If you’re planning a trip, no doubt you’re budgeting for any and all possible expenses. That would generally include tipping those that work hard to make your getaway as enjoyable as possible. But when it comes to cruises, which generally charge you upfront, should you tip?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
Clark says that when he cruises, he makes sure to reward the workers who make his experience what it is. “It’s the only time I carry a wad of cash,” he says.
Many cruise lines let you pay for gratuities during the booking process. “With some of the cruise lines it is mandatory, but on others it is optional,” he says.
How Do the Big Cruise Lines Handle Tipping?
Royal Caribbean says, “As of November 11, 2023, the automatic service gratuity of $18.00 USD per person, per day for guests in non-suites staterooms and Junior Suite, or $20.50 USD per person, per day for guests in Suites, will be applied to each guest’s SeaPass account on a daily basis. The gratuity applies to individual guests of all ages and stateroom categories.”
This is an increase of $2 per day and per guest (up from $16.00 per day for guests in non-suite staterooms and $18.50 for guests in Suites).
In order to avoid these occasional rate hikes, guests have the option to prepay their gratuities.
Norwegian Cruise Line says, “Unlike most other ships in the cruise industry, there is no required or recommended tipping on our ships for service that is generally rendered to all guests.” The website notes that there is, however, a 20% gratuity added to all spa, salon and beverage services.
Carnival says guests have two options for tipping the staff:
- Prepay: “Prepaid gratuities are reflected in the ‘Miscellaneous Charge’ field on the confirmation and in the guest’s E-Documents.”
- Sail & Sign: Carnival says if you didn’t prepay, on the second to last day of your cruise, you will receive a “recommended, per person, amount” posted to your Sail & Sign account.
For standard staterooms, the cruise line recommends that guests tip $16.00 per person, per day. For suites, they recommend tipping $18.00 per person, per day.
“They put it in there, but you can do a negative option and say that ‘I don’t want to have prepaid gratuities,’ and then you tip people with your own cash,” Clark says.
Who Actually Gets My Prepaid Tips on a Cruise?
On big cruise lines, tips are generally shared with wait staff, attendants and more.
Royal Caribbean’s website says, “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.”
Carnival’s website says, “100% of your gratuities are distributed to the crew who you interact with, such as your stateroom attendants, dining and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes to enhance your overall cruise experience. Applying this charge automatically streamlines the recognition process and ensures our crew will share in your generosity.”
As you can see, due to the cruise lines’ spread-the-wealth gratuity policies, the specific people who help you may not get the full rewards of your generosity. That’s why Clark makes sure to tip those who have assisted him personally.
“The only way you know that the people on the ship who have really mattered to you are really getting the money is when you hand them the cash.”
“I hand out those tips to the people on the ship so that I know that money is going to that individual and his or her family,” he adds.
How do you prefer to handle tipping on cruise ships? Join the tipping conversations in our Clark.com Community!