I've heard that one of the extra costs associated with cruises is tipping. How does it work? I'm used to tipping based on the price of items (15-20%), so if I'm not paying, I'm not sure how to know how much to tip.

I've seen some mention of an overall "gratuity" being included in your bill at the end of the cruise — but then I've also had friends say that you need lots of $1's for tipping around the boat.

So, which is correct, and/or how do I know what to expect on a specific cruise or cruise line?

2 Answers 2


Tipping in cruises are categorized in 3 ways:

  1. Mandatory: Most cruise lines have a preset gratuity amount. The ones I have been on range from US$11-15 per person per day, which covers all ship staff: customer-facing and the one's working behind-the-scenes. In fact this form of tipping covers a major portion of their salaries. Now many travel agencies roll these into their packages. Look for an itemized line reading "Prepaid Gratuities". If absent, the charge will be applied daily to the credit card you use to place a deposit while on board.

  2. Obligatory: You will notice that most staff on reputable cruise liners will go above and beyond their call of duty. This can range from exceptional housekeeping, to some great recommendations at the dinner table. Some cruise operators will place an envelope in your room, where you can place cash tips for exceptional service, and also the person to address it to.

  3. Passive Tipping: We were told that post-cruise we would receive an extensive questionnaire soliciting feedback. Sure enough, we did. There were several opportunities in the forms to single out employees for recognition. I am told that the comments and citations go a long way in deciding their career path. So if someone does impress you a great deal, do make a note of their full name.

  • Good info. For #2, what amounts are considered polite? I wouldn't want to tip too low and insult.
    – Nicole
    Feb 13, 2012 at 19:08
  • 1
    That depends on the number of people in your stateroom, number of days, level of service, etc. As a convention, we leave half the mandatory tip for exceptional service. Others in our party have even left nothing, and still been welcomed aboard again ;)
    – rs79
    Feb 13, 2012 at 20:28
  • 7
    Is "Obligatory" the correct word for #2?
    – JohnFx
    May 11, 2012 at 23:19
  • On #1, it's important to note that since the "mandatory tip" goes towards the employee salary- you are not actually tipping in the sense of giving extra income on top of their hourly wages. The cruise line takes that tip- and they pay their employee salaries using the tip to meet a minimum salary threshold. Tip in cash if you want a tip to go directly to the employee on top of their wages. Reference: dailymotion.com/video/x13wplv
    – Zorkolot
    Apr 12, 2023 at 19:31

Normally in the cruises I've been, you have a "recommended" tip that most passagers pay the last day. It doesn't depends on how much you paid for your passage, it's the same for all people. For example, in a cruise around the Mediterranean sea, you pay about 40 euros for a week cruise.

Each cruise will have it's "tip fares", but be sure the crew will make you note what they expect.

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