If You Can’t Afford to Tip, Don’t Cruise

Like moths to a flame, some cruise passengers line up at guest relations the last day to remove their gratuities. The $12.95 per-day gratuity, on average, seems better removed than given to some people. This isn’t a cruise line demographic problem; it’s an industry wide issue.

Gratuities are designed to reward the stateroom stewards, the dining service team, and behind-the-scenes crew working incredibly long hours, often seven days a week, just to make your vacation as memorable as possible.

The Cruise Tipping Breakdown

photo credit: flickr/Pictures of Money

Every cruise line breaks down and charges gratuities differently, but the way Carnival Cruise Line distributes their $12.95 per person charge is relatively standard.

Here is the breakdown, per day:

  • Housekeeping Team: $4.05
  • Dining Team: $6.40
  • Alternative Services: $2.50

Excuses People Use

When removing the daily gratuities from their folio, people offer up various excuses, with the most popular being:

  • We are going to leave cash tips
  • My travel agent told me that tipping is optional
  • I didn’t eat in the main dining room. Why should I tip the staff working there?

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, tipping truly is optional. On most lines, no one can force you to reward the people who go out of their way to make sure your trip goes smoothly. But it’s worth noting that lines, like any other business, react to what is going on within the market that they represent. When one line raises their rates, others follow.

That said, it doesn’t take much to see where the trend of removing trips will likely lead, especially with Norwegian having already begun leading the way. Lines ultimately will decide to take the option of tipping out of the hands of passengers and either make it a requirement, perhaps even folding it into the cost of the cruise. And in the end, that might be the best possible option: Folks can’t really complain about an expense they don’t even realize they’re paying.

What are your thoughts? Let us know.

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22 Responses

  1. Or better yet, how about instead of asking consumers to pay the wages of the staff (i.e. TIPPING) the company that employs the staff should pay them the wages they have earned!

  2. It will still show up on your bill…because they will raise the fare to accommodate the extra pay.

  3. Yep…some people find out the last day that they overspent on booze and goodies…and decide to remove the gratuities to make up the difference. Others…well, they are just cheapskates and don’t value what the service staff do for them. BTW…if you pay tips in cash…you are still cheating the behind-the-scenes folks.

  4. That’s fine by me. That’s how businesses have run since the dawn of time. You wouldn’t expect a company that sells $50 pants to say “hey, these pants are now only $40 but you have to decide whether the stock boy eats or not”. Just charge the $50 bucks and pay your employees a livable wage…don’t put it on the consumer as an “obligation” to pay your employees.

  5. The tip is the incentive to provide good service. That being said: I’d have to be getting pretty damn crappy service for me to even think of removing my tips. Usually if a crew member provides me with poor service, I’d just make a formal complaint.

  6. And…. leave the option (even encourage if you want) for people to then leave a “tip” for exceptional service if they so wish… but I agree, when you have a set fee and call it a “gratuity” it really loses the whole point of a tip. Kind of like the “new normal” for hotels who charge a resort fee for pool, wifi, etc instead of just including it your nightly rate 🙂

  7. They work really hard and I think tipping is something they should look forward to. I also agree they should be paid a half decent wage, if the cruise goes up just slightly and everyone pays that little extra then it should go to the employees who work so hard to make our cruises so enjoyable, not the CEO’s etc. who already make more than 99% of us will ever make.

  8. I have never removed them from my account but a tip/gratuity is defined as an optional gift of money, over and above payment due for service. Call it what it is – a service charge.

  9. I worked as a casino cashier on the Norwegian Jade back in June of 2008… Typically, if you are a table game dealer, you make tips when your customers win. However, on the NCL cruise ships, the dealer’s DO NOT keep the tips they make… Again, those tips are divided the same way as is discussed in this article… It is divided amongst crew members from other departments of the ship…. It is typical in the US for casino dealers to make tips from their players. However, other countries do not follow the same standards…. Perhaps that was the reason why I was the only American to work in the casino at the time on the Jade? Yes, I was the only American working in the casino for the tenure that I was on the ship…. A few of my peers were very surprised to see that I lasted so long… I lasted 3 months where I was told that the only Americans they had ever seen work in the casino only lasted for no more than 3 weeks…

  10. It’s name should be changed and not optional – I don’t wan the cruise cost to just increase: this goes to the hardworking staff. We always tip EXTRA as deserved. Usually $50 or more to the MDR staff and the cabin Steward plus an extra $1-2 per drink, especially the ones we get free. We also typically add to Steakhouse and Spa charges even though there is already 15% added. Cruise ship staff are some of the best hardworking people I have ever met ….. and I think working for tips keeps service special. We just left a ship and spoke twice with the cabin steward we had on it 6 months ago. We have run into Waiters we have had before as well. The prescribe automatic tip should be called a service fee and cannot be removed.

