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Are Cruise Ships Increasing Gratuities in 2022?
The Truth About Gratuities (Photo: Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock)

Are Cruise Ships Increasing Gratuities in 2022?

Are Cruise Ships Increasing Gratuities in 2022?
The Truth About Gratuities (Photo: Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock)

August 24, 2022

Fran Golden
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(Updated 12:30 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and Disney Cruise Line have all raised daily per-person gratuitiy amounts in 2022, as companies grapple with the impact of increased fuel charges, costs for COVID-19 tests (for crew and some passengers), shipping delays for supplies caused by both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and other issues that can interrupt cash flow.

Royal Caribbean Increases Onboard Gratuties

Effective September 7, 2022, Royal Caribbean will increase the daily per person gratuity rate for its passengers. The new daily rate will increase from $14.50 to $16.00 per person for standard cabins and from $17.50 to $18.50 per person for suites. This marks the first time Royal Caribbean has raised its gratuity rate since January 2018.

Other onboard gratuity policies will remain the same. Passengers will continue to see an 18% gratuity added automatically to all purchases for beverages, spa and salon services, room service and mini bar items.

Passengers who have already booked on a Royal Caribbean cruise departing on or after September 7, or who are planning to book one before then, will have the option to prepay gratuities at the current rate before the charges increase. Otherwise, for those who prefer to pay onboard, the new rates will apply.

New Increased Gratuity Amounts for Carnival and Norwegian

Norwegian Cruise Line as of April 1, increased its per person daily onboard service charge for standard cabins by 50 cents to $16 for those in standard cabins and by $1.50 to $20 for those in The Haven and other suites (Club Balcony Suites remain at $18). Norwegian's gratuities apply to age 3 and up.

The last time Norwegian had upped service charges was April 2020, one month after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Previously, the line had increased gratuities in 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line's gratuity policy switches to $14.50 per person, per day for cabins and $16.50 per person per day for suites, as of May 1, 2022. If you prepay your gratuities earlier for an upcoming cruise you can avoid the increase, which is 51 cents per person for both levels of accommodation. The last time Carnival increased gratuities was back in 2018.

In both cases, as is now standard with cruise lines, the gratuities may be prepaid -- which many cruisers prefer so that you take care of the vacation cost upfront. You don't save money by paying early, however.

If you don't prepay, the gratuities are automatically added to your daily shipboard account. They may be increased or lowered at your discretion.

Disney Cruise Line Increases Gratuities

In July 2022, Disney Cruise Line became the latest to join the trend by raising the gratuity to $1 for most cabins.

That means that the total gratuity, per person per day, is now $14.50 for most cabins and $15.50 per person per day for the more upscale concierge cabins and suites. These are the new automatic or pre-paid gratuities that appear on your bill.

For those in the concierge cabins that use the Concierge Lounge team, Disney is also recommending a separate $8 per person per day fee, but this is only a recommendation and not automatically added to passengers' bills.

Disney last raised their gratuities in January 2019. In a statement, the line said "Since our very first sailing, Guests have told us how much they enjoy their interactions with the crew members. Providing world-class service and creating life-long memories for our guests are among the most common comments we receive. In recognition of all that they do, we have increased our recommended gratuity guidelines for select positions.”

If you're wondering who gets the daily gratuity, it's broken down between three positions in the rotational dining rooms -- the head server, assister server and server -- as well as the steward that cleans and services your room.

Cruises on the Watch List For Increased Gratuities

If other cruise lines are going to follow Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian in increasing gratuities, one worth watching for any possible increases is MSC Cruises. In 2019, the line notified guests and travel agents of a policy that would make the automatic daily service fee mandatory; no changes allowed. There was outcry and the line changed its mind.

In the Caribbean, MSC's service fee has remained at $14 per person, per day for age 12 and up and $7 for children 2 and up (with no charge for under age 2). In the Mediterranean, it's 10 euros (about $10.88) for 12 and up and 5 euros (about $5.44) for kids.

"The Hotel Service charge serves to ensure we maintain the highest quality standards of service to our guests," MSC says on its website.

Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, sister brands to Carnival, both increased gratuities in 2019.

Princess currently charges $14.50 per person for standard accommodations, $15.50 for mini-suites and Club Class and $16.50 for suites.

The line says on its website that the "Crew Appreciation" is "a daily amount for each guest that will be automatically added to your onboard account for your convenience, to recognize the efforts of a wide variety of crewmembers who contribute to the experiences of all our guests.  The crew members eligible to receive these funds work in various departments, many of whom rotate among different ships, throughout our fleet of ships.

Holland America Line's current gratuities are $15.50 per person, per day for non-suite accommodations and $17 for suites.

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