Are Gratuities the Key to a Quality Service on Your Royal Caribbean Cruise, or Just Another Expense?

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If you’re going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, it can be an exciting time, but an often overlooked yet important aspect of your cruise preparation is understanding the gratuity system on board. 

Yet, the details surrounding gratuities – how much to pay, who receives them, when to pay, and whether tips can be cancelled can often be confusing, especially if you’re new to cruising or from a different tipping culture. 

I’ve been lucky enough to go on many cruises with Royal Caribbean, so I’ve dealt with the gratuity system many times. Based on my experiences, I have put together a guide that explains the costs involved, the payment process, and the benefits of pre-paying gratuities or paying them at the end of your cruise.

Two bartenders, a man and a woman, joyfully preparing colorful cocktails at a well-stocked bar aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, reflecting a lively and luxurious atmosphere.

Key Points

For those who don’t the time to read the whole article, here are the key points:

  • Gratuities on Royal Caribbean cruises are daily fees that go towards rewarding onboard crew members.
  • The standard rate is $16.00 per person per day for most staterooms and $18.50 for Grand Suites and above.
  • Gratuities are also applicable for children and infants.
  • You can adjust or cancel the gratuity charges at Guest Services if needed.
  • Options for payment include prepaying or settling at the end of your cruise.
  • Once you’re on the ship, you can cancel gratuities and pay staff individually.

For those who want more detail, continue reading the full article.

Gratuities and Tipping

Gratuities (tipping) on a Royal Caribbean cruise are daily fees paid by each passenger to appreciate the services provided by the onboard crew. This ensures that the hardworking staff is rewarded. The collected gratuities are pooled and shared among various crew members, including the dining, bar, and culinary teams, as well as the stateroom attendants and the hotel service team.

This system of daily gratuities simplifies the tipping process, meaning there is no need to tip every crew member individually for every service. Instead, a set fee per day is charged, creating a hassle-free way to acknowledge the consistent and high-quality service.

With cruise lines which originate from the USA, such as Royal Caribbean, paying gratuities is a normal practice. However, on other cruise lines that originate in Europe, for example, there are often no gratuities, and you tip the staff as you would like.

Royal Caribbean also provides an avenue for extra appreciation through optional tips for those crew members who add a special touch to our cruising experience.

The Cost of Gratuities on Royal Caribbean Cruises

The standard gratuity rate stands at $16.00 per person per day for guests in Junior Suites and below. However, if you’re indulging in the grandeur of a Grand Suite or above, the daily gratuity rate is $18.50 per person. On top of this, an automatic 18% gratuity is added to all your bar tabs, spa, and salon services.

Breaking down the gratuity fee, a total of $16.00 is allocated as follows: $3.55 for the Stateroom Attendant, $5.95 for Dining Room services, and $6.50 for Other Hotel Services. 

For those in suites, the total gratuity of $18.50 is distributed, with $6.20 going to the Stateroom Attendant, $5.95 to Dining Room services, and $6.35 to Other Hotel Services. 

Related reading: Find out about the costs of Royal Caribbean’s drink packages.

Gratuities for Children and Infants

Royal Caribbean’s practice of gratuities extends to guests of all ages, including the little ones. Regardless of age, the standard gratuity rate of $16.00 per day (or $18.50 for suites) applies.

Initially, the idea of gratuities for infants may raise eyebrows, but when you delve into the level of attention and service provided to ensure the comfort and satisfaction of the youngest cruisers, it makes sense. The crew sets up travel cots, purees food upon request, and handles the extra clean-up, among other services, making the cruising experience enjoyable for families with infants.

Moreover, the accumulated gratuity also covers the extra efforts by the crew in accommodating the flexible dining needs of families, especially those who choose ‘My Time Dining’ on European sailings.

Here, gratuities are automatically added to the bill as guests may be served by different members of the team each night. This ensures that the varying dining and housekeeping staff who contribute to the dining experience are fairly compensated.

Related reading: Explore more on Royal Caribbean’s policies for children and infants

This transparent system of gratuities helps in budgeting for your cruise, as you can calculate the total gratuity cost based on the number of days and the category of your stateroom. 

For instance, on a 7-night cruise, a family of four in a standard cabin would budget for nearly $500 in gratuities.

Thinking About Removing Gratuities?

Despite the established gratuity rates, if there’s a hiccup in service, you have the option to adjust the gratuity charges. Visit Guest Services on the day of your departure, and you can request for the gratuities to be removed or reduced. 

