Why You May Have To Spend A Little More On Tips On Your Next Cruise Voyage

Have a cruise lined up in the next year? You may want to revisit your cruise budget and allot more of your dollars to gratuities. A growing number of cruise lines have made significant changes to their respective tipping systems over the past couple of months, so the amount you've been accustomed to paying in the past may not be at par with what they'll demand from you on your next voyage. Royal Caribbean introduced a $2 per passenger hike in November, Celebrity Cruises announced a raise of $0.50 to $2 (depending on the room booked) in July, and Carnival imposed an additional $1.50 to passengers at the start of the year.

Executives say that these fees will go straight to the pockets of hardworking staff members on board and not to the cruise lines themselves. "Our shipboard team members work hard to provide exceptional service and the friendly, welcoming, and outstanding work of Carnival crew is widely recognized across the industry and amongst cruise fans," a spokesperson for Carnival noted in a statement. It goes without saying that inflation also plays a significant factor, but generally, hiking gratuity fees is common practice among cruises, with the typical interval being one to two years. Travel agency CEO Danny explained to USA Today: "I think this is very much in line with just an increase in costs, increase in wages. Basically, across the board, things cost more ... It's a periodic thing that happens."

Is there a way to save on gratuity fees?

A dollar or two may not seem like much, but those do add up, especially if you're on a lengthy voyage. But it's important to remember that whatever you pay in tips will be distributed among the crew members, most of whom provide exemplary service to ensure your comfort and enjoyment. Cruise lines charge them in advance, include them in fares, or tack them onto your onboard bill only as a way of streamlining the tipping setup.

Still, if you discover that the rising gratuity fees are cutting too much into your vacation budget, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean recommend prepaying before subsequent price hikes kick in, so you won't be affected by the increase. But paying well in advance eliminates the chance to adjust your tips accordingly in the event that you experience less-than-stellar service. Alternatively, if you're unsatisfied with the service given to you, some cruise lines also offer the option to have your tip adjusted to an amount you think is fair. More often than not, it only requires a trip to guest services.

Or, you know, you can always return to the old-school way of tipping: paying in cash. This way, you get to have a say on how to extend your gratitude to staff members instead of following a pre-determined amount. Just be sure to check in with guest services before you embark to see if this option is aligned with the cruise line's policies. Bon voyage!