This business of auto-tipping

Due to lack of anything reasonable on tv last nite, the Boss and I decided to do some research on cruise line tipping. easier (and cheaper) to do it online. Came up with this...more and more lines, upscale and "specialty" lines are doing away with it...adding it to the base fare instead of adding it on. Some behind the scenes workers can earn as little as $2 a day base pay..yeh you read that right..they get almost ALL of their pay (I wouldn't dare call that a living wage) from the gratuities. That doesn't apply to "ship side" folks...that is the people you see in uniforms actually fixing/maintaining things...a lot behind the scenes. they don't share in tips, they get regular salaries. The "hotel" side are the ones that work for coolie wages. I use the "ships laundry" as a prime example. Ever been down there? Been on 2 ships so why don't spend much time down there I can assure you. Fascinating equipment...but mustve been 120+ down there. They share in the tips. Those behind the scenes folks, as usual, do all the dirty work, while passengers see only a small fraction of them.

So adding it on causes confusion, unexpected charges (so-called free pkgs that really aren't) plus it gives the more ahem "frugal" among us a chance to screw over the folks who make the ship's "ambiance" what it is. I know about it going in..what I didn't know was what these people make without it. The cruise lines have indeed shifted the responsibility for PAYING wages to the passengers. DO the ones who have done away with it actually raise the pay of those folks, because they also increased the fare to compensate? why does the cynic in me not believe that? your thoughts?

12 Answers

Interesting question and one worth considering. There are sites that crew members post on so might be interesting to see what the feedback from those are. Many cruise staff are underpaid and over worked but that is what happens when ships are allowed to fly flags of convenience to bypass labour laws and rules. And because there are so many under privileged areas in the world to draw crew from they will continue to do this because they can. If many of the companies that most of us work for could get away with doing the same we all know that they would.

Which OGW, leads to the source of the old saw..."my worst day of retirement is still better than my best day of work.." and I sorta kinda liked my job, especially toward the end where I could get away with anything and worked harder at not working than actually they say, "I digress" took us "taking up cruising" back in the day for us to realize the only ships flying American Flags belong to the Navy and CG....and why....NCL has one working Hawaii...haven't been on it...wondered what labor laws they conform to...until I checked the rates....

The standard pay is low (we all agree, I think), wouldn't the crew gravitate toward the best paying cruise line and/or the one with the best benefits? So if the "tips" become part of the cost of the cruise, wouldn't that cruise line need to pass the dollars to the crew in order to keep the crew? I can imagine the cruise lines getting tired of the complaining from passengers and finding this a way to circumvent that. My positive nature wants the money to go where it should, my cynical nature wonders..... Just a bit more food for thought on the matter!

Actually Yankee the reason for the flagging and for a number of things is a little thing known as the Jones Act. This is why any cruise you take will always have a port of call in at least 1 foreign port. The NCL Pride of America is the only exception. It is an American made ship, flagged American and staffed by Americans. They are subject to and obligated by American labour laws which is one of the reasons why the cost is higher. At one time NCL had 3 American ships in Hawaii but could not fill them all so only the one remains.

Thanks for all that, useful bit o trivia. And here I thought that the reason wasn't that they couldn't fill em, but that they couldn't afford to operate em given US labor laws, and so on and so forth. Wonder how the decision was made to keep ONE ship there at all..We've all been at sea looking at other ships for won't see an American flag on any of em...only toy boats. and the NAVY and CG...they don't care what things cost to operate....

Lately I'll do the prepaid gratuities to minimize my end of cruise bill; however, If we get exceptional service, we'll give the crew member a cash tip.

This is very much a cultural thing in the USA. In Australia, even the major cruise lines (Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival) include the gratuities in the cruise fare, as we don't have a culture of tipping. Restaurants and other service based businesses are already more expensive and cover the "service charge". We will always tip in a restaurant if we get excellent service, but this is not always the case.

So to answer the question, it is actually normal for us to include the "gratuity" in the cruise fare, and should be the case across all cruise lines nationally - then you will avoid those situations when passenger remove gratuities from their cruise bill because they are p*ssed off at the cruise line - they are punishing the wrong people.

Yes...hard for Americans to realize that tipping IS a cultural thing, and when traveling abroad, its a good idea to have some idea of how such basic things as tipping are done...interesting how cruise lines with an international name manage to operate differently depending.....

Cultural or not if a very low wage worker benefits from tips for a living wage, I'm all for it. We truly don't know where the "tips included" actually goes. Full disclosure would be fantastic!!! (But no) Also, depending on the nationality of the crew, giving out a portion of tips to them just before they visit their "home" port goes a long way. Separate issue, I found a website a bit ago that listed the country and what the tipping norms were for that country. Many countries have tipping, only a few don't expect it, probably because they make a living wage.

(My dollars worth)

I like not having to go around tipping crew members. We do give extra $'s to our servers since my husband has special meal restrictions. They have to go & get his meal from the kitchen & the next day's menu, If our cabin guy goes out of his way for us, we tip him extra too.


* is not a booking agent or travel agency, and does not charge any service fees to users of our site. Our partners (travel agencies and cruise lines) provide prices, which we list for our users' convenience. does not guarantee any specific rates or prices. While prices are updated daily, please check with the booking site for the exact amount. is not responsible for content on external web sites.

Back to Top