If you’ve ever taken an ocean cruise, you’re familiar with the decade-old automatic gratuity charge to your onboard account. If you’re new to river cruising, on almost all river cruise lines, gratuities are handled differently than on their ocean counterparts.
With only one or two exceptions (see below), non-all-inclusive Europe river cruise lines “request” that you pay the gratuities at the end of the cruise in local currency. You’ll put the money into envelopes and deposit them into a lock-box at the reception desk. Only one American river cruise line automatically adds it to your bill.
There are several recipients of river cruise tipping:
- Staff – the people you see including housekeeping, dining room, bar, reception.
- Crew – the behind the scenes heavy-lifters including those in the engine room, sailors, galley staff
- Cruise Manager – your onboard go-to person. He or she hosts events, accompanies tours, prepares daily newsletter, fields questions and on and on.
- On the Bus Narrator and Guide – talks continuously on the going-there, quiet on the return trip. Answers questions about upcoming shore excursion. Sometimes leads shore excursion, too.
- Local Tour Guide – Lives in the city or town and does all the talking on the tour.
- Bus Driver
Totally all-inclusive cruise lines include gratuities for all of the above. If your cruise line isn’t listed in the All-Inclusive list that follows, you will be expected to pay your gratuities.
These cruise lines include gratuities in the cost of your cruise fare.
- Crystal – includes housekeeping, bar, dining staff and butlers. Can add additional tips.
- Scenic – additional tipping for exceptional service is not expected.
Only Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld include tips for tour guides, bus drivers and on Tauck, your Tauck guide.
Except for the three cruise lines listed above, it’s a good idea to keep a handful of Euros (or small local currencies) in your pocket to tip the tour guide(s) and bus driver. They’ll stand at each motor coach exit door with their hand out for their tip.
Gratuities – how much and to whom?
Since Europe river cruises are the most popular, the first amounts listed are in Euro. In Russia, SE Asia, Africa, convert to local currency. Most international cruise lines do not allow you to add gratuities to your onboard account. Please check with your cruise line as this option could change.
Towards the end of the cruise, you’ll receive two envelopes; one for staff and crew and one for the cruise manager. Each currency amount is per person per day. Tour guides and driver are per each shore excursion.
INTERNATIONAL RIVER CRUISE LINES
- AmaWaterways: Staff and crew €12 per person per day; Cruise Manager €3 per person per day; tour guide €1-3, driver €1. In Russia: Staff and Crew equivalent of $15 per person per day; Cruise Manager $4 per person per day. Vietnam & Cambodia: Pre and Post Cruise: National Guide US $2 per person per day. Local Guides, US $1 per person per half-day tour, US $2 per person per full day tour. Bus Drivers, US $.50 per person for half-day tour, US $2 per person for full day tour. Africa: Gratuities are not included in the vacation price. The suggested tipping policy onboard is between $65-80 per cabin for the 4-night cruise.
On most ships in Europe, you may add the gratuities to your onboard account.
- Avalon: Staff and crew €12 per person per day, Cruise Manager €3 per person per day.
- CroisiEurope: A total of €5-€10 per person per day.
- European Waterways: 5% to 10% of the cost of the cruise per person.
- French Waterways: 5% to 10% of the cost of the cruise per person.
- Uniworld: In Russia, Staff and Crew equivalent of $12 per person per day, Cruise Manager $5 per person per day, local guide $3 per person per day, tour guide $2 per person per day, driver $1 person per day.
- Vantage: A total of €12 per person per day.
- Viking: Staff and crew €12 per person per day, Cruise Manager €2 per person per day, tour guide €2 and driver €1. In Russia, Egypt, SE Asia, Ukraine and China – Staff and Crew equivalent of $15 per person per day, $10 Cruise Manager, $2 tour guide, $1 driver.
USA RIVER CRUISE LINES
- American Cruise Lines: $125 per person
- American Queen Steamboat Co.: $16.50 per person per day added to onboard account.
- Un-Cruise: Suggested $125-$250 per person.
These gratuity amounts will be updated as needed. Watch for occasional promotions that include prepaid gratuities. If you have experienced anything different or have any updates, please let us know.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com and self-appointed “expert” on cruises, trains and solo travel. By sharing news and reviews plus my cruise and travel experiences, I hope to entertain, inform and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Be sure to enjoy a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.