Do you tip waiters on cruise ships?

When embarking on a cruise vacation, many travelers find themselves confused about tipping practices—particularly when it comes to the hardworking waitstaff who make dining at sea a memorable experience. The rules around tipping can vary depending on the cruise line, the region, and personal preference, but there are some general guidelines that can help ensure you’re showing your appreciation appropriately.

Auto-Gratuities and Personal Tipping

Most modern cruise lines implement an automatic gratuity system—often referred to as “auto-gratuities”—which is a preset daily amount added to each guest’s onboard account. This fee is meant to cover the service provided by the staff, including the waiters in the main dining room, buffet, and specialty restaurants.

“I always check if the cruise has auto-gratuities,” says seasoned cruiser Emily Bennett. “It makes it easy to ensure that the staff is taken care of without having to worry about cash.”

However, if you’ve received exceptional service or have formed a connection with a particular waiter, you might wish to offer an additional tip as a thank you. “There’s nothing like seeing the smile on our waiter’s face when we hand him an extra tip for his outstanding service,” shares frequent cruise-goer Mark Thompson.

The typical additional tip ranges from $10 to $20 at the end of the cruise for those who have gone above and beyond.

Tipping Waiters on Cruise Ships?Yes, tipping waiters on cruise ships is common practice. Auto-gratuities usually cover your service, but for exceptional personal service, additional tipping is customary and appreciated. This typically ranges from $10 to $20 at the cruise’s end or around $5 to $7 per day, depending on the quality of service and the cruise line’s guidelines.

Cruise Line-Specific Tipping Policies

On Carnival Cruises, while auto-gratuities take care of the basics, passengers have the option to extend cash tips for extraordinary service. Advanced payment of gratuities is also an option for convenience.

Royal Caribbean includes gratuities within the cost of some pre-purchased items like dining and drink packages, thus extra tipping isn’t necessary unless you wish to acknowledge exceptional service.

The Impact of Not Tipping

Choosing not to tip on a cruise can significantly affect crew members, as many depend on tips as a substantial portion of their income. It’s important to understand that by refusing to tip, you may be diminishing the salaries of those who have worked to make your vacation enjoyable.

“As a tourism expert, I find that cruise tipping etiquette can often confuse travelers. My latest article sheds light on the norms of gratuity on cruises. Remember, while auto-gratuities take care of most of your service charges, a little extra for standout waitstaff is not just appreciated—it’s a mark of a seasoned and gracious traveler.”

Timothy Lehman, Travel Expert at

Amounts and Distribution of Tips

The gratuities paid are typically divided among various crew members, such as your cabin steward and the dining staff. Crew members who do not directly receive tips from gratuity policies may include bartenders, entertainers, and shop employees.

“As a former cruise staff member, I can attest that gratuities are not just a bonus; they’re a crucial part of our wages,” explains James Rodriguez, a cruise industry expert.

It’s often advised to give anywhere from $15 to $20 per person per day for standard grats. On a 7-day cruise, that amounts to about $105 to $140 per person, depending on the cruise line’s guidelines.

Monica Barlow’s Anecdotes

On one of my memorable cruises, there was this one waiter who had the uncanny ability to remember everyone’s name and drink choice after the first night. One evening, a guest jokingly said they’d tip extra if he could bring a dessert from another restaurant onboard. To our amazement, he appeared minutes later, dessert in hand, earning himself applause and definitely a few extra gratuities! – Monica Barlow, Travel Journalist at

Final Thoughts

While you’re soaking in the sun on deck or enjoying nightly entertainment, remember that much of the seamless cruise experience is made possible by the diligent service staff. Tipping on a cruise is more than just a gesture—it’s an essential aspect of the industry that honors the people who work to create an unforgettable journey across the seas.

“Every time I cruise, I set aside a tipping budget. It’s my way of saying thank you to those who turn my trip into a fabulous experience,” states Julie Carlson, a travel blogger and cruise enthusiast.

When preparing for your cruise, consider the gratuity policies, budget for tips accordingly, and remember that a little extra can go a long way in showing appreciation for the hard work of your waitstaff at sea.

Tipping on a cruise is not just about rewarding service; it’s an enduring tradition that reflects the appreciation for those who turn the vast sea into home, even if just for a while.

Captain Nathaniel Hawthorne, Maritime Etiquette Author

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