Everything You Need To Know About Cruise Gratuities

Cruise gratuities are still murky and confusing to many travellers. Of course, most travellers and tourists want to be fair. After all, the crew does work hard. They have to keep droves of people happy over the course of a week or two, and they have to do it all under somewhat stressful conditions. On the other hand, we’d also like to leave the cruise without going into debt.

There has to be a happy medium. Or perhaps just a general guide on how and when to tip. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to cruise gratuities. Using this, you’ll be able to tip just the right amount to keep yourself and the people who help your family on the cruise happy.



Why Cruise Gratuities are so Important

Tipping some crew members is a must, in my opinion. But not everyone. So how do you know the difference? That’s what I am here for. Just like many restaurant and other service-based workers, most crew members rely on tips from passengers to supplement their income. They receive a mix of incentive-based tips and salary.

Although tipping is not mandatory, the work these employees do is hard, and they deserve compensation for that. Remember, while we’re on vacation, they are hard at work. And if I learned anything at all during my time as a server in university it’s that serving people is a PITA. Many are not at all polite. But that’s a story for another time.


Cruise Gratuity Options

A lot of cruise lines already add cruise gratuities in the form of service charges to your bill at the end of the stay. If this is your first cruise please take note or you will be shocked at the end of the journey when you see hundreds of extra dollars on that invoice. So, you might think that all gratuities are included in that amount. They are not. Also make note you can prepay those service charges so you don’t get zinged at the end.

Account-Added Cruise Gratuities

Usually cruise lines add $10 to $14 dollars per day per passenger for on board service gratuities. That includes children. After all, the staff is taking care of both you and the kiddos. The tips are generally divvied up amongst:

  • Main dining Waiter
  • Assistant Waiter
  • Cabin Steward
  • Steward Assistant

The captain and other professional crew do not receive tips, as they are salaried and do not operate on the “tip scale” payment method.

Personal Tipping

The desk will also provide you with envelopes which you can use to tip the staff you choose using cash. You’ll tip your staff at the end of the cruise. For example, tip your waiter at the final dinner and leave your cabin steward’s tip in the cabin just before you disembark. Here are some helpful tipping guidelines should you chose to personally tip.

  • $3.75 per day for your main waiter
  • $2.15 per day for your assistant waiter
  • $5 per day for cabin housekeeping
  • $0.75 per day for your head waiter
  • $1 per bag for your porter

These are the basic staff that you would tip on a normal cruise. Of course, if you are staying in a high-end suite with personal concierge service, you would absolutely want to tip your helper.

That being said, knowing who not to tip is as important as knowing who to tip. The following cruise staff is generally tipped from an automatically added 15% to 20% gratuity on your payment.

My best advice for cruise tipping is to read your receipts! If you get a bill from the bar it will indicate if there’s already an extra tip or cruise gratuity added on. Don’t lose your shirt tipping your drink wait staff twice.

  • Bartenders
  • Drink Wait Staff
  • Spa Treatment Professionals


Here’s what Norwegian Cruise Lines Tipping FAQ suggests.

There’s a 20 % gratuity already added for spa service charges and for bar service as well as for specialty dining restaurants. So fair to say that you are probably Some staff like child care after hours, cruise youth program staff, (read more about Cruise Youth Programs here ) the butler and concierge might give specialty service for some guests. If you are one of those guests then you should tip to reward good service.

Carnival Tipping Cruise Guide is Similar

For guest’s convenience Carnival automatically adds the cruise gratuities to the Sail & Sign Card to be prepaid or paid at the end of the cruise. 15 % is automatically already added to any bar bill. In my opinion there’s rarely a need to tip extra on the bar bill if 15 % is already added to each invoice. See Carnival Sensation Video for more on that ship.

Disney Cruise Line Tipping Guide:

Very similar to both of the above. However Disney Cruise Lines note that 18 % tip is already added to spa services bills. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs. All gratuities can be charged to your stateroom folio.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Gratuities

At $14.50 US to $17.50 US daily per guest the tips are pretty comparable to all the other family friendly cruise lines out there. Again, it’s worth noting that if you wish to not deal with bills on board then you prepay the costs immediately.

One more Thing…

If you really object to the service received and want to have the gratuities or on board service charges removed you can speak to Guest Services before the morning of disembarkation. You can also indicate if one area of service was substandard and tip each area of service individually. It’s rare that your service will ever be anything but high level or excellent on any of these cruise lines. But there could be that rare instance, so it’s good to know your rights.

My Family Cruise Experience:

There’s no question that some of the staff we have had on our cruises have gone above and beyond when it comes to service. On at least two of our family cruises with Carnival I was blown away by housekeeping staff. This last trip on the Carnival Sensation was incredible and our housekeeper Victor always had the scoop on the best activities and things to do in ports of call. That is super valuable to me. I believe in rewarding that level of service and also leaving a kind comment or two in any cruise related feedback.


Cruise Gratuities are Just Part of Cruising

Cruising is all about having fun as a family and leaving the world behind. That’s why so much of cruising costs are built right into the final bill. Cruise gratuities are part of the cost of travel so be prepared.

I would not be able to have such a wonderful time with my family without the service personnel on board. If I’m going to be waited on and cleaned up after, it’s important for us to know that the people in service industry are being rewarded and or paid a decent wage. Of course cruise gratuities make up a big portion of a lot of workers’ take-home pay.

Knowing that, I encourage you to follow these tips on cruise gratuities when you are at sea. That way, both you and your wait staff can come away from the cruise feeling good about the entire experience.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.