Should You Pay Cruise Gratuities? 6 Things You Need To Know Before You Do!

Should You Pay Cruise Gratuities? 6 Things You Need To Know Before You Do!


When should and shouldn’t you pay crew gratuities? One of the most controversial and hottest topics in the world of
cruising. Hi I’m Gary Bembridge and this is another of my tips for travellers. In
this edition I’m am exploring six things that you need to know about cruise
gratuities and, very importantly, whether you should pay them. First of all what
is a gratuity? A gratuity is supposed to be, and its original
definition is, a tip or a bonus that you give to somebody if they’ve gone
above the norm and if they’ve given you exceptional service. However, increasingly it’s become something very different and it’s actually become the norm, which is
why so many people are getting upset about it. It’s supposed to be a bonus
or a tip that you give someone for exceptional service. When it comes to
gratuities there’s three broad approaches that cruise lines take. The
first of these is the gratuities are included within the price of a cruise.
That tends to be more common on the very upmarket cruise lines, so the
ultra-luxury lines will often include the gratuity and they will say that
gratuities are not expected by any of the crew. It has become increasingly
common that more mainstream cruise lines are starting to include them, so cruise
lines for example like P&O Cruises in the UK and Marella cruises also in the
UK have started to include gratuities within the overall fare. The second, and
more common approach, is that they auto- added or you’re asked to pay for them in
advance. When you book your cruise you’re given the option of paying for
gratuities in advance or once you’re onboard they are auto added on to your bill, and in some cases it’s very difficult to remove them. You can, of course, go up to the Guest Services Desk and ask to either increase or decrease the amount of gratuities, but
they are pushed through by the cruise line either by getting you to pay them
upfront when you pay your final balance or by just simply adding them on to your
onboard account and taking the money off your credit card at the end of
the cruise. This can sometimes cause a lot of discussion because there is a lot
of stories and rumours that lists are put up telling the crew if certain cabins or people have asked for gratuities to be
removed. I don’t have any evidence of this, although there are various
anecdotal stories. The approach which used to be more common on cruise lines, and is largely gone although you do see it quite a lot of
river cruising, is you’re offered or encouraged to just decide if you want to
add pay yourself and you can either hand them over as cash to individual members of the crew or sometimes there’ll be a box where you can go and put an envelope in and gratuities are pooled. When I started cruising that last one was much more common, you were given envelopes and some
guidelines by the cruise line and you put cash in and you’d give it to each of the
members of the crew that you wanted to. But increasingly the second approach, where cruise lines encourage or force you to pay gratuities, is much more common. It
can add a lot of money on to the price of your cruise. Most cruise lines will
set a gratuity between $12 and $20 at the time of recording per
person or per day, and that also applies to children. So, if you’re a couple it
can add between $150 and $300 for a seven-day cruise. That’s around
about £150 pounds up to £250 and about the same in euros. If you’re
traveling as a family, with two adults and two kids, you could be talking many
hundreds of dollars, many hundreds of pounds or many hundreds of euros added on to the cost of your holiday. And pretty much constantly cruise lines are
increasing the amount that they recommend gratuities should be. Why
has the topic of gratuities become quite so controversial? A lot is around how crew members are recruited and paid. Gratuities have become a fundamental part of a cruise wages. Cruise lines
are registered in ports of convenience, which mean that they do not have to
follow the labour laws of places like the US, UK or countries in Europe.They register them in places where they’re able to follow much more relaxed and less strict labour laws and there’s no things like minimum wages. The view is what cruise lines then do is they then go out and recruit a lot of people from
the Far East, so places like the Philippines, Indonesia and India, and they pay them at a much lower rate and they then use gratuities to top up and give
the crew members a much more balanced or fair wage. All the cruise lines are doing
is using gratuities as a way of giving the crew members a better
wage. There’s a lot of concern and discussion around whether the gratuities that you pay in through Auto gratuities or prepaid actually get to
the crew members, and how much the cruise lines actually keep for their own
profits or used to supplement more senior crew or senior managers bonuses. The real concern is that actually the gratuities are not getting to the people
that actually do the work and that you’re interfacing with on a day to day
basis. In reality gratuities are increasingly, in my view, becoming a tax
because all that the cruise lines are really doing is giving you a fare which
looks much lower but once you actually go on the cruise they auto add gratuity,
so effectively adding cost. Of course you can take it off but all they’re
really doing is hiding the fact that your cruise is actually costing you much
more money than you think it’s going to cost. So, instead of paying the crew a
higher wage they’re basically using gratuities as a way of making the fare
