one of the most personal, yet frequently debated topics of
conversation among cruise passengers involves the matter of tipping.
Who to tip? How much? What's "customary" and
"recommended?" Should parents tip the full amount for
children or is just half adequate? Why do you have to tip at all?
their land-bound counterparts, cruise ship service personnel depend
on gratuities for a major portion of their compensation. Argue all
you want that the cruise lines are penurious and it's not fair that
you have to pay their employees' "salary"—but bite your
tongue, smile, and tip the help. By the conclusion of your voyage
you've experienced a level of service and attention you only heard
about previously and probably didn't think possible.
educating yourself about gratuities by reading your cruise line
brochure—the suggestions regarding tipping are usually in the back
with answers to other questions and the rest of the fine print. Then
read over the small booklet that comes with your cruise documents
for up-to-the-minute information.
"who" part is easy. It's up to your discretion to tip
anyone who provides a service you would like to recognize. This
begins as early as your airport check-in. Porters carrying your bags
in airports expect a tip. Depending on your city, $1.00 to $2.00 a
bag will do. Same thing applies when you retrieve your suitcases at
the baggage claim area at your destination; if you use the services
of a porter or skycap, tip him for taking your bags to your bus or
taxi. "Wait a minute!" you say, "I'm
shelling out all these dollars and I haven't even reached the ship
yet..." While it's perfectly acceptable to carry (or roll) your
own luggage into and out of airports, if you accept assistance
you'll be expected to pay for it.
transfers to and from your ship are a part of your Air & Sea
program, gratuities are generally "included" for luggage
handling. After checking in at your departure airport, you may not
even see your suitcases until they appear outside your cabin door on
board your ship. In that case, don't worry about the interim
tipping. However, if you take a taxi to the pier and hand over your
bags to a stevedore, be sure to tip him. He's the person
responsible for your suitcases getting onto a pallet and on their
way to the ship. Stiff this guy and hours later you may be filing a
report for your missing bags. We treat these men with respect and
pass along at least $5.00 with a handshake and big smile.
I've gotten you on board. Now what? Relax. Cash tips won't be
expected until the last night of your cruise. With very few
exceptions, a 15% gratuity will automatically be added to your bar
bill during the cruise. If you use salon and spa services, a similar
percentage is generally added to the bill. If your cruise line
doesn't automatically add the recommended amount to your onboard
account, you'll personally distribute tips for dining room staff and
room stewards on the last evening on board. By then you'll know
whether or not the cruise line's recommendations are low, high, or
right on target for the level of service you've received.
your last day of cruising there will be a "Disembarkation
Talk"—usually conducted by the Cruise Director. One member of
each family is encouraged to attend and, in addition to customs and
immigration procedures, tipping is discussed. (Don't worry if you
miss the meeting, it will be replayed on television all day long.)
Small white "tip" envelopes may appear in your stateroom
during the last day of the cruise, along with luggage tags and
written disembarkation instructions. As a general rule of thumb, you
can count on the following amounts falling within the tipping
Steward - $3.00 to $3.50
Room Waiter - $3.00 to $3.50
Room Asst. Waiter - $1.50 to $2.00
suggestions are per person, per day. For a seven-day cruise
(at the maximum rate above), count on gratuities of $63.00 per
person. In addition, it may be suggested that you tip the headwaiter
$5.00 per person per week. If he's rendered some special
service (flaming desserts tableside), or been particularly attentive
and kept things moving, by all means give him a tip. If he only
shows up that last evening with a smile and his hand out, you
needn't feel obliged to tip him.
advent of alternative dining venues and options for "open
seating"-style dining on contemporary cruise lines, some lines
are now automatically adding the recommended gratuities to their
passengers' on board charge accounts. If it suits you, then do
nothing. However, you are certainly free to adjust the amounts up or
down to more appropriate levels or ask that the charge be removed
altogether if you prefer distributing cash gratuities.
is one time when pre-tipping can be useful... TIPS is an acronym
standing for "to insure personal service" and I like to
have some assurance of that. When meeting the cabin steward for the
first time, I tell him there are two things I don't like to run out
of—one is ice and the other is bathroom tissue. To make my point
clear, I slip the steward a "pre-tip" of about $10.00 and
indicate there is more where that came from. The ice in our
stateroom sometimes melts before it's replenished, but I never run
out of tissue. We have our priorities straight and, as a result,
I've never failed to tip a cabin steward more than the recommended
are exceptions to every rule. Room service is one. There is no
additional charge for room service, but it is customary to tip the
steward who delivers it. In most cases, this will not be your
regular steward. Depending on what you've ordered and whether it was
delivered in a timely manner, $1.00 to $3.00 will suffice. If it's
just juice and a pot of coffee, the lesser amount will do; a heavy
tray with a full dinner would warrant the larger amount.
exception is the à la carte restaurant. More common on modern
cruise ships, these dining venues offer a change from the main
dining room—often in a private, more intimate atmosphere, with a
special menu and personal service. While there may, or may not, be
an extra charge for the meal, a one-time gratuity is suggested. Your
ship's daily schedule will contain instructions for making
reservations and outline tipping protocol.
Parents often argue the need to tip the entire recommended amount
for their little ones. I wonder if these parents don't see
the messes their children leave in the bathroom, cabin, and dining
room. Not to mention that some of them run their waiters ragged
replacing plates of food that they "don't like." Just
because children are smaller than adults, it doesn't mean they are
less trouble to clean up after. Parents have already gotten a
reduced (third or fourth passenger) fare for them or, in some cases,
free passage. Moms and Dads, cough up the full tip or stay home. 'Nuff
are tipping exceptions, of course, most notably on high-end cruise
lines. For instance, Crystal
Cruises suggests these gratuities (per person, per day): cabin
stewardess, $4.00 (single travelers, $5.00 per day); waiter, $4.00;
assistant waiter, $2.50; and butler (Penthouse guests only), $4.00.
Tips for the maître d', headwaiter, assistant stewardess, and night
snack personnel are at the guests' discretion. The customary 15%
gratuity is added to bar checks and a 15% gratuity for salon and spa
services is suggested. Gratuities may be charged to passengers'
shipboard accounts as well.
are truly some no-tipping-allowed cruise lines. Upscale Silversea,
Seabourn, and Regent
Seven Seas are a few that include gratuities in the fare. On
these cruises, gratuities are considered "prepaid."
other end of the spectrum is the suggestion by Celebrity
Cruise Line that passengers tip the Chief Housekeeper $.50 per
person per day. Most people ignore this, feeling that the Chief
Housekeeper (who no one ever reports having seen) is not worthy of a
tip. Butlers, for those suite occupants who have them, should be
tipped about $3.50 per person per day.
Again, this depends on the service request and provided.
it would be gauche to offer a tip to an officer or a member of the
cruise staff. However, if an officer or someone on the cruise staff
renders out of the ordinary service or is especially helpful, a
letter of praise to the cruise line's home office can do wonders for
that employee's career.
you do, don't skip out on dinner in the dining room on the final
night of your cruise to avoid tipping. If you prefer to dine
elsewhere that evening, by all means do so, but stop by the dining
room to recognize the service of the wait staff.
finally, remember to have some dollar bills on hand when you
disembark the ship... there are still palms to cross at the airport.
Tip Calculator - Take the confusion out of gratuities with
the automated guide to cruise ship tips.