tipping on a cruise

To Tip or Not To Tip while cruising?

Tipping is a big deal on cruises and negotiating the dos and don’ts of gratuities for the crew can leave you feeling all at sea. American passengers have tipping down to a fine art when it comes to rewarding service – some even carry a calculator to work out the percentages that should be added to restaurant bills when they dine out in flashy restaurants. On the other hand, Brits are generally not so well-versed on the thorny subject of gratuities.

Faced with the prospect of spending your cruise perplexed at who you should tip and how much largesse you should bestow, many voyagers have welcomed the finely-tuned gratuities policy that has been put in place by most cruise companies.

Some cruise lines include them as part of the increasingly popular ‘all-inclusive’ concept, but this is mostly the domain of smaller, ultra-luxury ships where staff are not allowed to accept any discreet baksheesh folded into a small envelope.

Certain companies catering solely to the British cruise market, such as Thomson Cruises and Saga Cruises, take the sting out of those ‘nasty little extras’ and include basic tips. However, these days, the vast majority of cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line have a prescribed schedule of suggested gratuities which passengers can refer to before they embark. In most cases tips are either pre-paid or added to your onboard account – these are usually in the region of between £4 and £12 per passenger, per day.

You can request to have these removed, but bear in mind that your cabin stewardess and restaurant waiter appreciate your generosity and, rightly or wrongly, your contribution goes towards augmenting their salaries. Cruise lines who adopt the ‘added to your account method’ of remuneration often issue passengers with a voucher that shows you’ve paid. You then present these personally to the smiling flunkies who have taken such good care of you. Even if you’re on a ship that doesn’t issue these vouchers you can be sure that the crew are made aware of who’s tipped and who hasn’t.

On most cruises a 15% gratuity is automatically added to all wines and bar drinks – and this is non-negotiable. Your message becomes a little less relaxing when you discover that this, like all spa treatments, comes with a gratuity added by your therapist ‘for your convenience’. But skinflints should bear in mind that service on a cruise ship is often far superior to many deluxe resorts or trendy restaurants. For more details call our cruise specialists now on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.

Gary Buchanan

Gary Buchanan has been a specialist cruise writer for 22 years contributing to national newspapers and consumer publications. He is the author of five books about cruising and spends over seven months every year at sea sailing the world’s oceans. He’s a former chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and in 2014 he won the Cruise Lines International Association Award for Best River Cruise Feature.