Cruise Gratuities 101: What They Are and How to Pay Them

Cruise gratuities and cruise tips are appreciated by employees on board

If you’re a frequent traveler, you know tips go hand in hand with good service when you’re on a vacation. It’s normal to tip the waiters, spa employees, bell hops, and cab drivers you encounter on an overland journey, so why would it be any different when you’re vacationing by sea? That being said, cruise gratuities are a little more complicated than you might expect, so it’s worth going over the details for beginners. Let’s outline a few things about tipping on cruises so you’ll be in the know by your departure day.

What Are Cruise Gratuities?

While they go by a number of names, including tips, crew incentives, or service charges, gratuities are essentially tips you give to the employees who served you on your cruise. No big surprise, right? Well, it’s how cruise lines handle them that makes them slightly different. Cruise gratuities come in the form of recommended amounts that are automatically added to your onboard account (or prepaid if you prefer). That’s so you don’t have to constantly reach into your wallet every time you want to reward a crew member for good service.

The idea is that tipping before or after the fact gives you one less thing to worry about while you’re on vacation. Still, it’s always a good idea to read up on how your particular cruise line handles gratuities before you sail, just so you know what to expect.

How Much Will They Cost?

The cost of cruise tips varies not only by cruise line, but by who’s paying AND by cabin type. For example, on certain cruise lines, guests under 2 or 3 aren’t charged for gratuities, while other cruise lines charge per person regardless. In terms of amounts, they typically range from $14.50 to $20 per person, per day, though they can be higher or lower based on the stateroom category you are staying in. Cruise lines periodically update the amounts they charge so its always best to check our help center article, “How much are Service Gratuities (Tips) during my cruise?” for the latest rates before you set sail.

Who’s Receiving These Cruise Tips?

Your cruise gratuities go to waitstaff in the dining rooms, rooms stewards, and those in other customer-facing positions. That means you might want to bring some extra cash for crew members who don’t typically receive a cut, such as childcare staff, bartenders, or wine sommeliers. It also doesn’t hurt to hand a few extra bucks to a crew member who helped you out with extraordinary service, as in the case of a spa employee, for example. And don’t forget the people who served you off the ship, such as bell hops, shore excursion guides, and taxi drivers — they don’t receive the gratuities and would be very grateful for a cash tip.

How Do I Pay the Charges for Cruise Gratuities?

Charges for cruise gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account, which means you’ll see them when you settle the charges for your cruise. Not a big fan of surprises? Prepaying for your gratuities helps you avoid that sticker shock and gives you peace of mind that it’s handled before you even depart.

Here’s a tip: Watch for sales and promotions that include gratuities. Cruise lines often run promotions where gratuities are covered as an extra perk. In fact, we at have exclusive promotions on occasion where we cover the cost of your tips ourselves. When it’s exclusive to us, you won’t find that deal anywhere else, not even with the cruise lines!

Navigating cruise gratuities is much easier with — we help you cruise the smart way! In addition to helping secure the best deals on cruise tips, we give you our exclusive bonus offers and all qualifying cruise line offers, plus all of the cruise line loyalty program benefits. Book online at or call 800-288-6006 today.

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