Remember the days when your wallet overflowed with dollar bills just to tip every person you met on your cruise? Those days are mostly gone, and the cruise industry has seen shifts that might leave even a seasoned sailor slightly baffled.

Major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have opted for the convenience of automatic service charges. But what does that mean for your pocket? We will also discuss if you can refuse cruise line gratuities or whether these gratuities are mandatory and what amount to offer as a tip to the staff of the cruise ship.

Do You Have To Pay Gratuities on a Cruise?

The short and sweet answer? Mostly, yes. But how you pay has transformed over the years. While the romantic idea of handing over crisp dollar bills after a stellar cabin service might appeal to some, most cruise lines now embrace the future with automatic gratuities. These are fees automatically added to your onboard account, making the whole tipping process smoother than a dolphin’s skin.

woman giving a tip to her server

Remember the hassle of figuring out how much to give the cabin steward or your dining room server? Those days are becoming ancient history as more and more cruise lines integrate gratuities into their cruise fare.

Brands like Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises now have an option of prepaid gratuities, allowing passengers to handle all gratuity-related concerns even before setting sail. But don’t worry! For those who enjoy the old-school method, some cruise lines still allow you to remove gratuities and tips as you please. So, whether you’re a fan of automatic tipping or prefer the classic “hand-it-over” method, there’s a cruise out there that fits your bill. Or rather, your tip! 😉🛳️.

How Much Are Tips on a Cruise?

Hold on to your sailor hats because this is where it gets a tad bit technical (and where those calculator apps come in handy). Generally, the daily gratuity fee charged on mainstream cruise lines ranges from $14 to $20 per person per day. However, luxury cruises – you know, the ones with the gold-plated shuffleboards – might charge a bit more. If you indulge in special services like spa and salon services, be prepared to dish out a little extra.

For a 7-day cruise with a daily service fee of $15, you’re looking at $105 in gratuities. But remember, this isn’t just for your cabin attendant fluffing your pillows. Cruise lines ensure an equitable distribution of these funds among the crew members – from your room steward to the kitchen staff. The system in place ensures everyone gets their fair share for the hard work they put in.

dollar bills on a tray beside a pen

Remember the good ol’ days of the cash tipping system? It often led to the visible staff (like dining servers) getting more and the behind-the-scenes heroes (like laundry personnel) getting less. The current approach ensures a more even-handed distribution.

Now, about those porters who help you with your luggage: it’s still customary to give them a couple of bucks per bag. As for tour guides off the ship, a tip of $5-$10 depending on the excursion’s length and quality is a kind gesture.

What Are Cruise Line-Specific Tipping Rates?

Woman questioning the money she received

Here’s a compiled list of what some major cruise lines typically charge for gratuities. Remember, these rates might vary, and it’s always best to double-check directly with the cruise line:

  1. Carnival Cruise Line: Standard staterooms: $16.00 per person, per day; suites: $18.00 per person, per day.
  2. Celebrity Cruises: Ocean view or inside rooms: $17.50 per person, per day; Concierge/Aqua class: $18 per person, per day; The Retreat: $21 per person, per day.
  3. Holland America Line: Most standard staterooms: $16.00 per person, per day; suites: $17.50 per person, per day.
  4. MSC Cruises: Caribbean cruise gratuities for children under 2 are free, children up to 12 years old have a $7.50 per child, per day charge; Adults or teens are charged $14.50 per person, per day.
  5. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): Standard rooms: $20.00 per person, per day; Haven and Suite guests: $25.00 per person, per day.
  6. Royal Caribbean: Standard rooms: $16 per person, per day; suites: $18.50 per person, per day.
  7. Disney Cruise Line: Ranges from $14.50 to $15.50 per person, per day based on the type of stateroom or suite.
  8. Oceania Cruises: Around $18.00 per person, per day for standard, $23.00 for guests staying in Vista, Penthouse, Oceania, or Owner’s Suites.
  9. Princess Cruises: Interior, Oceanview, and Balcony charge $16 per person, per day, Mini-Suite and Reserve Collection go up to $17, and Suites cost $18 per day.
  10. Viking: Included in the cruise fare, $17 per person regardless of cabin type.
  11. Virgin Voyages: No charge.
  12. Windstar Cruises: Typically, $16.00 per person, per day.

Always refer to the official cruise line sites or their guest services for the most recent and specific details. And remember, cruising is all about relaxation, so don’t let gratuities stress you out!

How Do Gratuity Service Charges Work?

When you think of cruises, you might imagine endless buffets and rejuvenating spa treatments. But here’s a quirky little tidbit: while your onboard account might get charged daily for general gratuities, extra services come with their own set of gratuity guidelines.

Ordering a mojito at the ship’s bar? Or perhaps, a relaxing massage at the onboard spa? Most cruise lines include a service charge, usually around 15-20%. And guess what? The beverage packages or those tantalizing salon services you treat yourself to might already include gratuities.

hotel service crew in uniform

Now, a word to the wise: Double-tipping can occur. If you notice a charge labeled “service fees” or similar on your bill, it’s wise to confirm if it’s a gratuity or not. We don’t want to unintentionally lavish our ship crew with double blessings, even though they’re delightful.

Fun fact: Embarking on an adventurous shore excursion? The shore excursion guide usually doesn’t fall under the cruise’s tipping system. So, it’s a gracious gesture to tip them a few dollars for their expert insights and maybe for saving you from getting lost in a tropical rainforest.

