Daily gratuity charges
There perhaps is nothing more controversial in the world of cruising than the gratuity charge.
It is a fee of as much as $23 per person, per day that many of the biggest cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess and Norwegian, automatically add to passenger bills, saying it will be passed on to crew members in recognition of their service.
The charge is levied whether or not a passenger feels he or she has experienced good service, though at many lines it can be adjusted or removed while on board.
The practice of adding automatic gratuity charges to cruise bills has sprung up over the past few decades, replacing a more informal system where cruisers tipped room stewards and wait staff at their own discretion, in varying amounts.
Many of the lines that automatically add gratuity charges to bills say they do so as a convenience to passengers. It’s just plain simpler for cruisers to pay an automatic gratuity than to be tipping crew members who give them great service one by one, the lines say. Cruise lines also note the money is shared with behind-the-scenes crew members who play an important role in the passenger experience but might go unrewarded.
Critics of the charges say tipping is a personal matter that should be left to passengers. Some see the charges as a thinly disguised method for cruise lines to push the responsibility for paying crew members to their customers. To that point, cruise industry watcher CruiseCritic has reported that some lines now pay housekeeping and dining department workers on ships as little as $2 per day in base wages, relying on the automatic gratuity to provide the bulk of their compensation. As much as 95 percent pay for some cruise ship workers now comes from automatic gratuities, according to CruiseCritic.
While mass-market ocean lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are hiking the fees at a rapid rate, a growing number of upscale ocean lines including Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream have been eliminating them. The practice also is disappearing at some river lines.
The listings look at the amounts major lines catering to North Americans currently are charging to passenger bills in automatic gratuities. In addition to a flat-fee, per-day charge for gratuities, some lines also add a 15 to 18 percent gratuity to bar bills on ships. The rates for daily charges are per person, per day. None
The Disney Wonder embodies the company’s blend of the grace of early 20th century ocean liners with contemporary design.
Carnival Cruise Line is hiking the amount of gratuity it adds.