Cruise Gratuities: What You Need to Know Before You Sail

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If you’re planning a cruise for the first time, you might be wondering about cruise gratuities.

Cruise gratuities, also known as tips or service charges, are additional fees that you pay to the crew for their services during your trip.

These fees are usually added to your onboard account and can vary depending on the cruise line, the length of your trip, and the type of cabin you choose.

Cruise gratuities are an important part of the cruise experience. They ensure that the crew members who work hard to make your trip enjoyable are fairly compensated for their efforts.

Unfortunately, unless you are made aware of cruise gratuities, they can be a big surprise. And a shock to the wallet if you were not expecting them.

In most cases, cruise gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account, so you don’t have to worry about carrying cash or calculating tips.

Before you cruise, it’s important to understand how much you will be paying and where that money goes.

So let’s take a look at what we are going to cover.

Why Cruise Lines Charge Gratuities

cruise gratuities

If you have been on a cruise before, you will have noticed that cruise gratuities are automatically added to your bill at the end of the trip (or at the beginning if pre-paid). But have you ever wondered why cruise lines charge gratuities? Here are a few reasons why:

Recognizing the Hard Work of the Crew

Cruise ships are like small cities, and the crew members work tirelessly to ensure that you have a great vacation.

From the housekeeping staff to the waiters and bartenders, the crew members are the backbone of the ship. By charging gratuities, cruise lines can recognize the hard work of the crew and ensure that they are rewarded for their efforts over and above their standard rate of pay.

Simplifying the Tipping Process

In the past, passengers were expected to tip each crew member individually in cash.

This could be confusing and time-consuming, especially for first-time cruisers. And from my own experience, I could see there were more than a few people who tried to avoid paying them completely.

Ensuring Consistency

By charging a set gratuity amount, cruise lines can ensure that all crew members are compensated fairly and consistently. This helps to create a positive work environment and encourages crew members to provide excellent service.

Overall, while it may seem like an additional expense, cruise gratuities are an important part of the cruise experience.

How Cruise Gratuity Charges Work

When you book a cruise, you usually have the opportunity to prepay gratuity charges or have them automatically added to your onboard account.

Amount Per Person

The amount of gratuity charges varies by cruise line, but it’s usually around $14 to $20 per person, per day. This means that if you’re traveling with a partner or family, you’ll be charged this amount for each person in your cabin, every day of your cruise.

Daily Charges

Gratuity charges are applied to your onboard account on a daily basis. This means that you don’t have to worry about remembering to tip your servers, housekeeping staff, or other crew members during your trip.

Charged to Your Onboard Account

Gratuity charges are added to your onboard account, which is like a credit card that you use to pay for all your onboard expenses.

This onboard account also includes your drinks, excursions, and any other purchases you make during your trip. You can view your account balance at any time by checking your cabin’s TV or using the cruise line’s app.

Prepaid Gratuities

If you prefer to pay your gratuity charges in advance, most cruise lines allow you to pre-pay them before you embark on your trip.

This can be a convenient option if you want to avoid any surprises on your final bill. You can usually pre-pay your gratuities by selecting that option when booking your cruise online. Or you can call the cruise line’s customer service department or your travel agent.

Final Bill

At the end of your trip, you’ll receive a final bill that includes all your onboard expenses, including your gratuity charges.

If you pre-paid your gratuities, you’ll see a zero balance for this charge on your final bill. If you didn’t pre-pay, the gratuity charges will be added to your total balance.

While it may seem like an extra expense, it’s important to remember that these charges are standard practice in the cruise industry. By understanding how they work, you can budget for them and enjoy your trip without any surprises.

Which Cruise Lines Charge Gratuities

Some cruise lines include gratuities in the fare, while others add them as a daily charge to your onboard account. Here’s a breakdown of which cruise lines charge gratuities:

Mainstream Cruise Lines

Cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Celebrity all charge daily gratuities to your onboard account. These gratuities typically range from $14.50 to $25 per person per day, depending on the stateroom category.

[ Related Post: Royal Caribbean Gratuities Increase 2023 ]

Luxury Cruise Lines

Luxury cruise lines like Seabourn, Silversea, Regent, Ponant, and Azamara include gratuities in the cruise fare.

This means you won’t have to worry about tipping your room steward, waiter, or any other onboard staff. However, if you receive exceptional service, it’s always appreciated to leave a little extra if you can.

Other Cruise Lines

Virgin Voyages includes gratuities in the cruise fare, but they call it a “Voyage Fare” instead of a gratuity. This means you won’t have to worry about tipping your crew members during your voyage.

Cunard, Costa, Holland America, and Oceanic Cruises all add daily gratuities to your onboard account. However, the rates vary depending on the cruise line and stateroom category.

It’s important to note that some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival also offer drinks packages that include gratuities for bar staff. Make sure to check the details of your drinks package to see if gratuities are included.

Overall, it’s always a good idea to research the gratuity policies of your chosen cruise line before booking your vacation. This way, you can budget accordingly and avoid any surprises during your trip.

Gratuities vs. Cash Tipping on a Cruise

While gratuities are seen as “expected”, additional cash tipping is optional.

Cash tipping can be handy for certain circumstances on a cruise. For example, your room steward and dining staff will receive a portion of the gratuities, but if you want to tip them directly for exceptional service, you can do so in cash.

Similarly, if you use room service or a cruise concierge, you may want to consider tipping those staff directly.

Whether you choose to tip or not, it’s important to be aware of the expectations and guidelines for gratuities and tips on your specific cruise.

How Much to Tip on a Cruise

When it comes to tipping on a cruise, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, if you are paying the standard gratuities then any additional tips are entirely optional. This means that you don’t have to worry about carrying cash around with you to tip crew members if you choose not to.

If you are already paying the standard gratuities, most staff will be delighted with a couple of additional dollars, so keep small bills handy.

How to Adjust the Cruise Gratuities Amount

If you want to adjust the amount of gratuities you pay (either up or down), you can do so at the guest services desk.

If you want to reduce the amount of gratuities you are paying, please consider this carefully. The daily cruise gratuities are split among a number of crew members, including stateroom attendants, dining room servers, and others. So, if you want to adjust your gratuities, be sure to consider the impact it will have on the crew.

A Dollar Well Spent

Overall, tipping on a cruise is an important part of showing appreciation for the hardworking crew members who make your vacation possible. By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that you’re tipping appropriately and supporting the crew.

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

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