Royal Caribbean Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

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. 

Royal Caribbean gratuities

That said, while some cruisers may 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 Royal Caribbean’s “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 to your account (also sometimes known as a service charge). 

These charges apply per person each day and are distributed to the passenger-focused 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 guest rooms. This rate applies to interior cabins, oceanview, and balcony cabins. The cruise lines charges $18.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.

For reference, 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. (See more about prepaying gratuities here.)

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 payment method on file at the end of the sailing.

In general, we suggest 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. We also find it nice not having the extra charge once on the ship.

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.

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.

According to Royal Caribbean, “gratuities are shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes to enhance the cruise experience.”

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 casino dealers, kids’ camp workers, and spa workers seem to be 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 regular increases during the past few years, including in late 2022. 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 $14 cocktail, the actual price will be $16.52.

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.

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Royal Caribbean Gratuities (Tips): Full Guide to Cost & How They Work

18 COMMENTS

  1. NEVER pre-pay gratuities. When you get on the ship go to the pursuers desk and have the auto-gratuity canceled. Ask for tip envelopes. We have been cruising for over 30 years. There’s great service and not so great service. Award accordingly.

  2. Paid for soft drinks package and gratuity’s before cruise then on first day of cruise decided to upgrade to full drinks package to save them any trouble they said they would cancel our original package and that we would get full refund into original payment method , then they charged us for full drinks and gratuity’s again on board .
    This was January 23 and was told buy Cruise2.com that we would be getting back £436.28 within 30-40 days after 2months had not received refund and got back to the cruise company and they have said Royal Caribbean are now only willing to pay us £281.00 can they do this as have the email saying that Royal Caribbean had agreed the first amount saying they will not refund gratuity’s even though we have paid it twice .

  3. The last time I cruised I prepaid gratuities and before I left the cruise I had to pay more. Why is that? We are going on another cruise and I made sure to add the gratuities but I don’t want to be surprised with extra gratuities. How can I make sure?

  4. From memory, the tip breakdown was as follows (circa 2001-ish):

    Cabin Steward: $3.50 per person per day
    Waiter: $3.50 per person per day
    Assistant Waiter: $2.50 per person per day
    Head Waiter: $1 per person per day

    It was a total of $10.50 per person per day or $21 per couple per day. Envelopes for cash were provided on the last full day of the cruise and everyone would bring all the wait staff tips to the final dinner and hand them to each of them personally, sometimes the waiter collected the Head Waiter envelopes if they were tied up. We would leave the envelope for our cabin steward on the bed before we went to dinner, usually accompanied with a hand written thank-you. We often added more for the Cabin Steward, Waiter, and Assistant Waiter if they were exceptional. At some point RCCL started allowing passengers to change the tips to their sea pass account and a printed slip would be provided to place in the envelope in lieu of cash. That eventually morphed into the system that exists today. Of course some would stiff the staff but overall we always experienced everyone at our table joyfully giving the envelopes. We preferred that system as we like to give tips directly to those that have served us. At this point the automatic gratuity system should be abandoned and the cruise prices adjusted accordingly. We have had a long hiatus from cruising but we will be sailing again in September, it will be interesting to experience all of the recent ‘changes’.

  5. This information still doesn’t breakdown how rccl breaks down the service charge. How much does each crew get from the$16.00 and is it by percentage or dollar amount?

  6. So if I pre pay my gratuities before we sail do I still have to pay the gratuities for the drink package? Also if I wanted to have beer in my refrigerator on board how do I do that. Thank you

    • So the pre-paid service charge gratuities are separate from the drink package. You’ll pay those no matter what.

      If you get the drink package, then you’ll be charged the 18% gratuity on top of the daily cost. So if it’s $80 per day, you’ll actually pay $94.40 each day for the package.

      Beers that are served will be opened at the bar, so there’s no real way to have unopened beers back to the room. You could maybe just ask the bartender not to open it and see if they will do that.

  7. As mentioned above, compliant to the policy of gratuity, gratuities given to waiters and assistant waiters are handed over directly to them in an envelope, this is also known as tips to personal giving us satisfaction through their services. Do other staff members have any prerogative or share on that tip, like do the supervisor has the first right over such kind of tips?
    It is quite unfair that those who works hard in front and serve the clients diligently are actually given a meagre share of their gratuity which i consider is an insult to the dexterity of the waiters. if this is the actual policy, kindly review the same as those who are on the front line of the cruise especially in restaurants as waiters give in their best to satisfy the clients, nevertheless, supervisors who are at the background in their comfort zone dare to take the major share of the tips given personally to the waiters. Kindly, take this issue unto serious lens to avoid any kind of frustration amongst co-workers on cruise. I would directly refer to the restaurants on Celebrity Solstice (specialty). Actually on the waters of Alaska.
    The goodwill of your company is beyond any doubt the best, however, such kind of practices referred above undermines enthusiastic clients to give tips personally to waiters for their unflinching dexterity in the quality of services provided.
    Regards
    A well wisher

  8. We have no problem tipping but it would be nice if RCCL paid a higher wage to the people that are not face to face with customers. The cabin steward , waiter , asst waiter work very hard at making your cruise a fun time RCCL is punishing them by pooling the tips. We always tip our bartender over and above along with the pool waiters

    • No. It’s an additional 18% on top of the daily price. So if you are charged $60 per day, you’ll actually pay $70.80 for the drink package.

      • I am confused. We purchased the deluxe drink package. Do we just tip in cash every time we get one or will pre paid gratuities plan cover that?

        • You’re covered. Gratuity is added on to the cost of the daily package. So an $80 package is really $94.40 each day. Then when you go to the bar, there’s nothing more to pay.

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