How Much Should You REALLY Tip on a Cruise?

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Taking your first cruise can be an exciting yet somewhat daunting experience, especially when it comes to knowing how much to tip the staff. This can be particularly confusing if you’re from the UK, where tipping isn’t as ingrained in daily life.

A close-up image of a hand holding a small folded stack of U.S. dollar bills, suggesting a cash transaction or a tip. The background is a plain, neutral color.

On a cruise, standard gratuities are typically added to your bill, and you might want to give extra tips to show your appreciation. It can be helpful to see what other cruisers do and decide what feels right for you. 

Remember, there’s no strict rule on this, and it’s up to you to decide how much extra you want to tip, if at all. So, let’s explore what might be reasonable when it comes to tipping cruise staff.

Gratuities for Drinks

Bartender with colorful tattoos preparing a cocktail at Royal Caribbean's Bamboo Room, twisting orange peel over a classic drink garnished with a cherry.

When you’re on a cruise, your standard gratuities generally cover most staff, but there are times when you’ll need to tip more. One of these is when you order a drinks package. This package usually gives you unlimited drinks during your trip.

However, the advertised price for your drinks package isn’t always the full amount you’ll pay. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises often tack on a fixed gratuity fee when you purchase a drinks package. This fee is usually around 18%.

Sometimes, a gratuity is added to every individual drink you order, regardless of whether you have a package. This depends on the cruise line and the country from which your ship departs. Rules can vary greatly, so it’s important to check the terms and conditions of your booking.

For instance, if you’ve booked a drinks package that costs £200, you might end up paying an extra £36 in gratuities if the 18% service charge applies. Always factor in these additional costs when planning your budget.

Additional Charges for Spa Treatments

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.

Similar to drinks, spa treatments on cruises often come with extra gratuities. Although you’ll see a price listed for your treatment, many cruise lines will add an extra gratuity to this price. This additional fee usually ranges from 15% to 20%.

So, if you’re planning on pampering yourself with a massage or facial, remember that the listed price isn’t the final amount. For example, a massage priced at £100 may end up costing you £115 to £120 after the service charge is applied.

You should also keep in mind that while the regular gratuities and these extra charges usually allow you to avoid additional tipping, some cruise lines have clear policies against extra tipping.

For instance, P&O Cruises, being a British cruise line where tipping culture is less common, suggests that no extra tipping is expected. Similarly, MSC Cruises advises from the UK website: “MSC Cruises does not recommend tipping individual members of staff.”

However, many passengers, particularly those from cultures where tipping is customary, choose to give extra tips. It’s entirely up to you if you want to follow suit and tip more on top of the automatic tips.

Quick Tips:

  • Check your cruise line’s policy: Each cruise line has its own guidelines for gratuities.
  • Be prepared for extra charges: Gratuities for drinks and spa services are common.
  • Know when to prepay: Some cruise lines allow you to prepay your gratuities.

When booking a cruise, it is essential to check how gratuities are handled. Some lines, like Royal Caribbean, may have programmes like MyTime Dining, which requires prepaid gratuities for flexible dining times.

How Much Extra Should You Tip on a Cruise?

On the deck of a luxury cruise ship, guests lounge on sunbeds enjoying drinks, while two waitstaff exchange a stack of cash, smiling. The scene includes a bartender preparing beverages and a distant view of another cruise ship sailing near a lush, mountainous coastline.

Tipping on a cruise can vary widely, and you’re not obligated to tip beyond the automatic gratuities. If you choose to give extra, here are some typical amounts:

  • Drinks or Room Service: £1-£2 per service.
  • Cabin Stewards: £10-£20 per day.

Your automatic gratuity charge usually covers the basics, so anything additional is purely to show appreciation. A little extra might make your experience more enjoyable, like faster service at the bar or special touches in your cabin.

Keep in mind the cruise crew works very hard, often with long hours and extended contracts. Adding a bit more to their tip can be a nice way to thank them for making your holiday special.