look lower but still making you cough up and paying much more money than the fare appears to be in practice. The gratuities are used to pay the crew a
better wage, and it’s not really for improved service. When should you not
pay gratuities. Here are the reasons that I see most people who go cruising
argue all the time that you shouldn’t pay. The first of those people argue when you cannot afford it as it’s an extra cost on your cruise which you can’t
afford. Of course many people would argue against that because they argue in reality by doing that you’re not giving the crew a fair wage, and by removing
gratuities not paying them and you’re actually getting the crew to subsidize
the cost of your fare. A lot of people then argue against that. You shouldn’t pay gratuities if it is bundled into the fare. There’s no need to
pay extra because it is already covered. Of course you may decide you
want to because someone’s giving you phenomenal and really extra service, so it genuinely returns to what a gratuity was supposed to be which is an extra tip
above the person’s salary for doing an exceptional job. You shouldn’t pay them
when you’re buying something like drinks or using the spa, because gratuities are
Auto added on the bills. Usually on a cruise line when you buy a drink you’ll
find that a gratuity is added of about 18% and the same applies in
many spas. You shouldn’t then pay an additional gratuity on top of that
because effectively you’ve got like a sales tax or tax already added. Also you
shouldn’t really pay use, many people argue, things like if you put
your kids in the kids’ club if you’re Auto paying maturities. Don’t give an extra tip if someone comes and fixes your room. For example, you have a problem in your room and they come and deal with that you don’t give a
tip for that. So any of those kind of services that are provided you would
normally expect to be covered you don’t need to pay an extra gratuity particularly when auto
paying into a central pot because you effectively are then paying
double gratuities. When should you pay the gratuity? It depends on your view around whether you believe that gratuity is part of your overall fare and by paying the
auto gratuity or pre paying the gratuity all you’re doing is making sure
that the crew members who deal with you are getting a fair wage or a better wage
than they would if you don’t pay the gratuity. They actually expect
that gratuity and you may see it if you generally have individuals that you see as providing
phenomenal service and someone’s gone way beyond what you would normally and
reasonably expect and you really want to acknowledge that because they’ve done
something absolutely amazing, you may want to
give them some extra dollars to recognize that. Another reason for paying into the gratuities through that central process is nowadays we tend not to eat
in the same restaurants, with increasingly many different dining venues and
speciality dining we don’t have the same server all the time so actually by
paying the gratuities into the central pot is making sure that all of
those people that have served you across your week or two week cruise are actually getting some kind of recognition of the services they provided. The other reason for paying gratuities, particularly paying them individually, is for people
that are not going to get part of that bigger pot so, for example, people who
work in the casino don’t get a share of those over gratuities, people running the
tours and the bus drivers are not going to get a share of those gratuities
(unless you’re one of the ultra-luxury lines where they do build that into the
overall fare), also people like porters at the port who help you with your bags
or carrying a bags. Those kind of people are not going to get part of the overall
gratuity pot. Some people also see it really important giving a gratuity to
the maitre de asif you have a lousy table and you want to move to a much better
table a gratuity is often a way that people see helping to make sure you get
a better table. And, certainly that’s something we have done in the past.
Gratuities are always going to be a controversial part of cruising,
particularly nowadays where they are Auto added and the cruise line kind of forces you to pay it. They’ve almost added it as a tax. The whole issue of
gratuities is kind of a bizarre in my view because it’s not really a
gratuity, it is a service charge, it’s an additional charge and it’s really part of
your fare. If the cruise line is kind of making you pay them it’s not
really a recognition of service above the norm. One of the things that we do as consumers is when we go out looking for cruisers, we often
looking for great fares, and as long as the cruise line knows that and
they know that by under pitching effectively the fare by a
couple of hundred dollars / couple hundred pounds / couple hundred euros they know they’re going to catch that up in gratuity charges. They’re going to keep doing it
because they know that often when you’re looking for a cruise we look at the fare,
and we forget a lot of those extra costs they’re going to add on particularly
gratuities. Unlike on land where some hotels have resort fees, which is another kind
of tax, but they do at least bundle in extra things. What you need to bear in
mind with gratuities on a cruise line is you’re probably not going to get service
above and beyond because they have just become part of the normal fare. Gratuities are a very hot topic and I would love to hear what you think about
gratuities. Do you auto pay them? Do you take it off and pay people in
cash? What is your view about gratuities and how do you think cruise lines should handle it? Please watch many more of my Tips For Travellers videos to help you get travel inspiration, advice and tips on how to make much more of your precious travel time and money.

