How and how much to tip on a cruise is a common issue for newbie cruisers. We’ve put together an overview of tipping protocol, but practices can vary from cruise line to cruise line, so be sure to check the website for your line’s specific regulations.

What Is Automatic Service Charge?

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Most popular cruise lines will offer the tipping option known as automatic service charge. This billing service provides an easy and convenient way for passengers to grant gratuity to staff members without excluding anyone or having to hunt down staff members before they disembark. The fees are assessed on a per person basis.

Can I Opt-Out of the Service Charge?

The automatic service charge is optional, so yes it is possible to opt out and instead tip as you choose — but that’s not the norm these days. Most passengers will utilize this service charge and consider it a fair and convenient way to thank the staff for their service aboard ship.

How Is the Automatic Service Charge Paid?

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Typically the service charge can be paid one of two ways. The most common way is paying up front before you even embark on your voyage. Some passengers prefer to have the charges applied to their account at the end of each day, which is the second way to go.

Can the Automatic Service Charge Be Modified?

Passengers do have the option of adjusting their service charge as they see fit. Either an increase or a decrease can be made to the charge based on a passenger’s experience. If a modification is required, please note the adjustment will need to be made before disembarking the ship.

Is Additional Tipping Customary?

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While almost all the staff member passengers come in contact with will benefit from the automatic service charge, additional gratuity for those little extras is always appreciated. Some staff members passengers should consider for an additional gratuity are listed below:

  • Cabin Stewards - Though included in the automatic service charge, if your Cabin Steward has done a few extras, made your cruise more enjoyable or was extra attentive, an additional tip at the end of your stay is a nice gesture of appreciation. If you anticipate you will need some extra assistance on your cruise, a tip at the beginning of the journey is good way to ensure the best of service.
  • Butler - Many cruise ship suites will provide guests with butler service. If you utilized the services of the butler frequently or perhaps the kids ordered more than their share of cookies delivered at odd hours, then perhaps a little something extra is in order.
  • Room Service Stewards - These staff members are also included in the automatic service charge but if extra service was provided any additional tips would be greatly appreciated.
  • Bartenders - While passengers can anticipate an automatic 15% gratuity added to their bill, there may be an occasion where an extra gratuity would be in order.

Who Is NOT included in the Automatic Service Charge?

  • Shore Excursion Guides - Tour guides on excursions are not employees of the cruise line, so they would not share in the automatic service charge.
  • In-Port Baggage Handlers - Baggage handlers who assist travelers as they arrive at port typically do not work for the cruise line but instead are employed by the port, so they are also exempt from the automatic service charge. It’s customary to tip a dollar or two per bag each way for their baggage assistance