MSC Gratuities (Tips/Service Charge): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

Sailing MSC and wondering about the service charges — also known as gratuities — that you will see? Almost no matter which cruise line you sail, these daily charges are a part of life.

Gratuities on an MSC cruise
MSC charges gratuities (also known as service charges) to most passengers on the ship. Here’s what to know.

And the cost can be significant. In general, cruise lines charge between $14-$16 per person, per day for the gratuity charges. That can add up to hundreds of dollars for a couple on a weeklong cruise.

Of course, with those sorts of dollar amounts, you might have some questions about what this money is for, where it goes, and how the entire process works.

What are service charges (gratuities)?

Daily gratuity charges come in a lot of different names. Sometimes they are called tips. Some lines call them crew appreciation. MSC called them service charges.

These all mean the same thing — a charge per person, per day that is to provide compensation to the passenger-facing crew like your room steward and the dining staff.

In the past (decades ago), the crew relied on the generosity of passengers to provide a tip. Today, the process is automated to where nearly everyone on the ship is charged the same rate.

How much are service charges on MSC?

MSC has several different gratuity rates that depend where the cruise occurs. For those sailing in The Bahamas/Caribbean, South America, or Asia, you’ll see the following rates:

  • Adults (>12 and up): $14.50 per night
  • Children (2-12): $7.25 per night
  • No service charges for kids under 2 years old

For those sailing in the Mediterranean, Europe, Middle East or Southern Caribbean, the rates are slightly different and priced in euros:

  • Adults (>12 and up): 12 euros per night
  • Children (2-12): 6 euros per night
  • No service charges for kids under 2 years old

So say that you’re a couple taking a 7-day cruise. In this case, you’ll each pay $14.50 per night, for a total of $203 over the course of the trip.

How do I pay the MSC service charges?

You have a couple of options for how you can pay these charges.

First, you can choose to pre-pay. In this case, the daily service charge is added into the price of the cruise. When doing this, the charge is already taken care of before you board meaning it’s one less thing to worry about. On the other hand, it also means giving the cruise line more money before you technically have to pay it.

The second way to pay the gratuity charges is to simply wait until you are on the ship. They will be added to your onboard account during the trip. You will then pay with the payment method on file at the end of the cruise as you would with any other onboard spending.

For more on whether or not to pre-pay gratuities, see our article here.

Can I change the amount charged?

In general, no you cannot change the gratuity amount charged. MSC says on their website that “the Hotel Service charge serves to ensure we maintain the highest quality standards of service to our guests. The daily amounts below have been calculated with this in mind and cannot be modified.”

So if you simply don’t agree with the service charge amount, you can’t adjust it. But what if you receive particularly bad service? In that case, there is some recourse.

The cruise line says “should you wish to remove any of the daily Hotel Service Charge in the unlikely event that you do not receive satisfactory service, you may do so by contacting the Guest Relations Manager onboard.”

Can I tip more if I want? Or tip a specific person?

Many people during the cruise find a particular bartender they love or really appreciate their room steward. So if there’s someone that you want to thank on the cruise, can you tip more?

Most cruise lines encourage this, but MSC specifically says it “does not recommend tipping individual members of staff.” Even so, there is a difference between “not recommending” something and banning it. If you decide you want to slip some extra cash to a crew member, it will likely be appreciated.

Which staff is covered by the MSC service charge?

It’s not specifically laid out exactly how the service charge is applied to the crew. While cruise lines normally are tight-lipped about how exactly the charges break down to the crew members, they do normally lay out in general terms who gets the money.

MSC speaks in even more vague terms about where the money goes:

“During your cruise you will meet staff throughout the ship who provide you with excellent service. They are supported by just as many staff and crew who work hard behind the scenes to ensure you enjoy every moment onboard.

“For your convenience, MSC Cruises will automatically add a daily Hotel Service Charge to your shipboard account, based on your chosen itinerary and the number of days for which the services are actually provided.

“The Hotel Service charge serves to ensure we maintain the highest quality standards of service to our guests. “

Does the service charge cover all the tipping around the ship?

For the most part, MSC’s gratuity charge covers all the tipping you need to do on the ship. So if you go eat in the main dining room, you simply leave when you’re done with the meal. There’s no need to leave a tip.

One area that is not covered is the bar. If you purchase a drink on the ship (assuming you don’t have the drink package) then there is a 18% bar service charge added on automatically for North American cruises and 15% for other trips.

Notably, MSC makes no mention of extra gratuity charges for spa and specialty restaurants, two areas that normally see additional gratuity tacked on for other cruise lines.

What else should I know about MSC’s service charges?

