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Tips on Ships: Everything You Need to Know About Cruise Gratuities | Frommer's Salvador Aznar / Shutterstock

Tips on Ships: Everything You Need to Know About Cruise Gratuities

What to expect—and what to budget—when it comes to tipping on the high seas

Figuring out which service employees you should tip—and how much you should give—is a perennial head scratcher in travel. To help remove some of the guesswork, many cruise lines now automatically apply recommended “crew appreciation” amounts to your stateroom account.

But those amounts vary by ship, cruise line, stateroom, and other factors. What’s more, although the gratuity charges are automatically applied to your account in most cases, you can opt out of paying those fees, provided you haven’t purchased a prepaid gratuities package (those are nonrefundable). So confusion remains a possibility. 

To help you sort things out, the following guidelines will give you an idea of what to expect with tipping on cruises and provide some answers to frequently asked questions.  

How much am I expected to tip?

In general, plan on giving $16–$23 in gratuities per day for each passenger. Note that the amount should be tabulated for each individual in your party—don’t try to tip once per couple or group.

So if you’re planning to go on a 7-day cruise, expect to give a total of between $112 and $161 per person in gratuities. Don’t forget to factor those charges into your overall vacation budget. 

How do I tip?

For most cruises—including those operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line to name a few—service gratuities in the amounts mentioned above are automatically added to your stateroom account each day.

On top of the daily service rate, you may also see automatic gratuities (often an additional 15%–20%) for specialty services such as spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, specialty dining (at restaurants not included in the overall cruise rate), and other extras you partake in.   

At the end of your cruise, you’ll be given a document (usually slipped under your door) that lists various charges, including gratuities, for your review. Once reviewed and approved with guest services, payment is completed with a credit card before you depart the ship on the final day. 

Do tipping amounts vary by cruise line?

Yup—and the range of your gratuity total depends on the stateroom category you’re staying in, too.

With Princess Cruises, for instance, the current tip amount for each passenger staying in interior, ocean-view, and balcony staterooms is $16 per day; for mini suites it’s $17 per day; and for suites it’s $18 per day.

The gratuities ranges with Celebrity Cruises, meanwhile, start at $17.50 per day for inside, ocean-view, and veranda units; $18 per day for Concierge Class and Aqua Class rooms; and $21 per day for suites in The Retreat area.

On the higher end of the spectrum, Oceania Cruises charges $18 per day in tips for passengers in regular staterooms, $23 per day for customers in suites.

Cruise lines frequently raise those amounts, too. 

How do I find out how much my ship charges for tips?

You should be able to find that info on the cruise line’s website. Below, we’ve linked to the web pages containing the prices and policies relating to service charges and gratuities for some of the most popular companies. 

Royal Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line


Disney Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Holland America Line

Do the daily tipping amounts apply to every single passenger? Even kids?

Depends on the cruise line. According to Disney Cruise Line, for instance, tipping applies to everyone—even infants.

But other ships do make exceptions for little ones. Passengers ages 2 and younger are exempt from tipping aboard Carnival cruises, for example, while Norwegian excuses kids ages 3 and younger, and Costa Cruises exempts kids ages 4 and younger.

Consult the cruise company’s online FAQ or your travel agent for more info, but, generally speaking, you shouldn’t expect any youngsters older than toddlerhood to get out of tipping. 

Service charges, gratuities, crew appreciation fees—what’s the difference?

The terminology gets confusing because it doesn’t seem to be consistent across cruise lines. Just know that there are usually two types of fees in this area: 1.) the flat daily fee charged to each passenger and then pooled among crew members (including room attendants and waitstaff at restaurants included in your cruise rate) and 2.) service tips (amounting to 15%–20% of the total) automatically added to your account when you opt for extras such as specialty dining, premium alcoholic beverages, spa or salon services, and so on. Obviously, you’ll only be charged the latter type of gratuity for extras you actually participate in.

How are tips divided among crew members?

If you agree to the automatic gratuities, the people who tend to you the most—your housekeeping and dining teams—get the largest share.

When my family of three (two adults and one 16-month-old baby) sailed with Disney Cruise Line in December 2022, we received the following breakdown of who would get what:

• Dining Room Server: $4.75 per person per day

• Assistant Dining Room Server: $3.75 per person per day

• Dining Room Head Server: $1.25 per person per day

• Stateroom Host: $4.75 per person per day

Note that because we didn’t opt for nonrefundable prepaid gratuities for the trip, we were free to visit guest services to change the amounts if we wanted to.

These amounts were also printed on perforated paper and we were supplied with envelopes in case we wanted to tip in cash or give gratuities to attendants in person as a gesture of appreciation.

What if I don’t want to pay the automatically generated tip amount?

