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, other see them as a rightly deserved reward to hardworking crew.

Norwegian cruise exhaust stack

Gratuities, however, aren’t always clear to those who are new to cruising. Some 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.

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 three of 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 on both which ship you sail and the type of stateroom you book.

Notably, NCL raised their gratuity fees effective April 1, 2020. Sail on the cruise line, and you’ll now pay $15.50 per person, per day for mini-suites or below. That includes interior, oceanview, and balcony cabins. Book a cabin in Norwegian’s exclusive “The Haven” or a suite and you’ll see a charge of $18.50 per person, per day.

At the $15.50 rate that most passengers see, a couple traveling on a week cruise will see total gratuity charges of $217.

Not sure how much your gratuities will cost? See our free calculator here.

Who is charged on Norwegian Cruise Lines?

When it comes to who is charged the daily fee, Norwegian is among the most generous. While some cruise lines charge every person who sails – no matter their age – Norwegian Cruise Lines 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 cruisers 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 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. It will 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 unsatisfactory 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?

Despite the many complaints about tip amounts, and that they aren’t already baked into the cruise fare, there are many people who wish to tip more or simply want to recognize someone specific.

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?

While a number of people are covered by automatic gratuities/service charges (including some behind the scenes that make your stay comfortable), most of the money will go to cabin attendants and waiters at shipboard dining venues. So after a meal you don’t have to worry about leaving a tip; it’s already covered.

That said, those offering a service to only some passengers, such as casino dealers, kids camp workers, and spa workers, are usually not included in auto-gratuities. 

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, depending on your spending on the ship. 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 is free, you’ll still have to pay 20% on its value, which can add up quickly.

Finally, if you order room service it is customary to tip the person bringing the food $3-5 as a thank you. Note that the room service charge does not go to the person bringing the food.

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


    • 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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%

  8. 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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