Tipping on cruises: when, to whom and how much?

Tipping on cruises
Tipping on cruise ships is a complicated affair. Some have automatic service charges that are added to your shipboard account, others state that gratuities are optional or that “no tipping is required”. What do you do?

If you decide to tip a cabin steward, maître d’, kids’ activity organiser , butler, or another steward on board, it’s difficult to know when or how much to give. At the same time, it’s natural to want to show your appreciation – particularly if someone has gone above and beyond to ensure your holiday cruise was enjoyable.

An increasing number of cruise lines are implementing automatic service charges to coincide with passengers’ preferences for cashless cruises where everything is charged to the same account. Larger cruise lines also offer an impressive array of restaurant and entertainment options, meaning passengers are rarely served by the same staff members on consecutive nights. When you’re booking cruises or looking for specials on cruises, have a look at each gratuity system before you make up your mind.

Tips should be given voluntarily

For those passengers umming and ahhing about leaving a tip, it’s important to remember that gratuities on cruises are an expression of thanks and not an obligation. However, there are a lot of unseen hands that work on cruise ships to deliver the high standards that passengers expect and it can be difficult to distribute tips fairly across the board. Those who work in the smartest restaurants are likely to gather more tips than those who serve morning tea on the promenade.

For this reason, and because the culture of tipping is different depending on the country you come from, many cruise lines are reconsidering a one-size-fits-all tipping structure. For those ships that apply automatic service charges there is usually an opt-out option that allows for passengers to tip individuals at their own discretion.

Tipping on cruise ships - light breakfast

When to tip

It’s customary to tip shipboard service personnel on the last day of a cruise using an envelope (these are sometimes supplied at reception). If you require extra service from your cabin steward, for example, if you’re planning to do a lot of socialising with other guests on board, you might consider tipping half of the gratuity at the beginning of the voyage to “sweeten the pot”.

Whom to tip and how much

In most situations, you’ll already have paid a daily service charge per passenger, which is usually around £10. If you choose to pay gratuities over and above this charge, it will be for exemplary service, although many ship personnel rely on these tips to supplement their wages.

In most cases, passengers are likely to tip the people they see most often, including cabin and room service stewards, maître d’s, bartenders and waiters, spa therapists, shore guides, organisers in the kids’ areas and butlers. It’s up to you to decide how much to give, but between £5 and £10 per staff member is usually the norm.

Give a tip, but also say thank you

Leaving a tip may be the acceptable form of appreciation, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for the meaning behind the gesture, which is to communicate thanks. Saying thank you and mentioning the steward by name on Facebook or in passing to a manager is another way of showing your thanks for work well done.

Tipping on cruise ships - saying thank you

Image credits:
Tipping on cruise ships by epSos .de, cruise breakfast browniebites.net, gratuity i.dailymail.co.uk