Tipping on a Cruise Ship

tipping on a cruise ship - breakfeast view

Tipping on a Cruise Ship

So you’re going on a cruise? Congrats!! That’s one of my favorite ways to vacation. We live in Florida so it couldn’t be any easier for us to get on a ship. That could be why we have been on at least 20 of them, and as many as 3 to 4 times in a single year. Needless to say, we have plenty of experience and could answer all of your cruise questions very easily. Recently I’ve been asked a lot about tipping on a cruise ship. So I wanted to shed some light on the topic.

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Why you should tip on a Cruise Ship

Tipping on a cruise ship might not be at the top of your concerns, but it should be taken care of. The staff onboard are paid in a similar way to servers. They make a tiny amount, because they can’t work for free, and the rest of their money is made up of gratuities. It’s important to note that these people work very hard, and sometimes for 6 to 9 months at a time without a day off. The typical staff member of a cruise ship will work 6 to 9 months straight (every single day) then they will have a few months off to go home and be with their families. It’s not the best circumstances, but it gives them the opportunity to provide a better life for their loved ones. They might not be able to earn that type of income where they are from.

Years ago cruise lines used to leave envelopes in your stateroom on the last day or two. They would recommend amounts to “tip” the crewmembers that served you during your cruise. Unfortunately, not everyone tipped these amounts, and some did not at all. Leaving the crew members that rely on them empty-handed. Over the last few years, cruise lines have made some changes to their policies to help protect their employees. They have added a “service charge” to the cruise that you can pay before or during your cruise. This service charge is based on a daily rate per person in your cabin; These are now the gratuities for the staff onboard. The cruise line will inform you in one way or another about these service charges or gratuities. If you do not prepay them, they will charge them to your onboard spending account on a daily basis.

Tipping on a cruise ship tip jar

The Service Charge

You can check the website of the cruise line that you are sailing on to find out exactly how much they charge per person, per day. Typically you can expect between 14 and 17 dollars per person, per day, and a slightly higher amount for suite cabins. The amount is calculated based on the number of guests the crew members will serve. That’s why the suite guests will have a slightly higher amount. You are getting “more concentration” from each crew member to better your cruise. Check the cruise lines website and look for “service charge” or “gratuities”. The amount might also vary slightly depending on the region you are cruising, but the info you need will be there.

Cruise Line Service Charge Statement
Here’s what one cruise line has to say about their gratuities. This information changes often, you can find up to date info on the cruise lines website.

What if you have a bad experience?

If you have absolutely terrible service and want to adjust these amounts, you can go to guest services and have the service charge adjusted on some cruise lines. However, I would recommend not doing this if possible. That service charge goes collectively to many different crew members onboard, so you won’t want to impact all of their pay based off the service of one person. If you are not getting the service you would like or expect, you can go to guest services and make a complaint. They will pass along that info to the director of that staff member and resolve your concern. The ship’s officers take pride in the service the crew provides you during your cruise, just bring it to their attention and they will fix it.

Try to consider the service charge as just a mandatory part of the cruise. It helps to keep the staff happy and makes them bust their humps even harder to please you during your cruise. Besides, if you received bad service from one crew member onboard, chances are that gratuity is not even going towards that person anyway. Most of the money goes to your room steward and waiters onboard.

Servers and Waitstaff

If you did not go to the main dining room, this does not mean you should opt out of this portion of your service charge either. The reality is that almost all of the waiters work in the main dining room.  However, they also work in the buffets and other restaurants on the ship. Your dinner waiter might work breakfast at the main buffet as well. So as long as you ate food on the ship, they either served you or at the very least cleaned up after you in the buffet. Side note: Those are waiters in the buffet, don’t be afraid to ask them for drinks or anything besides food. They are there to help.

Can you tip extra?

As I mentioned earlier, we have been on a lot of cruises. So it’s very easy for us to compare the service of one crew member to another. We like to reward the crew members that go above and beyond for us with a little extra. It is perfectly acceptable to do so, and they will very much appreciate it. Don’t feel obligated to tip extra on top of the service charge, but you can if you would like to. We will generally tip extra to those we believe made our vacation better. We have had waiters entertain us with magic tricks and make recommendations on things we shouldn’t miss. These are the ones who care and want you to have the best time on your cruise.

tipping on a cruise ship cocktails

Bar Service

Most cruise lines charge around an 18% gratuity for each drink that you purchase onboard. So don’t feel obligated to tip on top of that. Just make sure that you were charged a gratuity before skipping on that portion. However, I have not been on a cruise line that didn’t charge it automatically.

On the other hand, make sure to reward great service. Typically, on the second day of a cruise, I will tip a few dollars on top for the good bartenders. If they start to remember you and take better care of you, it’s not a bad idea to give them an extra $10 or $20 dollar tip at once. Then they will definitely remember you, and take very good care of you the rest of the cruise. If they do, it is also a good idea to give them a nice little tip like that again on the last day. I know it’s another $20/40 bucks, but it could save you hours in line at the bar throughout the week, and get you better quality service.

If you purchased a beverage package, you will have most likely prepaid the gratuities on that already. So the only difference is you won’t be charged an additional tip on each drink you order. However, the same as above go with a beverage package as well. See who is taking care of you, give them a little bit more and they should take much better care of you. It’s ok to tip on top, just make sure you are giving it to the right bartender and not just a random one. If you purchased a beverage package, consider bringing a recipe book along with you to help select what new drinks you would like to try.

Enjoy your vacation!!

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