Royal Caribbean gratuities can be a surprise to some who’ve never sailed the cruise line before. Without realizing it, the extra charge can add hundreds to the cost of your trip, without much explanation of how they work or where the money goes.
That said, while some cruisers resent the extra charge, many are glad that some of their money goes to the people who handle the small touches that make cruising enjoyable. Above all, the charges are perfectly normal. Still, it’s always nice to know exactly how they work when you consider how much you pay.
To help you out, Cruzely has put together this guide to gratuities for Royal Caribbean. Below you’ll find details on how much the gratuity charges are, who they cover, who must pay them, and much more.
What are “service gratuities” anyway?
First things first, you might be wondering exactly what are these charges. When you sail just about any cruise line — including Royal Caribbean — you’re going to see a daily gratuity charge (also sometimes known as a service charge).
These charges apply per person each day and are distributed to the customer-facing crew, meaning people like the dining staff and the room steward that makes up the cabin.
Gratuities aren’t technically required, but in reality, the are an automatic charge that every passengers pays.
Keep in mind these charges are separate from an 18% automatic gratuity that is charged to specialty restaurants, bar drinks, and spa service purchases.
Who must pay gratuities on Royal Caribbean? Are kids included?
On Royal Caribbean, gratuities apply to all passengers. Many cruise lines have special circumstances for younger passengers below 2-3 years old. For instance, Carnival doesn’t charge gratuities for kids under two, and Norwegian doesn’t charge for kids under three.
Unfortunately for those looking to save some money, Royal Caribbean doesn’t have age limits on their tips. If you are on the ship, then you’ll be charged the daily gratuity amount.
How much are gratuities on Royal Caribbean?
Royal Caribbean charges $16.00 per person, per day for most guests. This rate applies to interior cabins, oceanview, and balcony cabins. The cruise lines charges $18.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.
That adds up to the following amounts per person for a balcony cabin, depending on the length of the cruise:
- 3 Days: $48.00
- 4 Days: $64.00
- 5 Days: $80.00
- 6 Days: $96.00
- 7 Days: $112.00
Remember, these rates for one person. So a couple taking a weeklong cruise in a balcony cabin would be charged $224 in gratuities for their trip. (You can use our gratuity calculator to see how much tips will be on your cruise.)
The gratuity rate last increased in September 2022. Before then, the charge was $14.50 per person, per day for most cabins, with suites being charged $17.50 per person.
How do I pay gratuities?
Guests have the option to prepay gratuities prior to their cruise. You can do this online when you purchase the cruise, or simply call Royal Caribbean.
Guests who do not prepay will see gratuities automatically added to their accounts during the cruise. The total amount will then be charged to the credit card on file at the end of the sailing.
In general, we recommend paying the gratuities beforehand. This way, if the gratuity price rises in between the time you pay and the time you sail, you’ll most likely be “grandfathered” in at the lower rate.
Can I change the amount paid? What if I’m not happy with service?
As with most cruise lines, the gratuity amount is automatic at the set rate. Typically it’s frowned upon to change the amount charged. That said, there are times where reducing the gratuity amount is reasonable, such as if you received poor service or had a major issue.
If you feel you haven’t received satisfactory service, then you can ask to change the tip amount by visiting Guest Services onboard. Guests have until the morning of their departure to make changes to the gratuities they pay.
The 18% charged at the ship’s bars and spa are automatic and not able to be changed. If you want a refund of a specific gratuity, then you can visit Guest Services to talk about being refunded the charge.
What if I want to pay extra?
There are many people who wish to reward the staff with a higher gratuity than what’s normally charged. Others want to recognize the service of a specific person who may not be covered by the automatic charges.
If you want to pay something extra, the best way is to give cash directly to the staff member you wish to recognize. This way they get the tip without having to share it with anyone else.
If you want to simply pay extra across the board, visit Guest Services and they can add an additional amount.
Who gets the gratuities that I pay?
Your charge is distributed among the different members of the staff that provide service to passengers.
Cabin attendants, who provide a great deal of personal service — including cleaning your room each day — receive a share of gratuities, as do waiters at all shipboard dining venues. For instance, the waitstaff in the main dining room receives a share, as do those in the buffet and other restaurants.
Who is not covered by the automatic gratuities?
Not everyone who provides a service is included in the automatic tips. For instance, shipboard personnel who offer services only used by some guests, such as bartenders casino dealers, kids’ camp workers, and spa workers are outside of the umbrella of the gratuities. While spa workers and bartenders are covered by the 18% charge tacked onto your bill, if they or other staff go above and beyond, feel free to tip them.
One other area is room service. While there are charges for items on the room service menus, these don’t go to the person who delivers your food. It’s customary to tip $3-5 to the staff member bringing your food.
Also remember the people on shore. Those who provide you with service on land, such as baggage handlers and shore excursion operators, are not affiliated with the cruise line, so should be tipped separately.
What else should I know about Royal Caribbean’s gratuities?
One thing to know about Royal Caribbean’s tip amounts is that they are subject to change. There have been increases during the past few years, including in mid-2016 and early 2018. There is always the possibility of another increase. We think passengers are wise to prepay gratuities to keep from being hit with an increased rate in the future. As well, having the charge already taken care of means less money out of your pocket at the end of the cruise.
As well, it’s important to know about the possibility of paying a double tip on bar bills. When you order a drink, an 18% automatic tip will be put on your bill. So if you order a $13 cocktail, the actual price will be $15.34.
Your receipt to sign will have a spot for an additional tip. Just know that your tip is already added to the bill, and you don’t have to provide more if you don’t want.
If you’re wondering how much you’ll pay for gratuities based 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 Royal Caribbean’s gratuities? Let us know in the comments below.