Cruising is the easiest way to see the world, but there is one part of the cruise experience that can cause anxiety for otherwise carefree passengers -- tipping. Here's a look at how tipping is handled by each of the world's major cruise lines.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
On most cruise lines, but not all, gratuities are expected and encouraged. The traditional tipping procedure is to hand cash gratuities to the service staff on the last full day or evening of the cruise. For longer itineraries, tipping on a weekly basis may be the norm. The cruise lines that follow this tipping procedure are American Cruise Lines, Blount, Hurtigruten, Lindblad, Quark Expeditions, Star Clippers, Viking Cruises and Voyages of Discovery.
Tipping recommendations from these lines range from about $8 to $18 per passenger a day, depending on the company. In some cases, passengers hand the money to the ship's hotel manager or reception desk, to be distributed among the crew later.
It is customary to tip bartenders and wine stewards 15%, and many cruise lines automatically add this gratuity to the bar or beverage bill. Gratuities for special services such as spa treatments usually are left to the discretion of the guest, but 15% is considered typical.
Most other cruise lines automatically charge tips, usually around $12 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts and divide the total among all dining room personnel, cabin stewards and others who are involved in serving passengers. These lines include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Croisières de France, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Disney, Fred. Olsen, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, P&O, Princess, Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean and Windstar.
These amounts do not cover tips for bartenders and wine stewards, which again are generally 15% added to the beverage bill at the time of service.
If a passenger feels that the amount automatically charged to his or her account should be adjusted higher or lower based on the service received, some cruise lines will make that adjustment when the bill is settled at the end of the cruise. If you have a shipboard credit on your onboard account, it can be applied to automatic gratuities on most cruise ships.
A few cruise lines specifically state that gratuities are included in the cruise fare and that tips are neither expected nor encouraged. Azamara, Crystal, Hebridean, Paul Gauguin, Ponant, Regent, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Swan Hellenic and Voyages to Antiquity fall into this category. Even on these lines, some passengers still tip for outstanding service or special favors.
Does any tipping policy tend to encourage better service than the others? I'd love your thoughts.
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