Should you stay in a suite or luxury cabin, tipping your butler or other special attendants might also be considered. You could tip £2-£3 per person daily for exceptional service.

How Much to Tip Your Room Steward

A room steward in a formal uniform is standing in a luxurious, well-lit cruise ship cabin with a tray of towels shaped into swans on the bed. The cabin features large windows with a sea view, elegant furnishings, and nautical-themed artwork on the walls.

Tipping your room steward, also known as the cabin steward or stateroom attendant, can vary based on the length of your cruise and the level of service you receive. Typically, you might consider tipping between $2 and $20 per day. Some passengers prefer to tip a lump sum at the start of the cruise to ensure excellent service throughout their trip.

For example, you could start with $20 extra at the beginning and then add a bit more each evening if you are particularly pleased with the service.

Another common approach is to tip your cabin attendants $10 per day. This could total $50 to $100 as a lump sum at the start or end of your journey.

Remember, some cruisers choose not to tip any extra and still report being satisfied with the service. Choose the amount that suits your budget and reflects your appreciation.

How Much to Tip Your Waiter

A waiter in a black apron and bow tie looks displeased as he examines a small tip on a tray in a busy restaurant. The blurred background shows patrons dining, with one holding a glass of wine.

When dining on a cruise, most tips for the Main Dining Room waitstaff are covered by daily gratuities. But if you prefer to tip extra, giving about $100 per week is common. Some cruisers tip per meal instead, with typical amounts being $20 for dinner, $10 for lunch, and $5 for breakfast.

You might have the same waiter every night, depending on your dining setup. This can make your dining experience special, as your waiter will remember your preferences and make each dinner feel unique. Tipping generously, in this case, can be a nice way to show your appreciation.

On the other hand, some people feel the standard gratuities are sufficient and choose not to tip beyond that. This is especially common with flexible dining plans, where you’re likely to have different waiters each night. In these situations, people might be less inclined to tip extra since they may not see the same waiter again.

Whether you decide to tip extra or not, the staff always appreciates showing gratitude for good service.

How Much to Tip Your Bartender

A bartender uses a long stirring spoon to mix a cocktail in a glass beaker filled with ice cubes, set against the backdrop of a dimly lit bar. The bartender's hands and the beaker are in focus, while the background features a warm, bokeh effect from the bar lights.

Tipping your bartender on a per-drink basis is common practice when you’re on a cruise. Many passengers choose to offer $1-2 for each drink they order. If you plan to spend a bit of time at the bar, giving a one-off tip of up to $20 at the beginning is quite normal.

Most cruise lines, like Disney and Royal Caribbean, will give you a receipt for every drink. This allows you to add an extra tip, which will be charged to your onboard account. You can also pay tips using any onboard credit you’ve accumulated.

If you prefer, you can tip in cash using $1 or $2 bills. Bartenders also gladly accept pounds sterling, Euros, or other currencies, as they travel globally and can easily exchange it ashore. However, it’s best to avoid giving coins as they are more troublesome to exchange.

Passengers often tip extra to show appreciation for bartenders, especially when they’re making complex cocktails. Some even tip $20 upfront to ensure faster service during busier times.

If you’ve paid for a drinks package, it likely includes an automatic gratuity. Due to this, many passengers decide not to tip again.

How Much to Tip a Cruise Butler

A cruise butler dressed in a black suit with white gloves holds a silver service bell in one hand while gesturing with the other. The background is softly blurred, highlighting the formality and attention to service detail.

Passengers tend to tip cruise butlers more than other crewmembers because they offer more personalised services and are more hands-on in making your cruise special. On average, you might tip between $200 to $300 per cruise, although some may prefer to tip more.

Butlers are common on luxury cruise lines. Many of these lines, such as Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, include tips in the initial cost. This is designed to cover the butler’s services, but many passengers still choose to give an additional tip.

