Understanding pre-paid gratuities on a cruise (2023)

Gratuity is a fancy sounding term that cruise lines use for tips.

Just like in restaurants and hotels, guests on many cruises are generally expected to leave tips for certain cruise staff members serving them.

Pre-paid gratuities means that we {Cruise Specialists} have negotiated a special offer for you and you are not expected nor will you be charged for tips.

On most big-ship mainstream lines, the service crew members are dependent on the generosity of travelers for the vast majority of their salary. Luxury cruise lines often have no-tipping policies where the gratuities are already included in the fares.

Understanding pre-paid gratuities on a cruise (1)


Tipping is a source of some confusion (and much discussion among some passengers) because policies vary from line to line and often it is not sufficiently explained by the cruise lines once passengers are on-board.

Cruise line tipping policies generally fall into three different categories:

(1). Gratuities automatically added to your onboard bill.
Most of the large ship cruise lines (such as Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and others) have a policy of automatically adding a set gratuity amount to your onboard account.

This is calculated on a per passenger per day basis, and generally ranges from $10 to $15 per person per day. This money is then distributed based on the cruise line’s set formula to cabin stewards, room service stewards, bartenders, baggage handlers, and restaurant staff such as waiters and Maitre d’s and other lower pay staff members.

You have the right to refuse this automatic gratuity charge and may compensate cruise staff on your own terms. However, you will need to notify the front desk of this desire. Otherwise it will appear on your bill when your cruise ends and it will be charged to your credit card on file.

(2) Suggested gratuities policies.
Before the concept of automatic gratuities was put in place, cruise lines provided guests with tip envelopes and a suggested daily amount for the individuals they are served by every day.

For example, it might be suggested to give the cabin steward and main dining room waiters each $3 per day per person, the Maitre D a $1 a day, $5 for any tour guides, etc.

These are suggested amounts and the passenger can choose to give less, more or none at all. Some of the River Cruise lines, such as AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises, follow this policy.

You can give gratuities in cash at the time of service or at the end of the cruise or alternatively you can ask the front desk to add it to your credit card bill and be distributed by the cruise officer.

(3) No tipping policies.
Many of the top end luxury lines we represent always include tips in the fare and as such you are not expected to tip onboard personnel.

This includes:

  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Seabourn
  • SeaDream Yacht Club
  • Silversea Cruises
  • Tauck World Discovery
  • Uniworld Cruises

They pay their staff higher salaries, obviating the need for automatic or suggested gratuities.
Of course, if any staff member on the no tipping ships go “way above and beyond the call of duty” you are welcome to offer a tip. Some may gracefully accept and others may politely turn down your gesture.

If you are unclear about tipping policies please ask your Cruise Specialists Cruise Consultant any questions you have – it’s important to us that you fully understand all your cruise costs and options.


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