Like it or not, tipping culture is alive and well on cruise ships.
When you book a cruise, you also agree to tip the crew. Most cruise lines add a daily gratuity or service charge to your fare, either prepaid in advance of your sailing or once you are on board. They add auto-gratuities to many onboard purchases. Independently, you’re also expected to tip tour guides, porters and the room service delivery person.
Once you’re in this tipping mindset, you might be tempted to hand out extra cash every time you interact with a crew member. Thankfully, that’s not necessary. Here are 10 times you do not need to tip on your cruise (though you might want to anyway).
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
When sailing luxury lines
Luxury cruise lines — such as Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises — include crew gratuities in the cruise fare. You are not expected to tip on these sailings at all.
However, slipping your butler or favorite waiter or bartender some cash is welcomed; good service should be rewarded. You might also want to express your thanks by donating to the crew fund, which provides treats and entertainment options to the hard-working crew.
When you buy an all-inclusive package
Certain upscale lines sell inclusion packages that cover drinks, Wi-Fi and, yes, crew tips. Book one of these packages on lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises, and you won’t have to pay an automatic gratuity charge. Do not feel that you need to give additional tips to your waiter or room steward.
When you order a drink in a bar, restaurant or lounge on a cruise ship, it’s typical for the cruise line to include a 15% to 20% gratuity on your bill, so that $6 beer may actually cost you $7.20. If you have a drinks package, tips are included.
Additional tipping is not required, even if there’s a blank line for an “additional gratuity” on your check. That said, some cruisers swear they get much better service — as in, your name and drink remembered and maybe even some complimentary tastes — if they slip the bartender 20 bucks or more at the beginning of the cruise.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
It comes down to personal choice. Rewarding your favorite server at the end of the cruise is also a nice thing to do, but not mandatory at all.
Related: Best drinks to order with a beverage package
At the spa and beauty salon
Onboard spas and salons also include a tip of about 18% on top of the cost of your soothing massage or perfect blowout. Again, you’ll find a space on your receipt to add a tip if you want to go beyond that, but it’s not expected.
Many cruisers have added an extra gratuity, not realizing one was already added to the treatment price, and effectively tipped double on an already expensive splurge. Don’t fall into that trap.
At specialty restaurants
Gratuities are typically included in the extra $10 to $100 per person you’ll pay for the steakhouse, sushi bar and other specialty restaurants on board your ship. A tip may be included in the set fee for the restaurant or automatically added at the end of your meal.
You are not expected to add more if tipping is already included. However, if the waiter sneaked you an extra order of escargot or otherwise made the meal a truly memorable experience, you may want to add a few bucks to your bill.
Related: The best meals you can have at sea
When crew members handle special requests
During your cruise, you may have special requests, such as extra towels or pillows. You may need help opening your cabin safe or need someone to fix a wonky shower or toilet. Tips are not expected for these services. Handling these requests is part of the basic duties of the ship’s room stewards (covered by the ship’s auto-gratuity) and maintenance staff.
At the kids club or youth program
Most kids programming is complimentary, and the youth staff does not expect gratuities. If your child falls in love with a particular counselor, it’s OK to slip them a cash bonus at the end of the cruise to say thanks. A heartfelt note and drawing by your child is also a lovely way to express appreciation.
Related: Best cruise lines for families
When you see a show
You are not expected to tip the magician doing sleight of hand, the costumed Disney character posing with your child, the musicians performing on the pool deck or the guy running the trivia contests. The onboard entertainers are paid to make your cruise more enjoyable, and they expect no additional compensation beyond your applause.
One exception is the piano bar player, who may put out a bowl for song requests and tips. (The bigger the tip, the sooner he’ll play your song.)
When you purchase an ice cream or coffee
When you order an ice cream cone or gelato at the ice cream parlor or cappuccino at the coffee shop, you won’t see a tip jar as you would on land. No tipping is required – though you may find an automatic gratuity added to your check, just as in the bars.
When you meet an officer
It is considered an insult to try and tip the captain, officers and ship’s senior team, including the cruise director, hotel director and executive chef. These men and women receive good salaries commensurate with their years of training. Besides, slipping the captain a $20 bill won’t get you to the Bahamas any faster.
Cruise ship crew members work hard at the goal of delivering your dream vacation. They spend months at a time away from their homelands and are often supporting families on the other side of the world. A few bucks might not break your bank but can make a significant difference in their lives.
Even if you dislike tipping culture, always pay the automatically added tips because it makes a difference to the onboard staff. Consider rewarding your favorite crew member or the most helpful staff with a little something extra – but don’t feel that you need to constantly hand out cash to everyone you meet on board.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: