First-time and seasoned cruise travelers alike are often lost at sea when it comes to gratuities for service on cruise ships, and gratuity guidelines vary from one cruise line to the next.

“There are no hard fast industry standards to follow in regard to tipping on a cruise,” said Bob Levinstein, CEO of Cruise Compete LLC. “Your best bet is to ask your agent what the tipping procedure is for the cruise line you are traveling on and then plan accordingly. You want to recognize quality service, but it’s smart to budget this aspect of a cruise.”

In general, gratuity procedures on cruise lines can be broken down into three categories:

Automatic Gratuities – To eliminate the hassle of trying to figure out the proper gratuities to parcel out at the end of a cruise, a growing number of cruise lines instantly add tips to their guests’ shipboard accounts. Princess, Holland America Line, Norwegian, Cunard and Carnival all add a $10-$13 per day, per guest gratuity charge for dining and stateroom services. Most of them discount this fee for children. The gratuity amounts can be adjusted upward or downward when the account is closed, based on the guest’s discretion. In some cases, travel agents can add gratuities upfront into the price of the cruise.

Tip Guidelines – Some cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity and Crystal Cruises, simply provide tipping suggestions. They offer you the option of paying gratuities in cash at the end of the trip or adding them to your account, which is closed out before one disembarks.

Suggested rates vary by cruise line, but typical gratuities are as follows:

Stateroom attendant $3.50/day per guest

Dining room waiter $3.50 /day per guest

Assistant waiter $2.00/day per guest

Headwaiter $.75/day per guest

Dining manager Discretionary

Room service Discretionary

No Tipping Policy – Many of the luxury cruise lines, including Windstar, Radisson Seven Seas and Seabourn, clearly state tipping is not required. Gratuities are often built into the price of upscale cruises. These “no tipping” policies, however, leave room for interpretation – gratuities are often given for exceptional service.

Additional tips to consider:

Tip Calculator – Go online and visit to determine the appropriate amount of gratuities to budget based on the cruise line, duration of your trip and number of adults and children sailing.

Individual Service – Some cruise staffers provide individual services to select guests (usually those in suites and higher categories). If you happen to be one of these guests, acknowledge this special attention with a gratuity commensurate with the service(s) rendered.

Special Services – Butlers, concierge, salon and spa attendants should be tipped for their services at your discretion – usually 15%.

Gratuities for Drinks – Bar bills almost always include a 15% gratuity, even if the ship has a “no tipping” policy.

Specialty Restaurants – Many of the larger cruise ships feature specialty restaurants in addition to main dining rooms. Since guests pay separately for these meals, tipping should be consistent with eating at a fine restaurant.

Compliments – If a ship employee deserves a gratuity, but there is a strict no-tipping policy in place, contact his or her supervisor about the great service, or give the person a complimentary note (take along some stationery).

Captain and Officers – Don’t tip the ship’s captain or other officers – you’ll just embarrass them.


Heidi Allison-Shane is the Editor-At-Large for AllThingsCruise.


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