Cruise Line Gratuities Guidelines 2019

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

How to tip, how much, when and to whom?

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 these helpful guidelines for cruise gratuities.

Gratuities begin before sailaway

Savvy cruisers know that gratuities begin pierside. 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.

List of cruise line gratuities

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $11.50 – $18.00 per passenger per day for onboard gratuities. Cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your onboard account.  Luxury lines like Crystal, Regent, Silversea, Seabourn, Sea Dream, Virgin Voyages and  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 tips to your account.  All amounts below are per person per day – pppd.

Carnival:$13.50 – Standard Staterooms; $15.99 – Suites.  18% automatic charge added to beverages

Celebrity:  $14.50 – Standard Staterooms; $15.00 – Concierge and Aqua Class;  $18.00 Suites.  18% charge for beverages

Cunard:  $11.50 -Britannia Class (standard); $13.50 – Grills Suites.  15% beverage charge

Holland America:  $14.50 – Standard Staterooms; $16.00 – Suites.  15% beverage charge

Norwegian:  $14,50 – Standard Staterooms; $17.50 – 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.

Princess: Updated for May 21, 2019. $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: A flat $15.00 per day.  Bar charges are an additional 15%.

Where the money actually goes

Depending upon your cruise line and accommodation category, these amounts 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 are for standard (non-suite) staterooms, may vary by a dollar or so and subject to change without much notice.

Also, these amounts will differ because the cruise lines also stress that a portion of the service fees a.k.a automatic gratuities, also goes to many of the crew members who work behind the scenes and/or a shared crew incidentals/emergency fund.

If your daily service charge is, for example, based on $14.75 per person per day, the breakdown could be:

– Waiter: $4.75

– Assistant Waiter: $2.25

– Head Waiter: $.75

– Stateroom attendant: $4.75

– Stateroom assistant: $2.25

– Room service person delivery: $2.00 out-of-pocket (not automatic) to personally hand to the delivery person.  There may also be a service fee just to order room service.

If your waiter goes above and beyond the expected service, an additional gratuity is a nice "thank you."
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 automatically add a 15% – 20% gratuity.  Is there a need to tip your provider?  It’s up to you.

Read more:  Seven stateroom locations you should 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.

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. Or visit the casino cashier to break your larger bills.  Bring envelopes 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 extra to my room steward when I say goodbye.

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

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