Part of what makes taking a cruise so special is the attentive crew who is always there to lend a hand. But as the recent Carnival Cruise gratuity hike shows, good service comes at a steep price.
The recommended gratuity will increase 8% from $12 to $12.95 per person per day for guests in standard staterooms on cruises departing on or after Sept. 1, 2016. The cost jumps up to $13.95 per person per day for guests booked in suites.
With this new hike, a couple traveling on a 5-day cruise will now pay $129.50 in automatic gratuities, compared with $120 before the increase. For a family of four, that fee comes to $260.
Automatic gratuities are added to the price of your ticket, and the money collected is split between the maitre d’s, waiters, cabin stewards, and other crew personnel.
“Our shipboard team members work hard to provide exceptional service so we hope our guests will agree that this minor increase is well deserved,” said Jennifer De La Cruz, Carnival’s VP of Corporate Communications in a statement to Yahoo Finance.
And Carnival isn’t the only cruise line increasing their gratuities. Last month, Royal Caribbean increased the gratuity for a standard stateroom to $13.50 per person per day (up from 12.95). The fee goes to $16.50 for those staying in a suite (up from $15.95).
Most cruise lines offer an automatic gratuity of $10 to $13, but some like Oceania Cruises, tack on $15 per guest per day for gratuities.
Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of Cruise Critic, says routine gratuity hikes are nothing new. “While there’s no set time period for raising gratuities, it seems to happen every couple of years,” she tells Yahoo Finance. “Carnival previously raised gratuities in July 2014.”
Cruise Critic’s community forum also seems to be OK with the fee increase. “The staff work hard, glad to pay it,” said member JMAE.
Cruiser Katie Charlotte said the increase will result in extra $5 a day for her family, an amount she’s willing to pay if the service is good: “I don’t mind, as long as we receive the service from stewards and wait staff that made us love cruising.”
For travelers wary about the increased fee, Carnival is throwing in a few perks with the automatic gratuity.
“Suite guests will now receive priority tender service, complimentary in-suite bottled water and one complimentary bag of laundry per voyage,” De La Cruz says. “Guests will also enjoy an enhanced turndown service.”
Note that you won’t be subject to the higher gratuities if you prepaid them before May 9.
The most important thing to know about cruise ship gratuities is that they’re not mandatory, just strongly encouraged. The gratuity amount is typically included in your bill, which you pay at the end of the cruise. If the idea of prepaying for gratuities makes you uncomfortable, then you can decline the automatic gratuity when booking your cruise online.
If you decide after booking that you don’t want to tip automatically, you can simply visit the ship’s guest services desk and adjust the automatic gratuity up or down. If you prefer to tip in cash, you can even eliminate the automatic fee all together.
Tips for automatic cruise gratuities:
1. The stress-free option
The automatic gratuity prevents you from having to carry around cash while aboard the ship. Knowing that gratuity is included allows you to kick back and relax and not worry about tipping staffers.
2. Communicate with the staff
It might feel uncomfortable not to tip in cash, especially when you’re receiving excellent service. In these instances, it’s OK to let the staff member know you’re automatically tipping, so they know you appreciate their service.
3. Know your travel style
If you don’t mind shelling out for not-so-stellar service once in a while, then automatic gratuity will be a breeze. But if you only want to tip ship staff who go above and beyond, it might better to bypass the automated option. This way you can tip what you feel is fair, and won’t end up feeling like you over-tipped at the end of your trip.
What do you think about prepaid cruise gratuities? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Travel & Tourism
- Carnival Cruise