  11. When you book your cruise, just go ahead and include the gratuities. That way it’s already taken care of prior to the cruise and you won’t have to worry about if you didn’t budget correctly or bring enough money when it is time for the gratuities to come out your account if you choose to wait til you are on board to pay them.

  12. I don’t mind tipping, I just don’t like to be told how much. That should be personal on the service you received. I have received poor service before. Not every employee on every ship is as motivated as others.

  13. I agree with John, but having said that, I also think its the company’s responsibility to see that there employees are take care off,

    Why do the staff cry for tips??, very simple, they are not paid well, they are not even paid the minimum wage on board, the company expect the passenger to pay their wages in terms of tips while the company make money out of them…

  14. Close to 30 Years cruising me and no expert on the subject of working at sea; however, since this dead horse is still being whipped says it all. The cruise industry is not perfect and going to sea to work has never been an easy or financially rewarding proposition. So you want to be a North American cruise enthusiast that is wonderful and the fact that as an entiteled individual you are able to fully realize your dreams.

    When you sign the contract to cruise there is no deception. Yes, the contracts are as long as War & Peace in 5 point type. Being able to opt out of “the tip” is the industry’ [concession] to the ever growing lower-middle class Americans who in the last 5 – 8 Years have discovered that (I agree with Lynn W.) is dirt cheep even with “tips” factored into the equation.

    Cruising is not a right it is not a privilege it is a conscious decision made by mutual consent between all of the stakeholders aboard. Obviously I tip extra, it has been a personal tradition of mine for about 15 Years. Can I afford it? No, but can I afford not to? No, it is a 6 O’ 1 half dozen of the other proposition because I know there are many cruises ahead for me and when I walk into any restaurant the Executive Chef and Maitre’D will greet me like an old friend. When I meet my Stewards I lay down the ground rules and my expectations right after hello. Guess who gets taken care of wonderfully? Sure, what I spend on truly tipping could buy me a nice suite but not the ability to create a little cheer in an otherwise fairly cheerless existence.

    Like I said I have my little traditions two of which are a week before sailing I stop in at my bank and load-up on gold coins and the currency of the lands I will be visiting. Remember, you are visiting each port on your itinerary once. The Crew may return to the same ports 5,6,7 times and I guarantee that every port has that little Mom & Pop internet cafe where hundreds of crew members spend shore leave contacting someone at home. So when I casually hand someone a little envelope with $5 in it and a note that says thanks I usually get a smile in return.

    A quick story in this long drawn-out thesis; hahahahaha, I have terrible insomnia so most predawn hours you will find me roaming the decks being fascinated by my surroundings. When I cross paths with crew working hard to make all ship shape and Bristol fashion I great them and hand them one of my envelopes and thank them personally for working so hard for my benefit. One morning on my last cruise I walked up to the old ABS who’ job it was to sand and varnish. I walked over and introduced myself and we had a great conversation. I had a pair of envelops in hand when we shook hands at the conclusion of our discussion. When I handed them to him He looked puzzled and asked, what’s this? I told him, not as much as I would like to give him but enough for a beverage at a cafe. He began to cry tears of joy and said; in all his Years working at sea no one had ever given him a tip . . .

  15. In our last votaré in the QM2 we made friendo with some member of the crew, that told us that the y don’t get a cent from the gratuites that we aré forceje ti pay, anda that money goles only to the managers of each section. If that is true, next time on board I will ask to get that money back and give it myself to the ones I feel deserve it

  16. I’m British were not big into tipping anyway. I never tip on any cruise line, I’ve paid enough to go on the cruise in the first place. I always thanks the staff for their service, but i’m not paying for it, as far I’m concerned it’s part of the cruise fare. Why should we be subsiding the cruise lines salary bill? Pay your staff a proper salary in the first place instead of being greedy and keeping the money yourself. Also I can’t bear the sob stories of I’m away from my family and I don’t get a day off in 9 months expecting sympathy, no chance don’t get a job on a cruise ship then if thats how you feel.

