Important Facts regarding Gratuities “Tips” on Cruise Ships


Some Tips regarding Tips!

Tipping on a cruise ship has to be one of the most discussed topics about cruising. When do you tip? How much do you tip? Whom do you tip? These questions baffle most travelers, but cruisers are particularly challenged since tips are handled differently than in hotels or restaurants. Let’s take a look at tipping in general as well as tipping on cruise ships.

Background and History of Tipping
There are no laws about tipping; it is always discretionary and subject only to local customs. Tipping practices vary world-wide, and can range from zero to 20 percent (or more) of the original bill. Did you know that a nation’s values can weigh heavily and predict both the tip sizes and the number of tipped occupations. Values such as; a high moral importance on (1)acceptance of power, class, or status, (2)uncertainty avoidance, and (3)focus on the individual rather than the group often lead to increased tipping. Leaving a tip is one way to increase the certainty of getting good service and to recognize personal attention. Through research, it is not surprising to learn that in the United States, we tend to tip more occupations and tip higher amounts since we place a high value on status and believe that a tip will help ensure better service. If the quality of service is directly linked to the size of the tip, people who are attracted to tipped occupations will likely have the ability and desire to deliver good service.

Other countries around the world tend to separate tipping from a flat fee service charge. When dining overseas, a charge for service is often automatically added to the bill, and people either tip nothing additional at all, or just leave a small amount of change. As people travel more and the world becomes smaller, tipping practices will change. When in Asia for instance, taxi drivers and porters are not regular recipients of tips, especially from the locals. I once had a bellman in Japan who had lugged many heavy bags up to our room. He was quite pleasant and very helpful, but when I offered him a tip, he refused. It was quite a shock–my first experience with someone who did not expect a payment for (what I perceived was) not only extra, but good service. Many places throughout Europe, restaurants do not allow the tip to be placed on your credit card. I have been told it was due to rampant misuse of tourist credit cards in changing the amount of tip from dollars to Euros with foreigners mainly unaware of what was happening. Hence they now require tips to be paid in customer cash.

A tip is no more than a gift of money. Some people think that the English term “tip” is an acronym for “to insure prompt (or proper) service”. However, the English word “tip” was used long before acronyms became common in the 1920s. The word “tip” is a 17th century verb meaning “to give”. Interestingly enough, its origin comes from the language of thieves. By the 18th century, “tip” meant to give a gratuity to a servant or employee. Although the origin of the term “tip” can be debated, most researchers believe that the practice started in restaurants and bars. People felt guilty eating and drinking in front of their server and did not want him to be hungry or thirsty. So, a small amount of money was left for him to have a drink or a bite to eat at the customer’s expense.

Let’s take a look at tipping on cruise ships.

Tipping on Cruise Ships
Tipping practices vary greatly amongst the cruise lines today, ranging from a required added service charge to no tipping at all. It is very important that you know the policy of the cruise line before you cruise so you can budget accordingly. When planning your cruise, be sure to check with your cruise planner, or the cruise line about the tipping policy. Often the recommended tips, which run from about $10 to $15 per passenger per day, are published in the cruise brochure or on the cruise line Web page. The cruise director will also remind passengers (sometimes over and over) about gratuities.

Most of the time, tips on cruise ships are really service charges, which is one of the reasons why cruise lines seem to be moving towards adding a flat fee to your onboard account rather than make the tip amount entirely optional. New cruisers should know that most cruise lines do not pay their service staff a living wage, and tips or service charges make up much of their compensation. In order to keep the advertised price down, passengers are expected to subsidize the service staff through these added service charges or tips.

All tips used to be given to the stewards and dining room staff on the last night of the cruise. Envelopes were passed out to the passengers and you presented the cash tip envelope directly to the steward in the cabin and handed it to the wait staff at dinner. While some cruise ships may still follow this policy, others (mostly) add a flat fee per day to your onboard account which may or may not be adjusted upwards or downwards, depending on the cruise line. If the fee is required and cannot be adjusted downward, it is a true service charge, and is no different from a port charge. Most cruise lines add the recommended service charge to your account, and you can adjust it if you think necessary. Personally, one of the things I love about cruising is the excellent service and wonderful attitude of the crew. I’ve never understood people who did not think the crew deserved at least the recommended service/tipping charge. But then, that is just me!

