Heading away on your first cruise and unsure about the ‘rules’ regarding tipping and cash onboard? You’re not alone. Many Australians are unfamiliar with cruise gratuity etiquette as this is generally not required in our corner of the world. Australians and New Zealanders have an entirely different system in place than our North American counterparts - tipping is simply not part of our culture. But with a large number of American ships operating Down Under, this method of ‘payment for service’ is increasingly common. Not to fear, we have put together a handy guide to clear up this sometimes confusing but ultimately necessary system.
First things first - if you’re cruising with P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, or Carnival, tipping is welcomed but not expected at any point during your cruise. However, should you travel with one of the other international cruise lines, tipping is all but expected as a form of appreciation for dedicated service. The upside of course is that you get well taken care of by the room stewards, bartenders, waiters and other service staff throughout your cruise.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know about gratuities while on your cruise.
To save travellers the hassle of carrying cash throughout the trip, most cruise lines offer the option of prepaying gratuities at the time of booking. This is a convenient solution to the difficulty of holding onto cash purely for tipping. For example, ships will add $10-20 per day for each traveller to the final cruise ship fare. The exact cost will usually depend on the type of stateroom you book, as the higher end rooms often require more hands on service. Prepaying can be a relief for travellers who don’t want to worry about tipping and get it out of the way early.
Note that for all-inclusive cruises, gratuities will usually be included in the upfront price of the cruise.
Paying gratuities on the ship
You can often opt out of prepaying gratuities when you book your cruise and pay them onboard instead. Many cruisers choose to do this if they prefer to tip at the end of the cruise based on the level of service received and/or if they prefer to hand out tips to staff in person. Should you decline to pay tips when you book, they will likely be automatically added to your bill at the end of the cruise to be payed when you settle your onboard account.
You can opt out of the gratuity-included system on some ships
In some cases, travellers may prefer to opt out of the tipping system. In this case, you would opt not to pre-pay the gratuities when you book, and then once aboard, ask to have them removed completely at the end of your cruise.
Generally speaking, you would only opt out if the service you had received throughout the voyage was extremely sub-par across all areas. Although you may also choose to make this decision if you’d prefer to tip your room attendants, servers, bar staff and other crew members personally.
Where does the money go?
Gratuities are extremely important to the staff who work so hard to make your cruise a memorable and enjoyable one. Tips will be split fairly between the entire crew at the end of the voyage.
Other times you should tip
Even if your cruise includes gratuities in the fare, there are certain times when tipping is recommended. For example, if you book in for a treatment at the spa or salon - such as a haircut, massage or facial - it is customary to tip if it’s not included in the cost. If in doubt, tipping 10 to 20 per cent of the treatment cost is a good guide, or simply bring a $10 or $20 note for the staff.
Also, it’s not uncommon to befriend crew members that you deal with regularly throughout the trip, such as room attendants or bar staff at your favourite watering hole. There are no expectations to tip on top of the included gratuities, but there are also no rules saying you can’t give a little extra to staff who have helped make your trip particularly wonderful.
Tipping and on-shore excursions
Your guides, drivers, and other helpers during on-shore excursions don’t typically work for the cruise ship, so are not part of the automatic tipping system. While it’s not compulsory to tip, it can be customary in some destinations, and it is a good idea to bring along some cash in the local currency to say thanks for an enjoyable experience at the end of the tour.
One cruise is all it takes
The tipping system may seem intimidating at first, but once you get aboard and experience the incredible level of service given on cruises, it will all make sense. One cruise is all it takes!
Now that you know the ins and outs of the gratuity system, check out the cruise sales on now and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime.