Carnival Cruise Lines Raises Gratuities by 15 Percent

November 1, 2011
tipping (1:35 p.m. EDT) -- Carnival Cruise Lines has increased its gratuity guidelines from $10 to $11.50 per person, per day, effective for voyages departing on or after December 1, 2011. Passengers who have already prepaid their gratuities will not be affected by this change.

Senior Cruise Director and blogger John Heald said on his Facebook page that the increase is the line's first since 2001.

In an official statement, Carnival said the new guidelines "place it in line with most other cruise operators." (Celebrity recommends $11.50 per person, per day, NCL $12, Princess $11.50 and RCI $11.65.)

Guide: Cruise Line Tipping Policies

Per company policy, tips are automatically added to Carnival passengers' onboard accounts. However, they are free to adjust the gratuity amount up or down at their discretion.

There are two exceptions. According to the line's Web site FAQs, for "cruises to nowhere" -- short cruises that do not visit a port -- gratuities must be prepaid. In addition, all gratuities are automatically added during the booking process for cruises leaving from Barbados.

The move also represents a change in how Carnival distributes tips to crew. The old tipping levels were broken down as follows (per day): $5.50 to the headwaiter/waiter, $1 to the assistant waiter/cooks and $3.50 to the cabin steward. The new guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. "The increase in the recommended gratuities amount will result in increased compensation for impacted crew," says spokesman Vance Gulliksen, who declined to offer specifics.

Cruise Critic members are reacting to the news on the message boards, with one reader posting a poll asking if the crew "deserve a raise in THIS economy."

Many readers feel that they do. "I do not have a problem with this," writes Nonna5. "First increase in 10 years. How many other people have not had their pay increased in 10 years?"

"I'm happy to pay the extra $1.50 per day ($10.50 for a 7-day cruise)," posts nwcruiselover. "The workers put in long hours and do their best to serve us well."

Adds Cruise-Crazy: "Seriously, an extra $1.50 a day will break the budget??? If you are that tight on the budget you can still go to guest services on the ship and adjust the tips down to $10 a day, or less if you want."

Others took exception to the increase. "Well, here is what is going to happen in my case," writes woodey. "I normally tip extra ... not anymore."

Still, others believe Carnival is sneaking in the increase by not alerting the public ahead of time. News broke when the new tip levels were spotted yesterday on the company's travel agent site. "Crew deserves raise, and we deserved an e-mail about it," posted imjaymi in response.

But Heald said sneaking in an up-charge was absolutely not Carnival's intention. "To suggest so is just plain silly," he wrote earlier today on his Facebook page. "It was posted yesterday on the travel agent Web site, our call centers were informed yesterday as was I ... and here I am writing about it today ... the official letters and press stuff was released at 9 a.m. We placed it on our travel agent Web site yesterday to give them a head start for today's bookings."

Thoughts on the increased tip levels? Sound off below.

December 2010: Royal Caribbean Raises Recommended Gratuities by 19 Percent

--by Dan Askin, News Editor