(7:45 a.m. EST) -- Fred. Olsen has launched a currency pre-booking service which allows guests to collect their money onboard -– and change it back if they don't spend it. The cruise line is the first in the U.K. to offer a facility like this.
The new service is operated in partnership with foreign exchange provider City Forex and is commission-free –- although it's not 'free', as City Forex still makes money on the exchange rate. But it's certainly convenient. The guest simply emails their order to City Forex stating their cruise booking reference, pays by debit card or cheque, and the money is waiting at Reception when they board the ship. Any number of currencies can be ordered, which is particularly useful on a long cruise to multiple destinations.
Possibly the biggest plus of the new service is that any unused currency can be returned to Reception at the end of the cruise, and will be exchanged at the same rate at which it was originally purchased. The rate is guaranteed to be the same as it was when the currency was bought.
City Forex's rates are in line with other High Street providers. Today, for example, as a snapshot, it would offer €115 for £100, compared to €112 at the Post Office and €113 at Marks & Spencer. Travelex, which has branches at most U.K. airports, is offering €114 for £100 for online orders (with a delivery charge on top if you have the money posted to your home).
The exchange rate may be better in an ATM, which are present in most cruise port terminal buildings -– but bank charges for using cashpoints abroad are usually enormous, ranging from two percent to as much as £12 per transaction. ATMs on cruise ships always carry a heavy commission -– and do not offer multiple currencies.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor