Should You Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise? Pros and Cons

Written by Jim Belt in Cruise

Deciding on whether to prepay gratuities on a cruise can impact both your vacation experience and budget planning. This guide weighs the pros and cons of prepaid cruise gratuities so you can decide what's best.

Prepaying gratuities on a cruise ensures that service charges are settled in advance, allowing for a more seamless and budget-friendly experience. It locks in current rates and is often recommended, but it is optional and can be paid onboard instead.

Tipping Customs

Tipping not customary


  • Prepaying gratuities offers convenience and ease in budgeting for your cruise.
  • Understanding your cruise line's gratuity policies helps manage expectations and expenses.
  • Prepaid gratuities ensure consistent support for crew members throughout your journey.

Understanding Cruise Gratuities

Gratuities on cruises are a critical part of the financial appreciation expressed to crew members for their service. It's essential you understand the difference between automatic gratuities and cash tips to make informed decisions about tipping.

What Are Gratuities on a Cruise?

Gratuities are a form of service charges meant to complement the income of cruise staff who go above and beyond to enhance your cruising experience. These charges are typically distributed among the ship's many attendants, including your cabin steward, dining room waitstaff, and others who contribute to a clean and friendly environment on board.

Automatic Gratuities Vs. Cash Tips

Automatic gratuities are a pre-set daily charge added to your cruise account, ensuring that service staff are compensated without the need for you to handle cash. They are convenient and help avoid the anxiety of deciding how much to tip each staff member.

Conversely, cash tips imply direct and personal appreciation for services rendered, offering more discretion in the amount given. If you receive extraordinary service, you might want to personally hand cash to specific crew members as a special thank you.

Benefits of Prepaying Gratuities

When it comes to cruising, managing your budget is key. Prepaying gratuities ensures you're financially prepared for your vacation, and it simplifies the experience, allowing you to enjoy your journey without worrying about additional costs.

Budgeting Convenience

Avoiding Unexpected Costs

How Prepaid Gratuity Impacts Crew Members

When you prepay gratuities on a cruise, you directly affect the crew members who dedicate their time to ensuring your experience is exceptional. These prepaid tips are often divided among service crew members, influencing their financial and emotional well-being onboard.

Motivation and Morale

Income Stability

By opting for prepaid gratuities, you play a valuable part in a system that supports both the financial security and morale of the service crew.

Cruise Line Gratuity Policies

When planning your cruise, it's important to understand the gratuity policies of the cruise line you choose, as they can vary significantly. These policies affect your budget and the overall cost of your cruise experience.

Royal Caribbean

Gratuities: Royal Caribbean automatically adds a daily gratuity charge to your onboard account. This charge covers the service from the staff who make your stay comfortable.

Celebrity Cruises

Gratuities: Celebrity Cruises also applies an automatic daily gratuity to your onboard account, which you can pay beforehand if you prefer.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Gratuity Policy: Norwegian Cruise Line encourages guests to prepay gratuities, which is a convenient option to manage your budget.

Additional Tipping and Charges

When cruising, your upfront payment often includes a standard gratuity, but there may be times you'll encounter additional tipping or service charges. Especially for those experiences that go above and beyond the basics.

Specialty Restaurants and Services

Specialty Dining:

Spa and Salon Services:

Addressing Exceptional Service

Room Steward and Waitstaff:


Remember, while service charges often ensure fair distribution among crew members, additional tipping is always your way of saying thanks for those memorable moments and extra touches during your cruise.

Exploring Payment Methods and Options

When planning your cruise, understanding your options for managing and settling gratuities can ensure a smooth, hassle-free experience.

Onboard Account Management

Your onboard account acts as your primary method for financial transactions while cruising. It's typically linked to your credit card, streamlining purchases and gratuities into one inclusive bill. Here's how to manage it:

Using Onboard Credit

Onboard credit can serve as an alternative payment method for your cruise gratuities. Here's what you need to know:

When embarking on luxury cruises, understanding the gratuity system is essential to ensure you are adequately prepared for your journey. Let's discuss high-end service charges and the gratuity rates across luxury cruise lines.

High-End Service Charges

Luxury cruise lines often pride themselves on providing top-tier service, with gratuities reflecting the high quality of service you receive. Service charges are usually automatic, but it's important to know how they may differ by cruise line. For instance, Seabourn includes gratuities in your fare, meaning you won't have to pay additional tips for the exceptional service onboard.

Luxury Line Gratuity Rates

Different cruise lines have distinct policies and gratuity rates. Below is a concise list of examples from leading luxury cruise lines:

Cruise Line Gratuity Policy
Seabourn Gratuities included; no additional tipping required
Virgin Voyages Tips included in your fare
Other Luxury Lines May vary, with some suggesting around $15-20 per person, per day

Remember, your gratuity contributes to a wide range of staff from butlers to waiters and cabin stewards. The rates are a hallmark of the luxury cruise experience, ensuring staff are rewarded for their high level of service.

Making the Decision: To Prepay or Not?

When you're planning your cruise, one financial aspect you'll need to consider is whether to prepay gratuities. This choice can affect your onboard experience and budgeting for the trip.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Pros of Prepaying Gratuities

Cons of Prepaying Gratuities

Personal Preference and Considerations

Published: 19-12-2023

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