If you'd rather have control over how much you tip, stop by the onboard guest services desk at the beginning of your voyage and inform the agents that you want to opt out of electronic gratuities and dole out tips on a case-by-case, à la carte basis. 

Also, if you find that you’re unsatisfied with the service you’re getting, you can ask guest services to modify the amount you’re being charged each day. Royal Caribbean lets you make changes up to the morning of your departure—but to avoid confusion, you should contact guest services as soon as possible to make these types of changes. 

The exception: passengers who purchased prepaid gratuities as part of a package. You can’t get a refund for tips you pay upfront. 

Can I tip in cash?

Cash tips are certainly still welcomed—especially if that’s what you’re more comfortable with or if you don't want to rely on the cruise line’s predetermined amounts.

It’s just important to remember that if you go this route, it's on you to opt out of the ship’s gratuities program by going to guest services at the beginning of your sailing. 

What if I want to tip some crew members more than the automatically generated amounts?

Cash is also a good option if you want to tip some workers extra for service that warrants it. If you’ve dined in mostly one spot every night of the cruise, you might want to give tips to especially attentive waitstaff on the last evening of the cruise. On a recent voyage with our baby, my family gave an additional in-person tip to our stateroom attendant for above-and-beyond service such as helping us set up the baby monitor—not to mention all the times the attendant whisked away potent diapers without so much as a grimace.

Are gratuities included in all prepaid packages for dining, drinks, and other services?

Not necessarily. 

More and more ships now offer passengers prepaid packages for a bundle of specialty dining, top-shelf drinks, Wi-Fi, and other perks (for an example, take a look at prepaid packages available from Princess Cruises). The advantage here is that you lock in a discounted overall daily rate that throws in several extras that could otherwise add up—though you should calculate ahead of your trip whether you’ll actually use everything in the bundle to justify buying the package.

But don’t assume that gratuities are part of every prepaid package. Some companies, such as Disney, have stand-alone prepaid gratuities packages intended to make your trip relatively worry-free in the tip department because you’ve already paid for all gratuities in advance.

But with other packages, tips are only covered where specified. Royal Caribbean’s dining-and-drinks package, for instance, only covers tips for restaurant and bar staff, not housekeeping crew—so you’ll still have the automatic service charge added to your stateroom account each day unless you purchase a supplementary gratuities package.

Always make sure to review everything that’s included in the package—and what’s not—so you won’t get any unpleasant surprises. 

It’s also important to remember that gratuities included in prepaid packages are nonrefundable, so you won’t be able to modify tip amounts even if you get bad service during the cruise.

Should I tip a porter who helps me with my luggage?

Porters are contracted by the port, not the cruise line. They usually work independently of the ship, unless otherwise indicated. So if you solicit a porter for help toting your luggage from a vehicle to the ship’s check-in area, express your appreciation with $1–$3 per bag, depending on its weight.

Should I tip ship bartenders?

These days, you’ll rarely see a tip jar on the bar, and, as noted above, an automatic service charge of 15%–20% is already added to your account for alcoholic and specialty drinks. However, if you had a go-to bartender who learned your drink by heart or gave you stellar service throughout the voyage, consider expressing your gratitude with $1–$2 per drink. 

Should I tip guides for shore excursions?

The tipping advice we solicited from Princess provides some solid guidelines: For half-day tours, budget $3–$5 per person for guides, and for full-day tours plan on $6–$10 per person. Drivers should get $1–$2 per person.

Do I need to tip for onboard spa and salon treatments?

As previously noted, spa and salon staff members get a portion of the automatic service charge added to your stateroom bill for these treatments. You are free, however, to tip staff members extra if you’re especially impressed with their work.

Do I need to tip the ship's daycare workers and kids’ camp counselors?

There is no gratuity required but, again, you can offer a cash tip if staff members went out of their way to make your kiddo’s sailing extra special.

Are there crew members I shouldn’t tip?

It’s considered poor form to tip the ship’s professional sailing members, such as the cruise director, executive chef, and captain. Giving those folks gratuities would be like tipping your doctor or lawyer. 

Are predetermined tipping amounts calculated in U.S. dollars?

In most cases, though some Europe-based lines, such as MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, charge in euros. Keep that in mind when calculating your budget.

Are there cruises where you’re not expected to tip?

Bundled package deals seem like a precursor to a future of tip-free cruising. As a matter of fact, many luxury and high-end lines such as Seabourn, Celestyal Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, Paul Gaugin, Ponant, Regent Seven Seas, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, and Virgin Voyages have already implemented gratuity-free cruises with tips built into the total cost of all-inclusive sailings.

That might make the cruise’s base rate higher, but the practice helps eliminate confusion and awkwardness for passengers and ensures that crew members will get a full wage from their employers rather than relying on customers to make up the difference.