Nothing incites a heated discussion quite like the subject of gratuities. Should you really have to pay them? Are those who have them removed just being tight as a ducks proverbial or are you well within your rights not to reward poor service? It is a subject that has divided the Cruise Club Forum, so we thought we’d address it on the blog too. Although, when it comes to right vs. wrong, we’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself!
What are gratuities?
Just like the tips you leave in restaurants at land-based resorts and at home, gratuities serve as a ‘thank you’ for the service you have received throughout your cruise holiday. The tips you pay are distributed to the crew members who have served you in the restaurants and bars, and also you cabin stewards and butler.
How much will I pay in gratuities?
The way you pay tips on board varies depending on which cruise line you are travelling with and often which cabin grade you are travelling in. Luxury cruise lines, including Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Azamara Club Cruises, include gratuities within your overall cruise fare. Others allocate a set amount per person, per day; P&O Cruises, for example, recently raised their tipping rates to £5.50 per person, per day. Gratuities are often in the region of £3-£5 with cruise lines who operate in Sterling on board or $5-$10 with American cruise lines.
Guests may choose to increase or decrease the amount of gratuities paid, though you must speak to the ship’s purser or reception if you wish to have them removed completely.
How do I pay?
There are various ways through which to pay.
For many years, passengers would be provided with envelopes address to various members of staff, along with some extra envelopes to be used at your discretion. Tips would be placed in these envelopes and would go directly to that person, whether they were your cabin steward or waiter at dinner, for example. Whilst a handful of cruise lines do still operate this system, most have converted to a system of charging gratuities on a per person/per day basis, with them being automatically charged to your on board account. Automatic gratuities mean the guest needn’t worry about remembering to tip in envelopes or deciding how much to tip, whilst also ensuring that gratuities are spread evenly across all crew members.
Some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, also allow guests to pre-pay up front at the time of booking. Doing this is great for those who are working to a budget, as your gratuities are paid and forgotten about before you even step on the ship, rather than bumping up your on board spend. Paying your cruise gratuities up front can also be beneficial from an exchange rate point of view. Many operators charge in US Dollars, however when paying them in advance you will pay Bolsover Cruise Club in Pounds Sterling. Doing this means that you can avoid fluctuating exchange rates on board.
Finally, many cruise lines will still provide envelopes in your stateroom, for passengers who wish to tip certain members of staff personally at the end of a cruise.
Why would I want to remove gratuities from my account?
The service experienced on a cruise holiday is almost always exceptional. However, in the rare event that the service received falls short of their expectations, some guests may feel that the automatic gratuities on their account are not justified. If this is the case, the ship’s purser or reception can see that the charges are removed for your account.
The process is also the same if you wish to remove them from your account because you would rather use the traditional envelope system. Cruise lines including P&O Cruises will allow you to remove automatic gratuities from your account for this purpose.
What’s your view on gratuities? Join the discussion on the Cruise Club Forum.