  17. omg.. how lucky you are that you can cruise!! and you can afort the amount about what its cost is.. but let me tell you something.. not everyone in the world can do that… even the economy back of the crews home is not good enough to solve or help with all the problems they do have… exist a lot of motives that do people work on board, that do people leave back their family, childrens, houseband, wife, parents… you never know.. working 13 hours a day per 9 months without day off, its really hard… I DID WORK ON BOARD!! … 3 years, the enough to pay the hospital for the accident that kept my Dad in bed for mote than 2 years, the university of 2 of my little sisters, and the medicine for my mom disease; i forgot my own life to help back family.. and still keeping on board with a big smile to do all passengers feel happy on board, giving them the best service ever… trying to get tips at least at the end to send home, tips to share… and something that you still don´t know is that if you the last day gives some money on an envelope straight to the crew.. we should still report, and if you cancelled the tips they didn´t returned.. they place it in the pool to recover what you did canceled.. just to be share with everybody as the way should be… so please… now you know a bit about how to be a crew it feels… you should be respect with them… thanks god i don´t have the necesity to be there anymore. GOD Bless you..

  18. to me this is simple: incorporate it into the price of the cruise. If you choose to make it “optional” don’t try and shame those who opt against. On a recent HAL cruise, the dining stewards were awesome as were the room attendants but the service of the bar staff was so poor it was embarrassing, the guest relations were average at best and the marketing and online teams should be fired instantly. However the only employees who are subject to this are the ones who we believe do the best job. You cannot remove the service charge you pay on drinks so no wonder the bar staff are shocking and same goes for the marketing and online employees.
    I won’t stop cruising if you incorporate the tips only if the product becomes poor.
    Pay your staff and stop blaming us.

  19. lets face it. A major part of the cruise experience is the food. so lets break it down. the average person eats 3 meals a day ( not including the 24 hour room service icecream or pizza or deli snacking) . the meals typically include all you can eat buffet or sit-down dining room. your meal will include coffee or tea or juice or water. appetizer + main course and desert…. remember- all you can eat. the wait staff tips are broken down to $6.40 per day. this does not include alcoholic beverages.
    if you eat 3 meals per day this is only $2.13 per meal in tips that is split 3 ways (typically team of 3 serve the tables on a cruise/per section) so this means each server is earning less than $1 per meal for a tip.
    most restaurants in America recommend 15-18% or more tip at the end of the meal. how is $2.13 unreasonable or even fair gratuity for the wait staff. the service is always quick, friendly sometimes comes with a mid-service show. in my opinion, the tip should be higher. I would never dream of walking into a restaurant in America and not pay a tip for my meal even if the service was substandard, this is part of the hospitality industry. you expect it, so why go onto a cruise expect it to be any different.
    maybe you naysayers should all move to Australia where there is no tipping because they decided the wait staff and service providers are given a livable wage. There is no tipping but if you want to eat out,, be prepared for VERY high prices because the tip is embedded as part of the price of your meal. and…I have yet to find a restaurant with decent service anywhere in Australia because there is no incentive for the service provider to make you happy in order to give a better tp.
    the steward staff break down can also be calculated along the same lines. they service your room twice a day. and do it with a smile. again, usually a team of 3 will service your room so think about this before lining up at guest services to remove the gratuities
    whether you want to call it a gratuity or a service charge at the end of the day it is an industry standard and cruise ships charge very little compared to hotels or restaurants on land. If you cannot afford these cruise line gratuities then stay at home and go to your local hotel and fast food restaurants and pay them instead.

  20. I also think the tipping system is messed up. But why would you penalize the hard-working staff for the system being as it is? They count on that as part of their income. Until the system changes, it seems heartless to stiff the workers. After all, you’re not hurting the cruise line; you’re hurting the people who serve you.

  21. It’s a scam. Tipping is out of control in USA where their restaurants are no longer cheap vis a vis Europe like they were 20 years ago. And people now want 20% tip. I went to Disney World and was paying people $40 tips auto added on to serve up some food- outrageous. Basically some of these cruises cost a fortune and it’s a way of bolstering profits for the company. It is NOT normal practise anywhere but North America, and it’s seeped into the cruise line industry. Pay stafff yourself I say, pay them properly. But the cruises would be more expensive otherwise I hear the tippers say, no they wouldn’t I say, it’s a competitive industry, what would be lower is the company profits. Americans seem to often be evangelical about tipping and a being taken for a ride as a result.

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