When is tipping expected, and exactly how are tips handled on cruise vacations? These are legitimate questions passengers face today, because cruise line policies have changed over the past few years. In the earlier days of cruising, gratuities were extended at the end of the cruise via cash only, with suggested amounts given per staff member per day. Usually this covered waiter and assistant, as well as the cabin steward or stewardess. Gratuities were considered an essential element of staff members wages. Rather than tipping after each meal, on the last evening of the cruise, tip envelopes were put in passengers cabins.

Princess Cruises altered their policy and added a $10.00 per person per day charge to the shipboard account, which the guests can adjust. Groups prepaying gratuities must arrange this through their district sales manager.Cunard Line has a discretionary hotel and dining charge that is automatically added to the guests account on a daily basis. It does vary guests in Grill accommodations pay $13.00 per person per day. For other accommodations, the charge is $11.00. This charge is shared among the staff. Guests can make adjustments to this account at the Pursers Office. Groups can prepay gratuities. Holland America Line has gone to a $10.00 per person per day suggested gratuity which is added to the shipboard account but can be adjusted at the cruise guests discretion.

Keep in mind however, that while tipping is discretionary, it’s the lion’s share of income for shipboard staff. So if they treated you well and helped make your vacation special, follow the recommended guidelines. Your server, cabin steward and cruise director aren’t getting rich on board, they are supporting their family.