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Gratuities on a cruise: How much to tip?

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

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.

Gratuities on a cruise

Now, gratuities on a cruise are often automatically added to your bill. (On average, tips amount to about $210 USD per couple 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 every year.

So what’s the deal?

Gratuities on a Cruise

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.

Gratuities on a Cruise

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.

Not paying cruise gratuities

You’re usually free to reduce the automatic tip amount by visiting the guest services desk onboard.

The problem is that since you don’t usually get your onboard bill until the last day of your cruise, you have to settle this the last day or evening of your cruise.

You’re sure to stand in line for some time with a whole lot of other guests who have questions about their account (not the way you want to spend the end of your cruise).

And the reality is you might feel embarrassed trying to explain why you don’t want to pay less than the automatic gratuity (or not tip at all).

We expect few guests actually make the effort to reduce the automatic tip.

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.

Tipping policies for 20 popular cruise lines

To help make things clearer right upfront, we checked out the tipping policies for 20 popular cruise lines.

Here are their current guidelines for tipping on cruises. (All prices are in USD, unless noted.)

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. (Their tipping rates increased recently.)

Gratuities:

In Europe:
For ship staff – 100 Euros p.p. for a 7-night cruise (120 Euros for the AmaMagna)
For the cruise Manager – 25 Euros p.p. for a 7-night cruise

Extra charges:

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.

Related reading: Check out the best river cruises in the world!

2) Azamara Club Cruises gratuities

A premium cruise line, Azamara Club Cruises includes tips in the cruise fare for all guests.

Gratuities:

None

Great for couples, Azamara Club Cruises has three ships sailing to far-flung destinations, all with upscale cabins

3) Carnival Cruises gratuities

Gratuities on Carnival are automatically added onto your shipboard bill toward the end of your cruise.

Daily gratuities:

Staterooms – $13.99 p.p.
Suites – $15.99 p.p.

*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.

Carnival Prepaid Gratuities
There’s no shortage of fun when you go on a Carnival cruise!

Extra charges:

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.

Daily gratuities:

Standard staterooms – $15.50 p.p.
Concierge Class and AquaClass staterooms – $16.00 p.p.
Suites – $19.00 p.p.

Extra charges:

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 webpage for information about tipping on Celebrity Cruises.

Pssst! Want an elite experience on a big ship? Read our post on ship-within-a-ship and VIP cruises

5) Crystal Cruises gratuities

Tips for the housekeeping, bar and dining room staff are included in the cruise fare on this luxury cruise line.

Gratuities:

None

Cruise ship gratuities
Crystal Cruises is considered one of the world’s best luxury cruise lines

What’s luxury like on the reimagined Crystal Serenity? See our Crystal Cruises review

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.

Daily gratuities:

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.

Extra charges:

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.

With its different “classes” of staterooms, each with their own exclusive dining room, cruising on Cunard recalls the “golden” age of glamorous cruising

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.

Gratuities:

$40.50 p.p. for a 3-night cruise (or about $13.50 p.p. a day)

Extra charges:

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 jumped in 2019.

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.”

Daily gratuities:

Staterooms – $14.50 p.p.
Suites – $16.00 p.p.

Extra charges:

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.

MSC gratuities on the MSC Seaside are automatically added to your onboard account
The cutting-edge MSC Seaside boasts unique condo-like cabins at the aft and a multi-storey water park

Daily gratuities:

Caribbean, Canada and South America – $14 p.p. ($7 per child aged 2 to 11)
Mediterranean and Europe – 10 Euro p.p. (5 Euro per child aged 2 to 11)
South Africa – $8 p.p. ($4 per child aged 2 to 11)

Extra charges:

A 15% service charge is automatically added for bar purchases.

Details:  Find more on MSC Cruises gratuities in the “Service Charges” section on the cruise line’s Frequently Asked Questions 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.

Daily gratuities: 

Staterooms – $15.50 p.p.
Suites and The Haven – $18.50 p.p.

*There’s no automatic service charge for children under age 3.

Extra charges: 

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).

Oceania Gratuities
Oceania Cruises gets rave reviews for its food and multiple specialty restaurants

Daily gratuities:

Staterooms – $16.00 p.p.
Suites (where you have butler service) – $23.00 p.p.

Extra charges:

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 (under the “Gratuities” heading).

Best cruise line for foodies? We hear the food is really good on Oceania Cruises.

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.

Daily gratuities: 

Inside, oceanview and balcony staterooms – $14.50 p.p. (including children)
Mini-suites – $15.50 p.p.
Suites – $16.50 p.p.

Extra charges: 

A 18% 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.

Daily gratuities:

Junior suites or below – $14.50 p.p.
Grand suites and above – $17.50 p.p.

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.

Extra charges: 

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!

Daily gratuties:

None

Discover the historic riches of Normandy: See our review of the Scenic Gem on a lovely Seine River cruise in in France

The Scenic Eclipse in Antarctica

Scenic Eclipse

We can’t wait to sail on the Scenic Eclipse! (shown above)

This ultra-luxurious “discovery yacht” – Scenic’s first ocean cruise ship – has two onboard helicopters and carries a 7-person submarine. She sails from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

15) Seabourn gratuities

Gratuities on a cruise -- none on Seabourn!
Want to be pampered? Seabourn is known for luxury cruising on its small ships

Ahhh. 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.

Seabourn doesn’t require or expect you to tip.

