Probably the most baffling and most discussed topic is tipping (gratuities) on a cruise. First time cruisers and veteran cruisers debate when to tip, how much to tip, who to tip, and why tip. Just know that tipping is not mandatory, but it is good cruise ship etiquette. That being said, all cruise lines have their own tipping policy. An Example is: Crystal or Seabourn cruise lines has a no-tipping policy. They build the tips as staff service fees into the fare.
Even though tipping is not mandatory, it is an avenue for you to thank the crew for their service. Just a note here: most cruise lines pay their service personnel a low base wage. These crew members are dependent upon the generosity of the people they serve for a large portion of their income. With that in mind, the gratuities should be seen as a necessary service fee, to ensure that the hardworking crew are fairly compensated. Without the crew, there is no cruising!!!
How Much to Tip?
The cruise lines have an automatic gratuity system that amounts to about $8 – $12 per cruiser per day of the cruise. This amount is then divided among the various crew. The amount is an automatic addition to your final bill. Even though these are automatically added, you can have them removed from your bill if you choose. Then you can directly tip the crew members you would like to.
When You Should Tip?
Some tips are not included in the automatic gratuities. Room service, bar service, spa treatments, excursion guides, port luggage handlers, etc. should be tipped at time of service. These tips are usually $1 – $2.
Whom to Tip Extra?
Because gratuities are given at the end of your cruise, there is little correlation between service you get and the gratuities. The crew members know that you are going to give the minimum amount because the cruise lines have the system to insure this. There is little incentive for them to give service that is above and beyond their normal.
I always tip my cabin steward extra. I have also learned, from many cruises, to tip them the extra at the start of the cruise. It is usually between $20 – $30.
I always make a point of interacting with my steward or stewardess on the first day of the cruise. I introduce myself and all my party. I ask them their name, making sure I know how to pronounce it correctly, and ask where they are from. By doing just that, you will stand out.
I take this introduction one step forward and hand them the extra tip. I tell them that I “just wanted to thank them for all the hard work they have had to do on embarkation day to make my cabin special. I am happy that you are here to take care of us this week. Thank you so much.” I shake their hand and tell them that I will enjoy seeing them and talking to them each day.
By this one small act, we have received amazing service. They look for me every day to talk to me and make sure that everything is to my liking. They have always gone above and beyond to make sure we are taken care of.
Maitre d’s and Head Waiters
I usually do not tip the Maître d’ extra unless one has given exceptional service. On one cruise, my son, who has Celiac Disease, had explained everything he could eat to our Maître d’. On one dinner, we were not seated at our usual place with our normal waiters, so my son decided not to eat because of all the explaining he would have to do. He headed to his cabin. The Maître d’ came and found us and asked where our son was. He had fixed a special meal for him and wanted to make sure he received it. When I explained the situation, he personally had the meal delivered to my son in his cabin.
He received an extra tip.
Dining Room Waiters
Unlike the Maitre d’, I usually give an extra $5 – $10 to my head waiter and assistant waiter. I usually give the extra to them on the second evening, the first night is too hectic. I also make sure I am pronouncing their name correctly and ask where they are from. I always receive extra special treatment because of this.
Last cruise, on lobster night, our waiter made sure to bring us each an extra lobster. On another cruise, my grandson wanted chocolate milk for dinner. The waiter explained that they did not have any. The assistant waiter spoke up and said that he could take care of that. White milk came in a goblet with chocolate syrup drizzled down the inside of the glass. The kids had to stir the syrup in. It was really pretty special looking. Each night someone asked us what the kids were drinking. By the end of the cruise the tables around us were also ordering the chocolate milk.
Do Not Tip the captain or the ship officers. This is an embarrassment to them.
Remember that as important as the money is, it is not given in place of a thank you. It is always nice to write a personal note, or bring a small gift representing your home town as a way of showing your appreciation.
You can also mention a staff member by name in the end of cruise questionnaire or mention their outstanding service to their superior. If you want to go the extra mile for a staff member that was amazing, write a letter of praise and send it to the cruise line’s head office. This would really help their career.
Remember that Gratuities and tipping is all about personal choice. But also remember that everyone enjoys being recognized for their hard work.
Please leave a comment below about your thoughts on gratuities.
See Ya Makin’ Memories