A tip seems like a simple thing – a little extra money given to someone who provides you with a service, with the amount of the tip reflecting the excellence of the service. On cruise ships, however, tipping has become a complex topic.
Traditionally, cruise passengers would find sets of empty envelopes, labeled with the names of the specific crew members who served them, in their cabins toward the end of a cruise. Passengers filled the envelopes with tips and distributed them on the last day of the cruise.
Tipping became more challenging as ships introduced alternative restaurants and open seating in dining rooms, which meant that passengers might not see the same waiters more than once or twice on the cruise. And, what about the crewmembers at the casual buffet, where many passengers now eat breakfast and lunch?
In addition, cruising now attracts more international travelers who may not have the same tipping customs as North Americans. In some cultures, passengers may assume that tips are automatically added to their bills; and others are completely unfamiliar with the practice of tipping.
To solve the question of who should be tipped, when and how much, some cruise lines now add “automatic” tip charges to passenger’s onboard accounts. These automatic charges are usually $10 to $12 per person, per day. Some cruise lines also add gratuities of 15 to 20 percent to bar and alternative restaurant bills. Others – usually high-end cruise lines -- have “no tipping” policies, with all payments for services rendered assumed to be covered in the price of the cruise. Your personal cruise expert can help you understand the tipping policy on your specific cruise and ship.
It’s important to remember, though, that a tip is always an optional payment. On ships that add automatic tips to your bill, you can ask to have the charges reduced or removed. You can also reward exemplary service by handing a cash tip to any crewmember at any time. This will be greatly appreciated by crew members who go above and beyond the call of duty to make your cruise experience special.