Complete Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuities in 2020

Cruise ship bartender at Alchemy Bar on Carnival
You might want to tip a favorite bartender at the beginning of your cruise.

How to tip, how much, when and to whom?

Your cruise is paid in full. All that’s left to do is pack your bags, head to the pier and board your ship. But keep your wallet handy because there are gratuities to pay even before your cruise begins. How much, to whom and when to tip can be the most confusing part of a cruise vacation. Plan ahead with these helpful guidelines for cruise gratuities.

Gratuities begin before sailaway

Savvy cruisers know that gratuities begin pierside. Give the luggage handler a $2- $5 tip per bag, depending upon size, weight and amount of luggage. If you’re a solo traveler and only have one large bag to check, a $5 tip is appropriate. Consider the tip as baggage delivery insurance.

List of Cruise line gratuities fees

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $11.50 – $18.00 per passenger per day for onboard gratuities. Cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your onboard account.  Luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Regent, Silversea, Seabourn, Sea Dream, Virgin Voyages include gratuities in the cruise fare.

Some cruise lines charge the tips to your account on a daily basis and you can monitor the charges on your shipboard bill.   Other lines wait until the end of your cruise and then add the tips to your account.  All amounts below are per person per day – pppd.

Carnival:$13.99 – Standard Staterooms; $15.99 – Suites.  18% automatic charge added to beverages

Celebrity:  $15.50 – Standard Staterooms; $16.00 – Concierge and Aqua Class;  $19.00 Suites.  18% charge for beverages

Costa:  $12.00 – on U.S. departures.  €10 – on Europe departures.  15% beverage charge.  Kids 4-14yrs 50% less.  Under 4, no charge.

Cunard:  $11.50 -Britannia Class (standard); $13.50 – Grills’ Suites.  15% beverage charge

Disney:  $13.50 – Across the board.  15% beverage charge and 18% for spa services

Holland America:  $14.50 – Standard Staterooms; $16.00 – Suites.  15% beverage charge

Hurtigruten:  $12.00 – Suggested amount on expedition cruises.  Norwegian coastal cruises there is no gratuity fee.

MSC Cruises:  $12.50 – Adults 12 years and older.  $6.25 ages 2-5 years old.  Under 2 years old, no charge. This applies to Caribbean, Canada and USA cruise departures.  Rates are set to increase in 2021.  Cruises abroad, gratuities are in euro and at a comparable exchange rate.

Norwegian:  $15.50 – Standard Staterooms; $18.50 – Haven Suites.  20% beverage charge – all ships except Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun.  Because they sail with an open bar, gratuities are $19.99 Standard Staterooms; $22.00 – Suites.

Oceania:  $16.00 – For guests occupying staterooms.  For Penthouse, Oceania, Vista or Owner’s Suites with Butler Service, gratuities of $23.00 per guest, per day will be added. An 18% service gratuity is automatically added to all beverage purchases, spa services and dinner at La Reserve.

Princess: $14.50 – Standard Staterooms; $15.50 – Mini-Suites and Club Class; $16.50 – Suites. 15% beverage charge

Royal Caribbean:  $14.50 – Junior Suite and lower; $17.50 – Grand Suites and above.  18% beverage charge

Viking Ocean:  $15.00 per day.  15% beverage charge.

Where the money actually goes

Depending upon your cruise line and accommodation category, these amounts may vary by a few dollars.  But this gives you an idea as to where the money goes and how it’s divvied up at the end.  For this example, the amounts are for standard (non-suite) staterooms, may vary by a dollar or so and subject to change without much notice.

Also, these amounts will differ because the cruise lines also stress that a portion of the service fees a.k.a automatic gratuities, also goes to many of the crew members who work behind the scenes and/or a shared crew incidentals/emergency fund.

Let’s say that your daily service charge is, for example, based on $15.00 per person per day, the breakdown could be:

– Waiter: $4.75

– Assistant Waiter: $2.50

– Head Waiter: $.75

– Stateroom attendant: $4.75

– Stateroom assistant: $2.25

– Room service person delivery: $2.00 out-of-pocket (not automatic) to personally hand to the delivery person.  There may also be a service fee just to order room service.  Have a stack of ones available if you order room service every day.

cruise ship gratuities - how much to tip your waiter
If your waiter goes above and beyond the expected service, an additional gratuity is a nice “thank you.”   Aboard Golden Princess.

Tips for those not on the automatic gratuity list

Some onboard services aren’t subject to automatically-included gratuities. Since these are people that you may interact with on a daily basis, it’s nice to add them to your gratuity list.

– Childcare provider: At your discretion, similar to your babysitter at home.

– Bartender: Plan to frequent the same bar throughout your cruise? Give your new favorite bartender a $10 – $20 upfront tip. If you’ve had excellent service, another tip at the end of the cruise is also appreciated.

-Wine sommelier: Based on their involvement, $10 or $20 at the end of the cruise is appropriate. Some cruise lines have done away with a sommelier and your waiter is responsible for keeping track of your wine bottles. Tip accordingly.

– Shore excursion guide: $2.00 – $5.00

– Shore excursion motor coach driver: $1.00 – $2.00

– Spa services automatically add a 15% – 20% gratuity.  Is there a need to tip your provider?  It’s up to you.

Read more:  Seven stateroom locations you should avoid

Personalize your tip-giving experience

Many cruise passengers from a few European countries where tipping isn’t a common practice, prefer to have the automatically-added tips removed from their account. This can be requested at the Reception (Purser’s) Desk. Hopefully, these folks will then hand out cash to those who have worked hard for them during the cruise.

Some guests who are familiar with and follow the tipping guidelines, prefer to hand out cash-filled envelopes to crew members. Bring a stack of small bills from home and keep separate from your other cash, to avoid the last night panic line at the Purser’s Desk. Or visit the casino cashier to break your larger bills.  Bring envelopes (and thank you notes) from home in case the ship’s front desk doesn’t have any to give for tips.

When in Europe, Euros are the preferred currency for tipping on both ocean and river cruises.  Or you can usually put the gratuities directly onto your onboard credit card.

I always leave the automatic gratuities on my account. Then on the last night, if service was very good, at dinner I’ll bring envelopes with a little extra cash for my waiter, assistant waiter and sommelier. Whether or not to tip the Maître d’ is up to you, depending on if you’ve actually communicated with this person.  On the last night or on the morning of departure, I always give an extra tip to my room steward when I say goodbye.

Tipping After your cruise

After the cruise, if you ask a porter to load your luggage and wheel it to the outdoors or motor coach, you’ll need to dip into your wallet one more time. In many ports or after a transatlantic crossing, you’ll get through the immigration line quicker if you ask a porter to help with your luggage.

Cruise ship tipping can be confusing and a bit daunting if you don’t know what is expected. Follow these guidelines and you’ll avoid last-minute surprises, long queues for cash and empty-pocket embarrassment.

If this was helpful, please PIN for others!

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13 thoughts on “Complete Guide to Cruise Ship Gratuities in 2020”

  • Hi Nick,
    That’s a great question and thank you for writing. Since this is your first time handling the financial ends of a cruise, I would suggest leaving the automatic gratuities on your accounts. It will make the cruise more seamless and you won’t have that last-minute scramble finding small bills to put into envelopes and then locating the people for whom the envelopes are intended. If someone goes above and beyond regular service, it’s perfectly fine to simply hand him or her an extra gratuity. This could be your room steward or bartender or waiter. Have a wonderful cruise and thank you again for writing.

  • I’m about to go on my first cruise with my girlfriend and not with my family. Prior to this cruise, I was never responsible for any of the “stateroom “ accounts since my father always took care of the monetary issues of the vacation.
    After reading the article and the responses I am confused as to whether or not to take the automatic gratuities taken off my account when I go on my cruise and just gave out envelopes at the end of my vacation.
    What do you think

  • Coworker used to work for Celebrity – they get NO SALARY from the cruise line, they rely on the gratuities. Removing the automatic gratuity and then not actually tipping at least that amount in cash is akin to participating in modern-day slavery ie expecting people to contentedly serve you for free.

    Echoing Jeff’s comment about folk who stingily resent a few hundred dollars to the ones who need it most.

  • Mandatory gratuities. I don’t know whether to characterize this as the third world corruption tax in action (being forced to pay civil servants, hospital nurses, etc. a bribe before they will do the job that they are hired and paid to do); or first world predatory capitalism in action. Pretty clearly the cruise lines have offloaded the responsibility for paying their employees a living wage (or any wage) directly onto passengers via mandatory gratuities. Why don’t they just call it “bribes” or “employee salaries” on the invoice instead of “mandatory gratuities.” It is ridiculous that on top of paying for a horrendously expensive cruise and shore excursions, you have to pay bribes/employee salaries in the form of mandatory gratuities. And in some cases you have to pay extra bribes in addition to, on top of, the mandatory gratuities. It all adds up to making a cruise a “once in a lifetime” experience rather than a repeat experience.

  • Hi Shannon,
    Congrats on your first cruise! For tipping, the amount may depend upon the cruise line and your stateroom category. After your automatic gratuities have been charged to your onboard account, you could hand your room steward $20-$30 (two people) in recognition for good service. I hope this helps. Happy cruising!

  • Hi Sherry, I’m going on my first cruise this summer. What’s an appropriate tip range for the room steward on a 7 day cruise?

  • Hi Jeff,
    Nicely said. I would like to think that a lot of the non-tippers or those who queue at the front desk on the last night to remove the service fee are from countries where tipping isn’t part of their culture. But not always so. Thanks for your comment.

  • I always wonder how someone can pay thousands for a cruise, airfare, and shore excursions and then be resentful of a few hundred dollars in tips for the lowest paid of those who make the trip enjoyable. The desire to stick it to the little people reminds me of the great quote from tax cheat, Leona Helmsley, who once said that, “Only the little people pay taxes”. The jury of” little people” had little trouble convicting her. The people who are put out with tips should find other ways to vacation.

  • I have my doubt where the cruise gratuities go to. You can never find out what a crew member earns or how much they actually receive out of gratuities paid and so that end I refuse to have gratuities added to my state room account. However the crew get do get paid to do a job and they knew the pay before they started, they get free food and board plus flights home and we as paying public have already paid for the service they provide. Assuming that all the gratuities are passed on. The ratio of crew member to passenger after removing the staff that are not part of the gratuity pot is about 4 or 5 to 1. On a 14 day cruise at $12.75 per person that adds up to $178.50 per person x 4 and the sum per fortnights holiday gives a bonus of $714 each. That for a 9 month contract would give them a bonus of around $13500 plus pay….Think about it

  • Found out that the cruise line does not give the gratuities to the crew , those tips are kept by the cruise line -ask a crew member, lies and rip off .

  • Hi Lisa,
    Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked the article and I hope it was helpful.

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