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.
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.
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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 two years old and younger 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 older than two years, 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 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.
To give you an example of how the charges work, a couple staying in a balcony cabin for a week would be charged $29 each day ($14.50 x 2) for seven days, for a total of $203. 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. The most recent increase was from $13.99 per person, per day for most staterooms to the current $14.50. That amount increased in May 2022.
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 your 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.