The Cruise Line Guide to Tipping

When it comes to the concept of tipping, it’s safe to say that Brits aren’t exactly willing to part with their money. Any additional money given to staff is seen as a reward that is only given upon receiving exceptional service. This is in contrast to other parts of the world - for example, the United States – where a tip of anywhere between 15-20% of the meal cost is almost expected, due to the fact that it counts as part of the Federal Minimum Wage.

Tipping is also commonplace on cruise ships, as this ensures each crew member receives a fair wage for their duties. As is the case anywhere, however, it is not obligatory and you can choose to opt out if you feel the service is not up to scratch. This is paid in a lump sum and spread out among all workers on board including cleaners, hotel staff, waiting staff and the entertainment team.

Tips

What makes this concept confusing, however, is the fact that each cruise line operates a different set of guidelines. A number of lines have made the decision to up the suggested charge for tips this year, with some lines requesting more than £200 for a two-week sailing. P&O Cruises has confirmed plans to increase the daily onboard gratuity charge from £6 to £7 – which comes just 12 months after the line upped charges from £5 to £6. The line maintains that this is a fair and simple way to thank the crew for their service and all passengers over the age of 12 pay automatically via an onboard account unless they specify for them to be removed.

To make things a little easier, we have created a table outlining the current service charges applied by cruise lines:

Cruise line Service charge per day Total service charge for a couple, based on a two-week cruise*
Celebrity Cruises

$14.50 for Standard Staterooms
$15.00 for Concierge and AquaClass Staterooms
$18.00 for Suites

£291.28
£371.32
£361.59
Cruise and Maritime Voyages £7.00 (£6.00 on 16+ night sailings) £196.00
Cunard $11.50 for Britannia cabins
$13.50 for Princess and Queens Grill Suites
£231.02
£371.19
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines £5.00 £140.00
MSC Cruises €10 (€5 per child aged 2-12) £247.62 (£61.90 per child aged 2-12)
Norwegian Cruise Line Cost included in fare N/A
P&O Cruises £7.00 £196.00
Royal Caribbean $14.50 for Standard Staterooms
$17.50 for Grand Suite and Higher
£291.23
£281.49

*Conversion from USD/Euros to GBP correct as of 37/02/18

There is an ongoing debate, therefore, among passengers as to whether the charge is worthwhile. While the increase in price for service charges is unlikely to be popular, it is worth pointing out that crew members generally go above and beyond for passengers and will want to ensure they enjoy the best holiday possible. The crew members depend on tipping charges for their wages and cruise lines believe that the majority of passengers will play true their conscience.

One way to tackle the dreaded additional service charge on board is to include the fees in the overall cost of the cruise fare. This is a move that has already been taken by Norwegian Cruise Line, which has simplified the process for British passengers. However, this does raise the question as to why crew members should be tipped on a daily basis – as this is not a concept that is followed through within the hotel industry.

Luxury lines including Regent Seven Seas, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea have all outlined that tipping is not expected. This is more in line with current British culture, with the passenger having the option to reward each staff member at their discretion.

Whatever your stance of paying discretionary service charges may be, it should be emphasised that the crew really do depend on them as part of their wage. Many crew members were very long weeks and spend months away from home at any one time – yet, for the most part, they will maintain the quality of their service throughout the duration of your cruise. As always, however, if you are justifiably unhappy with the service received, the rule remains the same that you do not have to pay.


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