Norwegian Cruise Line Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

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 on NCL
If you’re sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line, then the daily service charges — also known as gratuities — will be a part of the cost of cruising.

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…

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?

Norwegian ship in Nassau
Most people on the ship are covered with the daily gratuity, outside of those providing optional service like bartenders and spa attendants.

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.

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Norwegian Cruise Line Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work


  1. Why Norwegan makes their customers pay for their personnel? Shouldn’t be covered in the cruise cost?

    So I’m paying near 3000 for a two person trip and the cruise line want to rip off me an additional $400? On top of that an additional 20% on in-cruise purchases?

    A compulsory tip is not a tip. Is a rip off. Shame on Norwegian Cruise.

  2. Wish they were more upfront about this charge I just came across the 20$ per day per guest up charge while looking over some things.
    If one of the 2 in room dont want free at sea can one cancel it and the other keep iy?

  3. You forgot to mention on top of service charges the
    20% tax and the 10% tax added to every drink alcoholic, soda and water purchased in Spanish French Italian waters with or without free at sea 😂 packages which you get billed for
    I just got billed at the end of 7days sailing an extra $249 that’s after already paying upfront gratuities and didn’t have that many drinks 😡😡😡

  4. Hi, going on Escape Haven in September. I have no problem with tipping,,yet,,not sure of how much for Butler and Concierge..Any advice would be helpful

    • So they should be taken care of with the automatic gratuity. However, if you’d like to add more, I think $10 per day would be generous.

  5. Just for clarity and accuracy, the NCL Guest Ticket Contract states “The charge, which is automatically added to your onboard account and subject to adjustment at your discretion”.
    The charge can therefore be removed and is not “must pay” as you state.

  6. What is the best way to book Shore excursions, and can they be full before we depart as interest to understand what is available and book early.

  7. We are going on an upcoming NCL Cruise to Alaska. We have prepaid our gratuities. I love having my coffee in the morning without having to go out for it. That being said, I see on NCL Cruises there is a $9.95 “delivery fee” for stateroom service. Does this “delivery fee” have a tip built in? Cruising is soooooo different today! Tough to understand!

    • I don’t know for sure if it is built into the delivery charge. I will say that if I was paying $10 for a cup of coffee to be delivered, I’d feel fine not tipping. Especially since NCL already has some of the highest gratuity charges in the industry.

  8. Tipping / Gratuities / Service charges have been a part of cruising on all cruise lines for at least the 20+ years I’ve been sailing. the cruise lines made it automatic instead of giving envelopes to the passengers because of so many people bailing out and not paying them.

    The crew and staff work very, very hard. And, they are fairly compensated on an international level… far more than what they would make in their home countries. The tips are usually sent home to their families.

  9. We are cruising with NCL soon and opted to prepay the service charge and the gratuities (for the free at sea package). We don’t drink much and suspect that our total gratuities charged will not actually reach the amount prepaid, what happens to the difference? If we prepaid $400, but the gratuities of 20% is only $300, for example?

    • There is no “difference.” The gratuity charged is the 20% on the regular cost of the drink package. It’s the same cost no matter if you drink one drink or ten drinks.

  10. Are you shill for the cruise line. You are supporting corporate exploitation. Instead of paying their employees a fair wage from the start you are encouraging to them to pas the buck. Shame on you!!

    • 100 agree. Customer exploitation. And you get aware after you paid your booking fee, which is not cheap.

      A compulsory tip is not a tip. Is a steal. Shame on Norwegian Cruise.

  11. I have just booked a cruise online through a third party which included the free at sea package within the overall cost as standard. Do I still pay gratuities on this? Also, is it actually frowned upon to cancel gratuities at the desk with the idea to tip the specific members of staff that we are served or assisted by?

    • If you got the drink package, you normally pay gratuities on the cost when you book. Not sure of the specifics of your booking, however.

      As for cancelling gratuities, I’d recommend not. You’ll be serviced by crew at times that you may never see again. For example, eating in the buffet, the staff that serves you and busses dishes get a stake in the gratuities but it’s unlikely you’ll have the same person twice.

      My suggestion would be keep the gratuities and then you can tip additionally for those that really offer standout service.

  12. Leaving soon for 10-day Mediterranean cruise. We always tip (extra) in USD. As we will be in Euro-country, should we tip our room steward, bar and food service people in Euros or USD?

    • I’d suggest euros. Either will work of course, but euros will have the ability to be spent on shore if the person wants to do so.