Butlers, such as Celebrity Cruises and P&O Cruises, are also available in suites. Royal Caribbean offers ‘Royal Genies’ instead of traditional butlers, and they need to be tipped separately, as they are not included in regular gratuities.

Tipping Room Service

A server in a crisp white shirt presents a hotel room service tray with a variety of fresh fruits on a plate, including slices of fig, apple, and grapes, accompanied by stacked white coffee cups and a silver coffee pot, suggesting a luxurious and convenient dining experience.

When it comes to tipping for room service on a cruise, it’s common to leave $1 to $2 per item on the menu. For larger orders or meals, many people opt for around $5.

Ordering small items usually means lower tips, as the total cost is not high. You might also consider that the crew goes out of their way to deliver your order to your stateroom, unlike at a bar where they’re already stationed.

Some cruisers prefer to rely on the daily gratuities they’ve already paid, feeling that this also covers room service. Ultimately, the choice is personal and can vary based on your experience and preference.

How Much to Tip Your Porter at the Cruise Terminal

A cruise ship porter stands on the dock with a suitcase, preparing to assist passengers with their luggage. The background shows a large cruise ship and several passengers, some of whom are also handling their bags, indicating an active embarkation or disembarkation scene.

You might want to give a small tip to the luggage handlers at the cruise terminal to ensure your bags are looked after as they’re loaded onto the ship. The typical tip ranges between $2 and $5 per bag. 

If you’re travelling with a family, a total tip of $10 for all your bags is often enough. Think about how much luggage your porter is handling for you. It’s a nice gesture to save you the hassle of lugging your suitcases around all day.

How Much to Tip on Cruise Excursions

A cruise concierge assists a couple with their travel plans, providing information and brochures at a cruise terminal. A poster behind her highlights services such as future destinations, expert cruise planning, and bonus credit options, enhancing the vacation experience for travelers.

Tipping guides on cruise excursions is customary. A tip between $5 and $10 per person is typical for shorter tours. If the tour lasts longer, you might consider giving up to $30 per person. Tipping the driver about $1 each is common when a coach or taxi is involved.

Tipping is usually done at the end of the tour as a way to express your gratitude. Always bring extra cash for other expenses, like souvenirs or snacks.

What Currency To Use for Tips

 image of a cruise passenger holding different currencies and looking confused.

When tipping on a cruise, using the same currency as the ship is usually best. This makes it easier for the crew to handle. However, they will appreciate tips in any currency you choose. For excursions, opt for the local currency or US dollars, as they are more likely to be accepted. 

Wrapping It Up

Tipping on a cruise can initially seem perplexing, especially for those from regions like the UK where tipping is less customary. However, understanding the common practices and being prepared for various gratuities can significantly enhance your cruising experience.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Know Your Cruise Line’s Policy: Each cruise line has its specific guidelines for gratuities. Some, like P&O Cruises and MSC Cruises, have clear policies against extra tipping, while others, like Royal Caribbean, may include gratuities in packages but still expect additional tips.
  2. Factor in Additional Costs: In addition to standard gratuities, extra charges for drinks and spa treatments can significantly increase your overall bill, so plan your budget accordingly.
  3. Consider Extra Tips: While not mandatory, extra tips can show your appreciation for exceptional service. Typical amounts vary: £1-£2 for drinks or room service, £10-£20 per day for cabin stewards, and £200-£300 for a butler per cruise.
  4. Tipping Etiquette for Specific Services: Whether it’s for room service, porters, or excursion guides, having some extra cash on hand is always a good idea. A general rule of thumb is to tip $1-$2 per service for smaller tasks and up to $30 per person for longer excursions.
  5. Currency Considerations: Use the ship’s currency for convenience, but most crew members appreciate tips in any major currency. For excursions, local currency or US dollars are typically preferred.

Ultimately, the amount you tip is a personal decision influenced by your experiences and the level of service received. Remember, the cruise staff work tirelessly to ensure your holiday is memorable, and a little extra can go a long way in showing your gratitude.

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

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