Skip to Content

What You Need To Know About Cruise Ship Tipping

Cruise ship tipping can be confusing. Almost all cruise lines have some form of automatic gratuities, but they don’t necessarily get distributed to everyone you may think deserves a tip. Alternatively, if you have had a bad service experience, you may want to determine for yourself an appropriate amount. And, there are some instances where you can pay some gratuities before you ever board the ship. Does that mean you have no worries when you’re actually sailing? (Not necessarily!)

Keep reading to learn exactly what you need to know about cruise ship tipping!

What You Need To Know About Cruise Ship Tipping | photo of a woman's hands holding a cash tip jar

What Are Cruise Ship Gratuities?

Cruise ship gratuities are simply “staff tips.” These gratuities may also go by “crew service charge” or “crew incentives,” but they are tips at the end of the day.  All the staff on a cruise ship will go above and beyond to make your stay on the ship memorable. So showing appreciation with a tip is highly appreciated. 

The gratuities are generally for staff who provide direct services to passengers such as room stewards and dining staff.  In the past, the cruise line would leave tipping envelopes in your cabin for staff tips at the end of the cruise. While this is still done on many cruise lines, new methods of showing gratuities have been implemented to remove the last-minute cash dash at your final port of call, or to prevent the unintended omission of a tip. 

Many veteran cruise-goers have praised the implementation of pre-paid and automatic gratuities that can be added to the cruise ticket price. But many people also complain about it.

What you need to know about cruise ship tipping starts with understanding these different ways of paying gratuities on your trip.

Cruise Ship Tipping

Pre-Paid Gratuities

At the time you book your cruise, you may be offered the opportunity to prepay your gratuities. Or, prepaid gratuities may be offered as a perk or part of a cruise package. This is how prepaid gratuities work.

What Does It Mean To Pre-Pay Gratuities?

When booking your cruise, there will be an option to pre-pay the daily gratuities that would otherwise be assessed to your cabin bill once you are on board. This is a set amount that will be charged per person per day. The daily amount charged will vary depending on the cruise lines and the type of cabin, but it is added to the total price of the cruise fare.

Suppose you opt out of paying the pre-paid gratuities when booking the cruise.  In that case, the daily tipping amount will automatically be added to your cruise account. So when settling the bill at the end of the cruise, the daily gratuity charges will be added to the final bill.

The option of giving a cash tip to an individual staff member who has provided outstanding service is still allowed, and this will be greatly appreciated by the staff member. It is not, however, required.     

Should You Pre-Pay Gratuities On A Cruise?

The advantage of pre-paying gratuities is to get it out of the way, so there is no more need to be concerned about tipping. Including the fee in the total cruise fare results in a single payment, and you are done.

If you prefer to hold onto your money for a little longer and not select the pre-paid option, then the gratuities can be paid onboard the ship. The amount will be added to your final cruise bill that is settled at the end of the cruise. Choosing to go for the pre-paid option or not is totally up to you.

How Are The Pre-Paid Gratuities Distributed Amongst The Crew Members?

As a passenger on the ship, the pre-paid gratuities are a simple amount charged per day, and that is it. The cruise line will take the money, divide it, and distribute it to the stewards, dining staff, and other crew members. 

For example, if the pre-paid gratuities amount is $15 per person per day. The room Stewarts will get $7, the dining staff will get $5, the customer-face staff will get $2, and the final dollar will be split amongst the other staff positions on the ship.  Some cruise lines will pool all the tips together and pay the staff quarterly instead of at the end of every cruise.    

what you need to know about cruise ship tipping

On a cruise ship, you will be in contact with many crew members who will attend to you daily. Tipping each staff member with cash after they provide excellent service could be burdensome, particularly since you don’t really need cash on a cruise. The pre-paid gratuities option benefits you and the staff providing exceptional service.

Another advantage of prepaying gratuities is that it locks you in at the current pricing for automatic gratuities. Those amounts periodically increase, but you won’t be assessed extra if you already prepaid.

