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Cruise lines vary in their approach to tipping.

Some adopt a “tipping not required” policy but encourage tipping for outstanding service.

Others provide tipping guidelines according to the staff in question.

The remainder charge an automatic flat fee for service and add it to your onboard account.

Some ships actively discourage tipping.

Gratuities for bar bills and wine checks generally are added automatically at point of consumption, but tipping in the specialty or alternative dining facilities, and for spa services, are usually expected at point of service.

Whatever the policy of the cruise line, however, it is clear that gratuities are a cost you need to consider when budgeting for your cruise. They are one of those unavoidable hidden costs such as port taxes and transfer fees.

There is an argument to be made that the cruise lines should not be relying on the passengers to supplement the service staff’s meagre wages, and the typical response is that without tipping, cruise lines would have to increase their cruise fares.

Whatever your opinion, the truth of the matter, rightly or wrongly, is that the service staff do rely on these gratuities.

A tip for the tippers

As tipping generally takes place at the end of the cruise, and if the charge is not being added to your account, you may wish to set aside the cash before the cruise gets underway to make sure you are not left with a handful of large bills you are unable to divide amongst the staff.

Here are some of the major cruise lines’ guidelines/policies on tipping.

Carnival automatically charges to your onboard account gratuities of $10 per guest per day for dining and stateroom staff.

Celebrity suggests the following gratuity guidelines (per person per day):
Assistant Chief Housekeeper $0.50
Stateroom Service $3.50
Stateroom Service (Concierge Class) $4.00
Assistant Maitre'd $1.00
Waiter $3.50
Assistant Waiter $2.00
Butler (for suites only) $3.50

Costa Cruises automatically debits your onboard account with a service charge of between $4.50 and $10 per adult per day depending on the itinerary. Should you wish to change the amount, you can contact the Guest Relations Desk. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to beverage purchases.

Cruise West – onboard gratuities are not required nor are they expected.

Crystal Cruises suggests these per guest, per day guidelines for stateroom and dining service gratuities: stewardess, $5 (single travelers, $6); senior waiter, $5; waiter, $3; butler (Penthouse Decks), $4. Tips for the maître d', headwaiter, assistant stewardess and night Room Service personnel are at your discretion.

Cunard Line adds $11 to $13 per day service charge per passenger, depending on the class.

Disney Cruise Line suggests the following gratuities as a guideline per guest per cruise for 3-night, 4-night or 7-night cruises:
Dining Room Server $11 $14.75 $25.75
Dining Room Asst. Server $8 $10.75 $18.75
Dining Room Head Server $2.75 $3.75 $6.50
Stateroom Host/Hostess $10.75 $14.50 $25.25
Gratuities for the Dining Manager and Room Service is at your discretion.

A 15% gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines suggests, as a guideline, 2 sterling per passenger per day for a cabin stewardess and the same amount for your restaurant waiter.

Hebridean International Cruises – all gratuities are included in fares. Hebridean actively discourages tipping.

MSC Cruises gratuities vary by itinerary and are added to your onboard account (except aboard MSC Rhapsody). Per person per day gratuities for adults are: $12 for Caribbean sailings and Ocean Voyages, 6 Euro for Mediterranean and Northern European sailings, and $6 for South America sailings. Per person per day gratuities for children are 50% less. A gratuity on all bar checks is included in the price of your drinks.

Norwegian Cruise Lines – a payment of a Pre- Paid Service Fee is required on all NCL ships. A fixed service charge of $10 per person, per day is added to your onboard account. For children ages 3-12, a $5 per person per day charge will be added to your onboard account.

Oceania Cruises – gratuities of $12.50 per guest, per day are automatically added to your shipboard account. An additional $4 per guest, per day is added for guests occupying Penthouse, Vista or Owner’s Suites where Butler Service is provided.

Princess automatically adds a discretionary Hotel and Dining charge of $11 for suites and mini-suites and $10.50 for all other staterooms per person per day (including children) to your shipboard account. A 15% charge is automatically added to your bar charges and dining room wine account.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises - onboard gratuities are not required nor are they expected.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has developed these gratuity guidelines (per day per guest):
Suite attendant: $5.75
Stateroom attendant: $3.50
Dining Room Waiter: $3.50
Assistant Waiter:$2
Headwaiter: $.75

A 15% gratuity is automatically added to your bar bill or wine check when you are served.

Seabourn Cruises - onboard gratuities are not required nor are they expected

Silversea Cruises - onboard gratuities are not required nor are they expected

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