Cruise tipping is a bit of a bugbear for passengers these days.
There once was a time when you tipped crew members if they were especially helpful. Envelopes were left in your guest room for cash tips you wanted to leave.
Now, gratuities on a cruise are often automatically added to your bill (on average, about $200 USD per cabin for a one-week cruise; more for a suite).
The practice annoys many passengers who feel this is just a way for cruise lines to shirk from paying decent wages.
And those auto tips are climbing. (Norwegian, Carnival, Windstar and Royal Caribbean all hiked their cruise gratuities in 2018.)
So what’s the deal?
Gratuities on a cruise – all over the map
Cruise tipping guidelines vary widely from line to line. (See our list of 20 popular cruise lines and their tipping policies below.)
Some luxury ocean cruise lines don’t expect you to tip (the tips are folded into the fare). River cruises often include tipping in the price too. Other cruise lines allow you to tip as you wish.
Many cruises, however, automatically add a standard tip to your bill.
Prepaid gratuities on a cruise
Some lines even ask you to prepay your tips before you board the ship.
This has led to complaints from several passengers that the service (which is usually top-notch on cruises) is less-than-stellar when staff know their tips are already in the bag.
Do you have to tip on a cruise?
Fairness is the reason cruise lines have substituted auto-gratuities for cash tips. The idea is that tips are now shared among all staff, including behind-the-scenes workers, not just room stewards and waiters.
What about Aussie cruises?
Australian cruises are in a class of their own.
Tipping is not part of the Aussie culture. So if you’re cruising out of Australia, you likely won’t have to shell out extra bucks. (Carnival underwent an “Aussification” program and, along with Princess, abolished compulsory tipping on ships based out of Australia.)
And cruising with Brits?
The British too are less happy tipping on cruises than Americans – and likely won’t tip as much or at all. If you’re cruising the Med with a bunch of Brits, expectations for what to tip may be different than if you’re on an Alaska cruise with Americans used to a 15 or 20% tipping culture.
How much to tip on cruises?
Part of the issue is that information about gratuities on cruise ships is often buried in the small print of the fare or the website’s “frequently asked questions.”
Some cruise lines coyly refer to tips as “service charges.” Search for gratuity information on the cruise line’s website, and you find “tips” are voluntary and at your discretion, but dig further and you discover there are automatic “onboard service charges.”
You may not really know what gratuities are expected until you see they’ve been added to your bill at the end of the cruise.
1) AmaWaterways Gratuities
A leading luxury river cruise company, AmaWaterways sets out guidelines for tips, which vary, depending on the part of the world your river cruise explores.
For ship staff – 12 Euros p.p.
For the cruise Manager – 3 Euros p.p.
AmaWaterways says it’s customary to tip local guides 1 to 2 Euros per tour and bus drivers 1 Euro.
Details: See “What are the Tipping Guidelines?” on the cruise line’s Frequently Asked Questions webpage.
2) Azamara Club Cruises
A premium cruise line, Azamara Club Cruises includes tips in the cruise fare for all guests.
3) Carnival Cruises gratuities
Gratuities on Carnival recently got more expensive – they were bumped up for all sailings on or after December 1, 2018. They’re automatically added onto your shipboard bill toward the end of your cruise.
Staterooms – $13.99
Suites – $15.99
*There are no charges for wee ones under age 2.
Carnival prepaid gratuities:
A question many cruisers ask is: “Should I prepay gratuities on a Carnival cruise?”
Carnival offers you this option. The cruise line suggests you may feel more comfortable settling this charge in advance so it doesn’t come as a surprise at the end of your cruise.
For cruises out of Barbados, gratuities are charged in advance and automatically added to the cost of your cruise when you book.
An automatic 18% tip is added for any beverage purchases. Also, if you book the Chef’s Table, an 18% gratuity is added to the cover charge for this multi-course dining experience.
Details: Find more information about tipping on Carnival Cruises on their Help webpage (See under “Service Gratuities”).
4) Celebrity Cruises Gratuities
Gratuities on Celebrity Cruises are automatically added to your onboard account. If you wish, you can “adjust” the amount during your cruise by speaking with guest relations.
Standard staterooms – $14.50 p.p.
Concierge Class and AquaClass staterooms – $15.00 p.p.
Suites – $18.00 p.p.
There’s an 18% automatic gratuity for bar and mini-bar purchases, as well as spa and salon services.
Details: See under this Gratuity Program page on the line’s website for information about tipping on Celebrity Cruises.
5) Crystal Cruises
Tips for the housekeeping, bar and dining room staff are included in the cruise fare on this luxury cruise line.
6) Cunard Gratuities
Cunard is the line famous for its grand ocean liners, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2.
While tipping on Cunard is slightly less expensive than on most other cruises, Cunard also automatically bills you for gratuities. It doesn’t discourage extra tipping, and you’re free to tip any crew members over and above the automatic amounts as you wish.
Britannia staterooms – 11.50 p.p.
Princess and Queens Grill suites – $13.50 p.p.
*No gratuity is automatically added for passengers under age 12.
Expect a 15% service charge for bar and wine purchases plus salon services.
Details: Full details on the Cunard gratuity charges can be found under How Much Should I Pay for Tips? on the cruise line’s website.
7) Disney Cruise Gratuities
As with mainstream cruise lines, tips are automatically added to your onboard account when sailing with Mickey and his pals. Disney sets out suggested amounts for your dining room server, assistant server and head server, as well as for your stateroom steward or stewardess.
You can prepay in advance up to 3 days before your cruise. If you want to adjust the amount or pay in cash, you can do so onboard.
No tips are expected for babysitting.
A 15% tip is added for all beverage and deck service tabs. For the spa/salon, an 18% tip is applied automatically.
Details: Find the specifics on Disney Cruise Line gratuities on their site under Onboard Services – Frequently Asked Questions.
8) Holland America Gratuities
Tipping on Holland America recently jumped for 2019 cruises. And, as is customary, the line’s “hotel service charge” is automatically added your shipboard account.
While you can visit reception onboard to pay less if you’re unhappy with the service, HAL says this charge “represents an important part of [the staff] compensation.”
Staterooms – $14.50 p.p.
Suites – $16.00 p.p.
An automatic 15% bar service charge is added for bar and dining room wine purchases.
Details: See the line’s webpage on Hotel Service Charge for Holland America’s tipping policy.
9) MSC Gratuities
Tips on MSC cruises are automatically added to your onboard account. And you’re invited to prepay your MSC Cruises gratuities when you book and pay for your cruise. The line “does not recommend” tipping individual staff members.
Caribbean and South America – $12.50 p.p. 12 and over ($6.25 per child aged 2 to 11)
Mediterranean and Europe – 10 Euro p.p. 12 and over (5 Euro per child aged 2 to 11)
South Africa – $8 p.p. 12 and over ($4 per child aged 2 to 11)
A 15% service charge is automatically added for bar purchases.
Details: Find more on MSC Cruises gratuities in the “Service Charge” section on the cruise line’s General Information page.
10) NCL Gratuities
NCL invites you to tip any crew members in cash if you wish.
In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line charges an automatic “service charge.” Unlike other cruise lines, you cannot adjust this onboard if you’re unhappy with the service or your cruise experience; you have to apply to the cruise line for a refund once you’ve returned home from your cruise.
For all ships except Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun (Port Canaveral cruises):
Staterooms – $14.50 p.p.
Suites and The Haven – $17.50 p.p.
For Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun (Port Canaveral cruises only):
Staterooms – $19.99 p.p.
Suites – $22.99 p.p.
*There’s no automatic service charge for children under age 3.
There’s an additional 20% NCL service charge for all bar and beverage purchases and specialty restaurant dining.
If you’re sailing to Hawaii, you’re charged an additional 4.275% pre-paid service charge GET Tax.
Details: Find more information on Norwegian cruise line gratuities on their webpage on What is the Onboard Service Charge?
11) Oceania Gratuities
While the line says how much you choose to tip is completely up to you, it still adds an automatic gratuity to your shipboard account (which can be changed onboard).
Staterooms – $16.00 p.p.
Suites (where you have butler service) – $23.00 p.p.
