The cruise lines are dealing 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.
None of these is cited as a reason for the increased gratuities by the cruise lines.
"At Norwegian Cruise Line, we are committed to delivering exceptional guest experiences at every step of the cruise journey, and with the dedication of our shipboard team, we are able to turn your vacation dreams into reality," the cruise line said in a statement. "As such, we make it easy for guests to show their appreciation for these vacation heroes with discretionary daily services charges, which provide gratuities to key onboard team members, including room stewards, restaurant servers and behind-the-scenes support staff."
"Carnival shipboard team members work hard to provide exceptional service and we believe our guests will agree this slight increase is well-deserved," Carnival said in a statement.
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.
Cruises on the Watch List For Increased Gratuities
If other cruise lines are going to follow Carnival and Norwegian in increasing gratuities, the most likely candidate is Royal Caribbean International, which has not updated its gratuities since 2018. There's also the fact that, historically, when one line starts this sort of increase other lines tend to follow.
Royal's gratuities are currently $14.50 per person, per day, for up to the Junior Suites category and $17.50 for suites starting at the Grand Suite category and above.
Another cruise line 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 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.