When You Should NOT Tip on a Cruise

Most cruise lines have instituted policies regarding the practices around gratuities for services. Yet there is still confusion on the high seas about tipping. Here are 6 instances when you should NOT offer a tip while onboard ship.


While you may greatly appreciate the precision with which the captain and his officers navigated the waters and parked that monster-sized vessel at the tiny dock, you should NOT tip them.

Not only is it unnecessary, it may even be perceived as an insult in some circumstances and across some cultures. A simple ‘thank you’ or a letter to the cruise line company expressing your appreciation would be much more appropriate and appreciated gestures.

Maintenance personnel

You might need to contact personnel for a maintenance issue while on vacation. There are lots of moving parts on a ship, some of which are in your cabin.

When the crewmember arrives and works his or her engineering magic to fix your sink, sliding door, or mini fridge, they do not expect a tip. In fact, they would likely not accept should you offer.


If you are eating in the main dining room, you are not expected to tip the servers. Also, if you eat in the fee-based specialty restaurants, gratuities are usually included in the price of the meal.

Or, in the alternative, they are automatically added to the total of your bill. Either way, it’s OK to ask so that you and the staff are happy with the experience.


With all the decisions you have to make about drinks for a cruise vacation, tipping should not be one of them. All well-known cruise lines automatically add 15%-18% gratuity to your drink order bill.

(Again, read the details to be sure.) The most popular suggestion is to find and tip a favorite bartender at the beginning and ending of a cruise for good service.


The personnel who are working at specific onboard activities do not expect a tip. For example, you needn’t hand cash to the crewmember at the rock wall or zip line – they won’t let you fall! Also, any visits to a spa on the ship will likely have an automatic tip of 15%-18% added to the total bill.


While it is an accepted and expected part of the economy in some countries, automatic gratuities can be a hot issue for others. Depending on your perspective, you may feel that a tip must first be ‘earned’ and not simply applied to a transaction.

This is a delicate and often contentious question with no simple answer. Regardless of your position, consider the service you have received during your cruise; and realize that these funds often constitute an integral part of the income of cruise ship employees.

Finally, keep in mind that automatic gratuities may be added to your account on a per diem basis. The funds are then divided amongst the crew at the end of the voyage.

However, this does not mean that the exceptional attention you received from ship’s personnel should go unrewarded. It’s generally acceptable to offer extra appreciation when appropriate. For more insider guides on this topic, read our article HERE.

Angela Minor
Angela Minor
Enchanted with cruising from my first voyage in the Bahamas on the SS Emerald Seas to Alaska’s Inside Passage. Professional freelance writer and published indie author. Find out more about us here.


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