41 thoughts on “Should You Pay Cruise Gratuities? 6 Things You Need To Know Before You Do!

  1. the gratuities you pay everyday single day is for everybody,they divided according to ranks,the more higher ranks you are you get more than anybody.tippings is not about mandatory its about yourselfs if you think some crew members deserve to get some tips from you becoz they take care of you throughout your vacation.then its up to you or thanks them personally.this people workhard away from their families for almost a year just to make a living. hope you realized most of them from 3rd world countries,imagine if this crew members from the us or from england then how much you pay for the cruise

  2. If I’m paying gratuities before I even step on the boat then I’m def not tipping when I’m actually on the boat.

  3. I don’t like that they call it a gratuity because it is exactly what you said it is, it’s a service charge. They should just call it Crew Fee, or Staff Supplement.

  4. If it is added by room by the Cruise Line it is not a gratuity, it is a charge. The Cruise Lines should be paying the Crew a proper wage. I t was included on my first cruise, now I no longer pay it. The exchange rate to the USD is a killer. I also do not believe it all goes to the crew.

  5. Cruise lines should be made to pay a reasonable wage to their staff under the rules of the country which runs the Cruise Line (eg HAL should come under US /EU rules… P&O under UK rules etc etc )  That way the passengers would not have to pay a  TAX ENFORCED BY CRUISE LINES (AKA gratuities!!)  to pay part of the staff wages.  Gratuities should be just that – Gratuities!!  given to those who have gone above and beyond and not just to pay their basic wages.  Even when you take the gratuities off your bill, they still charge you extra on drinks, purchases, services etc.  Its disgusting, and the cruise companies do not tell you all this when you are booking!!

  6. I personally only like to tip when service is provided, for instance my cabin service ,on a 7day cruise I only use room service about 2 times I'm a clean person don't need service daily, so will not pay for 7 days only 2.

  7. I worked on cruise ships for many years. Cruise ships do everything they can to get back the money that they pay employees as well. They schedule crew bingo, crew only sales etc., rent cell phones to crew and make the workers do the work of renting with no additional wages so the managers can take the profits. This along with other activities to get their money back. Cruise lines are scum of the earth and especially most of the upper echelon and officers working on them. Tips are just another way to pay their employees with other people's money.

  8. To be honest – fares, fees, gratuities, tax, perks. It is getting increasingly more difficult to really determine the total cost of a cruise when you book it. With total I literally mean everything, hotel before and after, flights, transport etc. I increasingly make better deals and stay within budget when I do all inclusive like what Silversea or Regency does. Celebrity in comparison almost requires a PHD to figure out what is included and what not and what I need to add on during or before the trip.

