The Hidden Cost of Cruising: Breaking Down Carnival Cruise’s Gratuity System

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When planning your Carnival Cruise, it’s a good idea to know the details about gratuities, also known as tips. You can budget for your cruise more efficiently if you understand how much you have to tip. As a passenger, you’ll need to consider the daily gratuity charges. These charges depend on the type of room you choose for your stay.

In the image, a bartender at Carnival Mardi Gras' Fortune Teller Bar expertly pours a smoky cocktail into an ornate decanter, showcasing the dramatic flair of mixology aboard the cruise. The bar's atmosphere is enhanced by the bartender's focused expression and the striking visual of the vapor-like effect, promising a mystical and immersive drinking experience.

In this article, I’ll explain how much gratuities are and how you can pay them.

The Cost of Gratuities on Carnival

As of March 1, 2024, the gratuity rate on Carnival Cruises is $16 (USD) per person per day for standard staterooms, including interior, ocean view, or balcony cabins. For guests staying in suites, which provide additional amenities and more personalized services, the rate is slightly higher at $18 per person per day.

To illustrate how these charges are applied, consider a couple staying in a balcony cabin for a seven-day cruise. They would be charged $32 each day (which is $16 per person x 2) for a total of $224 for the duration of the cruise.

The image shows a room steward in a blue uniform meticulously preparing a towel animal on a neatly made bed in a Carnival Breeze stateroom. The cozy and well-appointed room, with its warm lighting and inviting decor, offers a glimpse into the attentive service and charming touches that enhance the cruise experience for guests.

All Guests Must Pay and Why

On a Carnival cruise, all guests, except those under the age of two, must pay the daily gratuity charge. This fee is obligatory regardless of the level of service usage, such as how often the room steward services the room or whether guests dine in the main dining rooms.

For example, in a family of four, each person is charged the daily gratuity, irrespective of whether they occupy one room or multiple rooms​.

These gratuities provide a convenient way for passengers to extend tips to hardworking crew members. Automatic gratuities are typically added to guests’ onboard accounts at a set daily rate, either daily or in one or two lump sums during the cruise. Guests also have the option to prepay these gratuities at the rate prevailing at the time of their cruise booking, which can help avoid extra charges during the cruise​.

Gratuities are distributed among various crew members, including those in dining services and stateroom attendants. For instance, waiters in the “Your Time Dining” program pool or share the tips that are prepaid or charged to guests’ accounts. Extra cash tips given to servers are usually kept by them and shared only with their assistant waiter.

The photograph showcases a vibrant dining atmosphere aboard the Carnival Vista, where a waiter, attentively serving guests, enhances the dining experience. Elegantly set tables and the warm glow of overhead lighting create an inviting ambiance as diners enjoy their meal and conversation.

Prepaid Gratuities on Carnival

Prepaid gratuities help you tip the crew in advance, so you won’t have to worry later. This system provides a simple and convenient way for passengers to reward the hardworking staff for their services. Instead of dealing with the hassle of tipping each crew member individually, you can prepay your gratuities before you even set foot on the cruise.

However, you can pay for the gratuities at the end of the cruise instead. A common topic in cruise forums and social media groups is the decision to prepay gratuities. This is a universal query across various cruise lines, but it’s particularly prevalent among those who frequently sail with Carnival.

The reason, I believe, is often due to the affordability of Carnival cruises. Many passengers, aiming to maintain the low-cost appeal of their trip, seek the most economical method to handle their gratuity payments. After all, we’re all keen to save money where possible, aren’t we? When considering whether to prepay gratuities on a Carnival cruise, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer; it can be beneficial to prepay at times, while in other instances, it might not be.

You Can Modify the Gratuity Amount

You can modify the gratuity amount charged on your Carnival Cruise Line bill by visiting the Guest Services desk on the ship or contacting Carnival’s customer service department before your cruise.

It’s also possible to adjust or even remove the gratuity charges if you haven’t prepaid them and they appear on your onboard bill. You can request these changes at the Guest Services desk before the sailing ends​​​​​​​.

The Services Included

The automatic gratuity on Carnival cruises doesn’t cover every service on the ship. This automatic service gratuity primarily covers the exceptional service provided by the cabin stewards, dining room waitstaff, and other crew members. These are the essential services that guests encounter daily and form a significant part of their cruise experience.

However, there are additional services and scenarios where separate gratuity charges are applied or expected:

1. Shipboard Personnel Services

An additional service charge is typically added to whatever you purchase for services like those provided by bartenders and spa workers. On Carnival, this additional gratuity is 18%. For example, a $10 cocktail would actually cost $11.80, and a $109 spa massage would come to $128.62. This also applies to purchases like the drink package or dining at specialty restaurants, where an 18% gratuity is added to the price.

The image captures a tranquil scene of a couple enjoying a relaxing massage at the Cloud 9 Spa on a Carnival cruise, with two therapists attending to them. The spa's interior, bathed in soft natural light from the large windows overlooking the ocean, creates a serene atmosphere perfect for unwinding and enjoying the expansive sea views.

2. Room Service

Room service staff who deliver meals or snacks to your stateroom are not covered by the automatic gratuity. It’s customary to tip them in cash, typically between $2-5, when they deliver the food.

Recommended reading: Is room service free on carnival?

The photograph captures a heartwarming family moment on a Carnival Cruise, where a father and his two children are enjoying breakfast in their stateroom. The room is filled with natural light, and the table is set with room service offerings including croissants and coffee, illustrating the convenience and joy of dining together in the comfort of their private space.

3. Alternative Tipping

Besides the automatic gratuity, passengers can choose to provide additional tips to individual crew members who have exceeded their expectations. This is entirely voluntary and can be given in cash or through the onboard guest services desk.

4. Group Bookings and Special Services

Additional gratuities may be automatically added to the final bill for group bookings or specific services like spa treatments. It’s important for guests to review the terms and conditions or consult with Carnival Cruise representatives regarding these additional charges.

5. Services on Land

Tips for services provided on land, such as baggage handlers and shore excursion operators, are not included in the cruise line’s gratuity policy. These service providers are not affiliated with the cruise line and should be tipped separately.

To Prepay or Not to Prepay?

Firstly, prepaid gratuities on a Carnival cruise offer numerous advantages. They allow for a more streamlined and hassle-free vacation experience. You avoid worrying about daily gratuities being added to your account during the trip. Plus, it brings transparency.

However, prepaid gratuities also have their downsides. They may limit your flexibility to tip directly for exceptional service. If the service doesn’t meet my expectations, I might feel stuck, having already paid the gratuities. Plus, Carnival charges gratuities per person, not per room, which could add up for larger groups or families.

The image depicts a bustling family dining scene on the Carnival Vista, with a smiling waiter serving delicious meals. A woman in a red blouse is engaging with a young girl, surrounded by a lively group, all seated at a table adorned with glasses and cutlery, indicative of the ship's warm and family-friendly atmosphere.

Whether to prepay your gratuities boils down to your personal preference. If you like to plan and budget your expenses upfront, prepaying could be a good choice. Additionally, you can always give cash tips to the staff for any extra services or to express your appreciation.

However, if you prefer flexibility and the ability to tip based on the level of service, you should skip prepaying. Regardless of your decision, remember that these gratuities go a long way in appreciating the effort of the crew who strive to make your cruise memorable.

Final Takeaway

When it comes to service gratuities on a Carnival cruise, it’s generally a good practice to pay them, even if there are minor hiccups during your trip. If you have a positive experience, giving them extra cash aside from the automatic service charge is nice. It’s important to remember that these crew members often go above and beyond to make our cruise experience unique and enjoyable.

Also, you can give an additional tip if you’re happy with shore excursions or other services. However, it would be best to do that before disembarking from the ship to ensure the right people receive your gratitude. Paying gratuities is more than just a financial transaction; it shows appreciation for the hard work and exceptional service.

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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