How to navigate tipping on cruise ships

cruise ship sailing on the ocean

Cruising the high seas is a dream vacation for many. The excitement of exploring new destinations, savoring delicious cuisine and enjoying top-notch service and entertainment is undoubtedly very appealing. But, when it’s all over, how do you show your appreciation to the staff? How much should you tip and who should you give it to? Are tips included? Pack your bags and get ready to set sail as we help you navigate how to tip on your next cruise. 

Cruise ship tipping breakdown

Depending on what cruise line you’re sailing with, there are different systems in place for handling gratuities. In most cases, tips are divided among all the crew members who work to make your vacation memorable, including stateroom attendants, the guest services team and many behind-the-scenes employees. 

Most of the larger cruise lines (like Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian) automatically add some type of gratuity fee onto passenger bills. Many smaller and higher-end cruise companies (like Azamara, Ponant and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) have begun including tip fees in their base fares. Here is a quick rundown:

Royal Caribbean: Automatic service fee of $16.00 USD per person, per day for guests in non-suite staterooms and $18.50 USD per person, per day for guests in suites, will be applied to guests’ accounts daily (applies to individual guests of all ages) or can be paid in advance while booking the trip.

Carnival: Standard staterooms will be charged $16.00 USD per person, per day and for those in suite staterooms, $18.00 USD per person, per day will be posted to their accounts or can be prepaid. 

Norwegian: Bookings made after January 1, 2023, will be charged $25.00 USD per person, per day for The Haven and Suites and $20.00 USD per person, per day for Club Balcony Suites and below. 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: The total cruise fare includes pre-paid gratuities. 

If you are looking at booking with another cruise line not listed above, you can usually find tipping information and fare costs within the FAQ page on their website. 

5 cruise ships in port in the Bahamas

What’s included in the gratuity I’m automatically charged for?

The amount that is automatically applied to your account or prepaid before your trip covers tips for various crew members who provide essential services during your cruise. While the specifics vary from one cruise to another, here’s who/what is generally included in this automatic payment:

  • Cabin stewards: Cabin stewards are responsible for everything that has to do with your cabin – from cleaning to replenishing amenities to ensuring your overall comfort and surprise you with towel animals when you get back to your cabin after your days in port. Your steward will usually be the same person for the duration of your trip, so you will get to know them very well. 

  • Dining room staff: This includes servers, assistant servers, sommeliers and the maitre d’. These are the individuals who ensure you have a pleasant dining experience in the ship’s main dining rooms. 

  • Buffet and casual dining staff: In addition to the main dining rooms, many cruise lines also allocate a portion of the tips to the staff who work in the buffets and casual dining areas (pool grill, spa grill, etc.). 

  • Housekeeping: Some cruise ships may also distribute a portion of the gratuities to crew members responsible for cleaning public areas of the ship or those who provide room service aka the housekeeping staff. 

  • Other: Some may also be given to those who work behind the scenes that make sure the cruise stays afloat, such as the engineers and laundry staff.

If, for whatever reason, you feel that the service you received during your cruise warrants a different amount, you can usually visit guest services and request an adjustment. 

A room service waiter rings a full breakfast meal to a cruise ship stateroom cabin and balcony with the blue sea in view.

What’s not included in the automatic gratuity? 

While the essential services are covered by the automatic gratuity, other services are usually not. It’s important to be aware of these so that you can budget accordingly and avoid unexpected charges. Here are some common items and services that are not included:

  • Beverages: The cost of alcoholic beverages and other specialty drinks including cocktails, wine, beer, soda and specialty coffees are not covered by the included gratuity. Tips will be included in the bill you receive with your drink. Celebrity Cruises, for example, charges 20% of the bill for gratuity for all beverages, mini bar purchases and drink packages. 

  • Specialty dining: Most cruise ships offer specialty restaurants with unique dining experiences, like the Sterling Steakhouse on Princess Cruises. The automatic gratuity usually doesn’t cover the additional fees associated with dining in these specialty venues. You’ll be charged separately for meals within these restaurants and should add a tip accordingly.

  • Spa and salon services: If you indulge in spa treatments, massages, haircuts or other spa services while onboard, these expenses are not included in the automatic gratuity. You’ll need to pay for these separately and include your own tips. For ideas on pricing, check out these spa treatments available on Carnival Cruises. 

You can always check with your specific cruise line to see what services are included in the automatic gratuity. This way, you will be able to plan for your expenses onboard and monitor your spending. 

The bottom line

Tipping on cruise ships is an expected and customary practice. If you don’t feel like taking part in paying the automatic gratuity or can’t afford all-inclusive cruise lines, you can search for promotions where companies are offering “free gratuities” as a booking incentive. When cruise lines offer this kind of deal, it doesn’t mean that the crew will receive fewer tips, it just means that the company will pay the gratuities on your behalf, making it a win-win for everyone. 

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These activities, cruise lines and websites are here as a reference and Faye is in no way associated with them. This post is meant to help you understand tipping on cruise ships, so you can make the most of your next trip.

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