The art of tipping can seem like a minefield to the British cruiser unlike our American counterparts. Therefore it can get quite confusing when we take a cruise trip to know what is expected of us when we tip. So when it comes to tipping onboard a cruise, what exactly do we do? Are there any fast rules or steady guidelines?
Well the first thing to remember is that the practise of tipping varies greatly amongst the many cruise lines. This can range from a required added service charge to no tipping at all. Therefore it is very important that you know the policy of the cruise line before you cruise so you can budget accordingly as these tips can exceed £100 per cruise! Most tips on cruise ships really are just service charges. This is why many cruise lines have moved towards adding a flat fee to your onboard account rather than make the amount you tip entirely optional.
Traditionally, all tips used to be given to the stewards and dining room staff on the last night of the cruise in an envelope. Some cruise lines for example Royal Caribbean and Celebrity still follow this custom whereas other cruise lines add the one lump charge to your onboard account. This has been introduced to compliment the new ‘freestyle’ way of cruising developed by some cruise lines.
As cruising has become more international, cruise lines have acknowledged that it would be easier for passengers not used to tipping, to add this charge to the onboard account, such as a restaurant or hotel would. Also with fixed seating times, shared tables and pre booked dining rooms being a thing of the past and with different waiting staff each evening, it would make tipping confusing!
It is worth noting that some of these charges added to your onboard account can actually be adjusted up or down according to level of service received and with some cruise lines you can actually opt out of this added charge. This is usually done by filling out a form at the purser’s desk, as some people prefer to give their money directly to the individual who has given them good service. These service charges only cover stewards and dining staff.
For bar staff, cruise lines usually add a 15% charge on your bar bill automatically. You are not obliged to give anything extra, but a little something may bring its rewards, especially on a crowded day by the pool!So how much will you have to pay? The majority of cruise lines work out that tipping averages £5-£10 per person per day. Broken down this is around £3 for dining room staff, £1 for Bistro and £2 for the cabin staff. The service charge added really is a minimum for the service that you receive. Most cruisers tip on top of the charge added to their onboard account, but this is purely to the passenger’s discretion. Many cruisers wish that all cruise lines would adopt the "no tipping expected" polices of top end lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea. However, it looks like service charges are here to stay.