Automatic cruise gratuity fees

When you go on a cruise, you’re generally expected to tip the cruise staff, many of whom (like those in housekeeping and the kitchen) are paid low wages. But did you know that many cruise lines include pre-determined gratuity fees in your bill automatically?

In a great story on the subject of cruise gratuity fees, USA TODAY writes that “many of the biggest cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess and Norwegian, automatically add to passenger bills, saying that money will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service. Fees factored into the bill can range up to $23 per person, per day, and some lines recommend even higher gratuities.”

The first takeaway here is that you should aways find out in advance if you’ll be charged such fees automatically. But there’s another tip to take away, and that’s that even automatic fees can be negotiable. In the story, Charlie Sylvia, vice president of membership and trade relations for Cruise Lines International Association, shared “that cruisers really have a great deal of control over their experience, and that includes fees and tips. ‘As far as gratuities are concerned, a lot of cruise lines will let you speak to guest services and will let you waive prepaid gratuities because many people like to pay cash directly to the people that have served them throughout the cruise,’ Sylvia explained.”

Keep that in mind. And especially when the service is good, make sure your cruise staff is tipped generously, however that happens.

Cruise gratuity fees by cruise line

Of course, cruise gratuity fees, including those that are automatically charged, are not universal. Each cruise line has its own policy, and many have done away with (or never charged) automatic gratuity fees. “The dollar amounts of automatic gratuity charges, sometimes called service charges, have soared in recent years at some lines,” writes USA TODAY. “But a growing number of upscale ocean lines, including Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream have been eliminating them. The practice also is disappearing at some river cruise lines. River lines Uniworld and Tauck and Scenic Cruises are among those that now include gratuities for crew members in their base fares.”

In fact, USA TODAY went through many of the major cruise lines and broke down the gratuity policy each employs. See that breakdown here.

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