  9. Gratuities should not be mandatory. Any auto Pan gratuity we have removed immediately. Gratuities or tits are for exceptional service not standard service. There cruise lines should pay their crew a reasonable wage so they do not have to depend On gratuities. Since the cruise lines use labor laws where the labor rate is very low , giving a reasonable wage should not be very difficult. As it would be per se in the USA.

  10. I agree with most comments. Whether I am on land or on a cruise, I tip according to quality of service, not using their 15-20% tables. To me it is determined by how well the person does at his/her job. Any other forced fee is just that, a forced fee, tax, service charge–whatever you want to call it. And to me, it is worth the fuss to remove it. If they want higher fares, then set the fares higher and see what happens!

  11. Gratuities should be outlawed throughout the world! It's basically stealing money from consumers. If you need a tip to do your job right, you should be doing something else! Most people DON'T get a tip to do their job right!

  12. So I when would be the right time to remove the gratuity fee from the trip? Before you book? After? The second day of the cruise? Can anyone explain it a bit more. Also the food. What’s free and what’s not free? What do you have to pay on a cruise? It there a bill @ the ending of your trip? Etc. I would like to know everything, before I book. Especially the hidden charges and how to avoid them. This is my first time on a cruise and I would like to know. Also, of topic, should I just say f the cruise and go to a island instead? Thanks in advance.

  13. Went with P & O 3 years ago it was not a great holiday they wanted 120 pounds tip! I went to customer service place and stopped it it's a cheek I never expected tips when I worked better in my pocket than theirs don't be daft enough to pay it!

  14. It's irritating but I knew this was something I would have to accept or deal with when I booked my cruise. What does irritate me is the "per person gratuity" is the same for the couple in the "Owner's Suite" as the senior citizen couple with an inside cabin who after years of saving, get to take their once in a lifetime trip.

  15. I remember a comedian once saying, "Oh, it says here on my dinner bill that the tip has automatically been added to my bill for my convenience, well, for their convenience, I'll put as much of their silver ware in my jacket pockets so as to save them from having to wash them."

  16. I pay the recommended gratuities and also pay the assistant waiter, waiter, cabin steward, and possible the head waiter if he did something nice for me. I tip in cash for the room service. The service I receive on Princess is exemplary and I am more than willing to shell out a few hundred bucks to them. One night in the Fairmont hotel in Jasper, Alberta is $700. A room, thats it. I will take the cruise over that any day. Come on folks, get the moths out of your wallet!

  17. I refuse to pay gratuities. I an NOT the crews employer. Furthermore they advertise the cruise as having excellent service so I have already paid for it in my fare. I have never had anyone give exceptional service over and above what I would expect from them. It is a rort – the cruise liners should pay a proper wage as they can afford it – look at their annual profit. As a nurse I was never given a gratuity for every injection I gave or bedpan I delivered – it was my job. Do the grew tip every checkout operator, petrol attendant, teacher the list goes on. It will be interesting because I am going to be be going on two cruises shortly and coincidently they are on the same ship so it will be interesting to see if not paying gratuities has any payback

  18. Hi Gary. Great videos. Enjoy your tips.
    I share your view that these “gratuities” are actually a hidden fare supplement (on Holland-America, they are listed on one’s account as “hotel service charge”). I am aware of them before I board, accept them as part of the fare, and pay them.
    These auto gratuities have become a more “hot button” topic recently. On our most recent cruise (spring 2019), there was a lot of discussion about how all the cruise lines are cutting costs (i.e., reducing crew sizes, and making the remaining crew members — cabin stewards, servers, bartenders, etc. — work harder) while raising fares. Fewer crew doing more work makes it difficult to provide “exceptional” service.
    In addition to paying the auto gratuities, I carry envelopes and cash to give tips off the ship and bonuses on board. For example, on our recent 19-day cruise, we usually had the same cheerful Thai girl clearing our table and fetching our tea and coffee in the Lido Market. Having lived in Thailand, we bonded. We did not hesitate to pay her a bonus on our last day.
    Another longtime cruising couple we met have another clever way of giving bonuses. They arrive on board with a big box of chocolate bars. On a cabin steward’s or server’s wages, a chocolate bar is a luxury. This couple will leave a bar every few days for the steward, will give one to any maintenance person sent to their cabin, pass one to the bartender in their favourite lounge, etc. These small tokens are very much appreciated by the crew members. It is an idea I plan to use on our next cruise in spring 2020.

  19. Some people are just absolutely cheap when it comes to paying staff and it doesn't work in your favor. I've been on many cruises, all inclusives, etc. If you tip your waiter/waitress is going to show up way more often than el cheapo that cant afford to drop a dollar on a tip for a drink.

  20. I always auto-pay the tips up front, because I know there are staff servicing me that I never even see, such as the staff cooking the food and the staff doing my laundry. In addition, I also tip the staff I deal directly with, such as the bartender or cocktail waitress who serves me, or the room attendant who keeps my room orderly – doing so ensures that you will be treated top-notched during the whole cruise. Trust me when I tell you this, the staff you deal directly with knows who does and who DOESN'T tip, and it DOES make a difference how you are treated.
    I'm not trying to guilt the rest of you cheap bastards into tipping, but just be aware that I will be getting the attention while you are getting ignored.
    Happy cruising!

  21. They should be included in the cost of the fare like every other cost incurred. Cruise lines don't reduce the headline charge and t
    then add a fuel charge or water treatment charge, so why do it with the cost of employing staff?

  22. "Mandatory " Tips are NOT fixed. You can adjust them up or down. If you want to control WHO gets your tips, then cancel.ALL mandatory tips.and pay your Cabin Steward, Dining Room Attendant directly.

  23. I'm opposed to auto-added gratuities and I've always been able to have them removed. I'll give certain individuals a tip at the end. I'm sorry that this gratuity practice results in passenger guilt feelings for not tipping, but I'm not going to compensate for the choice workers made when they accepted such a job with a company that pays them so poorly. Cruise lines are just greedy. Carnival, in 2018, had a net income of $3bln, and whose Chairman says this on 2018 Annual Report's first few pages: " I sincerely thank our more than 120,000 team members who went above and beyond, and by consistently
    exceeding our guest expectations, delivered for both our guests and our shareholders. In just five years, our team
    more than doubled our return on invested capital and nearly tripled our adjusted earnings per share, through
    executing our strategy to create demand in excess of measured capacity growth while leveraging our industryleading
    scale."

  24. What does TIPS stand for? How do I know I am going to get that before the service is completed? The real issue I have is trusting the company to get the money to the individual who deserves it. If you want to pay your staff more, do so and charge me for it in the fare, I will then decide if I am willing to pay it by going on your cruise line. Don't try and steal it off my night stand!

  25. I am glad I watched this video and read the comments. I found a super deal to fly to Sydney next year. Now I am planning my activities. I was thinking of the Carnival Great Barrier Reef 9 day cruise. After reading the many comments about gratuities. I am turned off by hidden charges, taxes and gratuities. I have a choice and I am going to exercise my right not to cruise! I will find another suitable activity that does not include all this nonsense. Many thanks to the veteran cruisers for their comments. You helped me decide to forego Carnival and spend my hard earned cash elsewhere. I do not enjoy getting squeezed for gratuities and bushwhacked on the bill. I do not know anyone that does. Thanks everyone for saving me all the aggravation and $$$$.

  26. Personally, we view tipping as a form of giving and understand most cruise liner staff is not paid well and work long hours. So in those cases, we’re happy to tip for any standard to great service. There may be some basic items like going to store to purchase basic items like a bottle of water, then no. But anytime there is a service rendered like making me a drink (coffee etc) then sure. But it is something to always be prepared for and budget for ahead of time.

    Personally I love cash tips.

