Cruising may be unlike any other vacation, but it has at least one thing in common with trips by plane, train and automobile: One way or another, you’re expected to take care of the people who take care of you by leaving them tips.
Some cruise lines charge your account on a daily basis for crew gratuities, while others wait until the end of your cruise to add the tips to your account. You can still ask for the charge to be changed or even removed.
However you dole it out, you can expect to tip anywhere from $11 to $15 per person per stateroom per day. With cruise lines, this money is pooled and shared by all of the service staff (who, by the way, rely on tips for the majority of their income). This way, Lido buffet servers and waiters, roaming drink waiters and unassigned-time dining room wait staff are rewarded for their efforts along with the servers in the main restaurants.
Just about all cruise lines now automatically charge crew gratuities to your onboard account, rendering the traditional envelopes and cash routine a moot point. However, there are a few other instances when you will need to say thank you with cold, hard cash, so it’s a good idea to have a stash of one- and five-dollar bills handy.
Before you cruise: The first time you should be prepared to tip is when you arrive at the cruise terminal and hand over your luggage to the shoreside porters. Not only do these guys work hard and deserve a little extra compensation, but the gratuity is a kind of baggage delivery insurance. If you see a “Tipping not necessary” sign, the porter certainly won’t mind if you ignore it and give the customary $1 to $2 per bag.
During the cruise: You’re in your stateroom, there’s a knock on the door and it’s someone delivering your luggage. It’s polite to tip that person as you would tip a bellman at a hotel for shuttling your luggage to your room; again, $1 to $2 per bag is a good rule of thumb.
Other times to consider tipping onboard include room service deliveries, when a $2 tip is a fair gesture. If you use the spa, a 15–18% tip will automatically be added to your bill; similarly, most lines add an automatic 15% service charge onto all bar bills, whether you’re ordering a beer or a diet soda. If you spend a lot of time at a particular bar and get to know the bartenders, tipping an additional amount would surely be welcomed. Based on their involvement, give the restaurant’s wine sommelier a $10 or $20 at the end of the cruise (some cruise lines have done away with this person and your waiter is responsible for keeping track of your wine bottles).
Tipping is not necessary for the staff in the children’s playroom; however, if you’ve used the private babysitting service some lines offer or if your children have spent a lot of time in the kids’ programming, then a few bucks a day will certainly be appreciated.
In port, it’s common practice to tip your shore excursion guide $2 to $5 and another buck or two for the motor coach driver.
The Envelope, Please
Some folks prefer the more-personal practice of handing out cash-filled envelopes to crew members. If you choose that method, here’s a typical suggested breakdown (per person, per day). Depending upon your cruise line and accommodation category, these recommendations may vary by a few dollars. Ultra-luxury lines like Regent, Silversea, Seabourn and Sea Dream include gratuities in the cruise fare.
- Waiter: $3.75
- Assistant Waiter: $2.25
- Head Waiter: $.75
- Stateroom Attendant: $3.75 ($7.25 if you’re in a suite)
- Stateroom Assistant: $2.25
One More Tip
If you use a porter to wheel your luggage to your car or motor coach once you’re back in your home port, you’ll need to dip into your pocket one more time. It may be tempting to stiff him because you’ll never see him again, but a final monetary “thank you” never hurts. Besides, you just finished a fantastic vacation—why not share a little sunshine wirth the people who deserve it?