Princess Cruise Lines increases on-board gratuities

Princess Cruise Lines has become the latest cruise line to announce it will increase the amount of automatic daily gratuities for sailings. The line will increase the tip amounts by approximately 15 percent for sailings departing on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

Princess Cruise Lines Regal Princess at sea
The new daily gratuity amounts will be US$13.95 per guest, including children, for mini-suites and suites, and $12.95 per guest for interior, ocean view, and balcony staterooms. Those figures are an increase from the current “discretionary gratuity” rates of $12 per person for mini-suites and suites, and $11.50 per guest for interior, ocean view, and balcony staterooms.

“The gratuity rate increase is comparable to cruise industry standards and is Princess Cruises’ first increase since May 2011,” the cruise line said in an Oct. 14 email sent to passengers who have booked upcoming sailings. “The increase underlines our commitment toward our crew for the excellent service they provide our guests.”

Those gratuities are shared among the staff who help provide and support the guests’ cruise experience, Princess said. Staff members include all wait staff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards, and housekeeping staff across the fleet, but does not include bartenders, providers of spa services or dining room wine accounts. A 15 percent gratuity is added to charges in those categories. Casino dealers and youth staff do not share in the automatic gratuities, so tipping those staff members is the choice of the individual guest.

Daily gratuities are discretionary and can be adjusted, but any requests to modify the automatic gratuities must be made prior to disembarking the ship at the end of the cruise.

As one might expect, tipping policies vary depending on the cruise line. While Princess correctly stated that its adjustment is comparable to cruise industry standards where the cruise line levies a gratuity, not all cruise lines do. Whether a cruise line adds a gratuity, has a “no tipping” policy, or includes it in the price of the ticket depends more on the tier of the cruise line than the company that owns it.

For example, Princess Cruises is one of 10 brands owned by Carnival Corporation. The others include Holland America, Carnival, Seabourn, Cunard, Aida, Costa, P&O U.K., P&O Australia, and Fathom.

Within that group, Carnival offers “recommended guidelines” of what one might tip for dining room services, stateroom services and “alternative services” that include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff. The suggested total is $12 per person per day.

Sister line Holland America levies a daily Hotel Service Charge of $12.50 per person per day for staterooms and $13.50 per person per day for suites for sailings departing after Dec. 1, 2015.

Cunard Lines adds a “suggested gratuity” of $13.50 per person per day for Grill category suites and $11.50 for Britannia class staterooms. Like Princess, Cunard notes that tips are shared among the staff except casino dealers and youth staff because not all guests utilize those services.

Seabourn, the most upmarket of the four Carnival Corporation holdings, has a “no tipping” practice. While it notes that tipping is neither required nor expected, it does state that prices for things like shore excursions do not include gratuities for local guides, drivers, and related service staff. Tipping of those individuals who do not participate in Seabourn's "no tipping" practice is at the individual guest's discretion.

Other lines’ tipping policies are as follows:

Disney Cruise Lines suggests various amounts for individuals including dining room servers, assistant servers, head servers and stateroom host/hostess. The amounts total about $12 per day.

Hapag-Lloyd ms Europa 2 at sea
Hapag-Lloyd calculates gratuities into its fares for its four distinctly upmarket small cruise ships, a spokesperson for the line told TheTravelPro in an email. Accordingly, its policy reads, “Tips are not mandatory on board. Acknowledgement of particularly good service is at the discretion of each guest.”

Norwegian Cruise Line recently adjusted its daily service charges to $12.95 per guest per day for any category up to a Mini Suite stateroom, and $14.95 per guest per day for any suite category.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises includes gratuities in the cruise fares for all RSSC vessels. “If guests feel strongly about expressing their gratitude to the crew, they should be encouraged to make a donation to the Crew Welfare Fund at the Purser Office,” according to the cruise line’s web site.

Royal Caribbean automatically adds a $12.00 gratuity, and a $14.25 gratuity for Suite guests to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis.

Viking Ocean Cruises leaves tipping entirely to the guests’ discretion. “It is customary to give cruise gratuities, subject to your satisfaction of services rendered,” the policy reads. “Gratuities on board and on land are not included in your full fare.”

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