Yes, You Can Remove The Prepaid Gratuities On A Cruise. Here's How

Removing the stress of handing out tips to staff with prepaid gratuities can be a great way to let go of yet one more worry while on your cruise vacation. It can be a lot to keep up with and keep tabs on how much you're actually spending on tips.

Typically, prepaid gratuities will cover tips for housekeeping, waiters, and room stewards, as well as supplement the base salaries for service staff you don't see. Seems pretty fair, considering they work just as hard as customer-facing staff. However, prepaid gratuities aren't all puppies and rainbows. They can put a significant dent in your total vacation budget and might even be a hidden fee when booking your cruise.

On top of that, the way "prepaid gratuities" is used can change with each cruise line, so it's important to read the fine print. Mostly it refers to what we mentioned initially, but it can also refer to a special promotion when a cruise line or travel agent pays for gratuities for you. Here's the bottom line though: You need to understand better what exactly the benefits and drawbacks of prepaid gratuities are, and we're here to help with just that.

Here's how to opt out of prepaid gratuities

If you would prefer not to pay for gratuities before boarding, there is sometimes the option to opt out when you book your cruise. If it's not apparent when making your reservation, you can call a cruise line booking agent instead to book your cruise and ask that the prepaid gratuities be removed. If you do this, you will likely instead be charged for them on your onboard bill along with your drinks, spa treatments, or any other additional purchases you made with your cruise card.

Daily gratuities can add somewhere between $15 to $25 per person per day of your cruise. For a 10-day cruise for two people, that could incur an additional $300 to $500 on your total cruise costs. As such, if you would prefer to directly tip the staff that helped you instead of paying the automatic service fees, you might be able to go to the onboard customer service desk to inquire about this. However, be sure to do this before you step off the ship locking in your final bill. Otherwise, it will not be possible to remove the inclusive gratuities. And if you do plan to tip directly, bring plenty of cash to keep on hand to do so. Cruise staff members work very hard to create a near-perfect experience for you, so don't use this advice to be cheap and skip out on gratuities.

Good reasons not to remove prepaid gratuities

We understand that prepaid gratuities can feel like a kick in the pants when it shows up on your bill. Whether it's at booking or at the end of your trip, no one likes to see what looks like frivolous fees tacked on to an already expensive bill. Though it's rare to experience poor customer service on most cruise lines, prepaid gratuities can also seem like a scam when you do run into the occasionally surly service staff member. However, we do suggest that you consider the people on the other end of the bill that you don't see.

You will likely never see staff from the kitchens and laundry rooms and other cleaning and service staff around the ship. However, these "invisible" staff members also benefit from prepaid gratuities as a supplement to their paychecks. While (we hope) you will still tip other "visible" staff, by removing your prepaid gratuities, you are inadvertently also cutting into the "invisible" staff's take-home pay.

As such, while you are more than entitled to remove prepaid gratuities from your bill — it is your money, after all — it's a bit controversial to do so. Anyway, as we previously mentioned, prepaid gratuities reduce the stress of dolling out money to staff while on your trip. So it's really for everyone's benefit to just bite the bullet and pay in advance.