow hostage. If your response to a recent posting on the Cruise Critic Facebook page– in which we asked readers if they’ve ever had a credit card problem while cruising — is any indication, there are a lot of you out there. And, yes, I’ve been in the same boat, too.
From your posts, and with well over a decade’s cruising behind me, I’ve sussed out the three primary pitfalls that commonly occur once you’re actually on a cruise (and well after you’ve forked over the moolah for the voyage).
Horror No. 1: In-port theft. Thefts are not limited to pilferers who’ve physically nabbed your card. It can happen even while your credit card is safely tucked away.
Joyce King-Husistein’s cautionary tale follows: “I had made a long distance call in Grand Cayman with my credit card, and the operator tried to use it, which Visa caught, thank goodness. I thought we might be washing dishes for years.” Writes Rosemary Smarrito Stinsman: “I booked an excursion at the Boatyard in Barbados and knew I should not have emailed my credit card number. Someone tried to purchase $700 worth of Virgin mobile equipment and American Express cancelled my card three days before the cruise.”
While you can’t always avoid giving out your credit card number while on vacation, it’s not a bad idea to keep records of your actual purchases and check your statement as soon as you’re home to contest any misuse.
Horror No. 2: Blocked cards because you didn’t alert your credit card providers that you’ll be out of town. Indeed, in most cases, Facebook responders were in agreement that you should let the cards’ operations centers know you’ll be traveling.
Monica Roberts learned this lesson the hard way. “My credit union set a fraud alert because I made a purchase on St. Martin,” she tells us. “They said they did not know I was out of town.”
Unfortunately, there were a number of Facebook posts in which travelers had actually called in pre-trip alerts and their cards still didn’t work.
Another reason to call: One of the ports on your itinerary may be on a fraud list. Amy Anderson recounts a nightmarish experience in Cozumel, where she figured she’d use her debit card to get cash out of an ATM. The request, plus others she made for incidental amounts (taxi, a round of cocktails), were all rejected. Her credit union, she reports, told her that it was “declining all charges in the country of Mexico due to fraud.” She was reduced to wandering the beach, looking for a generous-minded fellow passenger to loan her enough cash to pay her bar tab.
Horror No. 3: Reaching your credit limit. You know how you’re asked to hand over a credit or debit card for incidentals upon cruise check-in? Beware: Cruise lines tap into your credit limit (or actual balance) in a variety of oft-mysterious ways that aren’t readily publicized. And their method could, unknowingly, cause you to run short.
On Carnival, for instance, $50 is authorized at embark. Each day, the company seeks additional authorizations based on what you’re spending. At cruise’s end, it settles the charges and releases the pending charges it has placed on your credit card throughout the week. The danger zone? When the pending amounts are put back into your account is entirely up to your bank, not the cruise line. If your bank is slow when it comes to eliminating the pending spend – and essentially crediting the money back to you – you may not have access to what is left. Writes Chris Myers, “By the end of the trip there were thousands of dollars in charges sent to the credit card and we only had around $500 worth of charges.”
Beyond this, we’ve heard plenty of stories that have neither rhyme nor reason but have caused cruise travelers anxiety nevertheless.
The lesson I learned recently: I always assumed that a credit card’s expiration date –- at least as long as you made payments on time — meant something. Apparently not to American Express and other companies that offer a fine-print caveat when you sign up for a credit card: They reserve the right at any time to cancel the card for any reason that suits. I’ll never forget being abruptly cut-off from my American Express card, the primary card I use for travel, with no warning and little to no information provided when I called customer service. The situation was ultimately resolved, but the resulting stress caused a big loss of confidence in American Express.
Let’s end with this chilling tale from Tien-Lun Yao. One night onboard Norwegian Cruise Line, Yao was dining at Cagney’s Steakhouse when the maitre’ d came to his table to say there were problems with the credit card registered at embarkation. What could have happened? He asked on Facebook, “Could we complete our meal and wash the dishes or would we be released at the next port?”
Can you relate? Tell us your credit card tales of horror.
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Read other Sea-Mail columns on duty-free-shopping ripoffs, saving tables at the buffet, the death of cruise traditions and bad balcony behavior.
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    Comments

    71 Responses to “Credit Cards on Cruise Ships: Don’t Leave Home Without Reading These Horror Stories”

    1. Mark Oatsvall
      September 27th, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

      Cash is “KING” why would someone even consider using a Credit Card in another Country …I simply dont understand why you would take such a “HUGE” risk…Carry CASH folks !

    2. CruiseCritic
      September 28th, 2011 @ 5:50 am

      Mark, an all-cash strategy is as much a risk as an all-credit/debit card approach! Best bet: to have a mix of all three.

    3. Nicole
      September 28th, 2011 @ 6:42 am

      @Mark, if your cash gets stolen all you can do is kiss it goodbye and file a police report. If you use a credit card, you can report the theft, block fraudulent use and (if you use a good credit card provider) get emergency cash!

