Royal Caribbean International is quietly raising its daily gratuity rate for all guests next month. Travelers who have prepaid gratuities for an upcoming cruise, regardless of the sailing date, are not impacted, and guests with upcoming cruises can prepay to lock in the current lower rate but must do so before setting sail or they will be subject to the new, higher rate once onboard.
Royal Caribbean Gratuity Rate Increase
Beginning on Saturday, November 11, 2023, the automatic gratuity rates for all Royal Caribbean guests will increase $2 (USD) per person, per day regardless of passengers’ age or stateroom category. This will make the new rate $18 for all non-suite staterooms (interior, ocean view, balcony, etc.) and junior suite classifications, and $20.50 for guests in suites.
The previous rate, which began September 7, 2022, was $16 per person, per day for most stateroom categories, and $18.50 for suites. Before that, gratuities were $14.50 per person, per day in most staterooms, and $17.50 per person, per day in suites.
Gratuities are added to guests’ onboard accounts daily and are shared among various staff members, including dining servers, stateroom attendants, and several behind-the-scenes positions who work very hard to ensure all passengers have a memorable cruise vacation.
According to Royal Caribbean’s website, “The automatic daily gratuity is based on customary industry standards. Applying this charge automatically helps streamline the recognition process for the crew members who work to enhance your cruise. We hope you find the gratuity to be an accurate reflection of your satisfaction and thank you for your generous recognition of our staff.”
It should be noted that the automatic gratuity applied to beverage purchases, mini-bar items, and spa and salon purchases is not changing and remains at 18% of the charge at this time.
Pre-Pay to Save
Guests who choose to pre-pay their gratuities prior to sailing will be able to do so at the previous, lower rate, at least for the time being. The language of pre-paying is unclear, and after November 11, 2023, it is possible that all guests – whether they are pre-paying or paying onboard – may be assessed gratuities at the increased rate.
This does give guests with future bookings the opportunity to pre-pay now, however, and take advantage of the lower rate. Onboard, no matter what the sailing date, guests who pre-pay are not assessed any additional gratuity charge other than for beverage purchases, items from their in-cabin mini-bar, or if they make purchases at the ship’s spa or salon.
Royal Caribbean does permit guests to modify the daily amount at their discretion onboard, “in the unlikely event that a guest onboard being charged the daily automatic gratuity rate does not receive satisfactory service.”
Passengers may pre-pay gratuities up to 48 hours before their cruise departure date. After that time, no pre-payment is possible and automatic gratuities will be charged to guests’ onboard accounts during their cruise.
Rates Now Comparable to Other Cruise Lines
With this rate increase, Royal Caribbean’s gratuities are indeed aligned similarly to other cruise lines.
Carnival Cruise Line, for example, charges service gratuities of $16 per person, per day in standard staterooms and $18 per person, per day in suites, while Norwegian Cruise Line charges $20 for the highest suite levels, $18 for mid-level suites, and $16 for all other stateroom types (all rates per person, per day).
Disney Cruise Line has noticeably lower rates of $14.50 per person, per day in most stateroom types, while concierge staterooms and suites are charged $15.50 per person, per day. Disney Cruise Line does already have notably higher fares than other cruise lines, however.
Once one cruise line raises rates, it may not be long before other cruise lines follow suit and travelers may see increases on other mainstream cruise lines in the coming weeks and months.