Tipping on a Cruise

I believe cruising is the easiest way to see the world, but there is one part of the cruise experience that can cause anxiety for otherwise carefree passengers -- tipping. Here's a look at how tipping is handled by each of the world's major cruise lines.

Most cruise lines automatically charge tips to shipboard accounts and divide the total among all dining room personnel, cabin stewards and others who are involved in serving passengers. In most cases, the amount falls in the range of $12 to $14 per passenger, per day. The lines that automatically apply tips include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Croisières de France, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Disney, Fathom, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Oceania, P&O, Princess, Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean and Windstar.

If a passenger feels that the amount automatically charged to his or her account should be adjusted higher or lower based on the service received, some cruise lines will make that adjustment when the bill is settled at the end of the cruise. If you have a shipboard credit on your onboard account, it can be applied to automatic gratuities on most cruise ships. Vacations To Go also frequently negotiates offers for our customers that include free prepaid gratuities.

Some cruise lines follow a more traditional tipping procedure, where guests hand cash gratuities to the service staff on the last full day or evening of the cruise. For longer itineraries, tipping on a weekly basis may be the norm. The cruise lines that follow this tipping procedure are Blount, Lindblad (for most ships except the Delphin II and Sea Cloud, where tips are included in the fare), Quark Expeditions, Star Clippers and Viking Cruises. Hurtigruten follows this policy for expedition cruises aboard the Fram, but tipping is not a common practice aboard its other ships that sail Norwegian coastal voyages.

Tipping recommendations from these lines range from about $8 to $15 per passenger a day, depending on the company. In some cases, passengers hand the money to the ship's hotel manager or reception desk, to be distributed among the crew later.

Whether you're on a ship that automatically charges gratuities to your onboard account or one that follows the more traditional tipping method, it is customary to tip bartenders and wine stewards 15%; many cruise lines automatically add this gratuity to the bar or beverage bill. Gratuities for special services such as spa treatments usually are left to the discretion of the guest, but 15% is considered typical.

A few cruise lines specifically state that gratuities are included in the cruise fare and that tips are neither expected nor encouraged. Azamara, Crystal, Hebridean, Paul Gauguin, Ponant, Regent, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery and Voyages to Antiquity fall into this category, as do the three Celebrity expedition ships that sail the Galapagos Islands. Even on these lines, some passengers still tip for outstanding service or special favors.

On many cruise lines, a significant percentage of the crews' compensation comes from gratuities, and most passengers welcome the opportunity to reward their hard-working cabin attendants and dining room wait staff. In my years of cruising, I've met many crew members who never failed to be eager, attentive and smiling as they worked long hours each day, and long months away from loved ones back home.

For more information about the specific tipping guidelines for any ship we offer, please click here and click on any ship name.

By knowing the cruise line's tipping policy prior to boarding, the only thing that you will have to worry about at the end of your cruise is returning to reality.

Sincerely,

Alan Fox
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go

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