However, if you would like to cancel the gratuities later on in your cruise because you’ve experienced poor service, then it’s advisable to report any issues as early as possible to allow for a resolution.

A whimsical hand-painted sign against a turquoise background humorously states 'Tipping is not a city in China', underscoring the importance of gratuity in a light-hearted manner.

Tipping the Staff Individually

In the early days of my holidays with Royal Caribbean, I cancelled the automatic gratuities. To avoid the queue at Guest Services, I went there straight away and explained that I didn’t want to pay the gratuities and would tip staff individually.

I’ve done this because I had not factored the cost into my holiday and haven’t been able to afford the suggested amount on top of all the other travel costs or I’ve wanted to reward members of staff who have gone above and beyond. 

However, nowadays, I’m more aware of the importance of gratuities, so I make sure I budget for them. It’s worth noting that tipping individually could unintentionally shortchange some deserving crew members. The main thing to do is what you’re comfortable with.

Extra Gratuities to Consider

While not expected, overpayment of gratuities is allowed on Royal Caribbean. You have the freedom to reward particular crew members with additional tips. Towards the end of your cruise, you’ll receive an envelope for this, or you can get extra envelopes available at Guest Services.

Aside from cash, some guests opt for gifts like chocolates or wine as a token of appreciation. However, feedback from crew members reveals a preference for cash, which is understandable. Although a family member of mine once worked on a cruise ship, and he received a gift from a passenger. He said he was really touched because this particular passenger bought the gift at one of the ports and had gone to a lot of effort to get something that was personal to him and way better than receiving a tip.

Also, every time you order a drink, you can tip a little extra by adding an additional gratuity to your receipt. It’s a small gesture that acknowledges great service and may also result in extra fast service on your next order.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that if you’re embarking or disembarking in the United States, it’s customary to tip the porters who assist with your luggage, so it’s good to have some cash on you.

A Royal Caribbean tipping envelope with the playful message 'Tip tip hooray!' printed on the front, inviting guests to acknowledge exceptional service by providing additional gratuity, with space to write the crew member's name and stateroom number.

Look Out for the Royal Caribbean’s ‘Free Gratuity’ Deals

Occasionally, Royal Caribbean rolls out enticing promotions, one of which could be ‘free gratuities’ deals. When you snag such a deal, the cruise line covers the gratuity charges on your behalf, leaving you with one less thing to worry about. 

Alternatively, some promotions provide free onboard credit, which can be used to cover gratuities and other onboard expenditures.

Pay for Gratuities

Royal Caribbean provides you with the flexibility to manage your gratuities in a way that best suits your preferences. You have the option to prepay your gratuities before your cruise or settle them on the last day. 

Prepaying Gratuities

First of all, you can prepay gratuities on Royal Caribbean can be done in several ways:

  1. During Booking: You can add the gratuity charges to the total cost of your cruise at the time of booking.
  2. Direct Contact: Call Royal Caribbean before your cruise to arrange for the prepayment of gratuities.
  3. Online Management: Log on to the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner before your cruise to manage your gratuity payments.
  4. Through Travel Agents: If you have booked your cruise through a travel agent, you can ask them to arrange for the prepayment of your gratuities.

Benefits of prepaying include locking in current gratuity rates, especially beneficial if you book far in advance as Royal Caribbean’s daily gratuity rate tends to increase every one to two years. 

Prepayment also allows for better budgeting, particularly if you prefer to pay for your cruise in installments or do not have a credit card to link to your onboard account.

Paying Gratuities at the End of Your Cruise

You can also pay for tips at the end of your cruise. For those who choose to pay gratuities at the end of the cruise, your onboard account (SeaPass account) will be set up when you check-in. All your onboard expenditures, including gratuities (if not prepaid), will be tallied on this account. 

You’ll have the choice to link a credit or debit card to your SeaPass account, enabling automatic charge at the end of your cruise. Alternatively, you can settle your account with cash, credit, or debit before you disembark.

Paying at the end could be a more suitable option if you have onboard credit to spend or if you need some extra time to gather the funds. 

Wrapping it Up

Understanding gratuities on Royal Caribbean cruises is crucial for a hassle-free experience. So when you’re planning your next cruise, budgeting ahead can really make a difference. Remember, you can prepay them, settle at the end, or cancel them and tip staff individually.

So, what’s been your experience with gratuities? I would love to know what you do.

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

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