    4. Homer
      September 28th, 2011 @ 6:43 am

      I, too, have had a summons to guest relations because of a blocked CC.
      I had called the CC company before I left, giving the dates and itinerary.
      Had tried to buy a watch with the card at one of our ports and was refused but was given the explanation that sometimes “the link did not work”.
      Upon arriving at the guest relations desk, I was politely asked for an alternate form of payment. Not wanting to use my backup card, purchased the watch with that one, I persisted and the representative gladly placed a phone call to the CC company.
      The first rep was very polite and apologetic but could not solve the problem because it was in the hands of fraud prevention. When connected with that office, I was brusquely advised that “the computer does that and we don’t even look at the accounts for notes”.
      The card was reopened quickly and I was cut off from the CC dialogue with a very quick click.
      The last few times that I have cruised, my
      retelling of that adventure brought many apologies and a successful notation to my account.
      It does USUALLY work.

    5. Maria de Freitas
      September 28th, 2011 @ 6:55 am

      I had received a ticket to go Bahamas without asking or order it…

      Is anyone travelling and using my Id’s?

      I am no planing to travel this year and it is the 2nd ticket I received to get on board…

      Do they think I will use cash I do not have or they are hiding my cash?

    6. Frank L.
      September 28th, 2011 @ 8:02 am

      Horror No. 2–Yes, DO call your credit card’s security division for ALL the cards you plan to use on your vacation. American Express will tell you it is not necessary, but that they do appreciate the gesture. It is extremely embarassing to have your card shut down while in the busy Customer Service line, or be informed by the purser that your card does not work. It happend once to us, and lesson learned. It is one of the things we do and have on or check list a week before departure.

    7. Dorothy Reid
      September 28th, 2011 @ 8:11 am

      bought 11 pearl necklaces onboard ship
      tried to pay with a credit card and was refused
      The ship was running it through with their amount of money- finally paid half with it and
      used another card for half- the ship finally
      fixed it up at the end of cruise and tour-
      one of the best cruise and tour yet!

    8. Pat
      September 28th, 2011 @ 8:18 am

      I always use travelers checks, and have had no problem using them in ports. If stolen, you are protected, and you may can cash them on board the ship as well.

    9. John Signorino
      September 28th, 2011 @ 9:20 am

      We had a stop in Florence and tried to use the Capitol One card at a jewelry store. We called 2 weeks before and told C.O. what our plans and itinerary are and were still confronted with a half hour on the phone. We repeated this 2 more times over the course of our cruise. The second thing I did upon returning home was to cancel that card and go with the credit union card for the next trip.

    10. france
      September 28th, 2011 @ 9:38 am

      @ 9.John Signorino-

      Good job on cancelling the under-performing card!! Credit card firms should be brought to heel by good and responsible clients.

      You have no business being upset and having your precious holiday ruined by their administrative inadequacies.

      I fully intend to do exactly the same thing should I ever suffer your experience.

    11. Roger Anthos
      September 28th, 2011 @ 9:53 am

      I use one credit card for the ship account. and i bring another card if i need it for ports. and Cash or travelers checks. and leave a third card in the safe in case of problems

    12. Ray
      September 28th, 2011 @ 9:57 am

      For an upcoming cruise we are taking in November, we are taking the Cruise Critic’s Board advice and have checked off paying by cash on RCCL. We have set aside a debit-style card to use for this trip that avoids any of our other accounts. I have been told the cash option extends a small amount of on-board credit of around $200-$300 and when you reach that threshold, you need to visit the pursers desk to update your balance.

      I figure if I stop by the desk 2 or 3 times in the course of the week and zero out my balance, I can avoid the holds typically placed on my cards.

      we have run into funds hold issues that can take as much as 2 weeks to clear. Hopefully this added step will avoid this problem.

    13. Annie Mack
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:04 am

      We also called our bank and told them we would be cruising and using one of our credit cards. They told us they would make a notation in our account, but that this was no guarantee someone sensing fraud would read the note. Now we give the ship one card and the use another for purchases. It has worked out so far. I’d much rather have a purchase in port declined than a problem with the cruise line.

    14. cathy
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:09 am

      Excellent idea, Pat! I think that will be my plan as well. No worry, no hassle with travelers checks. My only advice is to use the PAPER checks, not the plastic reloadable card as you would run into holds placed on that as well and it is hard to get that resolved in a timely manner.

    15. Curt Flynn
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:29 am

      I was renting a car in Guadaloupe and had three good credit cards refused in their processing machine and finally the fourth credit card worked. It took over half an hour of mess and lucky I had four cards to try. Don’t count on only one card. Also, I rented a car in Berlin with an MBNA card which is supposed to provide insurance and when I had an accident they got out of paying the claim on the “small print”. I ended up settleing with Budget for out of pocket of $5000USD! Always pay for insurance when out of your country.

    16. Erica
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:38 am

      On a Princess cruise in 2009 we found out half way through our cruise that the credit card I used to register with the cruise line and use as our primary card throughout the cruise was starting to get declined. Here we are in Tortola trying to buy my husband a coffee mug and my card is declined.

      We beat feet back to the ship where I grabbed my cell phone and called my credit union. They informed me that there had been fraud on quite a few members accounts (someone hacked into the credit unions computer system) so they closed thousands of cards and reissued new cards with new pin numbers.

