Does it make sense to prepay for gratuities on Carnival cruise line?

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Carnival Prepaid Gratuities are often discussed on cruise ship forums and Facebook groups. Should you prepay them or not?

I always pay them in advance, because it helps me to budget for my Carnival cruise vacation easier. But that is a personal choice.

I’ve been cruising since the early 90’s so I’ve seen a lot of changes to how the gratuity system works on cruise ships. I must say I much prefer the way the Cruise industry in general handles gratuities now. It is fairer to their staff.

In this article, I will discuss the “should you do it or not” questions. But first, let’s talk about the gratuity system itself and how much it costs.

Then we’ll get into the detail of how the gratuity system works on Carnival Cruise Lines and what you can and cannot do.

What are gratuities?

If you are new to cruising, gratuities can come as a bit of an unexpected shock. Some travel agents fail to tell their clients about them. The first new cruisers might hear about them is when they see the amount on their Sail and Sign account.

Gratuities are tips for the service your receive from Carnival Cruise ship staff.

In years gone by the gratuities were a “suggested” amount per day. This was payable in cash to your cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter.

But it was not uncommon for some guests to avoid paying gratuities at all.

To avoid this, the vast majority of cruise lines have now adopted a standard gratuity policy.  This involves charging a fixed amount for gratuities per day per person.

Generally, you should think of gratuities as very much part of the cost of your cruise. Just like the port fees and taxes you see added to your cruise cost.

However, like regular tips, you can decide how much or how little you want to pay – more on that later.

How much do gratuities cost on Carnival Cruise Line?

Carnival currently charges $16 per person per day for gratuities for standard staterooms.

Suite guests pay $18 per person per day.

This price does change occasionally in line with inflation with the last increase being on April 1, 2023.

Carnival Cruise Line Gratuities Calculator

If I do prepay gratuities for my Carnival Cruise, can I pick how much I prepay?

If you decide to prepay for your Carnival cruise gratuities, you have to pay the full amount. You can’t just prepay a percentage.

How much do prepaid gratuities cost?

If you prepay your gratuities it costs the exact same amount as you would pay on board. There is no discount for paying your gratuities in advance. The charge is the same. $16 per person per day, or $18 per person per day if you are in a Suite.

Do Carnival charge gratuities per person or per cabin?

The gratuities are charged per person.

So does one person in the cabin pay gratuities on behalf of everyone else?

The gratuities are charged to one account, plus any other persons attached to that account.

For example, my wife and I just set up one credit card account. All our onboard charges are then charged to that single account.

If a bunch of friends are traveling together and sharing a cabin, you should each set up your own charge account. Your gratuities will then be paid individually.

Do my kids pay gratuities on Carnival as well?

Children aged 2 or under are exempt from paying any gratuities.

All other children are expected to pay gratuities as well.

Do kids pay a lower amount for gratuities?

No, your kids pay the same amount as adults – unless they are 2 or under.

Do I have to prepay for gratuities on Carnival?

No, you can decide to wait until the cruise. The gratuity amount will usually appear on your Sail and Sign onboard account on the second last day of your cruise.

Why should I prepay for Carnival Gratuities?

Prepaying for gratuities can be an easier way to budget for your vacation. It gives you one less thing to think about. There is less chance of “sticker shock” when you see your Sail & Sign account charge at the end of your cruise.

What if I don’t want to Prepay gratuities?

Prepaid Gratuities on Carnival are entirely optional.

You need to tick the option for this at the time of booking or do it using the “Manage My Booking” menu on Carnival’s website.

If you don’t want to prepay gratuities, you won’t pay for them until you get on board.

How do I pay for Gratuities?

To pay your Gratuities in advance, you have three options:-

  1. Select the option to prepay them at the time of booking. The amount will be added to your total balance payable. For cruises that are 5 days or less, the balance is due 76 days before sailing. For longer cruises, the balance will be due 91 days before sailing.
  2. You can use the “Manage My Booking” option on the Carnival website and prepay them there.
  3. You can call your Travel Agent and ask them to organize this for you.

The last time I cruised, we put money in the envelopes the cruise ship supplied us, why don’t they do that anymore?

You will still see these little envelopes in your stateroom. These are supplied in case you want to extend any additional gratuities to staff.

Are Gratuities Mandatory on Carnival Cruises?

No, they are not. You do not have to pay. Cruise Gratuities are optional.

But you really should think carefully about this.

Cruise ship staff work extremely hard.  Paying gratuities this way ensures that the tips are distributed to all the staff that takes care of you.

If you decide not to pay the Carnival gratuity charge, or pay them in a different way, then that is entirely your personal choice. You will need to speak to Guest Services once on board to let them know what you are doing.

If I decide to Prepay My Gratuities, does that cover all my tips?

No. There will be a gratuity amount of 18% added to your Bar service checks.

You will also see this 18% amount added to Spa services and any specialty dining or Chef’s Table experience.

You should also tip cash to any Room Service staff.

If you use any portside services like baggage handlers they will expect to be tipped directly. They are not part of the Cruise company’s gratuity system.

Do I still have to pay gratuities if I don’t go to the main dining room?

Yes. Even if you just eat in the buffet restaurant all cruise, gratuities still apply.

Do I have to tip at the specialty restaurants?

Yes. An 18% service charge will be added to the cost of the specialty restaurant.

