Tipping on a shore excursion during your cruise vacation can cause confusion, and may even be insulting depending on the country, culture, or circumstance.
Here are a few basic guidelines for tipping around the world.
While stopping at ports of call in the Caribbean, you will likely have a few meals at local establishments. (I recommend this for the authentic local flavor experience!) The bill will state whether a gratuity is included. For large tables, it usually is automatically added to the totals. The standard fee is 15% – 20% throughout the islands. You may add more for exceptional service; and are expected to tip if it’s not listed on the bill.
If you take guided tours, each person on the vehicle usually tips a couple of dollars to both the guide and the driver.
The South Pacific
Although it might feel a bit awkward to Western sensibilities, tipping in the South Pacific is neither expected nor particularly welcomed. The cultural outlook is that you are a guest, and service for you is not a ‘tippable’ event. Some countries in this region of the planet simply have no tipping culture. There are, of course, exceptions. If you’ve requested or received exceptional service at restaurants or on a tour (time intensive, detail oriented, special arrangements, and so forth), an extra 10% is acceptable (but still not expected.) One suggestion is to simply ‘round-up’ the charge, and say that no change is required. Also, keep in mind that individuals in smaller ports may have difficulty or face steep exchange rates for US dollars. Local currency is the best in those circumstances.
The guidelines for tipping during a shore excursion are as varied as the countries you may see in your European cruise ports of call. For example, tipping in the bars of France is not expected; and taxi drivers in Greece likewise do not expect extra. It’s also not the custom to tip the gondoliers for your Venetian canal ride. If, however, you offer a restaurant tip directly to an Italian server and they decline, you should offer again. It’s the custom to defer the first time. Generally speaking, tips are expected at restaurants (5% for small orders – 10% for larger tickets), as well as for tour guides and drivers. (Certified guides deserve a higher gratuity.) The preferred currency today is the Euro in most countries, rather than the US dollar. So, it can be confusing. Ask for advice onboard ship at guest services prior to disembarking on your shore excursion.
Each of these suggestions is a general and broad starting point. For the details, check with ship’s personnel. While the US dollar is generally welcomed at locations around the world, consider exchanging your bills for small local currency denominations for tipping if you are staying in one port for a few days.