The Complete Guide to Cruise Tipping


As Australians, we were raised in a society in which tipping is definitely NOT considered the norm. Unlike nations like the US, handing out cash right, left, and centre is simply not ingrained in our culture and wage systems. This makes many cruisers get somewhat nervous and confused when it comes to tipping policies at sea.

If you can be sure of one thing on a cruise holiday, it’s the amazing level of service you’ll receive from the ship’s dedicated crew. Working tirelessly to ensure every guest is warmly accommodated, cruise crews are some of the hardest workers in the travel sector and are fully deserving of an occasional tip or two. However, when it comes to paying pre-assigned, automatic gratuities on top of the total price of their cruise, some guests can understandably feel a little uneasy — largely because they have a handful of unanswered questions. To help you out, we’ve put together this guide covering everything you need to know about cruise tipping.

Tipping policies vary among cruise lines

Each cruise line does gratuities differently, which is what makes the topic of cruise tipping so confusing. Because there is no consistency across companies, it is difficult for cruisers, especially those from Australia, to know the right time to tip as well as the appropriate amount.

Thanks to automatic gratuities, the tipping process of many cruise lines is much simpler. You won’t need to concern yourself about how much you want to tip each crewmember. Because a recommended daily rate is automatically charged to your onboard account, you can just settle the balance at the end of the cruise. This is the most convenient route, and you can rest assured that your tips are distributed evenly among the staff, even cooks, cleaners, and laundry workers, with whom you won’t have direct contact. A trip to Guest Services will let you adjust the recommended amount in case you prefer to tip in cash or if you want your tips to better reflect the service you’ve been receiving.

Some cruise lines leave the gratuities up to the passenger’s discretion. Companies will suggest a recommended amount, but it’s up to you to decide how much you want to give or if you want to tip at all. Other cruise lines have opted for a mandatory service fee. Companies use this method because it ensures that all crewmembers are compensated fairly.

If you’re going all out on a luxury cruise, then tipping is made wonderfully easy. On lines such as Azamara, Crystal Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line, gratuities are included in passenger cruise fares, which means waitstaff, bartenders, and stewards are all covered. Tipping is definitely not expected on these luxury cruise lines; however, if you want to say an extra special ‘thank you’ or simply want to secure service that’s above and beyond the already high standard, handing out cash is the way to do it!


Image sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Theen Moy

Additional service charges may apply

If tipping wasn’t already confusing enough, some cruise lines charge an additional service charge on certain onboard amenities. May it be a fancy cocktail at the bar, a divine dinner at a specialty restaurant, or a deep-tissue massage at the spa, you might be charged an automatic service fee. This, of course, can be adjusted at the concierge desk. Before you hand your bartender, waiter, or spa attendant a tip, ask for the receipt to make sure you don’t accidentally tip twice.

How to tip on a cruise

When cruising with most major lines, passengers will have an automatic gratuities fee added to their onboard account. This is generally around $15 a day and is divvied up among all service crew. The idea is that it’s an easy and hassle-free way of ensuring all service staff are taken care of. Currently, many cruise lines have auto-tipping systems in place. Amounts vary from line to line and depend on an array of variables including suite class, voyage duration, and destinations. If you’d like to raise or lower your daily contribution, just visit the purser’s desk and ask to adjust or opt out of the auto-tipping amount.

If you would prefer to tip on a cash basis, that’s absolutely fine. However, you’ll need to ensure you have plenty of change on hand. In general, stateroom stewards, butlers, bartenders, and waiters all expect around $5-$7 a night.

infographic on cruise tippingWhen should you tip on a cruise?

The most common time to tip is at the end of your cruise because you can decide upon an amount based on the service you received. However, that doesn’t mean that tipping from the get-go doesn’t have its advantages. If you have high standards or will put in any special requests, tipping at the beginning of your journey will ensure that your desires are met throughout your cruise holiday. If you want the service staff to remember your face and your preferences, a polite comment combined with a tip will go a long way.

How to avoid tipping on a cruise

We don’t recommend that you skip out on gratuities. The service you receive may take a nosedive if you develop a reputation for being a bad tipper. Approach Guest Services if you feel the service isn’t up to your standards and share your ideas for improvement. If the issues continue, then you may decide to reduce the amount you give in gratuities.

Cruise1st’s Guide to Cruise Tipping

To give you an idea of how much you’re likely to pay in gratuities when travelling with different cruise lines, we’ll take a look at the tipping policies of some of Australia’s most popular cruise lines.

Cruise Line Tipping Policy Cost per person, per day Additional service charges?
Beverages Dining Spa
Aurora Expeditions Included $15 USD
Azamara Included 18%
Carnival Australia Discretionary
Carnival Cruise Line Automatic Standard staterooms: $14 USD

Suites: $16 USD

18% 18% 15%
Celebrity Cruises Automatic Standard staterooms: $15 USD

Concierge and AquaClass: $15 USD

Suites: $18 USD

20% 18% 20%
Celestyal Cruises Included
Costa Cruises Mandatory $12 USD to $18 USD – varies by destination and stateroom type 15%
Crystal Cruises Included 18%
Cunard Automatic Standard staterooms: $12 USD

Grill Suite guests: $14 USD

15% 12.5%
Dream Cruises Automatic $20 AUD to $25 AUD – varies by stateroom category
Holland America Line Automatic Standard staterooms: $15 USD

Suites: $16 USD

MSC Cruises Mandatory $13 USD 15% 15%
Norwegian Cruise Line Mandatory Most ships:

Standard staterooms: $15 USD

The Haven, Concierge, and Suites: $18 USD

Norwegian Sky All-Inclusive and Norwegian Sun All-Inclusive

Standard staterooms:

$21 USD

The Haven, Concierge, and Suites: $24 USD

20% 20% 20%
P&O Australia Discretionary
P&O World Cruises Included
Princess Cruises Automatic Standard staterooms: $15 USD

Mini-Suites and Club Class: $16 USD

Suites: $17 USD

18% 18% 18%
Quark Expeditions Discretionary
Royal Caribbean International Automatic Junior suites and below: $15 USD

Grand suites and above: $18 USD

18% 18% 18%
Seabourn Cruise Line Included
Silversea Cruises Included Included Included Discretionary


If you have any further questions about cruise tipping, give our friendly Australia-based cruise experts a call on 1300 857 345. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.

Find Your Dream Cruise Today



Leave A Reply