If you’re planning your first cruise, you may be a little confused on the topic of tips for crew members. Who should you tip, when and how? Be assured that even experienced cruisers can be confused about tips: cruise line policies on tipping vary, as do the tipping practices of individual passengers (and the advice they may give you).
On top of that, some cruise lines are changing their policies to accommodate cultural differences in tipping: for example, while Americans are accustomed to recognizing good service with a generous tip, in some European countries tips are considered to insulting to professional, well-paid servers. And, some lines are automatically charge a set amount for gratuities to your onboard account (though you have the option to adjust them).
Let’s start with the question of to tip or not to tip. Unless you are on a cruise with a “no tipping” policy – which actually means that gratuities for the crew have been built into your fare – you should tip the crew members who serve you directly. This includes cabin stewards and butlers, dining room waiters, assistant waiters, head waiters and wine stewards. These crew members not only expect tips for a job well done, they rely on tips to supplement their wages.
Tips are usually presented on the last night of the cruise. Some cruise lines equip your stateroom with envelopes for this purpose; envelopes or not, it’s always best to hand tips directly to the recipients. (By the way, it’s standard practice for the crew members who receive tips to pass a share of them on to the crew members you don’t usually see, such as the cabin cleaners and bus boys).
If another crew member – such as a bartender or a kids’ club counselor – provides exemplary service, it’s certainly acceptable for you to give them a tip.
Note that shore excursion drivers and guides, spa technicians, and luggage handlers also appreciate tips at the time of service.
As for how much to tip, most cruise lines provide suggestions for gratuities for various crew members. These guidelines are helpful, but remember that the amount of any tip is really up to you, given your opinion of the service you received. And, you should definitely include money for gratuities in your cruise budget! For more information, talk with Anita Thompson, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.