Should You Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise or Pay Onboard?

Should you prepay gratuities on a cruise

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When it comes to cruise ship gratuities, you might be wondering if it’s better to prepay your tips, or wait until you’re onboard your cruise. While there is no right or wrong answer, there are some benefits to prepaying gratuities that you may appreciate.

In this post, I’ll go over how prepaid gratuities work and what you need to know, whether you’re cruising with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Disney or another major cruise line.

Cruise Line Gratuities: Prepay or Pay Onboard?

Should you prepay gratuities on a cruise or wait to pay onboard
Should you prepay gratuities (tips) on a cruise?

What are cruise ship gratuities?

On a cruise, it’s customary to pay gratuities or tips for service received onboard. Most cruise lines automatically charge a daily gratuity (sometimes called a service charge) to your onboard account, which is divided between the crew who serve you.

This includes your dining room wait staff, as well as your cruise cabin attendant. A portion may also go to those who serve you indirectly, for example, waiters in the buffet and those who work behind the scenes.

On a cruise, you’ll have the option to prepay your gratuities before your cruise, or pay at the end of your cruise along with any other onboard expenses. 

carnival cruise ships in port
Why prepay cruise gratuities before boarding your cruise ship

Is it better to prepay gratuities on a cruise?

Should you prepay your gratuities on a cruise? 3 main reasons you may want to prepay gratuities include convenience, the ability to plan your cruise budget as well as to lock in a lower price, should the cruise line increase gratuity rates.

Easier to budget

If you’re cruising on a budget, by prepaying your gratuities you’ll avoid having extra expenses to pay at the end of your cruise. No one likes a big bill at the end of a vacation. By prepaying your gratuities, you get to avoid this.


By paying your gratuities in advance, planning your cruise vacation will be easier. As well, there’s no need to bring loads cash with you to tip crew members. It’s one less thing to think about, plan for and remember. 

Lock in a lower price

Cruise lines occasionally raise the cost of gratuities on a cruise. By prepaying your tips in advance, you actually lock in the lower rate and avoid potential price increases.

How much are gratuities on a cruise?

how much are gratuities on a cruise
How much are gratuities on a cruise?

The cost varies by cruise line, however you can expect cruise gratuities to be between $12-15 USD per person, per day for a standard cabin, and $16-18 for guests in suites.

The average daily gratuity on a cruise is $14-15 USD per person  – approximately $30 per day, per couple in a cabin. A couple should budget about $200 in gratuities for a 7 day cruise. Most cruise lines charge for children as well, however there are some exceptions.

Here is a list of the daily gratuities charged by major cruise lines (US dollars):

Carnival Cruises: $13.99 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. $15.99 per person per day for guests in suites. There is no charge for children under 2 years of age. 

Celebrity Cruises: Gratuities are included in the Celebrity’s new “Always Included” fare type

Costa Cruises: Service charges of $12.50 per person, per day are charged for cruises departing from the US. Cruises in Europe, World cruises and those departing from a non-US Caribbean port charge 10 Euros per person, per day. Other itineraries may differ. Please check Costa’s website for details.

Service charges for guests ages 4-14 are half of the adult rate. Children under 4 are not charged.

cruise ship gratuities
Gratuities go to the hardworking crew in the dining room, your stateroom and behind the scenes on a cruise

Cunard: $11.50 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. $13.50 per person, per day for guests in Grill Class suites.

Disney Cruise Line: $13.50 per person, per day for all guests.

Holland America Line: $14.50 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. $16.00 per person, per day for guests in suites.

MSC Cruises: The service charge is $12.50 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. Children aged 2-11 will be charged $6.25 per day. There is no service charge applied for children under 2 years of age.

Please note that gratuities are charged in US dollars for Caribbean, US and Canada cruises. Cruises in Europe are charged in Euros. There are different service charges for certain itineraries. Please check MSC’s website for details. 

Oceania Cruises: $16.00 per person, per day for most staterooms. $23.00 per person, per day for guests in suites.

Norwegian Cruise Line: $15.50 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. $18.50 per person per day for guests in suites and The Haven. There is no charge for children under 3 years of age. 

Princess Cruises: $14.50 per person, per day for guests in inside ocean view and balcony cabins. $15.50 per person, per day for guests in mini-suites. $16.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.

Royal Caribbean: $14.50 per person, per day for guests in standard cabins. $17.50 per person, per day for guests in suites.

Viking Cruises: $15.00 per person, per day for all staterooms.

Windstar Cruises: $12.00 per person, per day for all cabin types.

Which cruise lines include gratuities?

Celebrity Cruises Gratuities Included
Celebrity Cruises now includes gratuities in all inclusive cruise fare

Cruise lines that include gratuities in their fare include Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Azamara, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Ponant, Paul Gauguin and Sea Dream Yacht Club.

Related: How to Save Money on a Cruise

Is it cheaper to prepay cruise line gratuities?

There is no cost savings to prepaying your gratuities on a cruise, except for the the times when a cruise line increases it’s daily charge. This happens every year or two, but there is no set schedule. 

Prepaid gratuities “perks” and promotions

Sometimes, cruise lines or travel agencies will run a promotion and include “free” or prepaid gratuities as a perk. Essentially, you are getting the value of the cruise line gratuities as a perk, saving you money on your cruise.

