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Cruise Line Gratuity Guide

Waitress
Cruise line gratuities can add a major cost to any cruise vacation.

A good example is our six-day, seven-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Holland America automatically charged us $14.50 per night per person. For two people, that works out to $203 for the entire trip. The rate was 12.5 percent of the cost of the tickets.

Restaurant visitors tip waiters and waitresses 15 to 20 percent or even more. Whether or not a 12.5 percent tip on a cruise is worthwhile is open to debate. Few people tip hotel staff for making the bed, while a tip goes to cruise staff for doing the same.

In addition, most cruise lines charge an 18 to 20 percent tip for beverages, even though cruise passengers have to go to the bar to get their drinks. Servers in restaurants bring them to the tables.

What do cruise passengers get for their service? Cruise lines distribute the gratuities to staff and break them down this way among staff people:

  • Lido dining
  • Dining room
  • Housekeeping
  • Room service
  • Galley
  • Laundry

A certain percentage goes to each group of people. Passengers usually can pre-pay the gratuities before the cruise or pay them at the end of the cruise.

Objecting to Gratuities


Cruise passengers don’t automatically have to accept the gratuity fees that cruise lines automatically add to their charges. They usually have a right to adjust or reject some of the fees.

In one example, we had objections to paying the full gratuity level on a cruise for the first time ever because of multiple problems. We filled out a form provided by guest services that pinpointed our problems and included how much we wanted to pay. The cruise line accepted our objections and reduced the gratuity total.

The ability to reduce the gratuity is common among cruise lines.

“In the unlikely event that a guest onboard being charged the daily automatic gratuity does not receive satisfactory service, the guest may request to modify the daily amount at their discretion by visiting Guest Services onboard and will be able to do so until the morning of their departure,” according to Royal Caribbean.

Cruise Line Gratuity Rates


The following gratuity guidelines are subject to change. In all cases, the cruise line allows passengers to adjust the amounts.

  • Royal Caribbean - $14.50 per day for Junior Suites and below; $17.50 for Grand Suites and above; 18 percent for beverages
  • Carnival - $13.99 per day for standard staterooms; $15.99 for suite staterooms; 18 percent beverages
  • Disney - variable and discretionary; 15 percent beverages
  • Norwegian - the cruise line website says there are no automatic gratuities.
  • Princess - $14.50 for smaller cabins, $15.50 for mini suites and $16.50 for full suites.
  • Celebrity - $15.50 in standard cabins, $16 in Concierge staterooms and $19 in suites; 20 percent beverages.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Tips   

April 04, 2021
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