Do I have to pay extra gratuities at The Chef’s Table?

Yes. At the Chef’s Table experience, you will see an 18% service charge added.

If I buy the Cheers Drink package, will that cover the tips for the bar service?

Yes, it does!

Which members of staff receive these gratuities?

The gratuities are distributed to stateroom attendants, dining and culinary staff. A portion also goes to other crew that work behind the scenes,

Carnival Prepaid Gratuities - You can also tip with Cash

Can I tip staff directly?

Yes, you can.

It’s handy to keep some smaller bills on your person. This makes it easy to tip staff directly over and above the fixed gratuity amount.

If you don’t have cash, you can also add the amount to any checks you receive. 

Can I adjust the amount of gratuities?

Yes, you can discuss this with Guest Services and they will make that alteration for you. But this can only be done if you didn’t prepay for gratuities.

If I do decide to do prepaid gratuities, won’t that lead to a poorer standard of service?

Common sense suggests that you should only tip for service after it has been received. So it is understandable that many cruisers assume that you won’t get as good service.

However, you should know that staff don’t receive them until some time after your cruise.

Additionally, the staff is assessed depending on ratings and feedback from guests. If they provide poor service your feedback score might impact future promotion chances.

What if I have a problem with service, can I get a refund for Any Prepaid gratuities?

No. Once you have prepaid for gratuities you cannot get a refund. However, any specific service issues can be discussed with Guest Services.

I have an onboard credit can I use that towards my gratuities?

No. This is one of the disadvantages of prepaid gratuities. You cannot use any onboard credit for any items purchased in advance.

However, if you decide not to prepay your gratuities, your onboard credit will go toward them.

I don’t believe in tips and gratuities – can I refuse to pay?

Gratuities are not mandatory, but you are expected to pay the standard amount. However, if you don’t want to pay them, then you can discuss this with Guest Services.

The Guest Services team will still try to encourage you to pay them. They can answer any concerns you might have about how the gratuity system works at Carnival.

I would rather tip staff individually rather than pay this fixed amount per day – can I do that?

Yes, you can. You can let Guest Services know that you want to do this. 

The downside is that some of the crew members that work behind the scenes, won’t then receive any gratuity for you. But they have worked just as hard for you as they have other guests.

Do the cruise staff on Carnival actually receive these gratuities?

100% yes. I have spoken to many Carnival cruise staff about this and they have all assured me that they do receive them.

Carnival Prepaid Gratuities - Tip Jar

If a member of staff provides me with a great service, what is the easiest way to tip them?

You can tip them in cash at the time of receiving the service.

You can also use the handy envelopes Carnival provides in your stateroom. Then pass it to the crew member near the end of the cruise.

On my Bar Service receipt, there is an extra space for a tip amount. They have already added the 18% services charge. Are they expecting me to tip twice?

No. This is to allow you to add an additional tip amount if you wish. This is handy if you don’t have any cash with you. The additional tip amount would then go on to your onboard account.

You will also see this option on any Spa service or any additional dining services.

What do experienced Carnival cruisers have to say about Prepaying Gratuities?

Gratuities are always a bit of a hot topic on Cruise ship forums and you will get a lot of different views.

However, when it comes to prepaid gratuities, those that do this tend to keep doing it cruise after cruise.

Here’s what some of our fellow cruisers have said:-

“I prepay because I don’t want the sticker shock at the end of my cruise”

“It’s one less thing you need to worry about”

“Pay and forget it, that’s what I do”

“It takes all the stress out of disembarking”

“I prefer to prepay and I treat it as part for the cruise price”

So should I do prepay gratuities on Carnival? What are the Pros and Cons?

Personally, we do it ourselves. I like to get the payment out of the way and then it’s done.

There are pros and cons though.

Pros:

  • It can make your cruise vacation easier to budget
  • You can avoid future price rises if you prepay before any price rise is announced
  • All relevant cruise staff will receive a gratuity from me

Cons:

  • You can’t get a refund if you have prepaid gratuities
  • You can’t use your onboard credit towards them if you prepaid

A word of caution – always check your Sail & Sign account!

Always double-check your onboard account before leaving the ship.  Particularly if you have prepaid your gratuities.

I have heard more than a few times of guests being double-charged due to a glitch in the system or human error.

Also if you paid them via a travel agent, make sure you have a receipt as proof of payment just in case.

Carnival Guest Services won’t be able to access your Travel Agent’s system if there is any discrepancy with their records.

How Do I Check My Sail & Sign Account?

You can check your Sail & Sign account on the Carnival Hub App. We always recommend downloading this app before your sailing. Once onboard you simply connect to Carnival Cruise WiFi to view your account via the Carnival Hub App menu. You do not need to pay for Wi-Fi to do this.

It’s time to plan ahead

So there you have it. 

The decision to prepay gratuities is a personal choice.

I hope I have answered all your questions on the prepaid system and gratuities in general.If there are any questions that I haven’t covered, please leave a comment below. Or, you can contact us here we’ll be sure to add your questions to the article.

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for CruiseNonstop.com you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

1 thought on “Does it make sense to prepay for gratuities on Carnival cruise line?”

  1. I believe the system of pre paid gratuities is very wrong!!
    We pay for good service after we have received it!! Not before
    It really puts us cruising again

    Reply

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