Tipping on a cruise ship is a good thing to understand before you set sail, and even experienced cruisers can benefit from a quick review of current tipping practices.
The most important thing to understand about tipping the crew on a cruise ship is that it’s customary and expected. It’s a traditional way to show appreciation for the hard work of the crew, but it’s also an important part of the crew’s compensation. Many cruise lines pay base wages with the understanding that crew members will increase their income through tips earned by doing their jobs well.
It used to be common for passengers to tip crew members with cash, but that was not very convenient – it meant bringing a bunch of cash on board, then roaming around the ship to hand it out to crew members on the final evening of the cruise.
So, many cruise lines have automated the tipping process by adding a service charge – usually a set amount per person, per day – to your shipboard account. Some lines even give you the option of pre-paying this service charge when you book your cruise. This is definitely more convenient for you and helps ensure a more even distribution of tips to hard-working crew members, including those who do much of their work behind the scenes.
Some luxury lines have no-tipping policies; but, that can really mean that tips for the crew have already been built into your fare.
While tipping is expected on cruise ships, it’s technically not required. So, it’s possible to opt-out of automatic service charges, whether that’s because you don’t like tipping or you want to tip in cash as you see fit. Just remember that it can be difficult to personally tip all of the crew members who work to give you a great cruise experience; paying the automatic service charge ensures your tips will be fully and equitably distributed.
You can also choose to tip more than the standard service charge. Simply visit the passenger services desk and ask to increase the service charge amount on your shipboard account. Or, bring along some $5, $10 and $20 bills so you can tip the old-fashioned way, by handing cash to a favorite room steward, bartender, waiter, sommelier, kids club counselor, or other crew members.
Finally, remember to tip people who help you out but don’t work for the cruise line, such as the baggage handlers at the port and onshore tour operators.
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