      I flipped out. I told them that I was clear across the world from my the \new\ card they were sending me – what was I to do now? They had no answer for me. They wouldn’t release the old card. At the time I had only this one credit card. Thankfully my husband had brought his credit card, but his limit at the time was fairly low (we wanted it that way) and we were only half way through the trip.

      I asked my credit union why I wasn’t contacted via telephone or email. I had notified them that I was going to be out of the country. They offered me no explanation.

      To make matters worse, Princess had a difficult time getting my account re-set up. I had to close out my account earlier than normal and then apply a new credit card to the shipboard account. While it sounds simple, it caused Princess (and me) an endless amount of headache. My one credit card with the high limit was dead in the water.

      I now have TWO credit cards and my husband’s limit has been raised. We always notify our credit union and credit card companies when we’re traveling, but that doesn’t always give you the assurance that your card will be usable while away from home.

      The lesson learned for us – make sure you have plenty of money in your checking account so you have access to cash.

    17. Jim Isbell
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

      YOU MISSED ONE HORROR. We were on Carnival and had booked 6 rooms that included our entire party. Each room, however was on a different credit card provided by the occupants. But one room did not have a credit card associated with it. We checked our statement on the day of disembarkation and it was correct AND we kept the copy they gave us. Then when we got home we found that they had charged to gratuities of that one room to OUR credit card after we had left the ship!!! W told them that it was incorrect and they said, “You should have checked it before you left the ship.” We told them that we HAD and the charge was not there and we had the copy to prove it. They refused to talk to us about it. So I had the credit card company reverse the charge!!! But I fought with Carnival for two weeks before I took that action and they never did admit they were wrong and after we stopped the payment they never fought with us, which tells us they KNEW they were wrong. I will not cruise on that line again!!!

    18. Moira
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:50 am

      We always use cash as our means of settling bills on board & for purchases on shore [all within our pre ordained budget] We do have a couple of credit cards with us for back up security but try to keep all our transactions to cash. Though the cruise lines often send us reminders to tell us we are not spending enough onboard the ship!!! Keeping cash safe & secure in the safe on board & securely hidden in our money belts has never been a problem. That way we also avoid the extra bank charges & currency conversion charges a credit card attracts.

    19. Patrick
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:03 am

      Pat, I agree that traveler’s checks are a great idea, but they’re getting increasingly hard to find. Before my last vacation, my wife and I had to visit three banks to find one that still offered them.

    20. Kathy
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:10 am

      Another card snafu is unexpected foreign transaction fees. When booking our buying, I’ve had companies with American adresses on the masthead, use a foreign bank and my cc hit me with the trsx fees. Luckily that cruiseline refunded my fees, since they didnt disclose this practice. Now I always check with my TA before booking if this will be billed in US dollars at a US bank and if in doubt or in port use a cc that charges no trnsx fees!

    21. Sandy Bell
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:16 am

      I use the ship’s account which draws from one card only. On land I use cash (which I divide up into several pockets etc.)mostly. Have used the credit card in Nassau but have never had a problem with it misused etc. Any charges and/or credits have been promptly handled. Perhaps it is because I use a Credit Union instead of a bank and notify them in advance. My suggestion, lock every thing up when not using and get traveler’s checks if cash seems too risky.

    22. Skip
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:24 am

      Our last cruise was 18 months ago. 10 days prior to sailing we were notified by 2 of our credit cards (BOA Royal Carribean & Chase) that they were slashing our credit limit to virtulally nothing. We had always made payments on time and had just paid a sizable amount on the BOA card to make sure we had enough for the cruise. It didn’t matter. Thank goodness we had a third card in reserve that we hadn’t used very often. We called to make sure that they hadn’t reduced our limit, which they hadn’t. Thanks goodness.

    23. Laurie
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:29 am

      Anyone had any experience with Visa gift cards for use in ports? Thought it might be safer/easier than carrying cash…

      And is cash not ALLOWED to be used onboard, or just discouraged? I don’t have any credit cards, but do have a bank debit card. Debt-free is the ONLY way to live! :)

    24. Viv
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:45 am

      Last time we cruised, we set up a $450 onboard credit around the time of online check-in. That worked like a charm and had no problems on board, and we will do that whenever we cruise. However, one of may cards did get declined while making a purchase (don’t remember which one or which island); so I used cash instead. No biggie, but lesson learned: if you know you’re going to specifically make a purchase it’s good to have cash on hand. Will definitely inform the CC company I want to use on the cruise that I will be on travel. Thanks for that tip!!!

    25. Walt
      September 28th, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

      Laurie does what we do.

      Visa gift cards with a fixed limit work as well (actually better) than travellers’ cheques. There is a fixed limit and they won’t be declined and your credit isn’t exposed.

      Another technique for those with credit cards is, when calling customer service to aadvise them of your itinerary, to establish a temporarily reduced credit limit before traveling. That way if your card number is compromised, the loss is minimized.

