Cruise line gratuities have been in the news over the last year, as a number of major lines have announced increases to the automatic gratuities that are charged to guests’ accounts.
While it’s important to recognize that gratuities are a primary way of rewarding onboard crews that make the experience of sailing special, most cruise lines allow guests to adjust (either increase or decrease) the amount paid in gratuities by going to guest services during the cruise. But, a lot of guests don’t know that, so it’s up to travel advisors to pass along the news.
It’s also important to note that most lines that charge guests gratuities separate from their cruise fares do not allow travel advisors to earn commission on those gratuities. The ones that do allow commission on gratuities tend to be the lines that offer their guests an all-inclusive fare.
Here is what each major cruise line charges, or doesn’t charge, for gratuities, updated with new charges and information from new cruise industry entrants over the past year.
Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises includes gratuities in its fares. That fare is fully commissionable for all travel agents.
A rendering of Carnival's upcoming ship Mardi Gras. Photo: CCL.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line charges $13.99 per person per day for guests in standard rooms; and $15.99 per person per day for guests in suites.
All of the gratuities collected go to Carnival’s shipboard staff. According to its website, the amount is spread between its housekeeping team, dining team, and alternate staff.
Carnival recently announced that it would start charging 18 percent, up from 15 percent, on the automatic gratuity it charges for onboard beverages and a la carte dining outlets.
Celebrity Cruise Line
Celebrity charges $14.50 per person per day for those in standard accommodations; $15.00 per person per day for Concierge Class and AquaClass guests; and $18.00 per person per day for those in suites.
On its website, Celebrity says that collected gratuities are shared between stateroom attendants, dining services staff, and housekeeping staff.
The cruise line also adds an 18 percent gratuity to all beverages, spa, salon, and minibar purchases.
All of Crystal Cruises’ sailings are all-inclusive, so gratuities for its staff — housekeeping, restaurant, bar, and Penthouse butler staff — are already included in the cruise fare.
Because of the nature of its fare, travel agents earn commission on all gratuities.
Holland America Line
Holland America increased the cost of its automatic gratuities in October, announcing that it would start charging $14.50 per day per person for all guests staying in standard rooms; and $16.00 per person per day for suite guests, starting in 2019.
Holland America told Travel Market Report that 100 percent of gratuities go toward compensating onboard crew members.
MSC's latest debut, MSC Bellissima, in Southhampton. Photo: MSC.
MSC’s service charges vary by sailing. For the majority of its Caribbean sailings, MSC charges $12.50 per night per adult; and $6.25 per night per child over the age of two. The same goes for its South America and FAE sailings.
For MSC’s South Africa cruises, guests will pay $8 per night per person for adults; and $4 per person per night for children. Guests on the Grand Voyages from South Africa (Northbound) are charged $12.50 per night per person for adults; and $6.25 per night per person for children.
For its Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Antilles, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman cruises, MSC automatically charges 10 euros per person per night for adults; and half that for children.
Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL is increasing its gratuities starting on April 1, 2019. For all sailings after that date (excluding guests booked before on sailings before April 1), Norwegian guests sailing in any stateroom category up to a mini-suite on most ships will be charged $15 per person per day. Those sailing in any suite, Concierge, or The Haven stateroom will be charged $18 per person per day.
Standard guests on Norwegian Sky and Sun, two ships that sail with an all-inclusive price, will be charged $20.50 per person per day. Suite guests will be charged $23.50 per person per day.
The increases are “nominal adjustments.” Norwegian previously charged $14.50 per day for standard cabins and $17.50 per person per day for suites and Haven guests on ships besides Sky and Sun; and $19.99 for standard guests and $22.99 for suite guests on Sky and Sun.
Oceania automatically adds $16.00 per person per day for standard guests; and $23.00 per person per day for suite guests.
Oceania also adds an 18 percent charge to all beverage purchases, spa services, and specialty dinners.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
All onboard gratuities are included in Paul Gauguin’s all-inclusive fare.
The upcoming Regent Seven Seas Splendor. Photo: RSS.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare for all of Regent’s sailings. The line also offers another option for guests who want to go above-and-beyond for their crew: donations to the Crew Welfare Fund, which is used for crew events, are welcomed at the Purser Office onboard.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean’s automatic gratuity is $14.50 per person per day for standard guests; and $17.50 per person per day for suite guests.
On its website, the cruise line says: “A way to reward our crew members for their outstanding service, gratuities are shared among dining, bar and culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes to enhance the cruise experience.”
According to Seabourn's website, “Gratuities are neither required nor expected on Seabourn ships.”
All gratuities onboard, including all service gratuities except spa, are included in Silversea’s all-inclusive fare.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
When it officially launches in 2020, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will offer a fare that includes onboard gratuities for all restaurant, bar and housekeeping services, along with multiple dining venues, 24-hour in-suite dining, beverages such as beer, select spirits and wines, soft drinks, coffee, tea and bottled water in-suite and throughout the yacht, onboard entertainment and enrichment, use of the marina-style platform with access to watersports, and Wi-Fi.
Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking adds a discretionary hotel and dining charge of $15.00 per person per day to shipboard accounts. Those charges are shared among the waitstaff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards, galley staff, laundry staff, and others.
That fee does not include Viking’s 15 percent gratuity for bar and deck service.
Virgin's first ship, Scarlet Lady, will debut in 2020. Photo: VV.
As part of the lead up to the 2020 launch of its first ship, Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages revealed that all of its onboard gratuities will be included in the cruise fare, giving agents something else to make commission on.
Windstar raised its daily gratuities in January of this year — now, the luxury line charges $13.50 per person per day for gratuities for all guests.
Windstar also adds a 15 percent service charge for bar service.