Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it will be increasing daily gratuities for guests booked in suites and regular staterooms. This change will take effect on all sailings starting January 1, 2023.
The change comes just days after Norwegian Cruise Line introduced a fee for the continental breakfast option from room service and is part of a broader initiative across the cruise industry increased prices, limited options, and fee increases.
Norwegian Cruise Line Increasing Gratuities
Gratuities, or tips, are standard practice in the cruise industry and are given to the crew members onboard. Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to raise gratuities to better align with industry standards and to provide their crew members with a more competitive compensation package.
NCL sent out a letter to guests and travel agents on December 6, saying: “At Norwegian Cruise Line, we are committed to delivering exceptional guest experience at every step of the cruise journey, and with the dedication of our shipboard team, we are able to turn your vacation dreams into reality. As such, we make it easy for guests to show their appreciation for these vacation heroes with discretionary daily services charges, which provide gratuities to key onboard team members, including room stewards, restaurant servers and behind-the-scenes support staff.”
The Haven and Suite guests, who book the highest level of accommodations on the ship, will now be charged $25 per day per person. This is a $5 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $20 per day.
Club Balcony suite guests and all other guests will now be charged $20 per day per person. A $2 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $18 per day for Club Balcony suite guests and a $4 increase for guests staying in all other cabin categories.
Norwegian Cruise Line emphasizes that gratuities are optional and can be adjusted or removed at any time by the guest. However, the company strongly encourages guests to leave gratuities for their hardworking crew members who provide exceptional service throughout the cruise.
The new pricing is only for bookings made on or after January 1, 2023. For any bookings made before that date but sailing after January 1, guests can pay the old pricing as long as they have pre-paid their gratuities.
The price increase is already the second time in eight months that Norwegian Cruise Line has increased gratuities. However, at that time, the increase was significantly less, at $0.50 to $1.50, depending on the cabin category.
Is Paying the Gratuity Mandatory?
Many guests often wonder whether paying the service charge gratuities is mandatory. The service charge adds a significant amount of money to the final bill, something many don’t necessarily factor into the cruise fare.
Including a service charge allows cruise lines to compensate their staff without requiring passengers to tip individually. This can benefit passengers and staff. It eliminates the need for passengers to constantly worry about how much to tip and ensures that staff members receive fair and consistent compensation for their work.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of the service charge model. Some passengers may feel it is unfair to be charged for services they did not personally request or use. However, paying gratuities is never mandatory, and should you feel that the service level needs to improve, you can opt-out. However, you should always carefully consider if this is how to show discontent.
More Cruise Line Price Hikes
The price hike for gratuities by Norwegian Cruise Line is just one in a series of price increases that we’ve seen across the industry in the last couple of months.
In September, Norwegian Cruise Line announced a price hike for its beverage packages. Effective January 1, 2023, prices for both the Premium Plus Beverage Package and the Unlimited Open Bar Beverage Package will be raised by $10.
On December 5, we reported that Norwegian Cruise Line appears to be eliminating the complimentary continental breakfast option from their room service menu, adding a $4.95 (USD) service fee for that menu offering.
In September, Carnival Cruise Line updated its room service menu and removed some complimentary items. At the time, the cruise line said it did so to address food waste issues. A few days ago, Princess Cruises also increased gratuities by $1.50 per guest per day for all cabin and suite categories.
Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line have adapted their main dining room policies, adding surcharges on dishes, mostly depending on how many entrees guests order per meal. While inflation is hitting everyone hard, it is remarkable that cruise lines are making these changes at nearly the same time, making a cruise a costly vacation option for many.