Do you have to tip on a cruise?

To tip, or not to tip? That is Dolores’s question as she prepares for her cruise ship holiday. In Travel SOS, Olga dives into the deep end to solve this eternal maritime mystery.

Q. Dolores
My friend and I will be cruising around the South Pacific later this year and we are trying to work out how much spending money we need. She says that you don’t have to tip on a cruise liner, but I’ve heard elsewhere that there are some onboard services where gratuities are welcomed. Can you please settle this question so we can be sure to have enough money put aside in case tipping is obligatory?

A. Olga:

Relax. You won’t create any waves on the high seas if you don’t tip cruise-ship workers. Major ocean liners include a daily service charge on your bill to cover gratuities. The amounts are then shared among all staff who service passengers, whether they work in the dining room, behind a bar or in the boat’s laundry room washing your linen.

However, cruise operators are open to passengers rewarding onboard crew for exceptional service, if they so wish. For some, this may still not solve the conundrum of tipping staff who have gone the extra nautical mile to make your cruise more enjoyable. If you don’t reward the good service, will the crew member be offended? For that moral dilemma, the cruise liners put the ball back in your court. Almost without exception, they stress that tipping is not required, but hint that it is really up to you.

Thankfully, on one key issue, the liners won’t cast you adrift – no gratuity for bad service. Most of the operators will allow you to request a refund of service charges if you believe you have not been treated well. Here is what the cruise companies say on the issue:

Princess Cruises: The discretionary, daily gratuity amounts are between $13.50 and $15.50 per guest. This gratuity will be shared among all wait staff, stateroom and buffet stewards and housekeeping staff. A 15 per cent gratuity is added to bar charges and wine purchases.

Carnival and P&O: You are welcome to reward onboard crew for exceptional service, however, tipping is not required.

Royal Caribbean: Onboard service charges for stateroom attendants and dining-room staff are included in your voyage fare. An 18 per cent charge will be added to beverages, mini bar items, spa and salon purchases.

Celebrity Cruises: Daily gratuities for restaurant and stateroom services are automatically charged to your account (between $14.50 and $18 a person) and may be adjusted at your discretion. An 18 per cent gratuity is added to all beverages, mini bar purchases, spa and salon services. Additional gratuities may be added at your discretion.

Holland America: A daily hotel service charge per guest of between $13.50 and $15 is added to your account. Bar service and wine purchases attract an additional 15 per cent.

Viking: Gratuities for ship personnel and local guides are included in all cruise fares other than the Mekong itinerary. Additional tipping is at the guest’s discretion.

According to cruisecritic.com.au, P&O, Princess and Carnival charge in Aussie dollars if the cruise is in Australian waters; but if you’re cruising with those brands overseas – or on any American cruise line – the currency used is the US Greenback. If you’re cruising on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises or Holland America in Australia or overseas, the onboard currency is also the US dollar.

If you have a Travel SOS question, email it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it for you (or find someone who can!).

Written by Olga Galacho

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