One thing that we think should be pointed out is that when it comes to cruise gratuities, MSC is actually on the low end. For instance, Carnival Cruise Line charges $16 per person, per day as of April 2023. Royal Caribbean also charges $16 per person, per day for most cabins.

There is also no upcharge on the gratuity amount if staying in a suite (these cabins typically see higher gratuity charges on other lines), and there is the lower daily charge for kids 12 and under.

In other words, while no one likes to see extra charges on their cruise, MSC offers one of the best values when it comes to these fees.

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  1. So read such misinfirmed and inaccurate comments…. in which good crew members are gipped out of tips…because a passenger does not understand how it works. Tops or DAILY GRATS…are split with ALL crew…ones you do not see ( laundry, pool deck, etc). Pay your daiky grats. If you’re not happy with something go to guest services and they should correct whatever crew member is not providing you the proper service

    • This may be accurate for some lines and not others. The one I worked for had tipped positions who received the gratuities (some directly such as waiter and asst waiter and others in pools (bartenders except for add’l tip added by the guest at time of purchase). The back of house didn’t share in the tips at all. And technically if you handed a non-tipped position cash, they were to turn it into their manager to enhance “crew welfare” events of that particular team.

  2. Hello fellow & future cruisers! I absolutely adore cruising 🛳! It’s my favorite way to travel.
    I’ve only been on 8, soon to be 9.

    I learned on my first cruise with Carnival that once you board, it’s best to go straight to the service desk & kindly say “Hello. I’d like to remove the tipping fees from my account.” Without hesitation or question, the Carnival staff immediately is understanding. They look at the computer screen & simply remove the fees.
    #1 This frees up literally hundreds of $$$$ off of ur c.c.
    #2 You get to decide who to tip directly, who deserves a lot, a little or nothing.
    #3 These hard working people should get the tips THEY deserve.
    One of our waiters once told me, that the servers make about $1.18 average. It was heart breaking.

    I bought the drink package & found a bar in the atrium I liked. There was a fantastic bartender that I was so sweet. The first night I gave her $20. She cried & told me that would help her family so much. I got great service from her for the rest of the cruise & have a kind hearted story that touched both her & my soul. ❤️

    I’ve had one of the room cleaners that never cleaned anything! By the 7th night, we had at least 10 dirty glasses. There would’ve been more but we kept sending them out with room service. Oh, we tipped our room service people a few bucks each time they came. That put a pep in their step whenever they came over!
    At the end of our cruise, everyone in our area was talking about how dirty their rooms were. We honestly explained to our room cleaner why we weren’t tipping him. He never changed our sheets or gave us the cute towel animals. We could’ve complained, but eh… I didn’t want negative energy. However I tip accordingly. Maybe next time he’ll do his job.

    I hope you all have a fantastic vacation! No matter where u go!
    Thanks for reading!
    Much Love, Lynae Thomas

  3. Hello,

    I am on MSC Preziosa at the moment. I did not go to the dining room at all, because they gave me the second seating instead of the first seating, which is too late for me. (I bought the lower class ‘Bella’, so just too bad, I got what they had left!). I asked for my Hotel Service Charges to be paid to the Buffet staff instead of the Dining Room staff. They refused. They said the gratuities is for everyone including the Engine Cleaners! So, actually when they say ‘Hotel Service Charge’ they really mean paying your part of the ‘MSC Pay roll’. Or they could just call it ‘Extra Cruise Fare’. Which is amazing is that Europeans do not have to pay for those extra charges on the European cruise where I am right now. It is mandatory only for the people that have bought their cruise from MSC Cruises USA. Why? I have no idea!!!

  4. This has been very helpful! Thank you for all this information. Please if anyone can answer two questions from first-time cruisers:
    1) We bought our tickets through a 3rd party…is that the CC MSC will charge our gratuities to at the end of the trip, or will we have a chance to provide them a different CC while onboard?
    2) Does buying any of the drinks package cover ALL the gratuities of the total trip ($14.5/day/person), or only the gratuities of the drinks bought?

    • MSC uses a system where you add the card once you are on the ship (there are kiosks you visit). So you can use whichever card you want once onboard.

      The drink package only covers gratuities of the drinks bought.

  5. Great informative post. Thank you.
    Myself and my husband don’t drink so we plan to not have a drink package. Will we still pay this 18% for a soft drink from the bar. (Pepsi, Coke or a juice etc)?
    Just curious as we have a Northern Europe trip planned next Spring with MSC

    • Yes, that charge should be there. However, the amount will be 15% for that region, not 18%.

      From MSC’s website:

      “Onboard bar purchases will incur a gratuities, automatically added to all purchases: 15% gratuities on European, Emirates, South Caribbean, Red Sea, South America (Brazil and Argentine) and Far East itineraries, and 18% gratuity on North America itineraries.”


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