Hi pridders, welcome to Cruise-Chat. Congratulations on your upcoming cruise. I do hope you will enjoy it as much as the rest of us do and you will become an addict as we all are
All of the cruises I've been on have been originating in the US, so the currency has always been USD on board. I am assuming that will be the same on your cruise. If not, they can exchange the currency for you in the casino. All the machines are set up for USD. Tips are added to your on board account. You can remove them by visiting the purser's desk. We leave the automatic tips on our account and then tip extra to those we wish. We get envelopes from the purser's desk to place extra tip money in. We tip when they serve us a drink or for room service at the time they bring the drinks or what we ordered for room service. They add 15% gratuity to you bar bills, but we always tip an extra dollar. On your shipboard account, I assume it will be billed in USD. When I've purchased something on various islands, they bill me in their currency, but it is charged to the account in USD.
I hope you've checked around on the board, there are a lot of tips and information from a wealth of veteran cruisers. My biggest suggestion is to pack half of what you think you'll need and then take half of that out of the suitcase before you leave. Bring enough film or memory cards for your camera. Bring extra batteries. You can have as many items from the menu as you wish. If you're still hungry you can always ask for more. If you want more than one entree, order as many as you like. If you have a balcony, try to make at least one sunrise/sunset on your balcony. If not, try to make it up on deck for at least one. It is a magnificent experience. You also need to be up on deck or on your balcony for at least one sail away, too.
Soda pop and alcohol are not included for free beverages. If you drink a lot of soda, you may want to purchase a soda card. Personally, I don't think they're worth it, but others that drink a lot of soda do.
Relax, kick back, and have a wonderful time. Best wishes and once again, welcome aboard!