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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