Taking a trip on Norwegian Cruise Line? While you might have already paid for your vacation, there’s one more expense to consider: gratuities (or “service charges” as NCL calls them).
Cruise gratuities are simply a fact of cruising. The payments go toward staff members providing service, including your room steward and dining staff. While some see these tips as forced payments, others see them as a rightly deserved reward to hardworking crew.
Gratuities, however, aren’t always clear to those who are new to cruising. Some people just aren’t sure how they work, who gets the money, and how they are paid.
To help ease any confusion, we’ve explained in detail everything you need to know about gratuities on a Norwegian cruise. We have sailed the cruise line a number of times and know how it all works.
The first thing to know? While we refer to the charges as gratuities or tips below, Norwegian has taken to calling them “service charges.” In this case, all those references mean the same thing.
Here’s more about what you need to know…
In This Article...
How much are gratuities/service charges on Norwegian?
Norwegian’s tip amounts vary depending the type of stateroom you book, ranging from $20-$25 per person, per day.
Notably, NCL raised their gratuity fees effective January 2023. Sail on the cruise line, and you’ll now pay $20.00 per person, per day if you are sailing in an interior, oceanview, balcony cabin or Club Balcony Suite. Other suites and The Haven see a charge of $25.00 per person, per day.
At the $20.00 rate that most passengers see, a couple traveling on a week cruise will see total gratuity charges of $280.
Notably, these rates are significantly higher than other lines. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, for example, charge $16 per person, per day, for most cabins.
Not sure how much your gratuities will cost? See our free calculator here.
Who is charged gratuities on Norwegian Cruise Lines?
When it comes to who is charged the daily fee, Norwegian is among the most generous lines. While some cruise lines charge every person who sails – no matter their age – Norwegian Cruise Line only charges passengers three years or older.
So if you are a couple traveling with a small child, you get a break on the cost of gratuities. Other than kids under three years old, everyone else will pay the daily gratuity charge.
How do I pay gratuities/service charges?
NCL offers passengers the option to prepay service charges up to 24 hours in advance of sailing. This means you can pay when you book your cruise and have the charge already budgeted into your vacation spending. You can also book your cruise and then prepay later, but before your trip departs.
By prepaying, you not only don’t have to worry about the charges at the end of your trip, but you also don’t have to worry if the gratuity amount increases before you sail. Those who have prepaid will usually have their rates “grandfathered” in.
Don’t want to pay before you receive service? That’s understandable. In that case the amount will be charged to your account while you sail. The cost will then be charged to the card on file at the end of your cruise.
Do I have to pay gratuities on my cruise? Can I change the amount?
Although technically gratuity fees/service charges are discretionary, in practice passengers must pay these fees; the only exceptions being reductions if you receive horrible service. Asking to have the fees waived just to save yourself money is unfair since gratuities pay hardworking staff members.
Norwegian’s website states that “Guest satisfaction is the highest priority at Norwegian Cruise Line. Should your concerns not be met with satisfaction you can adjust the charges.”
If you received bad service and want to deduct part of your gratuities fee, you can discuss the problem with the ship’s Guest Services before the end of your cruise to see about an adjustment.
What if I want to pay more?
There are many people who wish to tip more or simply want to recognize someone specific for their hard word during the cruise. You can do that if you like.
Norwegian’s website states “While you should not feel obligated to offer a gratuity, all of our staff are encouraged to ‘go the extra mile,’ so they are permitted to accept cash gratuities for exceptional or outstanding service if you care to offer them.”
Who is covered & not covered by gratuities/service charges?
According to NCL, “Staff members including complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff are compensated by a combination of salary and incentive programs that your service charge supports.”
It’s not specifically laid out who gets how much of the gratuity charge. That said, you can cruise knowing that people like the cabin attendant and staff in the dining room are covered.
Those offering a service to only some passengers, such as casino dealers, kids camp workers, and spa workers, are not usually included in auto-gratuities. In fact, you’ll find that places like the spa, bars, and specialty restaurants have gratuity charges that are separate from the service charges discussed here.
Furthermore, people who provide you with service on land, such as baggage handlers and shore excursion operators, are not affiliated with the cruise line. They should be tipped separately.
Do I have to pay other tips if I pay the automatic charges?
Most likely you will pay other gratuities in addition to the automatic service charges from the cruise line. Norwegian adds a 20% service charge to all beverage purchases and to specialty restaurant dining. Also, passengers pay an additional 20% spa service charge all spa and salon services.
For example, if you get a $10 drink from the bar, you’ll actually be charged $12 after the 20% tip that’s included.
You should also note that the 20% gratuity is added to Norwegian’s “Free at Sea”” offer if you select the free beverage package. Even though the package itself is free, you’ll still have to pay 20% on its value, which comes out to about $20 per person, per day.
Finally, if you order room service it is customary to tip the person bringing the food $3-5 as a thank you.
What else should I know about Norwegian gratuities/service charges?
As mentioned above, remember that if you select the drink package as part of Norwegian’s “Free at Sea” offer, you will still have to pay the 20% gratuity on its value.
Also keep in mind that the 20% gratuity is already added in when you sign the receipt for a drink at the bar. Even so, there will be a line for an additional tip. Feel free to tip more if you like, but know that you’ve already paid, and it’s not required.
If you’re wondering how much you’ll pay for gratuities based on details of your actual cruise (including type of cabin, length, and how many people you’ll be traveling with), then you can use Cruzely’s free gratuity calculator.
Have additional questions about Norwegian’s service charges? Let us know in the comments below.