  13. I must say I’m very curious as to whether the 20% add-on to beverages actually goes to the servers. The phrasing from NCL is “gratuities and beverage service charge”. This says that the 20% is going to 2 different purposes. Gratuities go to servers. But the “beverage service charge” can mean almost anything and does not necessarily go to the servers. As well, they don’t clarify how much of the 20% goes to gratuities vs. service charges.

    I’d really love to know the truth, because if most of that 20% doesn’t go to the servers, I’ll definitely switch to cash tipping.

  14. Your not sure because the service members do NOT get the gratuity paid by passengers – I was told this directly by the Head of Hotels one day while standing in line and just decided to ask – his response was “ I really wish I could tell you yes – but the truth was a no they do not receive the tips – they are awarded by having extra days off / better food choices , etc – all the things they should be getting anyways – the cruise lines have become greedy ! I always have them removed and self tip with cash so the service providers actually get the cash. Do you truly think when you get a promo that indicates “Free Gratuities” the cruise lines puts that money into the fund for you …… that’s why Celebrity is amazing to go with “Always Included” promo –

  15. what are the expected tips for persons on the Land portion of our cruise?I am referring to the trip to Denali

    • You can, but that’s not common. As well, you’ll be served by a number of people during the cruise, many of which you won’t notice (like the staff in the buffet that clears plates after you leave). Automatic gratuities are just simpler.

  16. We have a ‘free at sea’ drinks package as part of our European Cruise. NCL website infers the 20% drinks gratuity & service charge is not applicable if the beverage package has been selected as part of the ‘free at sea’ deal. Hopefully this means we won’t have to pay 20% gratuity on every drink we have 🥴

    • Prepaid gratuities apply to things like the dining staff and your room steward. If you buy drinks at the bar or get a massage in the spa (optional services that not everyone uses), there is a 20% gratuity tacked on to that purchase — in addition to your prepaid gratuities.

  17. Not happy that YOU HAVE TO PAY THE GRATUITIES. On other cruise lines you NEVER have to pay the Gratuities, It is optional, and you can cancel them if you like. I think P & O do not charge gratuities any more.

  18. My husband and I are seniors and have the promo drink package. We usually have a glass of wine with dinner, and maybe a cocktail at the show. When we got our invoice we noticed a charge of $138 per person for the service charge. Since we are not big drinkers, can we opt out of the drink promo and just pay for the drinks we order plus the 20% service charge, and retain the rest of promo offerings?

    • Yes, you can opt out of the promo drink package. Give the cruise line a call or if you haven’t booked yet, there is an option online to deselect it.

  19. So you mentioned above that if you order a $10 drink it actually costs $12 with the automatic 20% added. With the free at sea drink package there is a cap of $15 on drinks, so would I be able to order a drink that costs $15 seeing I already paid the 20% or will it actually cost $18 and I will have to pay $3?

    • The cap refers to the menu price, NOT the price plus gratuity. So if the drink is $15 on the menu, you are order it with the package.

  20. Sorry my mistake unable to type gratuities. Gratuities are paid for service, not before service. This never happened prior to most cruise lines being taken over but such as Carnival. RCCL and others. Nothing but pure greed. Prior to this take over all on goods bought on board ship especially all drinks were duty free but now its not the passengers who get the reward it is the greedy cruise lines.

  21. I have the free at sea unlimited beverage/ speciality dining package which includes 20% gratuity already paid for in my fare. My question is I have the option on my account to also prepay service charges of $14.50/day. Do I need to prepay this charge (or will I eventually be charged this $14.50/day rate) if I already paid gratuity in the beverage package? Or does the 20% gratuity on that package also cover this automatic service charge (or are they separate charges)?

    • They are separate. You can prepay the daily gratuity, or it will be automatically charged to your account and paid at the end of your cruise.

  22. I’ve taken the free beverage package and paid pre pay gratuitues but its so unclear as to whether you are still obliged to pay 20% every time you get a drink,,,, please Help

    • No. When you get the drink package, the 20% is then added onto the package price. In the case of the free beverage package, it will be added to your account each day (unless you simply pay in full ahead of time). When you get a drink, you won’t be charged for the drink or gratuity.

  23. I see that the 20% is added to a drink, but if you have taken the premium beverage package & the prepaid service charge do you still have to pay the 20%

  24. What is the breakdown of the 15.00 p/p per day gratuities? How much goes to the waiter, assistant waiter, & the cabin steward?


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