December 9, 2010
(11 a.m. EST) -- We won't ask for a tip for delivering this news: Royal Caribbean will be upping its recommended gratuities for sailings that depart on or after July 1, 2011. The increase is the first from the line in 13 years.
The new recommended daily gratuities for dining and housekeeping staff will be $11.65 per passenger, per day for those occupying standard accommodations and $13.90 per person, per day for those in suites.
The current guidelines suggest $9.75 per standard passenger day and $12 per suite passenger day.
"This adjustment is the result of a long period of consideration and assessment that places the cruise line's recommendations in line with its competitors," said the line in a statement.
It's important to note that Royal Caribbean's standard policy varies from most other big-ship lines like Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Celebrity Cruises and NCL. RCI still relies primarily on the traditional "cash in envelope" method and offers a guideline chart for passengers to distribute tips on the last night of the cruise. Most big-ship lines utilize "auto-gratuity" policies that add between $10 and $12 per person per, day to passengers' onboard bills. (The levels, of course, can be adjusted at the guest relations desk.)
There are a few caveats in Royal's policy: The cash-averse still have the option of auto-paying gratuities at the levels outlined in the official chart. And passengers who opt for RCI's flexible "My Time Dining" program must pre-pay gratuities.
The clock is ticking for Royal Caribbean passengers. Those who prepay gratuities -- either by choice or by necessity per "My Time Dining" rules -- before 12:01 a.m. EST on December 11 for sailings on or after July 1, 2011, will not be affected by the adjusted guideline.
Cruise Critic members are already talking about the hikes, and you can join the conversation here. And for more information on cruise ship gratuities, check out our guide to cruise line tipping policies.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor