Is it best to pay gratuities at the end or pay as you go?

I understand your credit car is charged at the end. However, I heard you can cancel that automatic charge after 48 hours on the ship and pay them separately. What are the rules?

21 Answers

I tend to leave the auto "gratuities" on. It is an expected expense and I can properly budget for it. Also, it ensures that those who serve me behind the scenes are properly tipped.

I also tend to give a cash award to those who are above and beyond, such as some bartenders, stewards and waiters.

While it is possible to cancel the auto grats with the intention of giving them cash later, you may miss those who are in the tip pool, including the people in the buffet or behind the scenes in the Hotel department. Also, it is rumored that if you cancel the auto grats, then any cash tip received must be turned over to the pool anyway, so the person you tip does not receive the money. If you leave the autograts in place, they are allowed to keep the money.

As far as rules, it is really to let your conscience be your guide.

Not all cruise lines allow you to cancel while on the ship. NCL used to allow this but not you can only cancel after you are home and then wait for a refund.

Also .. the staff deserve it. Even if you encountered 1 not so nice staff member the rest work very long and very hard to make a cruise memorable and they do that for peanuts. They deserve what they get and more. So I would never advise removing the auto gratuities. Just consider it a given that it will be taken or pre pay it before the cruise and you'll never even notice it. But the crew will. And yes if you remove the gratuity while on the ship the crew will know.

I keep the gratuities on, I'm even looking now to prepay them before the cruise. I know that all that money goes to general revenues for the cruise line before they share it. I also keep cash to tip individuals. If the service is good, or I need something, a few bucks goes a long way.

You actually have 2 choices with most North America departure cruise lines as how the automatic hotel/restaurant gratuities are charged to you. We opt to prepay before ever boarding the ship, this is a popular choice with experienced cruisers. To us it's one less expense on board to have to worry about. Don't get me wrong we don't just hand over this fee to the cruise line months before setting sail, we wait till about 2-3 weeks prior to sailing to get this known expense out of the way. To us this is no different than reserving speciality dining with the upcharge paid, spa/salon appointment, or getting a beverage package, we also like prepaying the tour company for tickets whenever possible.

The second option is to just wait and let them be charged to your on board account. Now your on board account can be funded in multiple ways, and if you use a credit card yes the final bill will be sent to the card's agency at the end of the cruise for full payment. If you choose to fund the on board account with cash, cruise line gift cards, or on board credits, the charges placed against the account are handled more in the fashion of a prepaid credit or debit card. As charges come in including the auto-grats, which may be charged daily or in a single lump sum (depends on the cruise line) that amount comes off the available balance till you 0 out.

As for having the auto-grats removed at some point in the voyage my recommendation is not to, even if a particular cruise line allows it (not all do). For every forward facing team member you verbally engage with there are 2-4 more members of your dedicated service teams you will never meet much less speak to. Since the implementation of the auto-gratuities and it's use industry wide, tipping-out by the head or primary service person has gone by the wayside. A cash ip handed to a particular crew member is theirs to keep or decide to share with the other crew that does "behind the scenes" work to make their passenger facing work appear seamless. The auto-gratuities in a sense take care of that for the crew and since the "splitting" is done by the paymasters office it actually saves the crew time.of having to divide the monies to hand out to others. It also cuts down on disagreements and cultural misunderstandings surrounding the division of tips between service crew members.

If not familiar with tipping-out here's a bare bones explanation of how it goes at a landside restaurant... the tip at the end of the meal is left on the table (BTW that is a general no-no on board a ship either hand the money to the waitstaff or leave an envelope with the cash on the table) or added by you to your debit/credit card for the waiter. The waiter then collects your tip, along with others during their shift, and shares it with select other employees like the bus person, food runner, and hostess at the end of shift. The idea being ... the hostess will seat appropriate sized parties at a well paced manner that service is staggered for that waiter's/waitress's section, the food runner will gather the necessary sides, sauces, and verify special cooking requests with the kitchen before setting the waitstaff's delivery tray and help if needed delivering the food so each course is set to each table occupant about the same time, and the buspeople will clear and clean the tables for fastest turnover for new guests. So in a sense these tip-outs are a bribe, but it is an industry tradition, by the waiters and waitresses to get the best service out of these other workers so they can give their best attention directly to the guests, getting hopefully a larger percent of the bill as a tip. Again traditions on what percentage of the total tip is divided do differ a bit region to region, as well as with the casualness or elegance of an establishment, but when I worked as a waitress at a diner style restaurant in a NJ suburb we tipped-out 7-8% to the hostess, 5% to the runners, and 7-8% to the buspeople.

Now if your cabin is not cleaned with fresh towels, and the bed made daily, or you request ice or extra blankets that is never delivered or that you feel the restaurant food service was lacking then by all means go to the Guest Services desk make your complaint (and do so as soon as possible for each incident) and adjust down (if the cruise line allows) or cancel the auto-tip to a particular department (if not published in your cruise line's FAQs the auto-tips are generally divided between housekeeping, food services, and "alternative" services) leaving the tips in place for the other departments. If the cruise line does not allow adjustments, either the auto-gratuities remain as is or all get cancelled, be prepared with envelopes and a note explaining to the services teams that did fulfill the job requirements with excellence that you removed the auto-grats because of XXX department was not meeting minimal expectations. "Alternative" services mainly consist of "hidden" service crew like the ones that clean public bathrooms, vacuum common areas, police various seating areas for garbage (just try finding a public trash can other than at the buffet or in the restrooms), and other "small job" areas that normally would have a tip jar present if you were at a land resort.

We always prepay our gratuities when we book and pay for our cruise. The crew work so hard to make our cruise memorable and fun. Even if towels were not replaced or service was not perfect in some way, I would never reduce or remove the gratuities. Many of the crew are helping support their families at home, thousands of miles away, and they need and deserve every penny.

We paid them both ways. The charge to your card goes to everyone, including the behind the scenes staff. We also tip individuals in the crew who serve us personally. We planned ahead of time, keeping $ in our pockets for anyone that went out of their way to ensure we had a great time.

Has anyone ever personally asked a waiter, room steward etc. if they receive a gratuity from the passengers at the end of each cruise? Well, I did on our last cruise! We were on friendly terms with our waiter and thought he would be a perfect individual to ask since I read about both sides of this argument and I was confused. Well, his answer was what gratuity? I explained that passengers have gratuities automatically deducted each day from their credit card to be distributed to them. He had no idea what I was talking about! I asked him, if he received a separate check from the cruise line for tips. He said NO! He gets the one same check each pay period and that is it! The reason I asked, was I read in “Cruise Travel” magazine that the gratuity goes to the cruise line. The waiter did say that his salary is always the same. He did say that when he first took the job years ago, that a portion of his salary may be from tips. But how could he receive the same amount each pay period since obviously the tip amounts will be different for each cruise. I believe the cruise lines keep a good portion for themselves and distribute the same amount to each waiter, etc. irregardless, if they have generous passengers. So, I encourage everyone to ask their crew staff if they see the automatic gratuities that we all have deducted. If the answer is no, then use your judgement.....perhaps just give them a cash gratuity in an envelope at the end of the cruise.

Since the same number of people sail on each cruise (full ship), it is quite possible that the amount would be the same.

The money does go to the cruise line, who then disburses it (probably in conjunction with the paycheck) to the crew member.

We prepay our gratuities. One less thing to be concerned about.

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