Tipping on a cruise ship

Tipping on holiday is probably one of those topics that many people feel they need to know about but feel unsure of the right questions to ask. After all, destinations and cultures vary and the last thing anyone wants to do is offend someone.

Some of the most common tipping related questions we get asked are:

  • ‘How much should I tip?’
  • ‘When are the most appropriate times to tip?’
  • ‘Why is tipping on a cruise important?’

On cruise ships tipping is a common practice, so we wanted to clear up any uncertainties you may have before you set sail. In the guide below, we’ll give you answers to the above questions, as well as many more so that you can learn everything you need to know about tipping on a cruise.


Firstly, it’s worth knowing that tipping isn’t compulsory for all cruise lines. In fact, the only cruise line which charges compulsory gratuities is Costa cruise line which charges €8 per person per day. Usually tipping is considered a voluntary appreciation of gratitude towards someone who has provided you with an excellent service.

Most cruise lines place automatic service charges on passengers’ accounts and the amount differs between each cruise line. Sometimes, at the time of booking you’ll be given the option for prepaid gratuities when making a booking.

This type of tipping process has been put in place for three main reasons. The first is due to the amount of international travellers that don’t always share the same opinions when it comes to tipping. The second is because of the huge increase of alternative dining venues. In the past, passengers dined at the same table for their three meals a day, but with so many different dining venues you are now no longer limited to one team of staff (can you imagine trying to tip around 30 different waiters and waitresses individually?). Lastly, this form of tipping is a fair way to ensure that behind the scenes employees who have worked toward ensuring you have an excellent cruise get rewarded too.

However, if you do not want to have the gratuities added to your account, you can visit Guest Services once you’re onboard and ask to have them removed.


Tipping cash on cruise ships throughout the cruise is no longer a common practice due to the development of onboard credit accounts. For example, when you sign charges for drink to your account, you’re given the option to add an extra gratuity to your waiter or waitress should you wish to. Before you do this, bear in mind that in most cases a tip charge is automatically added to your bill when you order drinks, but the option to add more is there should you want to, meaning you don’t need to tip in cash. If you don’t want to use the automatic gratuities applied to your account, you can still use cash to tip those employees who have gone above and beyond for you.


If you are going to opt for the prepaid method, then you can either prepay the amount in full or add it to your shipboard account as a daily or cumulative fee. However if you know you’re going to leave the gratuities on your account, we advise you pay this in full before your voyage even begins so that you are not left with a hefty bill at the end of your holiday.

If, for whatever reason, you feel that the automated service charge should be increased or decreased, we’d recommend making this request at the end of your cruise. This allows you to evaluate how much would be a reasonable gratuity to give based on the service you’ve received during your time onboard. Any changes must be made before disembarking or the card you put on file with the cruise line will be automatically charged the sum total of your bill.

If you want to include any additional tipping, perhaps if you have received particularly outstanding service, generally speaking it’s wise to hand out cash tips on the last day of the cruise. Leaving it until the morning of disembarkation when everyone is extremely busy could make it difficult for you to locate the crew member you are seeking.

Certain exceptions to this rule include your room service steward, in-port baggage handlers and tour operators (the latter of which don’t work on the cruise) all of whom should ideally be tipped on the spot.


The amount you wish to tip is completely your choice. There’s no right or wrong, it’s merely what you feel is an acceptable amount. However, below are some of the crew members that you may want to consider tipping whilst on your cruise.


To follow on from the above point, in-port baggage handlers won’t have the opportunity to share the onboard tip benefits. So, consider tipping them like you would a hotel porter.


You are likely to interact with your cabin steward the most whilst onboard and whilst the automatic service charges will cover the basics, it’s generally considered courteous to tip them a little extra to show your appreciation for all their hard work. The same can be said if you’re staying in a suite with Butler service – you may find you want to give them a little extra.


As mentioned previously, onboard bars usually have an automatic gratuity which features on the bill. However, if you find yourself visiting the same bar, a good way to ensure fast service is to give the bartender a tip upfront to show your gratitude.


This is one that isn’t completely necessary because they are covered in the automatic tip pool. However, if you feel they have gone above and beyond to make your experience that much more enjoyable, it can’t hurt to offer them a little extra - especially if they have gone to the effort to get you an upgraded table or if they’ve delivered something special to your table.


If your child had an excellent time in one of the kids clubs, you may want to show your appreciation to the Counsellors for ensuring that your young ones had a great cruise experience. Ask your child who their favourite Counsellor was or hand a tip to the head Counsellor to share between the group. Alternatively, you could purchase a selection of chocolates or treats from the onboard shops and allow your child to give the Counsellors this as a gift instead.


When it comes to spa treatments, it’s quite common for an additional 15% gratuity charge to be added to your bill. Should you wish to you can increase this amount by however much you like.