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.
How much you’ll pay for cruise line gratuities
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: $15.00 – Standard Staterooms; $18.00 – 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.
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.
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.
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Sherry is editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com. An expert on ocean and river cruises plus trains in the US and Europe, Sherry’s goal is to share her experiences to entertain, inform and inspire readers to travel the world.