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Tipping is a part of cruising. And with most mainstream cruise lines you are given the option to pay for tips ahead of time.
But should you prepay those tips or wait until the cruise is over?
We’re going to look at 5 reasons you should prepay and one reason you can wait.
Anything that makes your cruise experience easier and simpler is usually a good idea. And I usually recommend that cruisers prepay for as much as they can. This helps lessen the sticker-shock that some first-time cruisers get at the end of their cruise.
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After all, when adding up all of the fees and expenses of a cruise it’s easy to forget about gratuities.
The introduction of automatic prepaid tipping on mainstream lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and others has simplified the process.
And before we dig in, here are the current gratuity charges for a few major cruise lines:
- Carnival Cruise Line: $16 per person, per day. $18 for suite guests.
- Royal Caribbean International: $16 per person, per day. $18.50 for suite guests.
- Norwegian Cruise Line: $20 per person, per day. $25 for suite guests.
- MSC Cruises: $16 per person, per day.
- Princess Cruises: $16 per person, per day. $18 for main suite guests
- Celebrity Cruises: $18 per person, per day. $18.50 for AquaCLass, $23 for The Retreat guests.
- Holland America Line: $16 per person, per day. $17.50 for suite guests.
- Disney Cruise Line: $14.50 per person, per day. $15.50 for suite guests.
Why You Should Prepay Your Cruise Tips
Prepaying your gratuities just simplifies things. In fact, if you don’t prepay you will see the charges show up on your account each day (or at the end of the cruise with some cruise lines). This can be a surprise to some cruisers who forgot about this extra potential expense.
By handling this expense upfront, you can relax and enjoy your cruise without worrying about settling your bill at the end of your cruise. Mainstream cruise lines offer the option to prepay gratuities when you book your cruise or through the cruise line’s website before boarding.
2. Budget-Friendly Planning
Tips for two people on a 7-day cruise can easily be over $200 in total. If you’re going to take care of gratuities anyway, you might as well put this in the budget so you’re better prepared.
Knowing all your expenses ahead of time makes financial planning easier. As I mentioned above this allows for a more controlled and stress-free vacation budget.
More than likely there are going to be extra charges from your cruise that you didn’t see coming. Making sure all of the gratuities are already covered makes sure at least this one area doesn’t break the budget.
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3. Ensuring Fair Compensation
Prepaying tips ensures that the hardworking crew members who make your cruise experience enjoyable are fairly compensated. From the housekeeping staff to the dining room team, these tips are distributed among those who provide direct services to you.
I hear some people say they opt out of prepaying because they want to make sure the crew actually get the tip money, doing so by handing the wait staff and cabin steward the cash directly. And that’s totally fine too, as long as you don’t get so busy you forget to do it.
4. Price Locking
Gratuity rates can increase, and by prepaying, you lock in the current rate. In that last year we saw several cruise lines increase gratuities, including one that raised them twice in a 12-month period.
Cruise lines occasionally adjust their daily gratuity rates; prepaying allows you to avoid paying more should rates rise before your departure date.
5. Simplifies Group Travel
For those traveling in groups, prepaying gratuities means one less thing to worry about splitting or settling at the end of the cruise. It ensures that all tips are fairly distributed among the service staff, regardless of the individual spending habits or preferences within the group.
One Reason You Shouldn’t
I’ve heard some people say, “I don’t prepay my tips on a cruise because I want to make sure I get good service first.” While it’s your decision how you handle tips, this mentality can lead to forgetting or overlooking the service of your room steward and wait staff.
Whether you agree with it or not, these crew members rely on these tips to support themselves and their families.
And yes, I know there’s an argument to be made for the cruise lines to better compensate their crew.
But if you do prefer to tip with a more personal touch, you might opt out of prepaying.
This approach allows you to reward exceptional service at your discretion. Some passengers prefer handing tips directly to those crew members who went above and beyond during their cruise, offering a more personalized thank-you.
I’ll also note that if you have a large amount of onboard credit for one reason or another you might want to opt out of prepaying. You can just let that buffer of credit take care of some of the gratuities for you as they hit your cruise account — that is, if anything is left by the end of your cruise.
Tipping on Top of Prepaying
Even if you prepaid your gratuities, this will not usually cover tips for drinks at the on-board bars and lounges. Also, for room service you will want to tip extra as these prepaid tips don’t cover this service.
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Personally, I like to prepay my tips and then also tip my cabin steward in cash as well, often with a personal note attached.
So, should you prepay your tips? It’s a bit like balancing the perks of convenience with the desire to give a personal “thank you” for awesome service. For a lot of us, paying ahead wins because it’s one less thing to worry about. You get to manage your spending better, skip the hassle, and make sure the amazing folks who look after you get their fair share.
But, if you’re someone who loves to say a special ‘thanks’ with a tip for standout moments, sticking to the old-fashioned way is fine too. No matter which route you go down, remember that tipping is all about showing appreciation for the crew’s hard work and the unforgettable moments they help create on your cruise.
And don’t forget, you can both prepay and “post-pay” those tips if your service was just that good!