Another year, another fee increase on the high seas. Even as the cruise lines offer up specials for 2019 during #ChooseCruise Month, Holland America Line is quietly raising its daily gratuity charge by $1 per person, per day.
Effective for all sailings on or after Dec. 1, HAL will charge $16.00 per day, per person for guests in suites and $14.50 for all others, according to the company’s reservations department, which confirmed the change. And while it doesn’t sound like much, it’s a 7% increase—and the first to impact pricing for the coming new year.
HAL spokesperson Erik Elvejord told TMR that "as most lines do, gratuities are not included in the base cruise fare but are broken out separately, and this model has been supported by guest feedback. Consumers can always adjust their gratuities up or down as they wish."
Asked specificaly if the full amount goes to the crew, he replied, "Yes, of course it goes to the crew. It's an important part of their compensation."
The move echoes other recent gratuity surges over the past several months.
Norwegian Cruise Line increased its gratuities on April 1 by 50 cents, to $14.50 per day for standard cabins and $17.50 per day for suites and The Haven; guests on Norwegian Sun and Sky, which include drinks in their price, pay $19.99 or $22.99 for suites. Royal Caribbean raised its gratuities by $1 effective January, 2018.
Travel agents had mixed feelings about the news. “I believe it is fair. The staff on the cruise lines are the ones responsible for our clients having a good time. And if you talk to any crew member you realize how hard they do work to make our clients’ experience a memorable one,” said Chris Caulfield at CruiseOne, Croton on Hudson, New York.
“I’m happy to see the gratuities raised. I think the workers deserve more money than they make as it is. And people should be giving extra gratuity but most don’t,” said Veronica Forns Wold, owner of Effortless Travel in Tallahassee, Florida.
But Laure Ann Delaney Bahna at CRUISES INC. suggested the cruise lines may be hurting their business. “Besides the increase in cruise travel, increase in booking costs and recent increases in gratuities may not allow USA newbies to opt to try cruising, and guests will look elsewhere for family vacations. It is starting to get very costly for families. My suggestion would be to stop allowing passengers to decline paying gratuities onboard. This may bring money back to the cruise lines versus increasing again.”
Sandy Schadler, vice president of marketing at Travelink, American Express Travel, agreed. “Cruise lines need to operate more like ‘floating hotels’ in process and language to gain more cruise newbies. The experience, especially for families, is much more positive when they can budget for the entire cruise up front, separate from what they plan to spend during the vacation. I wish all cruise lines (river and ocean) would simply include it within the cost of the cruise and pay all the staff accordingly. New-to-cruise clients don't understand this gratuities process and even when explained up front, it seems to regularly be an unwelcome surprise at the end.”
In short, said Janet Jones Caraker at Custom Vacation Designer, the cruise lines should add the gratuities into the cost of the cruise ”because paying your employees is a part of doing business!”
This story was updated Tuesday with a comment from HAL.