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Cruise Tipping - Who, How and When?

It's the most talked about topic - and the least understood

Whether you're a veteran cruiser or a first-timer, knowing who, when and how much to tip can be vexing. For starters, every cruise line does it differently, and even when they explain it, it's still ambiguous and confusing. And for first time cruisers who were expecting an all-inclusive vacation, tipping can be an unexpected bill at the end of a vacation.

Excellent Service?Excellent Service?Most cruise lines don't pay their service staff a minimum wage, instead passing off those charges to the consumer. And those employees depend on tips to make a decent living. But because cruisers tend to alternate their eating venues and follow the cashless-cruising philosophy (no one carries a wallet) it's hard to know what's expected.

Remember that tipping is not mandatory - there's no minimum obligation that you tip anyone. But it's also a way to say thanks for good service.  

One-stop tipping at the end of your cruise is an option. You pay a suggested amount and they distribute the tips according to a pre-set scale. Trouble is, tips are distributed unevenly and you aren't able to thank individual servers for excellent service.

If you're in the budgeting stages for a cruise, use this guide to help you see the hidden costs pre-cruise.

Cabin Stewards: Same amount you would in a hotel - usually $5 per room per night.

Room Service: Because room service is included in your dining option, use a standard tip of $2 - $4 per order.

Maitre de: Unless there is a problem with your table, the maitre de doesn't need to be tipped. As a ship's officer, they are compensated differently than regular service staff.

Dinning Staff: Again, because food isn't priced, use a standard tip for each dining experience. Most cruise lines suggest $5 per person, per meal. That amount is then divided between the waiter and busboy.

Bartender: Some cruise lines automatically add a tip onto your drink, but if your bartender remembers your name or what you like to drink at different times of the day, $5 per person per day is a nice gesture.

Baggage Handler: Tip as you would a bellman - $1 per bag normally.

Spa Service: Tip as you would at any spa - 10% - 20% of your bill, depending on your satisfaction with the service. Sign for your tip at the end of your treatment.

Shore Excursion: For a half day, $5 per person and for a full day, $10 per person is the norm. Don't forget to tip the driver separately.

How do you tip when you're cruising?

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Most cruise lines now automatically add the tipping to your bill when you board. You can adjust upward or downward depending on your service, but you won't have to worry about forgetting to tip someone while you are on the ship. Most cruiselines recommend a baseline of 10-12 dollars a day for tips, this would cover all the staff that serve you on a regular basis - dining staff, housekeeping staff, et al.

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