Gratuities:

None

Free champagne and caviar! Lovely suites! Service extraordinaire! It’s all about luxury on the Seabourn Odyssey

16) Star Clippers gratuities

To experience what it's like to actually sail on a cruise ship, check out Star Clippers' unique tall ships
To experience what it’s like to actually sail on a cruise ship, check out Star Clippers’ unique tall ships

Tips aren’t included in Star Clippers’ fares; the cruise line recommends a standard amount, paid at the end of your cruise.

Daily gratuities:

8 Euros (or $10 USD) p.p.

Recommended reading: Check out the beautiful Royal Clipper – the largest true sailing ship in the world

17) UnCruise Adventures gratuities

No tips are added automatically when you sail with UnCruise Adventures.

Expect a whole lot of adventure on 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.

Daily gratuities:

$35 p.p.

Extra charges:

None

Details:  See under the “Gratuities” heading on the Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Snorkeling, hiking, kayaking! It’s one big adventure with UnCruise in Costa Rica!

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 gratuities
The Viking Sky in Tromso, Norway (Viking Ocean Cruises is particularly renowned for exploring Northern Europe)

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.

Daily gratuities:

$15 p.p.

Extra charges:

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.

Viking Ocean Cruises knows the Baltic well: See our review of their 14-night “Viking Homelands” cruise on the Viking Star

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.

Daily gratuities: 

In Europe:
For ship staff – 15 Euros p.p.

Extra charges: 

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.

How much will you pay for drinks on Viking? Here’s everything you need to know about the Viking Cruise bar menu

20) Windstar Cruises gratuities

Windstar adds the tip amount to your onboard bill (which you can adjust at the end of your cruise).

Daily gratuities:

$14.50 p.p.

Extra charges: 

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.

Windstar Cruises is great for affordable luxury: See our review of Windstar’s Star Pride and similar yachts

Get more cruising inspiration!

Read our posts on:

Cruising Morocco | Snake charmers? Harems? Visit Morocco on a cruise.

Chobe River cruise in Africa | Wake up to the sound of grunting hippos. And watch elephants bathe in the river at sunset while sipping Chardonnay. You’re on a Zambezi Queen river safari!

Cruising French Polynesia | Cruising French Polynesia is as romantic as it gets.


Photo credits: Cunard wine steward photo © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Cruise line photos courtesy of the respective cruise lines


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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C.J. Lakey

Thursday 19th of December 2019

For the concierge service that is part of the suite cost, how much extra should be given provided the service was excellent and used?

Janice and George

Thursday 19th of December 2019

The "recommended" tipping amount for suites that's automatically added to your bill covers the butler service. For example, stay in a Queens Grill suite on a Cunard ship and you get a butler who can help with unpacking your suitcase to shining your shoes. And you'd pay $13.50 p.p. a day in automatic tips for this (spread among the staff).

You don't need to pay the butler an extra tip, but a small extra gratuity would, no doubt, definitely be appreciated. We've seen suggestions in the range of $2 to $5 p.p. night, depending on the cost of your suite and how generous you feel :-).

John M.

Sunday 6th of October 2019

The practice of tipping simply enables Cruise Lines to underpay their staff, and yet the cost of the cruise seems adequate for them to afford to pay decent rates.

I noted that one comment suggest that hospitality worker are low paid "by Law". That's the US situation, but not Worldwide.

In some cultures (e.g. Japan) tipping is an insult: service staff are proud of the quality of their work and need no "incentives". In fact, it suggests they are poor, you are rich, they are subservient.

Automatic tipping only exists because we allow it. Say "No" and tip if you wish where and how you see fit.

Janice and George

Sunday 6th of October 2019

Interesting point you make about tipping in Japan... And, yes, it can be considered rude there. Thanks for chiming in :-).

Alex Jovan

Sunday 29th of September 2019

We were charged $629 of Gratuties for 2 adults and 1 child on Royal Caribbean. This was a longer sailing - 11 nights; the food and service was very sub-par for the first 7 nights. Then they did a turn around and kept talking to every one about Ratings and the dining staff reminded us everyday of the last 3 days about giving them 10 stars in the rating.

If you have to ask for it, then have you really earned it?

I know that they work hard for very less pay - my sympathies - but if the system they work in keeps me on the table for 2.5 hours while I constantly wait for food to come in and unwillingly munch on cheap bread rolls - then I simply can't give them my Gratuties and I simply can't rate them well.

Janice and George

Sunday 29th of September 2019

Thank you for sharing your experience and views...

Paul Castellan

Saturday 21st of September 2019

We are very seasoned cruisers. We always leave a tip envelope for our cabin steward. Since fixed dining is passe the wait staff varies so no need to tip. The hint to tip the maitre de is ignored. If we have a favorite bar and are taken care of then we slide them a tip. This is North American culture. We concur that the ships crew work hard as they do perform various roles not just waiter or room steward but also other roles assigned to them.

Janice and George

Saturday 21st of September 2019

Good suggestions :-). We too like to leave a little something extra for our cabin steward or stewardess (even if tips are automatically included). Thanks for reading and commenting...

Brooke Babcock

Sunday 15th of September 2019

The perennial question is, if I tip my room steward or waiter, does he get to keep it, or must he share it with the others?

Janice and George

Tuesday 17th of September 2019

We think it's understood that a personal tip is intended for the individual to keep for themselves :-). Of course, you'd be paying this in addition to any built-in gratuities the cruise line charges.