Advance vs. Site Payment on Cruise Ships

Paying in advance is like being that person who buys their cinema tickets two weeks before the movie premiere. The advantages? It helps to budget your trip well in advance, making sure that you’re not faced with a surprising final bill full of cruise gratuities. Moreover, it’s one less thing to think about, especially if you’ve already bought a drink package. Sipping on a piña colada on the deck? Financial peace of mind? Yes, please!

Woman holding a phone and credit card smiling

On the other hand, paying on-site can offer flexibility, especially if you plan to remove gratuities (for whatever personal reasons you might have). But remember, the cruise line will keep a tab on your gratuities and other expenses, which will be presented to you towards the end of your voyage. The choice, as they say, is yours!

In essence, both these payment methods have their merits. Consider your personal financial habits and choose the one that feels like smooth sailing. Happy cruising! 🚢🍹🌞

Can I Opt Out of Paying Gratuities on a Cruise?

Now here’s a burning question for some cruise-goers. After spending on that dreamy balcony suite or splurging on that extravagant club balcony suite, some may wonder if they can adjust those gratuity charges. So, can you?

The short answer? Yes, in most cases, but with some caveats. Here’s the scoop: Most cruise lines allow passengers to remove gratuities from their onboard account. If you feel that the service did not meet your expectations, you can visit the guest services desk on the ship. They’ll likely ask you some questions about your decision, just to gather feedback and ensure they’re continually improving. Remember, it’s all about ensuring you have the best cruising experience. Prepaid cruise gratuities are also an option.

hotel receptionist on the phone

However, tread carefully. These gratuities are the primary way that hardworking crew members, from your cabin steward to the folks serving your dinners, are compensated for their exceptional service. Only adjust if there’s a genuine reason.

In What Cases Are Gratuities Not Charged?

Serenade of the Seas cruise floating on the sea

There are a few instances where your bill might seem gratuity-free. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Luxury Cruise Lines: Some high-end luxury cruise lines bundle gratuities in the cruise fare. This means you won’t see an additional charge, but you’re technically still paying—it’s just more discreet.
  2. Promotions: Occasionally, cruise lines might run promotions where gratuities are included as part of a package deal. Always read the fine print when booking a promotion to see if this perk is included!
  3. Certain Services: Not all services aboard charge gratuities. For instance, if you’ve bought a beverage package, the gratuities might already be built into the package price. The same might be true for certain spa packages.
  4. Children: Some cruise lines don’t charge gratuities for kids below a certain age. But this can vary, so it’s always best to check in advance.

So, before you assume you’re sailing away gratuity-free, it’s always a good idea to ask and confirm. Happy cost-effective cruising! 🌊🌅.

Cruise Lines That Allow Removal of Gratuities

Celebrity Cruise Ship floating on the sea

When it comes to gratuities, it’s all about flexibility. Some cruisers absolutely appreciate the service they receive and have no qualms about the added charges, while others prefer to have more control over what they tip. To help you navigate these waters, here’s a list of cruise lines that typically allow passengers to modify or remove the automatic gratuities:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Royal Caribbean
  3. Cunard
  4. Carnival
  5. Holland America
  6. MSC
  7. Oceania
  8. NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line)
  9. Windstar

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers many of the mainstream cruise lines. Always check the specific cruise line’s policy before setting sail, as terms can change.


Navigating the waters of cruise ships and their tipping practices can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s clear sailing once you grasp the basics. Many cruise lines have made life simpler by integrating automatic gratuities into the experience, ensuring crew members get their well-deserved share. Remember, these gratuities typically cover your cabin steward, dining teams, and other onboard staff. But, for that exceptional massage or standout dining experience, a little extra shows your appreciation.

Senior Citizen couple looking at a map

If you’re not keen on the preset amounts, some lines even let you adjust them. It’s all about ensuring both cruise passengers and crew have an enjoyable voyage. Next time you’re setting sail, you’ll be more than prepared to tip (or not) with confidence. Safe travels! 🚢✨


What happens if you don’t pay gratuity on a cruise?

If you choose not to pay the gratuity on a cruise, it’s essential to be proactive. Most cruise lines automatically add the charge to your onboard account. If you want to refuse, you’ll need to notify the guest services desk. Otherwise, the amount may be automatically charged to the credit card on file, potentially leading to unexpected fees at the end of your voyage.

How do you avoid gratuities on a cruise?

To avoid gratuities on a cruise, you must take action. While gratuities are optional on most cruises, they’re typically automatically added to your onboard account. To ensure they aren’t included in your final bill, you should notify guest services or the front desk in advance. It’s all about clear communication to ensure you aren’t billed unexpectedly.

Is it mandatory to pay gratuities on a cruise?

No, gratuities on a cruise aren’t mandatory. However, they are automatically added to most onboard accounts as a convenience for passengers. They serve as a token of appreciation for the hard-working crew. If a passenger wishes to adjust or remove these gratuities, it’s usually possible, but it’s essential to inform the cruise line’s guest services or the front desk.

Can you refuse to pay gratuities on Royal Caribbean?

Yes, you can. While Royal Caribbean automatically adds gratuities to your onboard account for convenience, passengers have the right to adjust or refuse these charges. If you choose to go this route, it’s essential to visit the guest services desk during your cruise to make the necessary adjustments, ensuring your final bill reflects your choice. Similarly, if you need to cancel your Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s important to be aware of their cancellation policies and procedures to understand any potential fees or refunds you may be entitled to.