Automatic gratuities can be a convenience for cruise guests, but it can also be confusing to understand just which crew members onboard receive those tips.
Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has offered some clarification about who receives automatic gratuities as well as how any extra tips are divided amongst crew members and what happens if tips are removed from onboard accounts.
How Automatic Gratuities Are Offered
Many cruise lines post automatic gratuities to guests’ onboard accounts as a convenient way for tips to be extended to hard-working crew members. This is usually done in at a set daily rate, and may be posted to guests’ accounts each day, or in one or two lump sums during the cruise.
Guests may also pre-pay these automatic gratuities at the prevailing rate at the time they book their cruise, therefore avoiding any extra charge on their account during the cruise.
On Carnival Cruise Line, the automatic gratuity rate is $16 (USD) per person, per day as of April 1, 2023. This covers guests in all standard staterooms, whether interior, ocean view, or balcony cabins. Rates are higher in suites, at $18 per person, per day, because of the extra amenities and more personalized services for suites.
Guests have long wondered how gratuities are distributed to crew members, and some guests prefer to remove the automatic gratuities in favor of presenting tips directly to the crew members they see the most.
Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has now offered some details about how both automatic and extra gratuities are distributed, specifically for “Your Time Dining” guests who may not have the same dining room servers each night, depending on when they choose to eat and what part of the dining room they are seated in.
“Firstly the waiters on Your Time Dining all pool or share the tips together that are pre-paid or charged to your sail and sign account,” Heald explained. “Any extra cash tips you give a waiter is kept by them and shared only with their assistant waiter who also served you directly.”
This means that all staff members get that extra monetary recognition through the automatic gratuities, whether pre-paid or added to guests’ accounts during the cruise.
Guests who want to reward extra special service to individual servers, however, should do so through extra cash offered directly to the crew member.
What About Stateroom Attendants?
While Heald did not indicate if the same policy applies to stateroom attendants who provide clean towels, refresh the bedding, clean bathrooms, and take care of other stateroom tasks, it stands to reason that the distribution of gratuities is similar.
Automatic or pre-paid gratuities may be pooled for distribution among all a ship’s stateroom attendants, while extra cash goes just to the crew members it is offered to from individual guests.
Are Crew Members Told If Gratuities Are Removed?
Recently, Heald also addressed another controversial topic about gratuities – whether or not crew members are informed if guests remove their automatic gratuities.
Because gratuities are always optional, every guest has the ability to remove or adjust the automatic gratuities on their Sail-and-Sign accounts (pre-paid gratuities cannot be adjusted). It has long been rumored that crew members are given a list of which staterooms have removed gratuities, which may then impact the service they offer to those guests.
“The crew are not ever shown a list of the specific cabins that may have removed gratuities,” Heald clarified. “Now they will know by how much they receive compared to the number of tables they wait on or the number of cabins they clean but which cabins removed them, no, they are not shown a list.”
Heald has noted many times that the vast majority of Carnival Cruise guests do not remove gratuities, and of those who do remove the automatic tips, many guests offer cash payment to their stateroom attendants, dining room staff, and other crew members.
“We will continue to allow people to remove gratuities if they wish,” Heald said. “We know (because we ask the crew) how many tip in cash instead of the pre paid amounts.”
Most cruise lines have similar gratuity policies, though rates vary and are subject to change. Before cruising, guests booked on any cruise line should investigate the gratuity rate, how tips are charged to guests’ accounts, and what other gratuity-related policies may be in place.