December 11, 2018

The Truth about Gratuities

Service on most cruise lines is good, but when it’s not what to do?


(Cruise Critic) In a bygone era of cruising, passengers showed their appreciation for crew member service by tipping those who went above and beyond the call of duty. These days, if cruise gratuities aren’t prepaid, most non-luxury lines automatically add tips of anywhere from $14 to $20 per person, per day, to passengers’ shipboard accounts, usually depending on the type of cabin in which passengers are booked.

Most lines — with the exception of Norwegian, which requires cruisers to file a reimbursement request after the cruise ends — allow passengers to adjust or remove automatic tips by visiting the front desk. But just because you can remove gratuities doesn’t mean you should. Below, we explore the pros and cons of tipping versus not tipping on a cruise and consider times when passengers might or might not think about removing cruise auto-gratuities.

Why You Might Remove Automatic Cruise Gratuities
1. You’ve Received Subpar Service
It’s rare that all areas of service are lacking onboard, but it’s certainly not out of the question. If you notice a problem that makes you think twice about tipping, be sure to speak with someone at the front desk who can try to resolve your issue before removing tips becomes necessary. If you truly feel as though the crew has performed below an acceptable standard, you reserve the right to ask for a refund of the amount charged to your account for tips or to decrease it as you see fit.

What Our Members Say: “I withdrew the standard tip on a recent cruise due to horrible service. All I asked is that the restaurant where the horrible service occurred would not receive the tip and even asked that they reassign that tip to the cabin stewards. It was a point of principle. We were told no and we had to withdraw all. We did this but tipped individually the appropriate people as advised by guest relations and indeed to excess.” –Pavovsky

2. You Prefer to Recognize Specific Individuals for a Job Well Done
With auto-gratuities, tips are pooled, and a portion goes to each person who helps to make your sailing special — even those behind-the-scenes folks (laundry staff, cooks, etc.) you never get to meet in person. If you feel strongly that you’d rather recognize your room steward or waiter individually for stellar service, feel free to do it the old-school way — by presenting him or her with an envelope full of cash.

What Our Members Say: “I prefer the personal exchange of handing a nicely filled envelope to those who have served me well.” –Mamabean

3. You Don’t Agree With or Aren’t Accustomed to Mandatory Cruise Tipping
Tipping on cruises is a hotly debated topic, and no article about it would be complete without a mention of those who feel gratuities are supposed to be extra, rather than implied. In some countries and cultures, gratuities are neither the norm, nor are they expected. Even in America, where tipping is a way of life, some people resent being forced to pay a daily charge for services that might be considered the standard duties of one’s job.

To avoid issues, some lines that cater to passengers in regions where tipping isn’t customary — the U.K. and Australia, for example — simply roll any such service charges into the overall cruise fares. However, most cruise lines are based in the U.S., where the crew members’ pay structure is based on tips — whether you like it or not. If you refuse to tip on principle, you are impacting the salaries of the people who have served you well onboard.

What Our Members Say: “I don’t tip. Do I feel bad for it? No… I’m British.”

Anne Vipond About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.