Cruise Etiquette: People You Tip (and People You Don’t)

You could get away without tipping entirely, but it’s kinder to see how many people you can help instead. Your generosity can make a big difference in people’s lives. This can also benefit you during your cruise or on future cruises.

People in the cruise industry work long hours. They don’t have your 9:00 – 5:00 workday with weekends off. They don’t have the ability to unwind or go crazy in their off hours. Some are on call 24/7.

People You Should Tip
Imagine the world was divided into two types of people: Those who tip and those who don’t. Those who tip leave a much more favorable impression. This is often remembered on future voyages. Tipping can be divided into two categories: Larger bills ($10’and $20’s) and smaller bills ($1’s and $5’s.). On a seven day cruise, try to bring about $ 200 in cash. That’s 100 in each category.

Your cruise fare might include gratuities. They might be an automatic charge added to your stateroom account. This is disclosed in your documentation. Your travel agent should let you know too.

Here are ten instances when you should tip. This is usually done with white envelopes you can request from the Purser’s office.
1. Waiter/busboy team. This is obvious. They spend lots of time looking after you. They make the effort to learn your name.
2. Cabin steward. They wait until you disappear for breakfast, then dash in to clean your cabin. They turn down your bed at night.
3. Night steward. Your cabin steward isn’t an android. They sleep at night. They get occasional days off. There’s another steward answering your late night requests. Because they work when people are sleeping, you should try tipping them a day or two before the end of your trip, in case you can’t find them at the last moment.
4. Dining room section captain. There’s a person stopping by, asking if everything is alright. This is a good relationship to cultivate. Sometimes you can order favorite dishes, if you provide a day’s notice. They will likely be on your next voyage.
5. Dining room maître d’. They run the dining room. Although you might not need special attention, the day might come when that changes. They are also career professionals. You might cross paths again. They often have some input into seating at the Captain’s Table.
6. Wine steward. A gratuity is automatically added to your drinks order, but that probably goes into a shared fund. Putting a few dollars into the folder after you sign the bill will be appreciated.
7. Casino staff. This is an area where I have no experience. My understanding is when you win big, it’s customary to send a chip or two in the croupier’s direction.
8. Tour escorts. These are the folks who drive the tour bus and conduct the tour. They aren’t ship personnel. They are hired by the tour contractor. They aren’t likely that well paid. A couple of bucks can make a difference.
9. Bartenders. There will be many, because there are multiple lounges. You will order drinks poolside. Ideally you have favorite bars and bartenders. Tip with a couple of small bills, as with your wine steward.
10. Porters handling your luggage on shore. They are likely unionized pier employees. If there isn’t a set charge posted (and it appears free) tip at least a dollar a bag.
11. Taxi driver getting you to the pier. This one’s obvious. Cab drivers get tipped.
12. Shuttle bus driver. The ship might provide ship to airport transfers. You pay for this service. Still, it’s a nice idea to hand the driver a couple of bucks. They loaded and unloaded your bags.

People You Don’t Tip
There are a few. Most are obvious:
1. The Captain and ship’s officers. These are management personnel. If they have become friends over the years, you might bring a present like chocolates. You don’t hand them cash.
2. Purser’s office staff. You need to think this through. At a hotel, you might tip front desk personnel. Onboard the ship, the purser’s office staff handle money, are likely on camera and have put out signs saying “Ship full. No cabin reassignments.” Handing over cash could appear to be a bribe. Accepting would be bad for their career.
3. Social hostesses. They are also in a management role. It’s not appropriate to tip.
4. Entertainers. They might be singing in the lounge. They are performers. In the rare instance there’s a tip jar, you might put something in. Otherwise, no tipping.
5. Musicians. Same logic as entertainers.
6. Customs and immigration staff. This one is really obvious. Attempting to hand cash to a Federal officer performing an inspection is also called a bribe!
7. Voyage consultants. Ships have onboard travel agents to facilitate booking your next cruise. I’ve seen the office crowded regardless of the hour. Their job is to make it worth YOUR while to book your next trip. You don’t need to give them anything.
8. Tour booking agents onboard. It’s the same logic as above. They are performing a service. You are incurring an account charge. No tipping.
9. Shop personnel. They work in a store selling duty free goods or souvenirs. You wouldn’t tip shop staff at home. Not here, either.
The small amounts of cash you distribute can make a big difference in people’s lives.

Cover Photo: Queen Victoria Grand Lobby fruit carving, credit Bryce Sanders

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