Tips on Cruise Ship Tipping – Who and How Much to Tip!

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There’s a wide variety of services that you will receive during your cruise. For some of them, depending on the cruise line, you will have the option to prepay gratuities or have them charged automatically while on board.


Other services are provided only to a few guests, not all. Let’s take as an example René’s favorite Norwegian Cruise Lines when it comes to Suites and Haven guests that receive the services of a Concierge and/or Butler. While tips are always appreciated, it is important to consider that there is such a thing as a tipping protocol, where keeping certain things in mind may go a long way and may prevent situations from being more awkward than not tipping at all!

First thing would be doing your homework as to who is included in any prepaid or automatic gratuities (AKA Service Charges) with your cruise line. Cruise line websites are the best source to learn what is and what is not included.

Let’s first talk about the amount to tip. While the crew on cruise lines work hard, for months at a time, far away from their families and home, the money they receive from gratuities certainly helps their livelihood a great deal. However, tips should be proportional to the quality of service they have provided.

It is important to note that the right amount may not always coincide with what you put inside an envelope, but if the difference between the services received and the amount of money you want to extend is not at least a bit consistent, it may be taken as a an insult or as a sign of dissatisfaction with the crew member’s services.

For instance, placing at tiny $5 tip on 14-day cruise for a Butler who delivered breakfast promptly every morning – it would be preferable to just not tip at all! I have observed these situations and the value of the tip fades through the concern that the guest may have been unhappy or just plain unfair.

Another thing that could be considered less than polite is to tip with several single dollar bills in a sealed envelope, thus building up the crew member’s expectations as to the contents, unless it is maybe accompanied by some personal praise for their services. Also coins are generally not a good idea (major world currency’s like US Dollars or Euros are always apricated).

On the plus side, tipping in any currency is widely appreciated, as crew members have access to exchanging this money in the different ports of call, and in general their value multiplies in their countries of origin due to the exchange rate, meaning 20 Euros would mean a lot more spending power in the Philippines than it would in Europe or the United States.

Another important aspect of tipping is to give it hand-to-hand. There are several times when my gratuities were left inside the room and the guest would tell me on their way out that that’s where they left it, creating a great deal of anxiety as to whether the envelope is clearly marked with my name or that anyone could claim ownership of it, or that it would simply disappear.

Finally, it is very important to be clear about the people that the tip should be split between, as this can create some animosity between crew members that may be under the impression they were part of the same envelope or gratuity.

Bottom line, tipping should be a celebration of what has been an amazing experience on board, and the person that provided the service as much as possible should be part of that celebration, in no unclear terms. Most importantly, when in doubt, just ask! – TG

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Frequent Floaters has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. FrequentFloaters and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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That Guy
That Guy
That Guy works for one of the major cruise lines and has for most of his carrier. He shares his unique insights from an insiders perspective and gives you a view few cruisers ever see or even think about.


  1. @That Guy – I would really appreciate if you could provide some detail on how tips that are placed on the end of cruise statement are typically distributed to the crew, with my preferred line Oceania it’s not at all clear who participates and at what percentages. It would also be helpful to know if it’s better for the crew if we elect to NOT tip via our bill and instead provide cash tips to our butlers, cabin stewards/cleaners, waiters, etc. Also for cruises with the gratuities included and/or added to your statement, how much if anything above this should be given in cash.

    • Well, Service Charges in general are split equally between the Restaurant and Housekeeping staff. Opting out of the Automatic Service Charges and giving out cash may sound like the better option (cash is, after all, king), but there IS some advantage to getting it as part of your salary, and that is the ability to transfer our money to our bank back home. Cash can only achieve this if we send it through Wester Union or similar services, which may cost a lot of money overtime. Keep in mind most of the money we earn will be spent back home, not while on board. Also, Butlers in particular might not be included in any automatic Service Charges. As to how much extra you should give, this is entirely based on your personal experience. I generally think whatever you think is right, is normally right.

  2. @That Guy, thanks for the response. Surprised to hear butler’s might not be included, given that the built-in gratuities are typically higher for suite/butler cabins. I’ve always kept the gratuities on my bill and then handed out extra to those crew that have really made our trip special, typically our butler, housekeeping team, and on occasion restaurant captains that have taken care of us with our dietary restrictions and excellent tables. Given the way dining works on Oceania, we typically don’t end up with the same wait staff very often as we move around quite a bit, so the built in gratuity split amongst the restaurant team works great from a passenger perspective.


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