Every crew member you encounter on your cruise – cabin stewards, bartenders, sales clerks, youth counselors, hair stylists, masseuses, housekeepers, waiters, photographers, baristas, chefs and more – work their hardest seven days a week to ensure every passenger has a phenomenal vacation. While each crew member is paid a wage for their work commensurate with their experience and expertise, tips can add significantly to their income. Many crew members send a substantial part of their pay home to support spouses, children and extended families, and generous tips from passengers can make a great difference in many people’s lives. But how much should any one passenger tip any one crew member?
Automatic Cruise Tips
Every cruise line has recommended guidelines for how much should be tipped to different crew members in service positions, including dining staff and cabin stewards. Those tips are often lumped together into a single fee, generally $13-17 (USD) per passenger per day, that will be totaled and added to each passenger’s onboard account before the end of the cruise. The cruise line lumps all tips into a common pool and divides them equally among crew members according to the published rates. On some lines, the tips for young passengers may be less, and very young passengers, such as toddlers, may not be assessed tips at all. Some cruise lines assess higher tips for suites, as those cabins often receive extra service from butlers or concierges. At any time during the cruise, passengers can request adjustments – either up or down – to these automatic tips at their discretion.
There is often an option to prepay automatic tips with the initial cruise fare, and passengers who take that option will not have the extra charge added to their account during the cruise – they have already paid it. Because the tips are assessed individually, however, there is no discount for prepaying gratuities, and there will be no opportunity for passengers to make adjustments to the automatic gratuities once they have been paid.
Despite the automatic gratuities, it is often customary to tip a bit extra for extraordinary service, such as when a crew member has to do extra work due to an illness or a crowded cabin, or when they go out of their way to satisfy a special request or unique favor. Many cruise passengers also choose to tip extra to specific staff members, offering a cash gratuity directly to that person rather than adding to the common tipping pool. Typical extra tips may be $15-20 per passenger for a seven-day cruise paid to the cabin steward for exceptional work, or an extra $10-20 per passenger to a waiter who offered spectacular dining service. Similarly, it is often acceptable to tip $1-3 when room service is delivered depending on the size of the order. While it is not necessary to tip bartenders or baristas – an extra 15-18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs – a tip of $2-3 for great service, such as replacing a spilled drink, generous pours or extra attention – is always welcome.
In the ship’s casino, dealers and croupiers are not part of the general tipping pool and no tips are required. It is customary, however, to offer a tip after a great winning streak, and the amount should be relative to the winnings. Similarly, it is not necessary to tip spa personnel or fitness center staff, but a few extra dollars to recognize a job well done won’t be out of place, especially for individualized services such as hair styling, massages or personal training.
Passengers who sail with children do not typically need to tip youth counselors, but if the children have special needs or preferences and the staff goes above and beyond to give these young cruisers a great time, an extra tip of $10-20 per child is appropriate. A few extra dollars’ tip for an evening babysitter is also acceptable.
Some extra tips may be paid to staff who aren’t actually part of the crew, but who offer invaluable services to cruise ship passengers. Luggage porters who handle heavy bags before and after the cruise are typically tipped $1-2 per bag for their assistance, for example. The drivers and guides for shore tours are also independently employed and may accept tips – $2-3 for a shorter tour or up to $10 for a full-day excursion for the guide is a proper amount, with an extra $1-5 for the driver.
The one group of people whom should never be tipped on a cruise are the officers – these professionals are well-paid for their rank, and an extra gratuity could be seen as patronizing, insulting or embarrassing. Instead, a genuine word of thanks and praise of the vessel and crew would be most welcome. An exception is the maitre d’ of the dining room; if this officer granted a special favor, such as arranging for different seating or changing a dining time at short notice, a $10-20 tip is customary.
Tipping on a cruise can seem confusing and overwhelming, but with automatic tipping, it really isn’t so complicated. Passengers should be prepared with some small bills – ones, fives and tens – available for extra tipping, and they can be sure that all crew members are fairly paid for the excellent service they provide.