18% is automatically added for beverage and spa purchases, as well as dinner at La Reserve.
Details: See the fine print on Oceania Cruises gratuities on the line’s Terms and Conditions webpage.
12) Princess Cruises Gratuities
Gratuities on Princess Cruises are also automatic and shared among the waitstaff and housekeeping staff.
You can prepay up to 2 days before your cruise. As well, you may wish to tip casino dealers and child-care staff.
Inside, oceanview and balcony staterooms – $13.50 p.p.
Mini-suites – $14.50 p.p.
Suites – $15.50 p.p.
A 15% tip is added for bar and wine purchases, as well as for spa services.
Details: The policy on tipping on Princess Cruises can be found under the “Gratuities” tab on the FAQ: Onboard Experience page of their website.
13) Royal Caribbean Gratuities
Tipping on Royal Caribbean Cruises is straightforward – a standard daily rate is charged for all guests (no matter the age). You can modify the amount until the morning you get off the ship.
Junior suites or below – $14.50
Grand suites and above – $17.50
Royal Caribbean prepaid gratuities:
If you book through a travel agent, you may find that prepaid gratuities are automatically added before sailing. Otherwise you can prepay the tips up to 48 hours before your cruise.
You pay an extra 18% service charge for all beverage, mini-bar purchases, spa and salon purchases (added separately at the time of purchase).
Details: See this webpage on “What is Royal Caribbean’s Service Gratuities (tips) Price and Policy?”
14) Scenic Cruises Gratuities
Scenic Cruises, an Australian based company offering luxury river cruises in Europe and Russia, is all-inclusive. One tour guide on our river cruise in France specifically told us not to tip, as Scenic had already tipped him well enough!
15) Seabourn Gratuities
Seabourn, the luxury line famous for its “caviar in the surf” experience – where servers bring champagne and caviar for you to enjoy in the sea – doesn’t require or expect you to tip.
16) Star Clippers Gratuities
Tips aren’t included in Star Clippers’ fares; the cruise line recommends a standard amount, paid at the end of your cruise.
8 Euros (or $10 USD) p.p.
17) UnCruise Adventures Gratuities
No tips are added automatically when you sail with UnCruise Adventures.
But the line indicates that gratuities (paid at the end of your cruise) will be shared among the onboard crew, and it recommends the following (quite hefty) tips.
Details: See under the “Gratuities” heading on the Frequently Asked Questions webpage.
18) Viking Ocean Cruises Gratuities
Viking Ocean Cruises has been making waves for bundling a whole bunch of freebies into their cruise price – like complimentary wine and beer at lunch and dinner, self-serve laundry, one shore excursion in each port and WiFi.
But some things still aren’t included. Such as tips.
Viking Ocean Cruises tipping policy is to automatically add a daily “hotel and dining charge” to your bill. You can adjust this by heading to the Explorer’s Desk at any time.
A 15% tip is automatically added to bar, beverage and deck service tabs. The cruise line suggests you may also wish to tip your local excursions guides and/or drivers in cash at the end of each tour.
19) Viking River Cruises Gratuities
Tipping on Viking River Cruises is voluntary, but expected if you’re happy with the service. And it varies, depending on the region you’re cruising in.
You may pay in cash or charge the tips for ship staff to your credit card at the end of your cruise.
For ship staff – 12 Euros p.p.
For the Program or Cruise Director – 2 Euros p.p.
Viking also suggests that you tip individual tour guides separately at the end of each shore excursion (in Europe, 2 Euros p.p. for local guides and 1 Euro p.p. for the bus driver).
Details: See under the heading Foreign Currency on Viking Cruises’ website.
20) Windstar Cruises Gratuities
Windstar, which raised their gratuities in 2018, adds the tip amount to your onboard bill (which you can adjust at the end of your cruise).
As is common, a 15% beverage service charge is automatically added to your bar bill and any wine/beer you order in the dining room.
Details: See Fares, Non-Discountable Amount, Gratuities, Taxes and Surcharges on Windstar Cruises’ website.
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Cunard wine steward photo © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Cruise line photos courtesy of the respective cruise lines