Carnival Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

Gratuity charges. Like death and taxes, it’s something that cruise passengers simply can’t avoid. But it does help take the sting out of the payment — which can be hundreds of dollars for a cruise — when you understand what they are and how they work.

Gratuities — also known as service charges — can add on hundreds to your Carnival cruise. It helps to know exactly how they work before you sail.

For first-time Carnival cruisers, gratuity fees — also known as service gratuities by the cruise line —  can come as a surprise when a passenger sets sail.

While not included in the headline price of a cruise, these charges are every bit a cost of your vacation, just like paying for the actual cabin. And since they are an extra charge that many people don’t expect, that leads to questions about exactly what gratuities are on a cruise and how they work.

If you’re surprised by the tips being charged by your cruise line, know that it is normal in cruising. All of the large cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, among others) add a daily fee for gratuities that’s then provided to the shipboard staff.

To help you avoid sticker shock, and to help you understand exactly how these charges work on Carnival, we’ve provided answers below to the basic questions we’ve heard from many cruisers planning their voyage.

How much are gratuities on Carnival?

Carnival currently charges guests $14.50 per person, per day for most rooms. This includes interior, oceanview and balcony cabins. Staying in a suite? You’ll pay a little more each day. Suite guests pay $16.50 per person, per day.

However, starting April 1, 2023, that price increases to $16.00 per person, per day for most cabins. Passengers in suites will pay $18.00 per person, per day.

To give you an example of how the charges work, a couple staying in a balcony cabin for a week would be charged $32 each day ($16.00 x 2) for seven days, for a total of $224. If you want to see how much tips will be on your cruise, you can use our free gratuity calculator here.

As with most cruise lines, the gratuities on Carnival have increased in recent years. Along with the April 2023 increase, the gratuity amount was last increased in May 2022.

Who must pay gratuities on a Carnival cruise?

If you’re taking a Carnival cruise, then you should expect to pay the gratuities. All guests except those under the age of two are charged the daily amount.

It doesn’t matter if you ask the room steward to only make up the room every other day instead of every day or if you never eat in the main dining rooms. If you’re on the ship and two years or older, you’ll pay the charge.

So for instance, if a husband and wife are sailing, then each will be charged the daily gratuity amount. If there is a family of four, then all four people are charged the daily gratuity, no matter if they are in one room or two. 

How do I pay the gratuities?

Carnival guests can pre-pay gratuities at the time of booking or at any time up to their sail date. This way you don’t have to worry about having an extra charge once you cruise and you can better know your budget.

For guests who opt not to pre-pray, gratuities are posted to their Sail & Sign account toward the end of the cruise. The amount is then charged to the payment method on file for the account at the end of the trip.

Can I change the amount charged?

In general, we’d suggest not changing the amount charged by the cruise line. The staff on a cruise ship works extremely hard to make your vacation a pleasure and these gratuities make up a large part of their compensation.

That said, we completely understand there may be times where you aren’t satisfied with the service provided.

Carnival’s website explains that guests who have not pre-paid their gratuities can contact the Guest Services desk while on board. Gratuities may be adjusted after they have been posted on the guest’s account while on board. Gratuity charges cannot be changed after a guest disembarks.

Can I tip more if I want?

In the old days, passengers would put cash into envelopes and hand them out to staff at the end of the cruise. While that’s been replaced with automatic charges, if there is someone you’d like to recognize, then slipping them cash is a good way to do it. It’s not required, but the staff member will certainly appreciate the extra money.

What staff is covered by gratuities?

The staff members that receive your gratuities cover a variety of positions. Your cabin attendant — who provides a great deal of personal service, including making up your room each day – receives a portion, but they are far from the only person to benefit from your generosity.

In addition, your tips go to the dining and culinary staff. This includes both the staff in the main dining room and other eateries on the ship. For instance, when you eat in the buffet you’ll see staff working to clear dishes and bring you anything you might need. A portion of your automatic tips go to staff like this and others behind the scenes.

Another portion goes to other staff that Carnival says “work behind the scenes to enhance your overall cruise experience.”

Does the automatic service gratuity cover everything on the ship? Are there other places to tip?

Despite paying hundreds of dollars in tips on a cruise, you might be surprised that there are other places where you will see gratuity charges or are expected to tip. 

In the case of shipboard personnel like bartenders and spa workers, you’ll find a service charge tacked on to whatever you purchase. On Carnival, this is 18%. So if you buy a $10 cocktail, the actual price you pay will be $11.80. Likewise, a $109 spa massage would be $128.62.

Buy the drink package or eat at a specialty restaurant? They also have an 18% gratuity tacked onto the price. 

Room service staff who deliver your meal or snack to your stateroom do not earn a gratuity automatically. It’s customary to give them cash between $2-5 when they bring the food.

Finally, people who provide you with service on land — such as baggage handlers and shore excursion operators — are not affiliated with the cruise line, so should be tipped separately.

Can I adjust the 18% that’s automatically applied to services and drinks?

While you can adjust the automatic gratuities charged each day, there is no way to change the automatic 18% charge on things like drinks. If there was a legit reason to pay less, you could take it up with Guest Services, but simply wanting to pay 15% instead of 18% — simply because you think that’s more reasonable – can’t really happen. The charge occurs automatically on your bill without any input from the customer.

What else should I know about Carnival’s gratuities?

One thing to be aware of is the potential for double tips on your bills. Say you’re getting a drink at the bar. You’ll be charged the drink price plus the 18% gratuity.

When you get the receipt to sign, you’ll see all of this spelled out clearly, but you’ll also see a line to write in an additional tip. Write in an additional tip if you want, but don’t feel obligated. You’ve already paid 18% on the drink.

In addition, if you’re wondering how much you’ll pay for gratuities based on the duration of your cruise, type of cabin, and how many people you’ll be traveling with, you can use Cruzely’s gratuity calculator to get an idea before you book.

Have more questions about Carnival’s gratuities? Let us know in the comments below.

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Carnival Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

32 COMMENTS

  1. The Old Tip Scam, because Cruise Lines mostly recruit in 2nd and 3rd world countries and won’t pay these workers right, they pawn it off on the passengers to make up for the lack of pay. The way this article is written it’s either by one of the cruise lines or by a minions. Very misleading, makes it sound like you have to pay, never a mention that you can take the gratuity’s off. We have cruised many many times (Carnival) and we always take them off but we tip very generously in person.

  2. Carnival has done away with so many extras over the many years but they keep increasing everything. If you buy the drink package and pay the full gratuity. You can buy another cruise. Tipping for 3 yrs old and older is ridiculous. I’ve been on 25 carnival cruises, it’s not like it use to be. I have asked several room attendant and all say they rather have cash.
    I personally don’t trust the cruise lines to give them full tip.

  3. I simply have the charges removed and give cash.
    See, because Carnival was sued years back for dipping into the workers tip money .So I rather directly place it daily or at the end to the staff that assist me.
    However on drinks , foods like cookies , cheesecake etc have a automatic tip and I can choose to do extra if they help me more.
    Since the workers won the lawsuit I think carnival and maybe other cruise lines have changed there way. Plus crew appreciates the cash tips causeike in Baltimore Port they go to the Walmart very near by.

    • Yes, that’s allowed. You’ll want to go down to Guest Services to explain. However, keep in mind that A LOT of people offer service during the cruise that are covered by the automatic gratuity, including many that you don’t even realize.

  4. I have been on many Carnival cruises. There was a time when the cabin Steward made up your bed and turn it down for the night. Now that worth the gratitude. Now they only make up the bed once a day, however the gratitude has increased and increasing again. The services has diminished but the gratuities has increase.

  5. I have been on many carnival cruises I always remove the gratuity on day 2 m reason is the staff should be paid a fair wage if there not then why not? Saying that I ALWAYS tip my bar servers my food servers and especially the cabin person as all those people do a outstanding job for me. Maybe they should increase the price of the cruise and pay staff better

  6. If you are on the Ncl Package and having cocktail in the casino served by the staff and not the bartender are the gratuities included there? I guess what I’m asking is are they included in the tip pool?
    #2- On Carnival if you get the drink package for free or comped specialty dinning does the casino cover the gratuities? I have only been on one Carnival cruise and I was told conflicting things by both guest and staff.
    Thank you
    Rich

    • If you have the drink package, then the drinks/gratuities served by staff should be covered by the package. How NCL exactly divvies up the tips isn’t clear, but if the drink is included with the package, then you can assume the server is covered as well.

      Not sure about the comped drink package on Carnival. Haven’t been fortunate enough to experience that!

    • Yes, the gratuity on the package (which is only charged to those who buy the drink package) is separate from the daily gratuity charge (which is charged to everyone).

  7. Can I have the automatic gratuity removed as soon as I get on board and tip on my own? How do I prepay the gratuity?

    • You prepay when you book the trip. There is an option to select. You can also just call the cruise line to prepay. When boarding, you can have it removed by visiting Guest Services.

  8. well this mandatory tip is BS. you should expect a tip if you provided great service. if you make it mandatory then there’s no incentive for a great service. guess I won’t be going on my 1st ever cruise after all.

    • Did you read the article… if you are not happy with your service you can have the tips changed. The service is always great though, and we always tip or cabin steward extra cash cause they work their butts off.

    • You can go down and talk to Guest Services, however, it’s not a good idea unless there is something really wrong with the service. Crew members depend on gratuity.

  9. We always tip an extra $1 per drink because if you do the math, 51.95 plus 18% is only $9.35 per day in tips. The proper tip is only included if you order 5 mix drinks or 7 beers on the package. Order more than that and it’s like no tip on the additional drinks. Also that 18% is shared. If you want to compensate a good bartender or server an extra buck per one or two drinks goes a long way. Because we do the extra tip our bartenders and servers go out of their way to take care of us. Please understand most of the ships only pay the stewards, waiters and bartenders $60 a month plus room and board so 95% of their pay comes from gratuities. They get a cabin they share and food and beverage. If they want bottle water, pop or alcohol in their crew dining area or crew bar they have to pay for it. They also only get paid once a month so we bring us dollars to tip them too. It’s like our bartenders and servers at home. Our servers in Indiana only make a $2.25 per hour tipped wage and make all their money on tips.

    • Great advice Kathy B – thank you.

      I will stop by Wells Fargo on my way after work and get some extra singles for my cruise tomorrow on Sunrise.

      – Rob S, Miami

  10. I am curious about the drink package. When I purchase it, it has a gratuity included right away. Does this mean I dont add any tips while getting my drinks? And does that make me appear cheap?

    • Right, so you’ll pay about $55 per day for the drink package, and an 18% gratuity. So you’ll actually pay about $65 per day in total. Then, when it’s time to get your drink, there isn’t gratuity added at the bar. You won’t be considered “cheap.” You’ve simply paid the gratuity earlier!

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