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Cruise Line Gratuities Guide – Cruise Maven

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 this helpful guide to cruise line gratuities.

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

What are Cruise Ship Gratuities?

Every cruise line has a recommended amount that each guest should pay to the crew.  Some cruise lines like Holland America call it s Daily Service Fee. 

Other lines simply add “Gratuity” to your onboard account.  You can even opt to prepay your gratuities before your cruise so as to avoid any sticker shock at the end of your trip. 

Gratuities Really Begin Before Sailaway

Savvy cruisers know that gratuities begin pier side. 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.

Ship doctor carrying my luggage.
This is one time I didn’t tip someone for hauling my luggage. It was the ship’s doctor on a river cruise!

Cruise Line Gratuities Ballpark Amounts

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $11.50 – $18.00 per passenger per day for onboard gratuities. As mentioned, 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 gratuity to your account. 

Cruise Line Gratuities for 2022

CARNIVAL: Effective May 1, 2022 $14.50 – Standard Staterooms; $16.50 – Suites.  18% automatic charge added to beverages, Bonsai Sushi, Bonsai Teppanyaki and Chef’s Table

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 CRUISE LINE:  $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 Does All the Money Go

Depending upon your cruise line and accommodation category, the amounts of who gets what 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 listed below are for standard (non-suite) staterooms, may vary by a dollar or so and subject to change every couple of years.

Also, these amounts will differ because the cruise lines also stress that a portion of the service fees also goes to many of the crew members who work behind the scenes and/or towards 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: Usually not automatically charged to your account.  This is why I always suggest packing one and five dollar bills so you have a gratuity at the ready to personally hand to the room service delivery person.  $2.00 to $5.00 is appropriate, depending on the food ordered.  

Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian have a built-in service charge for room service, depending on what you order.  But you can still offer a tip.  It will be appreciated. 

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: The spa will automatically add a 15% – 20% gratuity.  Is there a need to tip your service provider?  It’s up to you.

Read more:  Seven stateroom locations to 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.  Others simply refuse to tip.  And it’s not just non-Americans, either. 

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.

Saying hi to the front desk staff, here it's Cunard Queen Mary 2, is one of my 12 cruise hacks for women cruising solo
Get to know the front desk staff. This is on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

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

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