To Tip or Not to Tip? A Guide to Gratuity at Sea


The age-old question of when to tip can present awkward and stressful moments, especially for the less experienced traveler.  Many first-timers may be perplexed by which palms need to be greased, and which don’t.

Global Connections Travel has some expert information that will help clarify the tipping and cruising conundrum.

First and foremost, keep in mind that tips are the primary source of income for a lot of the folks who are making your vacation happen. That is why the majority of big ship cruises (like Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity) have built in a daily “service” charge which is added to your onboard account to cover gratuity. It usually averages about $12/day.

This service charge is almost always ultimately at the traveler’s discretion, so you can adjust or change it if you want (but always check – some do not allow this).

Here’s the Real Scoop

There are instances when you really don’t need to hand over any extra bills unless you feel service has been above and beyond. In most of these instances, a “tip” has already been added just for using the service itself.

Bar or Spa

At the bar, 15% is automatically added to the bill. At the spa, 15-18% is usually added, so don’t undo all the stress relief both have to offer by finding out you’ve tipped on top of the tip when you didn’t want to. At the spa, always check the receipt to make sure.

Early Morning Room Service

No one wants to go to bed “hangry”, and sometimes you just need that 1 a.m. snack.But often, cruise lines charge passengers a room service fee for orders delivered during the early a.m. hours (midnight to 5 a.m.), so there’s no requirement to tip more.

The Specialty Restaurant

The tip is already included on the somewhat costly meals at specialty restaurants, so there’s no need to pay it again unless you just loved how much extra butter the waiter brought for your surf & turf.

The Plumber

This guy or gal just restored the most important thing in the room (especially after visiting the specialty restaurant), so it’s natural to want to tip, but onboard engineers do not work for tips.

Captain, My Captain

Cash handshakes to the Captain are truly not necessary or effective (he still won’t let you steer the ship).

Now that you’re armed with some insider intel, tipping is one less thing to worry about! Get ready to relax and enjoy that much-needed cruise.