Automatic Gratuities

An automatic gratuity is another tipping option available on cruises. So let us discuss how automatic gratuities work.

What Are Automatic Gratuities?

Automatic gratuities are precisely what the name implies. The gratuities will automatically be allocated to your final cruise bill, which must be settled before disembarking at the end of the voyage. Some cruise lines will charge the daily gratuities charges to your credit card, so inquire to not get any surprises.

The average amount that a cruise line automatically adds to your bill is between $12 and $15 per person per day. This will be divided among the dining staff, room Stewarts, and other crews.  This amount is automatically assessed to each and every person in your cruise cabin. So, for four people, that’s $48 to $60 per day for the cabin.

Below are the current 2022 tip amounts charged by major cruise lines. Pricing may change, so please consult the cruise line directly :

  • Carnival – $14.50 per person per day and $16.50 per person per day for guests staying in suites.  Guests under 2 years old do not pay gratuity. 
  • Celebrity – $15.50 per person per day.  $16 per person per day for bookings in Concierge Class and Aqua-Class cabins. $19 per person per day for the guest in The Retreat.  Celebrity provides an “Always Included” offer that automatically includes gratuity in the cabin fare. 
  • Disney – $14.50 per person per day and $15.50 per person per day for those staying in Concierge Staterooms and Suites.
  • Holland America – $15.50 per person per day and $17 per person per day for guests in suites.
  • Norwegian – $16 per person per day and  $20 per person per day who stays in suites or The Haven club.  Guests under 3 years don’t pay gratuity. 
  • MSC Cruises – $14 per person per day and guests under 2 years don’t pay gratuity.  Guests under 12 years pay $7 per day.
  • Princess – $14.50 per person, per day and  $15.50 per person per day staying in the suites.  $16.50 per person per day for guests booked in large suites.
  • Royal Caribbean – $16 per person, per day and  $18.50 per person per day for guests in suites and higher.  (Price increase due September 7, 2022.)

What You Need To Know About Cruise Ship Tipping: Does “Automatic” mean Mandatory?

Tipping is a sign of appreciation and gratitude for service. Although tipping is not mandatory on cruise lines, the crew does provide excellent service to you, and tipping is just a way for you to say thanks.

Even though automatic gratuities will be assessed as a default rule, tipping is still voluntary. You have the option to remove those automatic gratuities from your bill when you are on board the ship. It won’t necessarily be convenient to do so, but it can be done. Visit guest services to make those arrangements.

Regardless of whether you opt out of the automatic gratuities, you still have the option to pay tips in cash. This can be in addition or or in lieu of the automatic gratuities. The automatic gratuities get divided up among many people, most of whom you will probably interact with directly. And there may be some individuals who provide you exemplary service on a daily basis whom you want to make sure get taken care of — for instance, your stateroom attendant.

So, who should you plan to tip on your cruise? Many people may choose to give their cabin attendant an individual cash tip in addition to the general automatic assessment. Again, these cash tips are entirely voluntary and the amount is completely at your discretion. (As an example, a cash tip of $5 to $10 per day would be generous and greatly appreciated.)

Is Every Passenger Charged Gratuities?  Even Babies?

All passengers will be charged for gratuities as all will benefit from the excellent service from the crew. 

Some cruise lines will not charge for children under the age of 2 and others under the age of 3. This is cruise line specific and will depend on the type of cruise. All the information should be provided on the booking form when booking the ticket.

Here are the 2022 tipping age policies for some of the major cruise lines:

  • Carnival – Guests under 2 years old don’t pay gratuity.
  • Disney – All guests pay gratuities at their discretion.
  • Holland America – All guests pay gratuities.
  • Norwegian – Guests under 3 years old don’t pay gratuity.
  • MSC Cruises – Guests under 2 years old don’t pay gratuity.  Guests under 12 years old pay half the gratuities amount.
  • Princess – All guests pay gratuities.
  • Royal Caribbean – All guests pay gratuities.

How Do I Adjust The Amount Of Gratuities?

