Cruise Ship Tipping Explained

I was on a cruise last fall and sitting with a family in the main dining room. They asked me what they should do about tipping because their travel agent told them to save money, go to the guest services desk and have the tips removed. My mouth dropped when they told me that, because obviously the travel agent was just trying to make the sale and in my opinion shouldn’t be allowed to sell cruises.

So let the controversy begin.

Tipping has become a hot topic among cruisers. Some cruise lines have pulled away from cash tipping, but they seem to have done so just enough to confuse the issue. Tipping is a traditional part of cruising and just like the restaurants you frequent at home, it is an important part of the income of those that will help you on your cruise.

The people that will be assisting you are in the service industry, and it is the passenger tips that will make up the largest percentage of their income. Some of these employees make very little, so they rely heavily on their tips and are willing to reward generous tipping with outstanding service.

Each cruise line will provide their own guide to tipping; in fact, some cruise lines still provide all the envelopes for you to put money in and pass out to the crew members. However, most cruise lines have moved to the auto-tip system where it’s automatically added for your convenience.

Who gets tipped? This is how it breaks down on Carnival Cruise Line:

  • $ 3.50 Per Day Stateroom Services              
  • $ 5.50 Per Day Dining Room Services         
  • $ 1.00 Per Day Alternative Services: distributed to other kitchen and hotel service staff

Read Carnival’s tipping policy.

Many bar and lounge tips are included on your bill at a standard 15% which you can generally adjust for poor or excellent service. Check your individual bills to see if a tip has already been included.  You can expect to spend about $10-$15 a day in tips, so be sure to budget for that.

Often, cruise ships will automatically tack on tips to your onboard account. Experienced cruisers say they like to have control over who gets what based on the service provided, but I find it a lot easier to leave auto-tip on so I’m not worried about who is getting what. I’d rather the cruise line divide up the money.

Cruising offers a lot of experiences you won’t get anywhere else.  Take advantage of them, but be mindful of what you spend.

If you’re wondering if that family kept the tips on, they did, and that agent who shall remain nameless, got a nice email from me when I got back to port. Just my thoughts on cruise ship tipping.

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