Cruise Gratuities and Tipping
Cruise Gratuities, Tips or Tipping can be confusing and always a hot topic of discussion. Depending on which cruise line you choose, there are different policies and suggested tipping rates for gratuities on cruise ships.
You probably thought that once you paid for your cruise, cruise tips would part of your fare, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Our guide will hopefully help you plan and understand cruise tipping etiquette.
For those who are not familiar with the concept of paying gratuities, it can be quite daunting to have to pay cruise ship tips. This article covers the reasons why tipping is appropriate and to whom, when, and how much. Hopefully, this will clear up some of the most common misconceptions and provide helpful advice about why you should pay onboard gratuities.
Why You Should Pay Cruise Gratuities
Paying gratuities and tipping the staff aboard a cruise ship is not compulsory but is considered the right thing to do. Cruise Tipping is a gesture of goodwill to reflect your gratitude for the service provided and to say a big “Thank You” to the crew members. These are the ones who have looked after you throughout your cruise serving your drinks, cleaning your stateroom and keeping everything shipshape.
The main reason for tipping on a cruise is to compensate the relatively low-paid staff for all their hard work. Many of the crew aboard a cruise ship are earning relatively low wages. They make up their income to a reasonable level through the tips and gratuities that most guests pay for the brilliant job done by the crew. People often ask the question: are cruise gratuities mandatory? We hope to answer this question in this article.
Those who complain about the idea of paying cruise gratuities always use the argument that the cruise lines should pay a fair wage to the onboard team members. On the other hand, the cruise lines would counter this by saying one of the most significant incentives to the crew is the prospect of big tips. By using this approach, they believe it encourages the team to work harder and offer the highest levels of service, resulting in a superior onboard experience for all guests. We don’t think than not paying cruise gratuities is an option.
Do You Need To Pay Gratuities on Luxury Cruise Lines?
Many of the Ultra Luxury and Luxury brands have a no-tipping policy because your cruise fare includes all tips. However, there may be some additional tips required for things like the spa. You also may wish to tip specific crew members who have provided exceptional service throughout your cruise. If you feel strongly about going even further in expressing your gratitude to the crew, Regent Seven Seas Cruises have a brilliant scheme where you are encouraged to donate to the Crew Welfare Fund at the Pursers Office. Seabourn Cruise Line also operates a similar system.
A growing number of Cruise Lines now incorporate gratuities and tips as part of the cruise fare. Expect this number to increase over time as more cruises lines make the switch.
Some of these currently include:
Azamara, Celestyal Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Marella Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, P&O Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Scenic Ocean Cruises, Scenic River Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea Cruises, Virgin Voyages and Uniworld
Some Package Offers Include Pre-paid Gratuities
Cruise lines need to fill their ships. To help them do this, from time to time, they offer promotions, often referred to as ‘packages.’ The infamous ‘drinks package’ is the most popular, but offers often include prepaid cruise gratuities. These can represent considerable savings on your cruise.
If your offer consists of onboard credit, you could use this to offset your onboard gratuities account. A good cruise travel agent will be able to help you find all these offers particularly early in the New Year during the ‘Wave Season’ which is the traditional one or two months at the start of the year when cruise sales are at thier peak.
It is always worth asking if your travel agent will give you something themesleves as a ‘thank you’ for your business rather than just relying on the cruise line offers.
Tipping Starts Before You Board Your Cruise Ship
Seasoned cruisers know one of the most nervous times is waiting for your luggage to appear in your stateroom. The worst thing that can happen is that just your luggage tags turn up!
So when you are pierside consider giving your luggage handler a $2- $5 tip per item, depending upon the size, weight and amount of your luggage. If you’re travelling alone and with only one large piece of luggage, a $5 tip is appropriate. Consider the gratuity as a kind of insurance that your bags will make it safely onto the ship.
Some of the Luxury and Ultra Luxury All-Inclusive cruise lines will often have baggage handlers of their own from the ship, and they do not expect tips as these are all included in the cruise fare.
How Cruise Gratuities and Tipping Works
The cruise industry has tried to make tipping less complicated and less stressful by implementing automatic tipping on mainstream cruise lines. These systems are now the accepted mechanism for gratuities while on board, and it just happens automatically.
Unlike the cruising days gone by, these policies mean that cruisers don’t have to spend the last day of their voyage running around the ship handing out envelopes of cash to every room steward, waiter, and bartender they met during the cruise.
But still, tipping etiquette on cruises can be a little confusing with each cruise line having a tipping policy of its own. While these are usually well publicised, it is vital to understand how it works on your cruise. If in doubt you should check online or directly with the cruise line.
Different rates will apply based on the level of accommodation you booked. So for example and inside cabin on a lower deck with generally have a lower gratuity rate per day than say a Penthouse Suite.
How Much to Tip on a Cruise
So how much are cruise gratuities? On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $11.50 – $18.00 per passenger per day for onboard gratuities. As already mentioned, many cruise lines charge the tips to your account daily, and you can monitor the charges on your shipboard bill. Other cruise lines wait until the end of your cruise and then add the tips to your account.
With the move to auto tipping policies in recent years here’s an overview of what you might expect to pay on the various cruise lines. Depending upon your cruise line and accommodation, these amounts may vary by a few dollars.
- Carnival Cruise Line
$16 per person per day in staterooms; $18 per person per day in suites. An automatic 18% gratuity applies to all beverages.
- Celebrity Cruises
$17.50 per person, per day, in staterooms; $18 per person, per day, in Concierge Class and AquaClass staterooms; and $21 per person, per day, in suites.
- Celestyal Cruises
With Celestyal Cruises Port, Service Charges & Gratuities are all included in the cruise fare.
- Costa Cruises
Costa calculates its auto-gratuities based on the length of your voyage, the destination, and the ship, but you can expect a charge of Euro 11.00 per person per day. Beverages attract a gratuity of 15%
- Cruise & Maritime
Cruise & Maritime automatically add gratuities to your onboard account. The rate is currently £7 per person per night (£6 per person for cruises longer than 16 nights). On the 600 guest ship Astor, there is a charge of $12 per person per night or $10 per person for cruises of more than 11 nights. There are no extra service charges.
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare but expect an 18% service charge on spa treatments.
- Cunard Cruise Line
Britannia-level passengers are charged $11.50 per person per day, and Grill Class passengers pay $13.50 per person per day. As part of the Cunard Gratuities system, Beverages attract a gratuity of 15%
- Disney Cruise Line
The recommended gratuity is $14.50 per person per day and $15.50 per day for guests in Concierge staterooms and suites. Beverages and other extras attract a gratuity of 18%
All gratuities onboard are included in the price of the cruise. Acknowledgement of particularly excellent service is at the discretion of each guest.
- Holland America Line
$16 per person per day for those staying in staterooms and $17.5 per person per day for suite guests. A gratuity of 18% is added to optional purchases of beverage packages, drinks, dining room and speciality dining, private events, and other elected products.
- Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Gratuities are typically charged at £5 per day.
Hurtigruten has two separate tipping policies. On its coastal voyages in Norway, there’s a no-tipping policy. On expedition cruises, Hurtigruten recommends a gratuity of 80 NOK (approximately $12 USD) per day per guest. There are no gratuities added to alcoholic beverages.
- Marella Cruises
No service charges apply as Marella Cruises is now an All-Inclusive cruise line.
- MSC Cruises
MSC gratuities are based on the voyage destination. For cruises booked in the UK, Gratuities are included. For all other MSC cruises, different gratuities apply based on region but expect to pay between $10USD and $15USD per person per day.
- Norwegian Cruise Line
The NCL service charge is $20 per person per day in Club Balcony Suite and below and $25.00 USD per person per day for The Haven and Suites.
- Oceania Cruises
Oceania cruise gratuities are $18 per person per day for staterooms and $23 per person per day for guests staying in a Penthouse, Oceania, Vista, or Owner’s suites. A 20% service gratuity is automatically added to all beverage purchases, spa services and dinner at La Reserve.
- P&O Cruises
From 2019, the cruise fare includes P&O gratuities. Tipping staff is neither required nor expected, but if you choose to do so, then that’s entirely your decision.
- Paul Gauguin
No service charge applies to Paul Gaugin Cruises, as the cruise fare includes all gratuities. You can reward staff members directly if you wish to acknowledge above-and-beyond service. An 18 per cent gratuity applies to spa services.
- Princess Cruises
$16 per person, per day, for those staying in staterooms; $17 per person, per day, for mini-suites; and $17 per person per day for suite guests.
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent is the Most Inclusive of all cruise lines, including all gratuities in their cruise fares.
- Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean gratuities start at $16 per person per day for Stateroom and Junior Suite guests and $18.50 per person per day for Grand Suite and higher passengers. An 18% gratuity is automatically added to all beverages, mini bar items, and spa & salon purchases.
All Gratuities are included on Saga Cruises.
- Scenic Ocean Cruises
Included in your cruise fare and all tips and gratuities for drivers, local guides, porters, and waiting staff are included in your cruise fare.
- Seabourn Cruise Line
All Gratuities are included with Seabourn
- Silversea Cruises
All Gratuities are included with Silversea
- Viking Ocean Cruises
$15 per person, per day.
