No subject in cruising causes more conversation (ok, disagreement) than tipping.
Gone are the days where you were expected to give a tip to the crew members if they went above and beyond. These days the cruise lines have made tipping expected, laying out daily gratuity amounts that are charged to each passenger’s account and then distributed among the crew. Meanwhile, the crew members have come to rely on these tips as a major portion of their compensation.
Like it or not, gratuities are here to stay. Yes, you can adjust the amount higher or lower but at a minimum passengers are expected to pay the amounts laid out by the cruise lines.
To help you prepare your budget, we’ve rounded up the details on daily gratuity amounts for the major cruise lines. These are the amounts your account will be charged at the end of the cruise unless you specify otherwise.
Gratuity Amounts By Cruise Line
- Carnival: $13.99 per person, per day. $15.99 per person, per day for guests in suites. Guests under 2 years old don’t pay gratuity.
- Celebrity: $14.50 per person, per day. $15.00 per person, per day for those in Concierge Class and AquaClass cabins. $18.00 per person, per day for suites.
- Disney: $36 per person for 3-day cruise. $48 per person for 4-day cruise. $84 per person for 7-day cruise. ($12 per person, per day)
- Holland America: $14.50 per person, per day. $16.00 per person, per day for guests in suites.
- Norwegian: $14.50 per person, per day. $17.50 per person, per day staying in suites. $19.99 per person, per day for guests sailing on Norwegian Sky and Sun. $22.99 per person, per day staying in suites on Norwegian Sky and Sun. Guests under 3 years old don’t pay gratuity.
- MSC Cruises: $12.50 per person, per day. Guests under 2 years old don’t pay gratuity. Guests over 2 years old and under 12 years old pay $6.25 per day.
- Princess: $13.50 per person, per day. $14.50 per person, per day staying in mini-suites. $15.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.
- Royal Caribbean: $14.50 per person, per day. $17.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.
Remember that tip amounts are shown on a per person, per day basis. That can make it difficult to tell exactly how much you pay during your cruise. In addition, some cruise lines charge tips for kids while others do not. All of that adds up to a difficult calculation.
To make things easier to estimate, we’ve put together the following calculator to make it easier to get an idea of what you’ll pay. Simply enter the details of your trip below to see how much you’ll pay in gratuities.
How Do I Pay Gratuities?
It used to be that the cruise lines gave you a stack of envelopes — one for your room steward, dining room waiter, etc. at the end of the cruise. Then you would put cash in these envelopes and hand them to the appropriate person.
These days automated gratuities are now the rule rather than the exception. When you book your cruise you can select to automatically add the tips to your bill, which is then paid all at once with your cruise fare. Or the cruise line will simply add the amounts to your bill that’s paid at the end of the cruise. The money is then distributed to the staff. This makes things much easier on passengers.
If you have exceptional service you can still pay with cash to the person you want to recognize, but it’s not required.
Are Gratuities Required on a Cruise?
Technically, no. Gratuities are still optional, but we feel you should definitely tip. Meanwhile, the cruise lines have made them feel like mandatory fees by automatically charging you when you sail.
Here’s the deal, the staff on the cruise line works incredibly hard with long hours. These gratuities make up a significant chunk of their income.
If you have poor service or a real problem, then by all means go down to Guest Services and adjust the amount of gratuities on your bill. However, for the vast majority of people we suggest simply looking at the tips as a mandatory fee. If you can afford to cruise, you can afford to tip.
Who Is Covered by the Gratuities?
The bulk of what you pay goes to those who serve you directly. The dining staff and room stewards see most of the money. For example, on a $14 per person, per day gratuity charge, the housekeeping staff sees about $4-5 and the dining team gets $6-7. The rest is pooled and split among other staff in guest-facing positions.
So whether you eat all your meals in the main dining room and are served by the same waiter or hit the buffet and have different people clear your table each time, you can be assured that all of these people are being compensated by your tipping.
Are There Other People I Should Tip on the Ship?
With your automatic gratuities, most people are covered by your tips. However, there are are couple of common places where you will still need to tip.
First, any drinks you get at the bar will have a gratuity (usually 15%) added in on top of the price of the drink. This amount is clearly stated on your receipt that you sign. Be careful, there is also a line for additional tip amount. If you want to tip more, that’s fine, but don’t feel obligated.
Another area where you will want to tip is room service. Many items on the menu are free (although these are slowly going away) but it’s considered customary to give a couple of bucks to the person who delivers the food.
Other services on board (such as the spa) will have gratuities built in. If you aren’t sure, it never hurts to ask. Don’t worry — the staff won’t consider it tacky. They understand that it can sometimes be confusing to know who is tipped already and who is not.