Princess Cruises offers Princess Plus, a booking option similar to Celebrity’s Always Included, where gratuities, wifi and a beverage package is included all in one fare. Norwegian Cruise Line has Free at Sea, but we rarely see prepaid gratuities on the list of perks options anymore.

Related: Norwegian Cruise Line Dress Code: What to Wear on a Freestyle Cruise

Are there additional tips charged onboard?

tips charged oncruise drinks
Additional gratuities are charged on bar drinks on a cruise

Gratuities or service charges are added to drink and drink packages purchased onboard. Specialty restaurants usually have a service charge, as well as spa and salon services. The standard service charge is anywhere from 15-20%, depending on the cruise line

How do you prepay gratuities on a cruise?

You can prepay your gratuities (tips) at the time of booking your cruise, either with your travel agent or with the cruise line if you booked directly. You can usually prepay your gratuity up until 72-24 hours before your cruise, depending on the cruise line.

should you prepay gratuities on a cruise
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Can you remove cruise line gratuities or service charges?

On most cruise lines you can adjust the gratuities up or down, or remove them altogether at the guest services desk on the cruise ship. If you reduce or remove the tips, you’ll likely be asked for a reason. The cruise line does want to solve any service issues and complaints, and make sure that you are happy.

Norwegian Cruise Line, which charges a service charge in lieu of a gratuity, will attempt to solve the service issue. According to their website, If the issue is not solved to your satisfaction, charges may be adjusted.

Related: Cruise Tipping Guidelines and Etiquette

Can I add tip extra on a cruise?

While there’s no obligation, if a crew member went the extra mile or was particularly attentive, additional cash tips are always appreciated.

If I cancel my cruise, will prepaid gratuities be reimbursed?

If you added prepaid gratuities to your booking, it will be reimbursed should your cruise be cancelled. If it is a perk offered by your travel agent or the cruise line with the purchase of your cruise, there will not be a monetary value to be reimbursed.

Planning a cruise? Read these popular posts:

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What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise (must-haves & packing list)

Final thoughts: Should You Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

If you want to make your life easier, and don’t plan on removing or adjusting the gratuities on a cruise, it’s better to prepay before you go. In our experience, prepaying gratuities does not negatively affect the service onboard. We have consistently been very pleased with the wonderful service on cruise ships.

What’s your final verdict? Is it better to prepay gratuities or to wait and to pay onboard your cruise ship? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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  1. Anna Oeqvist
    March 10, 2021 / 8:40 am

    Hi! Since I’m always travelling on a budget, prepaid service charge is my way to do it easy for me.

    • March 11, 2021 / 1:35 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That makes a lot of sense!


  2. September 4, 2021 / 7:27 pm

    I am kind of torn between prepaying or not. We used to tip at the end of the cruise and as you say, it is kind of problematic having to have the cash for each person and putting on their separate envelopes, etc. So, we tried prepaying the tips, but then we found out that on the last day of cruising they are expecting to receive their tips and if they don’t they feel dejected, therefore, I do not know what is best. It’s a no-win situation…

    • September 5, 2021 / 8:28 pm

      Hi Alicia,

      That’s interesting. I wouldn’t think that they would expect an additional tip if you’ve prepayed it, but in reality I guess each person may hope for an “extra” amount, but there’s no obligation at all.

      Just do what you feel comfortable with and don’t feel pressured.


  3. Rob
    December 5, 2021 / 8:39 pm

    Hi Ilana,

    I recently booked a 7 day cruise with Norwegian; I thought their “Free at Sea” offer was a pretty good deal with its drink package and also including 2 meal premium dining, among other items. Looking at my invoice, I have already paid a total of $308.80 for the Free at Sea gratuities; however, I also noticed I have the option to pre-pay service charges in the amount of $217. Is there a difference between these 2 service charges/gratuities? If I pay the $217 on top of the $308.80 I already paid, do I have to tip for anything else once I am aboard the ship (restaurants, bars, room attendants, etc)?

    Thank you

    • December 7, 2021 / 1:37 pm

      Hi Rob,

      NCL’s Free at Sea is good, however as you said, there are gratuties charged on the value of the packages. The gratuities, or as Norwegian calls them, service charges, are for your cabin steward, main dining waiters, buffet & back of the house. Here’s more info on tips on cruises and who else you may want to tip (and who not to).

      Have a great cruise!


  4. Melissa weaver
    September 12, 2022 / 3:54 am

    Does the staff that help on the cruise know that you prepaid the gratuity?

    • September 19, 2022 / 3:01 pm

      That’s a good question. I have heard mixed answers and I am not 100% sure unfortunately

  5. Edward MORETTI JR
    June 1, 2023 / 9:28 pm

    Hey Ilana! We wanted to take a trip on Holland for 15-days from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale. Found a great price of $1,200 ea for an Ocean View cabin for 4. However, the four of us would end up paying $870 for gratuities. Add the cheapest WiFi package at $900 ($15 a day x 4 people x 15 days) and our great deal just became not so great. How on earth can people on a budget afford this? Btw, we love, love, love your YouTube channel. Must see TV!

    • June 5, 2023 / 2:03 pm

      Hi Edward,

      That does seem like a good deal. Perhaps there are ways to save on wifi (or not get for everyone)? There are some ways to save and budget in advance – perhaps this is a good topic for a video 🙂

      Hope you find a deal that works for you & enjoy your cruise,


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