Vacationers dreaming of their first cruise might picture themselves sunning on a top-deck swimming pool, sipping frosty cocktails and listening to a steel drum band. That idyllic tranquility happens thanks to the hard work of cruise ship employees. Gratuities -- also known as tips -- on a cruise ship can be confusing. Some cruise lines incorporate gratuities into your final bill, but you still might feel pressured to tip more if other passengers do so. Follow gratuity guidelines on a cruise to avoid over-tipping or shortchanging hard-working employees.
Some cruise ships have begun adding automatic service charges to your overall costs, taking some of the guesswork out of tipping. Cruise lines often attract international passengers with different ideas about the practice of tipping, including appropriate amounts, so a flat service charge helps ensure that workers receive adequate tips. However, passengers have no idea what portion of their service charge will be assigned to particular employees, so you can choose to privately tip individual employees who provide excellent personal service. If you strongly disagree with automatic gratuity charges, ask if you can opt out and handle your own tips.
Workers take on numerous responsibilities to ensure that you have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable voyage. Examples of cruise line workers you might tip include cabin stewards, butlers, waiters and room service workers. Don’t tip the ship’s captain or officers, as they don’t expect gratuities and might be embarrassed by your offer.
Most gratuities can be dispensed on the last night of your cruise, although there are a few exceptions. If you’re planning to entertain in your cabin or require extra assistance because of an infant or elderly family member, tipping your cabin steward at the beginning of the cruise can help steer service in the right direction. Some cruise ships provide small envelopes for leaving tips; this allows you to jot your name or cabin number on the outside if you’d like the employee to remember that information.
Suggested gratuities vary depending on the cruise line. Examples of per person, per day tip amounts in 2011 include $3 or $4 for cabin stewards and waiters, $1.50 to $2.50 for bus boys and $1 for the head server. You can tip bartenders 15 percent of the total bar tab. Some cruise lines recommend that total gratuities should range between $10 and $12 per person per day.
Keep in mind that gratuities and tips are not required expressions of thanks. Excessive fretting over the precisely correct tip amount takes away from your vacation pleasure. Master a basic understanding of gratuity guidelines, feel free to tip generously when you encounter excellent service, then relax. Never threaten the withholding of a gratuity to prod workers into better service. Cruise ship employee wages are often calculated with the knowledge that salaries will be substantially augmented with tips, and they rely on your understanding of tipping protocol.