Woman on Cruise Ship

6 Annoying Things About Tipping on a Cruise

When it comes to cruising, gratuities are a big part of the cost of a cruise vacation.  While gratuities are a common practice in the cruise industry, there are certain aspects of tipping that I find frustrating. Here are things that annoy me about tipping on a cruise.  

Why Can’t They Just Build In the Gratuity?

One thing that annoys me when it comes to gratuities on a cruise is the sticker shock of how much extra I end up paying in tips. It seems a bit sneaky of cruise lines to tack on gratuities later. They make you feel like you’re getting a good deal on your cruise, but then you’re hit with an additional charge of $12 to $25 per person per day. Cruise gratuities often catch me off guard! 

For example, for a family of four cruising on a Norwegian cruise, where they charge $20 per person per day, a 7-day cruise would cost $560 more! I wish the cruise fare could include gratuity charges so that I wouldn’t have to be surprised by the total gratuity on the last day. It’s not a pleasant feeling to get my final cruise bill and see over $500 in tips!

It would be great if mainstream cruise lines followed the example of luxury cruise lines like Silversea and Seabourn, who include gratuity in the cruise fare, so everything is upfront and transparent.

Annoying things about tipping on cruises

The Extra Gratuity Line

I find it irritating that cruise lines have an additional gratuity line on the bills. When I first started cruising, I always added an extra 20% tip on the gratuity line for drinks. Little did I know that I was actually double-tipping since the cruise line was already charging me a 20% service charge on the drinks, yet they still left a line for gratuity for you to fill in the tip. So, inadvertently, I was tipping twice! 

It’s not just drinks; many cruise lines have the same practice for spa treatments and salon services. They automatically add the 20% service charge, and if you’re not paying attention, you might end up adding a tip on the gratuity line that they’ve left blank for you to fill out. It’s a sneaky way to get you to tip more than you intended!

Gratuity for Beverage Packages

Gratuity is also usually automatically added to the cruise beverage package. But many cruise passengers don’t realize this. 

For example, Carnival Cruise’s Cheers Drink Package costs $59.95 per person per day. They automatically add an 18% gratuity, so you will actually be billed $70.74. However, many people don’t realize this, so they leave a tip for the bartender or server each time they order a drink from their cruise beverage package. 

While it’s perfectly fine to leave a tip for exceptional service, tipping just because you didn’t realize that gratuity is already included is not ok.

Annoying things about tipping on cruises

Gratuity for Kids

Another thing that bothers me about gratuities on cruises is that most cruise lines will charge the same gratuity rate for kids and adults. 

For example, Disney Cruises charges $14.50 per person per day for gratuities, regardless of the passenger’s age, including infants who obviously don’t require the same level of service. Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise charges $16 per person per day for gratuities for both adults and children over two years old. This practice does not sit right with me, and I think children should be charged a lower gratuity rate than adult passengers.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this practice. MSC cruises charges a reduced gratuity rate for kids under 12 years old, which is a relief!

You Can’t Apply Onboard Credit to Tips

Another thing that annoys me about tipping on cruise ships is that you can’t just apply onboard credit to gratuity. There are restrictions on the usage of onboard credits, and using them to pay for gratuity is often not allowed. 

For example, if you happen to receive onboard credit as a shareholder benefit on Royal Caribbean Cruises, you won’t be able to use it to pay for service charges. They want you to pay for gratuities out of pocket. Read my article on how to get free onboard credit as a cruise line shareholder

No Control on Gratuity Distribution

I find the lack of transparency of how gratuities are distributed on a cruise annoying. While I know that they are distributed among stateroom attendants, dining room servers, kitchen staff and the onboard crew, it is not clear to me how exactly it is being distributed. The fact that the gratuity ends up in a pool is not something I’m comfortable with, as I have no control over it. 

In every cruise I’ve taken, some cruise staff provide exceptional service and deserve to be tipped more than others. As a result, I end up giving extra tips in cash to the staff who deserve it. 

To be fair, some cruise lines do share a breakdown of how the dollar amounts will be distributed, which is helpful. I wish more cruises do the same. Want to know exactly how much I give in extra gratuities? Check out my article, I break down, exactly how much I give in extra tips on cruises.

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