      To answer Laurie’s question, cash is seldom accepted on board a ship except in the casino or the purser’s office. Charges are added to your shipboard account. When you board you will be asked for a credit card that will be used to secure your credit limit on board. If you wish you can provide a cash deposit when boarding in lieu of a credit card. If you use a credit card as your deposit you can use cash to pay down the account as and when you wish during the voyage.

    26. TravelSmith24
      September 28th, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

      One other potential credit card problem I haven’t seen mentioned above is an expiration date close to the time you’re sailing. We had just such a problem on our recent cruise to Alaska. The card we’d registered with the cruise line had zero balance due and we had notified the credit union of our itinerary. We still got a call from the purser’s desk two days into our cruise stating that the card had been declined. How humiliating! After phoning the credit union it turned out that the card with which we had booked the cruise (months earlier) and listed for our onboard charges expired the same month as our cruise. We had since been issued a new card with an expiration date two years in the future, which we had with us. Once we gave that new card to the purser’s desk, everything was okay. But it was still embarrassing. In the future we will look at expiration dates and if we have had a newer card issued between booking and cruise date, we will make sure that we visit the purser on the first day of the cruise to make sure they have the newer expiration date!

    27. Kate
      September 28th, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

      Laurie- I set up my sail and sign with Carnival using my Visa Check Debit card- made sure I had plenty of cash in the account and had no problems. Did not have to go to the service desk once- kept an eye on my charges using the auto-system through the tv in my room. I had pre- paid my tips so the on board expenses really were just what I spent on board. I used cash in port for smaller expenses and did use my debit card for a couple of items in shops on shore. I watched them run the card- they handed me my receipt and made sure I saw them put their copy in their transaction box. Wells Fargo gave me no trouble as I spend regularly on travel expenses. I have recently set up a secured VISA with them to make renting cars easier. I used to bank with BOA which has a great fraud prevention unit but managed to leave me in the lurch traveling thanks to thinking I was making unauthorized charges just as others have seen.

    28. George
      September 28th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

      We told the credit card issuer of our trip, but Princess’ charges (and authorizations) come out of Santa Clarita, California, so we were declined and got a letter daily. We were not the only ones with this problem.

      Now we use one card in port (Chase or Capital One as they have no foreign transaction fee) and a separate one for the ship.

    29. Bob S
      September 28th, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

      Having had a card cancelled and one overlimit on different cruises, we have found that Princess will offer the passenger a letter of credit for the balance on the ship, including the terms it must be paid within a short period (approx 1 week), which enables us to visit the bank and get the money to resolve the issue.

      So we
      1. Phone ahead to the card companies to prevent fraud cancellation
      2. Maintain and Carry a second card as a backup
      3. Rest easy knowing there is a process that can be used onboard if the credit card company gets tempermental.

    30. Rob
      September 28th, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

      Another strategy you can use is to have one account but two separate cardholders (i.e. husband/wife).

      You have a single credit limit, but the cards are individual. If one is cancelled/blocked the other will still work.

      My wife and I do this for our Visa, Mastercard and Amex card which means in essence we have 6 cards.

      Sure enough, on our last cruise, we had a problem with my Amex card. Fraudulent charges in Grand Cayman caused my card to be cancelled. Amex sent me a new one, but of course I was thousands of miles from home.

      Fortunately, my wife’s card still worked just fine so we retained access to that account.

      We also had our Visas and M/C so we had plenty of backup.

      We also pre-paid the tips (we were sailing on Carnival) well in advance of the cruise to reduce the pre-auths the cruise line would place on our cards (we have high limits but I guess I’m a belt and suspenders kind of guy).

    31. MobileJoel
      September 28th, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

      I got back from a 3-week vacation through Europe, half of that being on the Ruby Princess. Thankfully, I started reading the forums on this website, so I followed all of the advice, and I didn’t run into any issues. On top of the advise above, here’s what I did:
      1. Used a credit card with available credit of at least double my shipboard account. I think it’s important that you use a credit card, not a debit card. It is really hard to reverse even authorization on a debit card in a timely manner. Also, with double the limit, this assures you that you can handle those authorization/settlement timing issues.
      2. Exercise all cards to be used on the trip. This includes putting your ATM cards in out of bank machines, and buying meals with them at a full service restaurant. You need to do this preferably 30-60 days before departure. Then look at the transactions either online, or on your statement. This serves several purposes: You’ll know that they work, particularly beyond your normal scope of use (which is the nature of travel). You may get an understanding of how the out of bank charges work on your card.
      3. I had a backup credit card, and a backup debit card.
      4. Booked pre-cruise excursions and purchases on yet another card.
      Overall, I used 5 different accounts (3 credit cards and 2 debit cards) from 4 different financial institutions. I know this may not be possible Post-Script: Two weeks after we got back, I did end-up with a humongous fraud charge. I’m guessing it was due to a person getting a hold of my account info from my shipboard account, but no worries — Amex was very good to me and fixed the issue within minutes.

    32. TIM DEVLIN
      September 28th, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

      I guess I’ve been lucky…thank heavens..I have had my card not work at a shop in port but when I asked the ship to check it, it was OK. There are A.T.M’s on most ships and usually U.S. or Euro or both…budget what to take…perhaps hid your CC in case of emergency. In port ATM cash machines give you a better deal than CC but in local curency. Make a note of what you might want and go to a bank with your cash card. Watch for anyone trying to see your pin…because they will later pick your pocket. In a neck back down the front of your shirt…if you find yourself thinking someone loves you…its likely they’re trying to rob you. Common sense.

    33. CruiseCritic
      September 28th, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

      @Kathy were you booking on American lines like Princess, Royal Caribbean or Carnival and still getting charged for conversion fees? Please advise as that’s a totally new one on me.

      I will tell you that when Chase offered me a card with a no-foreign-exchange fee perk, I began to use it INSTEAD of American Express, which chargss a hefty fee.

    34. CruiseCritic
      September 28th, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

      @skip Your situation sort of relates to what happened to me with American Express and the fine print. Even if you have been stellar…they can pull back the credit. Really an eye-opening experience.

    35. Chuck Werner
      September 28th, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

      Additionally be careful using credit cards in foreign ports if they ask you for a PIN. I questioned my CC company and they said some merchants try to put charge through as a “cash advance” which is charged at a higher rate than regular charges.

    36. Pamela Hayes
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

      I just returned from a cruise to Mediterranean. I took advantage of the suggestions given here on this site. Got a Cap. One credit card and also opened a Cap. One Money Mkt. account with an ATM card. Had no trouble finding ATM’s in Europe. One point though, the German banks there will refuse the ATM card, but the others accepted it. No foreign transaction fees on this or the credit card! I took along a third card from another bank, just as a back-up, and also my debit card from a 4th bank…my checking acct. I put extra cash in it before leaving just in case. Of course, we left these cards in the safe and only carried one with us, plus some cash in our money belts. Left passports in safe too. Anyway, I never used anything except those two Cap. one cards, and it worked fine on the ship too. One pointer, I made two calls to all these financial institutions before our trip. One can’t be too sure!

    37. Chris
      September 28th, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

      Consider emergencies that may occur during your trip. You may need a CC with a good line of credit for medical expenses, plane tickets, etc, etc. I saw a lady that needed emergency medical evac. which I was told was $25k up front. Heard of a whole ship load (Century) of people who were put off in France last year. You need funding for such instances.

    38. Phil
      September 28th, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

      We were on a 7 day Eastern Carribbean, on NCL, I had all my cash tied up In Travelers checks.., I also had a bottle of Super Glue in the same pocket as the TC’s (The glue was for my wifes glasses) well the glue leaked and glued $2,500.00 worth of Travelers Checks together, You tried to tear one It would tear the next one Etc…IE: they were junk… we had no Cash…! Went to a bank In St. Martin, they thought that was the funniest thing they had ever seen (Embarrassing for us) And Re-Issued all new travelers Checks!

    39. Pat Lenhart
      September 29th, 2011 @ 9:59 am

      On our first cruise, I made the mistake of listing our debit card as our credit card of record. When the cruise line double charged us, I started bouncing checks. The cruise line promised to reverse the charge and I started checking my account several times a day. The cruise line said they refunded the amount but I was still bouncing checks. Ten days later, I discovered that the cruise line had done as they said but the bank refunded the amount to my savings account (??)

    40. Bonnie
      September 29th, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

      We experienced Horror No. 3 last December. We had cruised right after Thanksgiving with Celebrity and everything seemed fine. About a week after we returned I went Christmas shopping and presumed that there would be no problems, but it turned out that about triple the amount that was actually spent onboard was being held. I went through the credit card statement online and saw that all the correct charges were there, so called the bank and they told me there was nothing they could do, I would just have to wait until the holds came off, a manager could only help after 10 business days had past. Eventually all resolved, but I was especially ticked off because this was a pre-paid travel MasterCard. It wasn’t credit, it was my money that I hadn’t spent on vacation.
      At the end of the day, there is no “fool-proof” way to make sure that there are no glitches, you can only use common sense and hope that all the systems that we rely on stay working!

    41. Chris
      September 29th, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

      When calling the Credit Card company, don’t forget to tell them that in addition to the foreign ports, charges could come from Miami, Florida (or wherever the cruise line is based). And also, make sure they understand this. We were in Europe and had our CC refused onboard since the CC company thought there was fraud. Even after the cruise line faxed a form with our authorization, the CC company refused. A phone call place by guest relations finally resolved the problem, but this 3 days to resolve.

    42. Mada
      September 29th, 2011 @ 10:58 pm

      Just put money on a ship board credit that you can buy before boarding. I put a little in every month until we cruise. So we have about $1500 credit we board. If you don’t use it all they refund you difference in cash. No cc holds! Works great! And I bring cash for spending on islands. Going on two week Carribbean cruise in January. Already have money posted to our acct. Use cc for emergency use only. And vacation pd for before you leave! Sweet!n

    43. Kerry
      September 30th, 2011 @ 11:06 am

      I always take a mixture of cash and credit cards while in port so I am covered. I also always call my credit card company before I vacation and it has worked out well.

