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Tipping and gratuities is one of the most debated topics amongst seasoned cruisers, and sometimes it can be a shock for first-times.

Unlike in America, where those in service and hospitality rely on tips to supplement low wages, Aussies are often not accustomed to tipping.

Most lines have gratuities itemised at the end of your bill, while luxury lines include it in the price and pay staff a better rate.

Cruise lines based in Australia don’t add gratuities to your bill but guests are always welcome to give cash to the crew.

If you’re going on a cruise overseas, make sure you budget for the extra gratuities.

Does it hurt to pay a bit extra, to get some special attention from crew like the bar staff, the cabin stewards and your dining room waiters?

Here is a guide of how to tip and how much is appropriate.

Queen Elizabeth funnel

Queen Elizabeth’s famous bellboys.

Why you should tip on some cruise lines

While tipping isn’t mandatory, it is considered as a thank you to crew that serve you while you’re on holiday. According to Job Monkey, an average cruise ship employee earns roughly around US$1,200-$1,500 per month, while some of the top service jobs may earn around US$2,500 a month. So most of the time on big cruise lines, crew rely heavily on the guests’ tips for a large portion of their income. Cruise lines try and find a balance between keeping the guests happy while paying crew accordingly. Most American cruise lines will itemise the gratuities on your final bill and guests have the option to remove or change the figure if they wish.

Here are a number of reasons why cruise lines have created this automated system.

  1. There are a rising number of international travellers are cruising around the world, and many are not accustomed to tipping. The automated system means that at least some money is distributed to the crew, but remember, you can always change this figure or remove the figure or pay individual crew members accordingly.
  2. There are now a prolific number of dining venues aboard all ships from all cruise lines. Gone are the days where it was just the buffet and main dining room where you would be seated at the same table with the same server every evening. You would then tip your server and maître d at the end of the cruise. But with flexible dining plans and lots of eateries to choose from, sometimes you might not see the same waiter again.
  3. With automated tips, it means that the money is then dispersed across the entire staff including cabin attendants and restaurant wait staff. This includes also crew members who you might not see – the cooks and chefs, the cleaning crew and more.

Luxury and boutique lines like Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and more will include the price of gratuities in the fare. Cruise companies that have fleets based in Australia and New Zealand like Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line Australia also build in the cost of tips to the fare pricing and then crew are paid accordingly.

Who to tip on a cruise and how much to tip them

Cruise gratuities average out to be roughly around US$14 per day (or US$98 for a weeklong cruise). But if you want to remove the automated gratuities and pay your individual cabin staff according to the level of service provided, that is up to your discretion. If you want to pay the staff extra, here is a breakdown of some appropriate sums.

Cabin Stewards and Butlers

These are the people you will interact with the most during your cruise and it’s generally good to tip them a bit extra, even with the automated gratuities. A good tip is to slip them an extra $US15 at the beginning of the cruise to make sure your stateroom gets some special attention (and lots of extra soap and shampoo) and an additional US$15 at the end. It works out to be roughly US$2 per person per day.
The same applies if you’re in a suite with a butler. Butlers have more duties like bringing champagne, hors d’oeuvres, shining shoes and stocking fridges, so it’s customary to tip an additional US$3-$5 per night per person.

Room Service Stewards

Generally, it’s customary to provide room service stewards a few dollars when they deliver your hamburger and fries. In Australia and New Zealand, Carnival, P&O, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have factored in the cost of gratuities in your room service charge.

Bartenders

Most large cruise lines will have a gratuity on the cheque when you sign for your drink. But if you’re planning to plonk yourself at one particular watering hole, it’s not such a bad idea to give Steve the barman a crisp US$20 to make sure that you don’t have to waive your hands like a chimpanzee to get his attention. If Steve has been excellent, no harm sliding him a bit more dosh at the end of the cruise.

Celebrity Infinity bartender

A bartender on the Celebrity Infinity

Maitre D’s, Head Waiters and Dining Room Waiters

Gratuities are included in your final bill, but if your dining room waiter, maître d or head has been fantastic like they’ve organised a special cake or danced every evening in the Carnival dining room, US$10-$20 is appropriate.

Shore Excursion

Tour operators are independent of the cruise line and if you’ve been on a half-day shore excursion, give the guide around US$2 or US$4 or $5 for a full day excursion. Also, don’t forget to tip the bus or coach driver a few dollars.

Spa Services

The staff at the spa get between a 15 to 18 per cent gratuity, which is tacked on at the end of your spa bill so it’s not necessary to tip extra. Unless your massage is exceptional or you emerge from your facial as Jennifer Lopez or George Clooney – not many therapists are that good.

Spa gratuities on a cruise

The staff at the spa get between a 15 to 18 per cent tip

Cruise Line gratuities

Azamara Club Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Additional charges: An 18-percent gratuity is added to bills for spa services.

Carnival Cruise Line

Daily gratuity charge: US$13.99
Note: Passengers in suites pay US$15.99.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Guests can tip if they wish
Additional charges: None

Celebrity Cruises

Guests in Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: None
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar and spa bills.

Guests outside of Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: US$18
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar and spa bills.

Celestyal Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew and bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Crystal Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bills for spa services.

Cunard Line

Daily gratuity charge: US$11.50
Note: Passengers in Grill Class cabins pay US$13.50.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Disney Cruise Line

Daily gratuity charge: US$12
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills; an 18 percent charge is added to bills for spa services.

Holland America Line

Daily gratuity charge: US$14.50
Note: Passengers in suites pay US$16.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Lindblad Expeditions

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew are included in the fare for passengers on the National Geographic Explorer and National Geographic Orion but not other ships.

MSC Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: US$12.50
Note: For Caribbean cruises and some grand voyages. Gratuity charges vary for MSC’s other itineraries. Children pay half the adult rate.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Daily gratuity charge: US$14.99
Note: Passengers in suites pay US$17.99. Passengers on the line’s two all-inclusive ships, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, pay higher rates.
Additional charges: A 20 percent gratuity is added to bar bills, the bills at extra-charge specialty restaurants and for services at ship spas.

Oceania Cruises

Australian and New Zealand guests

Daily gratuity charge: None
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar bills, the bill for extra-charge eatery La Reserve and for services at ship spas.

Guests outside of Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: US$16
Note: Passengers staying in top suites with butler service pay $23.
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar bills, the bill for extra-charge eatery La Reserve and for services at ship spas.

P&O Cruises Australia

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Guests can tip crew if they wish
Additional charges: None

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Ponant Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew are not included in the fare. Ponant says tipping is “entirely up to you, and you are under no obligation” to tip. Passengers who want to leave a gratuity for crew are encouraged to put it in an urn at the Reception desk at the end of the voyage.
Additional charges: None

Princess Cruises

Guests in Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: None
Notes: Guests can add gratuities for staff at the end of their cruise if they wish
Additional charges: None

Guests outside of Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: US$13.50
Notes: Passengers in minisuites and suites pay US$14.50 and US$15.50, respectively.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Royal Caribbean

Guests in Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: None
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar bills as well as services at ship spas and salons.

Guests outside of Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: US$14.50 for guests in Junior Suites and below and USD$17.50 for guests in Grand Suites and above.
Additional charges: An 18 percent gratuity is added to bar bills as well as services at ship spas and salons.

Seabourn Cruise Line

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Seabourns plans to impress australian cruiser

On Seabourn ships, gratuities for crew including bar staff are included

SeaDream Yacht Club

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Silversea Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew including bar staff are included in the fare.
Additional charges: None

Star Clippers

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for the crew are not included in the fare. Star Clippers suggests passengers leave crew a gratuity of $10 per day.
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

UnCruise Adventures

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuities for crew are not included in the fare. UnCruise says gratuities “are a personal matter and are entirely at the discretion of the traveler.”
Additional charges: None

Viking Ocean Cruises

Guests in Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: None
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Guests outside of Australia and New Zealand

Daily gratuity charge: US$15
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

Virgin Voyages

Daily gratuity charge: None
Note: Gratuity is already included in the base price (i.e., customers won’t see a “gratuity fee” on their bill).
Additional charges: None

Windstar Cruises

Daily gratuity charge: US$12
Additional charges: A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.

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