You will be issued a Costa Card when you board the ship. The Costa Card is
(1) your ID
(2) your authorization to enter and leave the ship
(3) your room key
(4) your onboard credit card.
All purchases made while on the ship are charged to your Costa Card. You will need to link your Costa Card to a major credit card or submit a cash deposit. The ship's currency is the Euro.
ITALY AND GREECE (Euro)
1 Euro = 1.30 USD (updated on 12/30/11)
The best way to get your money's worth while you are on land is to use your bank or credit card for purchases and use an ATM for cash withdrawals. Be sure to call your bank before the trip and give them the dates and location of the trip. European restaurants and businesses take credit cards. ATMs are plentiful in the cities and airports. By using your credit or bank card you will get the official exchange rate for that day. The only fee you'll pay is an ATM fee (unless it is a cash advance on a credit card.)
On the other hand, if you take US cash and try to exchange it you will lose a large percentage of your money. Currency Exchanges are businesses; they operate to make money. They charge an exchange fee plus a percentage of the money! You will always lose money at a Currency Exchange. Many merchants will accept US currency but they set their own exchange rates and you will not like them. It is okay to use US Dollars or Euros at bazaars because the prices are generally already very low.
Plan ahead and try to use all of your Euros before you leave Europe. Otherwise you'll have to use a Currency Exchange where you will lose a percentage. Coins are not exchangeable so use them first.
Are there pickpockets in Europe? Of course there are. But I think their abundance is vastly overstated. Be smart, the same way you would in Times Square NYC, or the French Quarter in New Orleans. Tuck your wallet into a hard-to-reach spot.
ISRAEL (shekel) and TURKEY (Turkish Lyra)
1 Shekel = 26 US cents (updated 12/30/11)
1 Lyra = 52 US cents (updated 12/30/11)
The only reason that you might need local currency in either of these locations if to buy souvenirs at a local bazaar. Most all merchants accept the Euro. Some also accept US Dollars. Ask for the price in whatever currency you have. At "brick and mortar" stores it is still best to use your credit card.
There is a large Turkish bazaar in Izmir. Most of the shopping in Jerusalem will be from small vendors on the side of the streets.
HOW MUCH MONEY WILL YOU NEED?
Meals: 4 Lunches and 4 dinners (Rome) plus any other meals that you choose to eat while you are off the ship. The ship will continue to serve all meals while we are docked in the ports so you have the option of returning to the ship to eat.
Options: excursions, souvenirs, taxis
A word of caution: Although your room, board, and gratuities are fully paid for on the ship you can still rack up a HUGE additional ship's bill if you are not careful. Beverages (other than tap water, coffee, etc.) are not included. You will pay for any other beverage, including soda. The prices are very high. Prices for items in the mini bar are outrageous. There is plenty of free food all over the ship so don't be tempted by the $5 Snickers bar in the mini bar. Be careful about other hidden costs such as internet usage, telephone charges, etc. It is possible to take this 11 night cruise with almost no extra ship charges. It is also possible to incur a bill of over $1,000. It happened to me once .... only once.