      Good time to remind people not to use Debit cards for onboard accounts or in port; much harder to dispute and it will place the money on hold in your checking account (I am in banking and have seen many problems with this).

      Also, if you plan on traveling with Travelers checks make sure you research the Country first; many are no longer accepting them.

    44. Joe
      September 30th, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

      Never, ever, ever have a problem with my “Captial One” card. Let them know I am going here or there and no blocks or anything else. Never “go over the limit” cause I manage my credit so I don’t.

      And as far as “card problems” well maybe those who get that need to log in online a little more often and keep track of their finances.

      And yes, cash is king, but credit is better. I but a watch in some island country i might not ever visit agian and then it breaks a week later do you really thing “Carib Isle Watch Co.” is gonna happily mail you a check or cheque for your loss????????? If you can even contact them? With a Credit Card you can call in and void the charge.

    45. Larry
      September 30th, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

      My wife and I were on a southern Caribbean cruise with RCL in February 2009. As we pulled out of Oranjestad, my cell phone indicating that I had missed an incoming call. By the time that I attempted to return it, I no longer had cell service. The call was from American Express. After making an international call using the in-cabin phone, they wanted me to make an early payment on my account, even though I was not behind, and not due to make a payment for several weeks. I didn’t have funds available in my checking account and I refused to give them access to any other bank account. They subsequently froze my card and I had to give customer service another credit card to cover the additional on-board charges for the remainder of the cruise. Needless to say, I no longer use American Express. I was a customer for over 20 years, but they lost me because of this.

    46. Leslie
      October 1st, 2011 @ 12:29 am

      I use my Amex for everything possible and will do without rather than use BofA issued Visa/Debit Card or Visa/Credit Card. They no longer charge me foreign exchange rates, they have an excellent charge back for fraudulent charges. I’ve traveled six continents in the past four years and not had a single problem with them. I’ve had Amex since 1979 and have no horror stories.

    47. Jen F
      October 1st, 2011 @ 10:31 am

      Joe, why do you want to be such a jerk. Sometimes people do have problems with their cards. It is not that they are irresponsible. I did EVERYTHING right and still had trouble with my cards on my last cruise. Sometimes it is not the cruiser that is to blame,but either the ship or an obstinate credit card customer no service consultant. The ship does sometimes hit you with a lot of preauthorization holds. That’s what happened with mine. I have excellent credit and a good banking relationship with my credit card issuer. I was able to get it resolved rather quickly, but still it was time I had to take to get it resolved. It shouldn’t have been a problem to start with. My bank was very decent about it.

    48. C Smith
      October 1st, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

      My husband was in England in 2010 as a result of a death in the family. AMEX cheerfully accepted hundreds of dollars (pounds actually) worth of restaurant, hotel, rental car, and gasoline charges. But when he ordered flowers for the funeral they refused the 50 Pound (less than $80) charge. His Visa card went through so the problem was solved. Two days later, I got a fraud alert from AMEX warning of an attempted “non-customery” charge.

    49. Larry K
      October 2nd, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

      We’ve traveled dozens of times abroad w/o any cc problems. Just tell thm you are going abroad. Also if cash is gone so are you basically. As for fraudelent charges you are not responsible so relax. The only fraud i’ve seen on my cc’s has occured when I’ve NOT been out of the country.

    50. fice
      October 2nd, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

      I had a problem once, but was a bank mistake, not much to tell, only an advice, always bring some cash. May be $ 500, keep most in the safe and take $ 100 to the port.

    51. kands6191
      October 2nd, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

      Here’s dumb one. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale planning to rent a car, spend the night and embark on our cruise the next day. We had taken all of our unnecessary cards out of our wallets so we only had the one credit card with us. We only used it for travel and it had no balance and plenty of credit. The rental car agent at the airport said the card was declined. In a panic we drug our luggage outside to call the CC company. Turns out we had never activated the card when we got the new one. Just overlooked it since we rarely use it. We returned to the car rental counter but the agent said the system won’t allow him to put in the same card once it had been declined! Now we really panicked. Fortunately my husband had forgotten to take the debit card out of his wallet and the agent accepted it. Our lesson: Always carry at least two credit cards and always activate them!

    52. Saskaboy
      October 3rd, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

      Curious as to whether there is a difference between chip and non-chip cards (and if there is a difference between “premium” cards and non-premium cards). Although we mostly use cash in port, our premium, chip cards have worked flawlessly throughout North America and Europe.

    53. Chris & Julie
      October 5th, 2011 @ 12:15 am

      Normally we purchase our cruise tickets at the last minute on the cruise line’s web site or we use a travel agent. We saw supposedly a great deal on American Express’s website. We were going to Europe last May and the web site promotion was they were going to give you a “free” 1 week stay at a resort in Cabo San Lucas by purchasing on American Express Travel. We were willing to pay more for the cruise ticket ($1199 versus waiting to the end it went to $799) with the knowledge that we would have another vacation. The catch is the resort is on a mountain side outside of town. There is a shuttle into town once a hour and we figured that if you ate at the resort your food cost would be over $1500 for 1 week or you compromise and spend your entire week shuttling back and forth into town for each meal.

    54. Krista
      October 5th, 2011 @ 9:47 am

      Last January we had a credit card horror.

      We called the three credit cards two days before we left. Advising where we would be going and asking if there was any issues…nothing was said.

      Get on the plane, fly to Miami and try to check into the hotel, only to have the card rejected! Whenwe finally got through to someone with the card, we were told that the limit was reduced to nearly nothing…the day we left! No reason given..

      Needless to say…caused some grief and aggrevation…Cancelled card when we got home.

    55. Diane
      October 6th, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

      My Dad’s card (the one he actually paid for the cruise with) was canceled by his bank for out-of-country purchases. So we notified our cc company beforehand. BIG mistake! An employee of the CC company reported our card stolen & had a replacement Fed-Exed to a friend in Atlanta.
      During the cruise, the card was maxed out. Luckily we had enough cash to cover our expenses. The CC company gave us the address the card as sent to. We drove there from the pier. (We were driving home to Ohio). Luckily my husband listened to me & we found a policeman, & reported the crime, instead of him just bursting through the door.
      According to the police, because we reported the crime in Georgia, we were given a higher priority than if we phoned it in from home. The CC reimbursed us, and because of our complaint, a five state ID theft ring was broken up. Turns out they were looking for people going out of the country with no balance on their card to steal from. The employee & 11 of his cohorts were put in jail.
      So even when you do the right thing, you could still have problems. The moral of the story? Always have a back up plan!

    56. Seven
      October 8th, 2011 @ 2:57 am

      I always call my credit card company before I cruise and let them know I will be away. I also check they have made a note on my account. Saying that I do take some cash with me in case.

    57. Kay
      October 9th, 2011 @ 6:55 am

      When my chip credit card was declined on a Princess Cruise recently,they allowed me to call the bank from their phone.
      It had been cancelled due to being fraudulently used in New York.I had boarded in L.A. and had not been anywhere near New York.
      Fortunately I had other credit cards with me,
      but my concern and question was …how did this happen,and how to avoid it in future? This was the third time fraudulent use of my cards had caused them to be cancelled.
      I spoke at length with the bank’s fraud department when I got home. They assured me that I had not been negligent.
      Several charges then appeared on my statement which were subsequently reversed.
      I was furious to see that they had a $453.00 restaurant meal,at my bank’s expense!!!
      The moral of this story is “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Carry at least two cards.

    58. victoria
      October 11th, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

      1) carry multiple cards.
      2) pre-clear those multiple cards for your itinerary.
      3) ask each card company what their foreign exchange charges and adjustments are. Plan using the cheapest on shore.
      4) Carry a few hundred dollars cash.
      5) if your travels include Europe, Debit cards are easier to use than credit, which sometimes needs fancy European Only chips (time to catch up USA)
      6) Recognize that some countries have strictly cash economies. Plan on cash.

    59. Mary
      October 16th, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

      My credit card horror story was discovered when my card was declined for a $15 purchase on a Caribbean island, our first port. We had also used that card for the shipboard account. I understand the humiliation!
      What happened was this…..My purse had been stolen and I stopped any cards that were in it. A new credit card came in the mail….I thought it was the replacement and put it in my wallet. Oh, no, it was the usual-every-two-year replacement for my old, and, expiring, card that had been reported stolen. At that time you didn’t have to activate new cards on an active account.
      The new card with a different account number was waiting for me when I got home! Needless to say we stopped spending onboard right then because we had only brought one card….Sure put a damper on things but we brought home memories instead of souvenirs!

    60. Pam
      October 17th, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

      We travel with 3 Visa CCs and one AmEx card and always call and give an itinerary. Last time we did this I was told we had to call every 30 days to renew our travel plans! We’re going on a world cruise (104 days), don’t know how we’ll manage to call them every 30 days!

    61. John
      October 21st, 2011 @ 7:17 am

      As a very experienced cruiser the most important advice I can provide you with is…always contact your cc company prior to traveling abroad, even on a cruise. Advise them of the dates of travel and what specific days/ports you will be in ports using your cc. This will resolve any stoppage of your card. Failure to do this can result in being denied the ability to use your cc because the cc company may have policies your not familiar with. A simple phone call can prevent identity theft as well.

    62. neta platt
      October 25th, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

      We primarily cruise on NCL and RCCL and have a credit card in each of these thru Bank of America. When we cruise on NCL we charge everything having to do with this trip to it. When we cruise on RCCL we charge everything having to do with this trip to it. We have had these cards for many many years and have a credit balance of $25,000 on each one and have never even come close to that amount. Always call the card companies and let them know and they automatically put a note in both of the cards, even though I have told them I will only be using the one. But it is always better to be safe than sorry. We use our charge cards in the foreign countries so the exchange rates will be worked out on the credit card instead of having to figure out the cash amounts for fees. We were just in Vancouver before going on a cruise and everywhere we went to buy something, they asked us to use our credit card so they didn’t have to figure out the exchange rate.

    63. Joe Leslie
      November 1st, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

      Laurie mentions that she has no credit cards and attributes this decision to her conviction that “Debt free is the only way to travel”. I agree… but be debt-free by paying your CC bill in FULL every month. I am 67 years old, have about 6 credit cards and my total CC interest/finance charges over my entire life have totaled just under $50.00! Those charges were my own fault for the 2 or 3 times when I forgot to pay on time. I charge almost everything I buy but I NEVER carry a balance. This will not work for you if you have no willpower, of course. I have never been tempted to charge something that I didn’t already have the ready cash (in the bank) to pay for. Get a credit card, Laurie. Get 2 or 3. Just don’t charge anything you can’t afford! What’s so difficult about that?

    64. Joe Leslie
      November 1st, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

      Oops! I forgot to mention one more thing (so charge me a fee…hehe!). Have you noticed that banks are now advertising on TV that their CCs no longer charge a foreign exchange fee for out-of-country purchases. This was already true for Capital One. I suspect the reason so many are bragging about no longer charging that fee is that the govt. made it illegal to charge such fees. Call your CC before you leave and ask if they charge a fee for out-of-country purchases.

    65. Catherine
      November 2nd, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

      I was stranded in Miami. Barclay Bank US cancelled my Carnival Mastercard right after I had paid them the $600 I was planning to use on my cruise. I found out the night before ship sailed. The service rep said they have the right to cancel your card anytime for any reason. She suggested I get a “payday” loan. Very rude and unfeeling. Luckily I was traveling with my sister and she had an extra credit card I could use. I am going back to using travelers checks.

    66. Terry Carpenter
      November 23rd, 2011 @ 11:17 am

      Think about this one. Become deathly ill and have to be taken off the ship. You have to pay up front for hospital stays in Foreign ports or Medical evacuations. It cost me $40,000 on my cards in Mexico in 2011. My sugestions is have a large credit limit

    67. Sue Parker
      December 3rd, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

      I was embarrassed to death on my Holland America cruise thru the Baltic’s last May. I used my Barclay’s Holland America card when I embarked, but on the second night when I ordered a glass of wine at dinner, at a table for 8 (I’m a solo traveler) my waiter came back with the glass of wine and announced that there was a problem with my credit card (that had a zero balance)and that he would \give\ me the glass of wine but I was cut off until I could go down to the front desk to fix the mess. The people at my table looked at me like I was a deadbeat and offered to buy me more wine. I wanted to die.

      I went down to the front desk the next morning, with my $500 receipt that proved that Holland America had charged my card for on-board expenses and that the charge had been approved but the desk clerk said there was a problem with the card and it had been denied. I handed over my BOA NCL mastercard, got an approval and was on my way.

      When I got home I checked my Barclay’s Holland America card and sure enough, they had charged $540 bucks (my entire on board tab) along with $540 bucks to my BOA NCL master card. I was charged twice, on two different cards.

      It took me days to get it straightened out with Holland America, who never offered an apology for their screw up and my embarrassment in front of a table of strangers.

      The entire experience has left a bad taste in my mouth with Holland America and they have lost a customer because of it.

    68. Catherine
      December 7th, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

      Barclay Bank left me stranded in Miami. Trying to get as many Carnival Fun Points as possible, I put a $600 lump sum payment on my Carnival Mastercard a week before I was scheduled to cruise. When I arrived in town the night before the cruise, I went online to check my available credit. I was stunned when I discovered that my account had been closed WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME. I have always paid over the minimum for this account.
      To add to my shock, the last person I spoke to on the phone was rude, disrespectful, and seemed to take pleasure in my troubles. She suggested I get a “payday loan” (on Saturday night and I was leaving for the cruise port on Sunday morning). Never did she apologize or even seem sympathetic. I was told that Carnival had the right to close my account at anytime. I asked if a portion of my payment could be refunded and was told no they also had the right to accept a payment at their discretion. I should have made my minimum payment and kept my money for cruise expenses. I was just trying to get my Carnival Fun Points. Fortunately, I was traveling with my sister and she had an extra credit card I was able to use. I never received a reason or an apology from Barclay Bank.

    69. Cruise Critic
      December 7th, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

      Catherine, that was basically my experience with American Express. Harsh. Conflicting info (often flat-out wrong) about why I was dropped, etc. Opened my eyes wide, I’ll tell you that. It was reinstated, but I’ve got other cards now lined up. Don’t trust ‘em.

      Carolyn

    70. Robert Gregg
      December 30th, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

      I had a different experience than I’ve read in the previous replys. I charged my cruise to a credit card, and then after starting the cruise, went to register the card for on-board purchases. I was told I couldn’t do that because there was insufficient credit available (out of $25,000!). Fortunately I had another card available to use.
      I subsequently found out that the cruise line (NCL) had either put a hold on the amount of the cruise cost (in addition to the cost of the cruise), or had charged me twice for the cruise, thus maxing out my credit limit. They claimed it was an error, but that was of no value to me, other than my not actually ending up paying double.

    71. Sannadiva62
      April 26th, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

      This is my first cruise so I am glad I read your messages regarding credit cards. I do not intend on using my cc in any of the ports, just on the ship.Thanks for the info!

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