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Travel | Traveling | AAA Traveler Worldwise
What You Should Know About Tipping Before Your Next Cruise


Many of us love cruising because of the exemplary service we receive onboard the ship but recognizing that high-quality service with gratuities can be complex, especially when different cruise lines have different policies. It's a challenge to understand who, when, and how you're supposed to tip on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean’s Director of Sales, Lisa Falango, shared some basic guidelines cruisers can expect on their next voyage.

“So, we charge for anything that’s under a Junior Suite [on Royal Caribbean],” says Falango. “So Junior Suite and below, we charge $14.50 per person, per day. And then if you’re in a Junior Suite or higher, it’s a little bit higher at $17.50 per person, per day.”

While the gratuity amounts charged daily vary by cruise line, you can expect to see a daily charge regardless of which cruise line you sail. So, where does that daily gratuity go?

“It goes to your cabin steward or your suite attendant, and then also the dining staff,” says Falango. “It gets broken down into three departments, and then it gets divided out to all of the wonderful staff that treats you so well."
Cruise ship
Most cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, give you the ability to prepay your gratuities or have them charged back to your onboard account once you’re on the ship.

“It’s personal preference,” advises Falango. “Some people love to just go and have everything paid for before their vacation starts, and some people just like to pay as they go along. It’s really just a personal choice.”

Outside of the daily charge, guests should expect to tip bar staff that provides drink service.

“If you are at a bar and order a drink, we would charge an 18% gratuity per beverage, and on specialty coffee as well,” says Falango.

Guests may find a beverage package helps make these gratuities a bit easier.

"If you get [a] beverage package, which is always a great value anyway because it does not only include the alcoholic beverages, but specialty coffees, waters, and juices, but the gratuities are automatically included in the package,” advises Falango.
Ships docked
While beverage package options vary from cruise line to cruise line, most include gratuities making it easier for you to enjoy your onboard experience without having to worry about the hassle of tipping. If you purchase a beverage package, always be sure to check your onboard statement to make sure all drinks and gratuities have been charged correctly. If you opt not to purchase a beverage package, an 18% tip is a safe bet.

As for other services onboard the ship, such as spa services, additional gratuities may be required, and pre-determined amounts will vary by cruise line.

But if you receive that high-quality service and want to recognize an employee for a job well done, it's easier than you think.

“You would just go to Guest Services and just have a conversation,” advises Falango. “Say, ‘I either want to adjust this up,’ or, ‘I want to adjust this down,’ give a reason, and we’ll be happy to accommodate whatever you want to do.”

Part of the cruise experience includes the fantastic ports and different destinations that guests can experience through excursions. General gratuity guidelines include $3 per person for transportation, and $5 to $10 per person for a tour guide.

Researching your cruise line’s gratuity guidelines and options in advance of your departure, or speaking with your Travel Agent, will help you understand your commitment to recognizing quality service. Bringing extra cash to recognize employees that go above and beyond to giving you an amazing cruise experience is recommended, but gratuities all come down to personal choice.