Tipping is one of the most often asked questions related to cruise travel. I have addressed tipping policies in earlier blog entries. I came across this great article from Vacations to Go which I’m adding here.  Great insight on information you need to know around tipping and the major cruise lines:

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 I believe cruising is the easiest way to see the world, but there is one part of the cruise experience that can cause anxiety for otherwise carefree passengers — tipping. Here’s a look at how tipping is handled by each of the world’s major cruise lines.
On most cruise lines, but not all, gratuities are expected and encouraged. The traditional tipping procedure is to hand cash gratuities to the service staff on the last full day or evening of the cruise. For longer itineraries, tipping on a weekly basis may be the norm. The cruise lines that follow this tipping procedure are American Cruise Lines,BlountDisneyHurtigrutenLindbladPonantRoyal CaribbeanStar ClippersUniworldViking River Cruises and Voyages of Discovery.

Passengers on most of these lines are encouraged to tip their cabin steward and dining room waiter $3.50 to $5.00 per passenger, per day, and their assistant waiter/busboy should be tipped $2.00 to $3.00 per passenger, per day. On most ships, tip the maitre d’ or dining room captain about $5 to $10 (total) only if you ask for special favors or tableside service.

It is customary to tip bartenders and wine stewards 15%, and many cruise lines automatically add this gratuity to the bar or beverage bill. Gratuities for special services such as spa treatments are left to the discretion of the guest, but 15% is considered typical.

The growth of freestyle dining and alternative restaurants put pressure on this system. Because passengers on many ships now dine when and where they wish and do not return night-after-night to the same table, they may rightfully resist handing a week’s worth of tips to the waiter and assistant waiter they happen to end up with on the last night of the cruise.

That’s why many cruise lines opt to automatically charge tips, usually $10 to $12 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts and divide the total among all dining room personnel, cabin stewards and others who are involved in serving passengers. These lines include CarnivalCelebrityCostaCruise & Maritime VoyagesCunard,Fred. OlsenHolland AmericaMSCNorwegianOceaniaP&OPrincess and Windstar.

If a passenger feels that the amount automatically charged to his or her account should be adjusted higher or lower based on the service received, the cruise line will make that adjustment when the bill is settled at the end of the cruise. These amounts do not cover tips for bartenders and wine stewards, which are generally 15% added to the beverage bill at the time of service.

A few cruise lines specifically state that gratuities are included in the cruise fare and that tips are neither expected nor encouraged. AzamaraCrystalHebrideanOrion,Paul Gauguin CruisesRegentSeabournSeaDreamSilverseaSwan Hellenic and Voyages of Antiquity fall into this category. Even on these lines, some passengers still tip for outstanding service or special favors.

Does any tipping policy tend to encourage better service than the others? Even seasoned cruisers disagree on this one, but most people who email me on the subject are in favor of the traditional method of rewarding individuals directly or rolling all gratuities into the upfront price.

By knowing the cruise line’s tipping policy prior to boarding, the only thing that you will have to worry about at the end of your cruise is returning to reality.

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Happy Travels!

Bill.

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