The automatic gratuities fee can be increased or decreased by simply visiting the reception desk. This will undoubtedly delight the crew and let them feel their work is appreciated. If you are unhappy with a specific service, reducing the tipping amount will be for all services. Instead, report unsatisfactory service to the reception so it can be rectified. 

The most popular way to adjust the gratuities amount will be to hand a cash tip directly to the staff member. This will genuinely be appreciated, and the staff member will be very thankful for your generosity.

At the end of the cruise, you may notice that a few tipping envelopes have been left in your cabin, even though you have pre-paid or have automatic gratuities. This is if you feel that the services you have received during your stay onboard have exceeded your expectation. It is not mandatory.

Why Aren’t Gratuities Just Included In The Price Of The Cruise?

The cruise lines and booking agents might disagree, but the reason the gratuities are not included in the price is purely for marketing purposes. There are cruise lines that include all fares into the final cost, resulting in the passengers not needing to pay for anything while onboard. These are usually all-inclusive packages that can be found on luxury lines.

Cruise prices are advertised at the lowest possible price to attract potential clients. The price will not include any offshore excursions, port fees, or taxes. Not including the gratuities charges are simply to make the price more attractive, but that can be misleading. 

Can I Pay Extra?

Yes, absolutely, you can pay extra. The crew will really appreciate the extra income, and it will make them feel valued. The staff will go above and beyond to make your vacation memorable and will love doing it. So, if you feel an extra tip is warranted, please do not hesitate to hand a tip to the staff and make their day.

What Is The Protocol For Tipping On A Cruise Ship?

Now that there is an understanding of how pre-paid and automatic gratuities, now discover the correct way to give gratuities, what is a generous tip and who to give it to.

How Do I Tip? Do I Pay In Cash On The Ship?

As described above, there is the seemless option of automatic tipping. For services where you receive a printed bill — such as at a specialty restaurant or at the spa — you will the option to write in an additional tip as you would back home at a restaurant.

Typically, most people do not walk around with much cash on a cruise ship. But, when you need cash, you will readily find an ATM available on your ship. There will also be envelopes at or near Guest Services. You can simply put cash in envelopes and hand it to whomever you want on the last day of your cruise.

How Much Should I Tip My Steward On A Cruise?

The room stewards (aka cabin attendants) do an exceptional job on the ship. They will typically visit and service your cabin multiple times each day. They are also available to answer questions or direct you to the appropriate department if they are unable to help you.

There is no set amount to tip the room Stewards, but $25.00 to $50.00 per week is generous. This works out to roughly $4.00 to $7.00 per day for the cabin. You can tip daily or at the end of the cruise.

Should I Tip The Person Who Brings My Room Service Order?

This is also a confusing area. Particularly because your room service may or may not be assessed a service charge. This varies by cruise line and time of day. Regardless, many people will give the person delivering the room service a cash tip in the range of $2.00 to $5.00.

Do I Need To Tip Anyone Else While On The Ship?

It takes many different job roles to ensure your stay is memorable. So, yes, a few key staff will appreciate some sort of gratuity, but it is not mandatory.  Some typical service categories:

The Bar Tender and Barista – There is a standard gratuity fee of 15-18% on all bar drinks, so there is no need to tip. But for lavish pours, refilled spilled drinks, or some flare action may result in a generous tip. Note that gratuities will also be assessed on any drink packages that you purchase in advance.

The Casino Staff – The casino staff do not share in the automatic gratuities. However, as in Las Vegas, the dealers and slot attendants have their own tip pools. These are funded by generous gamblers and happy winners.

The Salon and Spa Staff – The salon and spa staff also do not share in the regular gratuity pool. However, there is an automatic gratuity assessed for each service.

Who Should I NOT Tip?

There is no need to tip the ship’s Captain, officers, medical staff, or cruise director on the cruise line.

Closing Thoughts

As a matter of industry practice, a significant portion of the general crew compensation comes in the form of passenger gratuities. Although tips are always voluntary even if automatically assessed, you should remember that great service should be rewarded.

Keep up with the latest cruise tips and insights! Follow us on Pinterest: