A number of Australian cruisers are tipping their favourite staff on board personally – even though gratuities are already included in their fares.

A survey of Cruise Passenger’s Facebook group found confusion on whether gratuities are a compulsory charge or something that can be removed from bills.

Some members claimed that they take gratuities off on the first day on board as they prefer to tip staff personally. Being unable to do so would also discourage them from sailing with certain cruise lines.

“A lot of cruise lines won’t take them off at the end.  I always go first day to get it done,” said Graham Mitchell.

“We cruised with P&O, Cunard and have taken the gratuities off and soon with Princess and they allow as well. Much prefer to tip ourselves. Agree would never cruise with NCL if could not deduct,” says Margaret Munro.

Is there an industry standard?

Gratuities are big business.  A ship with 3,000 passengers where guests paid $20 a day in gratuities would accumulate $60,000 a day or $840,000 on a 14-day sailing. So a crew of 1,800 would receive $466 in gratuities a fortnight if all the money was divided equally.

Cruise Passenger found that the lines themselves are divided on how they should charge gratuities.

And in some cases, Australian guests might be unwittingly paying gratuities twice on cruises.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Celebrity Cruises have gratuities included in the fare for Australians and New Zealanders, wherever in the world they sail.

Most lines with homeported ships like P&O Cruises Australia, Carnival Cruise Line Australia and Princess Cruises in Australia don’t charge gratuities at all. These lines also don’t expect guests to tip, but say they are welcome to give cash to crew or amend their bill to include gratuities at the end of their holiday.

Others like Norwegian Cruise Line make it a compulsory charge. Guests can choose to pre-pay in their local currency (the currency the booking was made in) or pay on board in USD equivalent. It is added to the on board bill and paid at end of cruise.

Read our ultimate gratuities guide to learn more.

The complete guide to cruise gratuities

What do passengers prefer?

The Cruise Passenger Facebook group is equally divided on how they want to pay gratuities.

Half would like to see gratuities included in their fare while others would like to keep it separate, so they can tip staff personally.

But many who opted for gratuities to be included in their fare also mentioned that they still give additional tips to their cabin staff and waiters.

“Included is best, so you know the amount you’re up for and so the behind the scenes staff who still work hard to make your holiday amazing also get their fair share,” says Lisa Presley.

“I have only cruised where it’s absorbed but each time I have left something for the cabin attendant,” says Sonia Cattley.

Meanwhile, some cruisers are conflicted about having to pay gratuities twice.

“On RCI they include the gratuity. But my sisters still want to tip the wait staff and cabin boy. I don’t mind putting in for the cabin boy. But why pay out extra when you’re already paying around AUD$20 a day gratuity. On a two week cruise that’s $280 each..,” says Kerry Kandelas.

Cruisers who would rather keep gratuities separate from their fare also chimed in.

“Not included but with an option to tip staff personally. I can’t see the point in gratuities if the staff don’t even get the money,” says Sandra Schultz.

“I would rather give to people personally who give me service,” says Kaye van Spaandonck.

Other cruisers also have interesting perspectives to add to the debate.

“I am surprised at the number of people who want the grats included up front. Why wouldn’t you want a chance to reduce them if you got poor service? Include them in the price and you have no choice but to pay for what might be poor service,” says Gary Niedorfer.

“I didn’t pay gratuities on last cruise because as a solo passenger I had to pay 2 x fare. They could have distributed the additional fare to staff,” says Mary Blowers.

So how would you like cruise lines to handle your gratuities? Join the discussion and tell us in the comments below.