If you would like, you are welcome to use Mike’s (my own version) handy Rule-Of-Thumb Guide to Ship Board tipping. 45% (or $4.50 per day per person) should be dedicated to your Stateroom Steward or Attendant. The Other folks who go out of their way and help you on a daily basis are the Dining Room Staff. They should receive 55% (or $5.50 per day per person broken down as follows) 30% (or $3 per day) for your Head Waiter, 15% (or $1.50 per day) for your Assistant Waiter, and don’t forget about your Maitre’d, at 10% (or $1.00 per day). Hopefully this will help you, if the links below become too difficult for you to follow, this information may prove helpful for you!

Over the past few years, cruise lines have moved away from traditional tipping for two reasons. First, as cruising has become more international, cruise lines recognized that many of their passengers were from western Europe and Asia, and were not accustomed to tipping. The cruise lines found it was easier to just add a service charge to the bill than to try to  educate their passengers. Second, many large cruise ships have added multiple alternative dining rooms and have moved away from fixed seating times and tables. Passengers have different wait staff each evening, which makes tipping more problematic. Adding a service charge to be split amongst all the wait staff is easier for all, although the top cabin stewards and dining staff probably make less than they used to since the service charge is split into more pieces. Not trying to brag (by any means), but I always consider tipping whether on my bill or otherwise, a personal preference, and reward exceptional service when I feel it appropriate. While many cruisers wish that all cruise lines would adopt the “no tipping expected” polices of upscale lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea; it appears that the service charge concept may be here to stay!

Below are links or information on the tipping policies at some of the major cruise lines. While current as of this article, please be aware that the cruise lines continually make updates and changes to their site contents, and layouts.

Tipping Policies on Some of the Major Cruise Lines

Hopefully my tips on “tips” has been, or will be helpful to you!!

For more information on Cruise ship tipping and gratuities, you can contact Mike via email   . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at  . To “Join” our Travel Club go to  Mikes web site can be found at .  Follow Mike’s blog (or subscribe to it) at  (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at . Mike also edits his own twice daily e-newspaper called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at

Please feel free to leave a comment below on this articles’ contents. We are always looking for ideas or suggestions to expand and improve on our content! If you found the information helpful why not include (a tweet to followers) or (share a like) with your facebook friends, that they might benefit from the information as well. Thanks For Visiting, and please come back often to this daily Blog. – Mike


About cruisewithmike

Mike is a Professional Cruise Wedding Planner, Wedding Officiant,and owner of CruisewithMike Wedding Planners. With over 20 years of experience in the Travel Industry, as an Independant Travel Consultant, Customer Service Agent, and a retired Va. Magistrate, and Clergy. Mike has a very unique perspective on Customer and Wedding Service Needs and strives to provide custom service that's "TOPS" Totally Outrageous Professional Service, with every customer he works with.
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7 Responses to Important Facts regarding Gratuities “Tips” on Cruise Ships

  1. Jan Ross says:

    I used to be angry when they first started adding tips to the cruise bill and I actually had them taken off the first time, so I could pay them myself. Then I realized how very convenient it was not to have to worry about it and I just relaxed. The only problem is when the service is not really very good, which doesn’t happen very often. I’m leaving on a Carnival cruise of the Eastern Caribbean tomorrow and it’s just one less thing to worry about!

    • Howdy Jan, Thank you for taking the time not only to read the blog post, but for your wonderful comment. Yes you are so right, and I agree. I myself was just on a Carnival Cruise escorting a school employee group, and I hadn’t been on a Carnival Cruise since ’05. I was definately impressed at the service, food, and their overall calibre of staff which I found to be a definate “upped their game for sure” improvement. I hope your Eastern Caribbean Adventure is genuinely on a Fun Ship, and Crew. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know how it goes!!-CruisewithMike

  2. vimax says:

    This was a genuinely extremely beneficial post. In theory I’d like to write like this, also getting time and actual effort to make a good piece of writing. What can I say is, I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain anything done.

    • Dear Vimax,
      First, I am happy to hear you enjoyed the post, thanks! Keep plugging at it, as writing (like so many things) takes time and practice, but does get better with effort! Hope you visit back often!-CruisewithMike

  3. Kossen says:

    It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and I desire to learn as much as possible. Perhaps you can write more articles referring to this topic. I wish to read even more things about it!

  4. dilip yadav says:

    Thank You! I wanted to know all the things we have to take care while cruising and this helps!

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