13 Big Tipping Mistakes To Never Make on a Cruise

tipping mistakes not to make on a cruise

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Are you going on a cruise and wondering about cruise ship gratuities and tips? Cruise gratuities and tipping can be a touchy subject. However, there are some cruise tipping mistakes cruise passengers will want to avoid.

Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or an experienced cruiser, It’s important to understand how tipping on a cruise works.

In this post, I share the 13 tipping mistakes to never make on a cruise.

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Tipping Mistakes Not To Make on a Cruise

1. Not Budgeting For Daily Gratuities

crew on cruise serving drink

When booking a cruise, it may come as a surprise to some first time cruisers that daily gratuities or service fees, of approximately $15-20 per person, will be charged by the cruise line. Unfortunately, not budgeting for daily gratuities can lead to the first tipping mistake on a cruise

Whether you’re cruising on your own, with your spouse, or with children, you will be charged a daily gratuity fee. It’s essential to consider the daily service charge if you are budgeting on your cruise.

2. Not Knowing About Additional Service Charges & Tips

Although cruise vacations include a lot, there are some services that have an extra charge. For example, massages, spa treatments and salon visits will not only have an extra cost, but you can expect to pay gratuities on the services.

Typically, you will be charged an additional 18-20% as a “service fee” on top of what you are already paying for the service.

Depending on where you live, it may be normal to give a cash tip after you have paid for a service. However, on a cruise, the tip will be charged automatically to your onboard account. Avoid the mistake of double tipping, unless you want to.

3. Tipping on Drinks & Drink Packages

Virgin Voyages drinks

Many cruisers have some confusion over how tipping works at the bars and on cruise drink packages. It’s important to know that when you purchase a drink package, you’ll be charged a gratuity based on the cost of the drink package.

This isn’t a bad thing, as you aren’t expected to tip per drink order. However, it’s good to be aware.

If you don’t have a drink package and purchase your beverages individually, you will be charged an additional service fee (18-20%) every time you order.

In some cases, you will get an invoice that will break down the cost of the drink, or it will be charged automatically to your stateroom.

Double Tipping

On a cruise, it is not mandatory to tip the bartenders or servers since you are already paying a gratuity fee. However, if you give cash tips to the bartenders, they will appreciate it and may even give you better service.

Related: What Food is Included on a Cruise (meals, snacks & drinks)

4. Not Bringing Enough Small Bills

A mistake many cruisers make is not bringing enough small bills on a cruise. Even though a cruise is cashless, there will be some occasions when you will want to have cash.

Having $1, $5 and $10 bills will come in handy on occasions when you want to recognize good service on or off the cruise ship.

5. Who Should You Tip

Cruisers should bring some cash to tip tour guides and shore excursion drivers in cruise ports of call. On boarding day it’s also customary to tip porters at the cruise embarkation port as they take your luggage.

You may also want to have small bills to tip for room service delivery and any extra tips you want to give to recognize great service.

6. Room Service

Room service on a cruise

Another time that you will want to be ready to tip is when you are ordering room service. When it comes to room service on a cruise, tipping isn’t mandatory.

However, many cruisers will give a small tip to the crew member who delivers their room service.

Something to be aware of is that room service is not always free on a cruise, and some cruise lines charge a delivery fee. You may want to check your bill before adding an extra tip, as some cruise lines may charge a 20% service fee for each room service order.

Tip: Keep a stash small bills in a cabin drawer to tip the crew member who brings you your room service.

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7. Prepaid Gratuities

When book your cruise, you can choose between paying your gratuities onbard or paying them in advance (pre-paid gratuities).

Some cruisers believe that if you pay for your gratuities ahead of time, the crew members will give you worse service. However, it is a mistake to think that the crew will treat you any differently because you pre-payed your gratuities.

One of the reasons why pre-paying your gratuities is advantageous is because it makes it easier to budget for your cruise. This way, you won’t have to worry about paying for the gratuities once you are already onboard.

Another reason to consider pre-paying gratuities is that you can save money. As cruise lines raise gratuities, which seems to happen once to twice a year, you’ll pay the original daily gratuities from the time of your booking.

8. Tipping on Tours & Excursions

cruise shore excursion

Whether you booked an excursion with the cruise line or if you booked an excursion on your own, it’s important to bring cash. In many destinations, it is customary to give the tour guides and drivers a tip at the end of the excursion.

Depending on the cost of the excursion, you may want to budget between $5 and $10 per person.

9. Tipping at Local Restaurants

When it comes to the restaurants and bars in cruise ports of call, it’s best to tip according to the culture of where you are going. For example, if you’re going to the United States or Canada, leaving a tip for your server is not only customary, but also built into how the employees are paid.

Of course, other countries may not tip the same amount and may simply round up. As long as you do what is customary in this countries’ culture, you won’t make any mistakes.

Watch For Service Charges & Added Gratuities

Before paying your bill, and leaving an extra tip, at restaurants in cruise ports of call, check to see if a service charge was added.

It’s not uncommon to see groups fo 6 or more having a service charge of 20% (or more) automatically added to the bill.

Even if you’re in a smaller group, be aware and check you you are paying at al restaurants and bars. Being aware in cruise ports will keep you from getting caught in potential tourist scams.

10. Who Not to Tip On A Cruise

Officer Cruise

Some of these may seem obvious for some experienced cruisers. However, it is important to know who not to tip when on a cruise – as this can lead to an embarrassing tipping mistake!

The cruise ship Captain and officers should never be offered a tip. In fact, offering a tip can be insulting to these positions on a cruise.

11. Should You Tip “Extra”?

Tipping more than the daily gratuities is isn’t mandatory or expected. However, tipping a favorite bartender or a cabin attendant a little bit extra is something that some cruise passengers will do.

If a crew member went above and beyond and made your cruise a little bit better, they will appreciate the extra tip.

Related: 7 Gifts Cruise Crew Members Really Want & Need

Video: Cruise Tipping Mistakes to Avoid

12. Giving a Gift Instead of a Tip

Some cruisers will make a mistake by giving a crew member a gift instead of a tip. On the surface, giving a gift may seem like a nice gesture. However, crew members prefer getting a cash tip.

Something to remember is that crew members only have a little room in their cabins to collect gifts from the passengers. Even during the holidays, consider giving the crew members a tip instead of a gift.

Tip: If you really want to give crew members a gift, consider giving sealed chocolates or candy they can share with their roommates or friends.

13. Removing Gratuities

When it comes to tipping on cruises, removing gratuities is a very controversial topic. While it can be done by going to guest services on board on many cruise lines, this might be considered something not to do on a cruise.

Cruise ship gratuities get split among many crew members. As an example, when you go lunch or dinner in the main dining room, even if you’re served by different crew members, they’ll each receive a portion of the tip.

However, if you want to remove the cruise ship gratuities, you can usually request to remove them at guest services. This way, you can tip the crew members as you wish.

Related & Popular Posts:

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Final Thoughts on Tipping Mistakes Not To Make on a Cruise

Well, there it is, everything you need to know about tipping mistakes not to make on a cruise!

Tipping on a cruise is a topic that is controversial among cruisers. However, the basics of tipping on a cruise are important for new and experienced cruisers.

How do you feel about cruise gratuities? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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Author Bio: Ethan Schattauer writes about fashion, travel and college advice on the website WhatToWearMen.com. As a frequent cruiser, Ethan shares his unique perspective on what cruising is like for teens and young adults.



  1. LaVerne Reinhardt
    October 22, 2023 / 3:10 pm

    I think l would rather pay a higher price than all the tipping. Really makes the trip much higher than the quoted price. Would rather go to an all inclusive.

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