There are no gratuities to pay as the line has revealed it is gratuity-free.
- Windstar Cruises
The Hotel Service Charge for Windstar gratuities is $14.50 per person per day. All bar bills attract a service charge of 15%. An All-In Package is now available from Windstar
Information and rates updated 2023
When to Tip on a Cruise
Most cruise lines who charge for gratuities apply these automatically, which are due for payment at the end of your cruise. However, there are other options available when it comes to paying your gratuities.
If you prefer to have the automatically-added tips removed from your account, you can generally request this at the Reception (Purser’s) Desk. You can then hand out gratuities and gifts to those who have worked hard for you during your cruise. The last cruise day is typically when this happens.
In Europe, Euros are the preferred currency for tipping on both ocean and river cruises.
You will find that most cruise staff ship will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and exceptional. Many go the extra mile by providing excellent service and cater for your every need. Whether it’s your cabin steward fulfilling a special request or the bartender remembering your name and favourite drink, there are lots of reasons why you may feel that is right to give a particular crew member a little extra. In this case, you should try to give out cash tips on the last full day of your cruise.
It is also a good idea to consider a tip to the right person at the beginning of your cruise which can improve your experience and offering the staff member the motivation to provide the very best service for the rest of your vacation.
Who to Tip on a Cruise
However, there are individual crew members, such as your ship’s captain and other high ranking officers who are generally exceptionally well paid without receiving gratuities and so you would not typically offer these. Whether you tip the Maître d’ is up to you, depending on how he has looked after you. On the last night or the morning of departure, we always give an extra tip to our room steward when we say goodbye.
We have found that unusual gifts are always very well received. If we have flown out from the UK, we generally visit the Harrods Duty-Free shop and buy unique Harrods branded products to give as gifts to the crew. If we feel they don’t deserve them, we simply take them home as gifts for our family.
They do such a great job to make sure your stateroom is kept in tip-top condition throughout your voyage and they really don’t earn so much money.
What About the Crew Not on The Gratuities List?
Some of the crew and onboard service providers don’t always get included in the cruise line automatically-included gratuities system. Since these are people that may have helped you during your cruise, it’s nice to add them separately.
These may include:
- Children’s Club and Teens Club staff
- Bartenders and Mixologists: An upfront tip always works wonders if you plan to frequent the same bar during your cruise
- Sommelier, aka Wine Waiter: Based on their involvement, $10 or $20 can be appropriate. Where there is no sommelier, and your waiter looks after your drinks, it is a nice touch to reward them.
- Shore Excursion Guide: $10-20 depending on how long your tour was for and how good they were
- Shore Excursion Guide driver: $1.00 – $2.00
Cruise gratuities can be confusing and daunting if you don’t know the protocol. Hopefully, this handy guide will at least help you understand how tipping on a cruise works.
Whether paying cruise gratuities automatically onboard is an option or paying gratuities in cash is your choice. It is important to remember that most crew members rely on tips to subsidise their basic pay and will go out of their way to ensure you have a wonderful time onboard. To be fair to the crew, always think twice and remember the service you enjoyed before considering not paying cruise gratuities and removing gratuities from your bill.
Related: 10 Essential Cruise Gadgets you Didn’t Know you Needed
You will also find that an increasing number of cruises lines offer “All-Inclusive Fares” where everything (well almost) is included, including Pre-Paid Gratuities. Always make sure you understand the cruise line gratuity policy at the time of booking. If you do choose to go on a “Pay As You Go” plan, then expect a massive Gratuities Bill end of your cruise.
FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions
Are Gratuities mandatory on a cruise?
In theory no, but you should have a good reason not to pay them. If you experience poor service on a cruise then you should address this whilst on board. Cruise Gratuities are not normally mandatory, but you are encouraged to pay them and in many cases, these are added automatically.
What happens if you don't tip on a cruise?
Most cruise lines work on the basis that the crew members’ pay structure is based on receiving tips. If you choose not to tip, for whatever reason, you are impacting the salaries of the crew who have served you so well during your cruise.
Do all cruise lines automatically charge gratuities?
Nowadays most of the major cruise lines do have automatic systems to whereby gratuities get added to your onboard account. However, Some All-Inclusive cruise lines include all gratuities in the cruise fare.
How much do you tip at the end of a cruise?
It depends on your cruise line as they are all different. Some cruise lines are now inclusive so you do not need to worry about tips as they are all taken care of.
Should you prepay gratuities on a cruise
This is a matter of personal choice. You can prepay your gratuities (tips) when booking your cruise, but you then have no control over who gets what. In the event of bad service (unlikely), you have already paid out!