  27. I've read the comments & replies below for more than an hour and, I believe, I can safely say that the majority of the responders are not in favor of the autopay gratuities that the cruise lines add to our fare. Most were of the opinion that it's the responsibility of the cruise lines to pay a livable salary and we, the consumers, should tip individuals for good services provided to us. We know the cruise lines register their ships in countries that have very low standards of wages thus, they (the Cruise corporations) can stay within the law paying low wages. I cannot see an acceptable answer to this problem in the foreseeable future. (1.) Travelers are not going to boycott the cruise ships and stop cruising; (2.) The Cruise companies are not going to hurt their bottom line and suddenly begin to pay their crews reasonable salaries and do away with autopay gratuities; (3.) We, the cruising public, by not paying the autopay gratuity, and paying for good services rendered will continue to leave the majority of the crew with very little pay as we will not pay every crew member who performs a service for us. i.e. The line servers on the buffet, the pastry servers, the toilet cleaners; the list of that personnel is endless aboard a cruise ship. Generally, we would tip the room stewards,, the bartenders, casino servers, dining room waiters. I see no immediate answer to this problem except I would feel better about this 'tipping' situation, if the jobs aboard a ship were ranked and a published report of the percentage of who gets what was made public. In other words, in actual pay as it now stands, what is the salary of a steward, a bartender, a singer at the bars, entertainers in the shows, the line workers, etc., and what percentage does each type worker receive from our autopay gratuities? A pay range of Level I, Level II, Level III workers and so on, could be made public along with the percentages paid in gratuities at each level. I am a retired teacher in SC and teacher pay was based on levels of education + years of experience and those amounts were made public as was the clerical personnel, cafeteria workers, custodians, etc. Public corporations should have to be as transparent and most of the cruise lines, if not all, are public not private. I even own a small amount of shares in Carnival Cruise Lines. This narrative is so long that I'm not rereading for grammatical errors. If you find any, please don't embarrass me by calling me out on them. I think you get the intent of this comment and can overlook any errors I may have made. Thank you.

  28. Yes I don't believe the tips are getting to those that deserve it but I usually pay upfront and leave a little something in the room on the last day

  29. Way back when, we tipped directly given the option. I simply would cancel or never book the cruise if not given the option. I am not tipping the captain or trying to give the CEO another buck on top of his bonus. Not now… Not ever

  30. We usually pay the gratuities then give extra for great service. Our cabin steward usually gets a $20. I tip $1 in cash to our drink servers each time. They really get to know us and go out of their way to serve us.
    We ran into a group of crew members on shore leave at a little bar in Cozumel. They told us that some rarely get topside and they work 12 hour shifts for as little as $700 a month.
    Don't be cheap, they work hard.

  31. I pay them. I usually buy the drink package as well and add $1 tip per drink on top of the, hopefully (unless the cruise lines are lying to us), included gratuity.

  32. The cruise lines recruit employees from low wage countries, so they pay them low wages. The crew usually send most of their wages home to their families, since most of their needs are taken care of by the cruise lines. Usually the only Americans you find working on a cruise ship are entertainers. The crew are under 6 month contracts to the cruise lines. If they complain about low wages or if a customer files a complaint against them, they are sent home. The crew are trained to be pleasant and helpful, but they avoid having too much personal connection, to avoid any trouble. Notice, no ship sailing out of American ports are registered in America? That's because American wage laws are strictly adhered to. Panama is lax on wage laws, so most ships are registered there. Regarding tipping, it's best to cancel the auto tip and tip your steward personally. I personally leave $5 a day tip to my steward on my pillow as I leave my cabin in the morning. You'd be surprised how much better service you'll get.

  33. Sound like an Government Policy. Is this why Crew employees Commit suicide This multi Billion dollar Business why they can't Afford to pay Employees.

  34. In essence, your cruise fares are just made to appear lower than it really is by separating out the gratuities. Treat it as a service charge and TIP on top of that for excellent service.

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