What Happens If You Don’t Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

When you embark on a cruise, the idea of prepaying gratuities might cross your mind, but what happens if you don’t? Rather than worrying, it’s important to know that gratuities will still be managed on your behalf. They will be added to your onboard account throughout the voyage and settled at the end of your trip. This means you’ll have the flexibility to adjust the amounts based on the service you receive, ensuring you only tip what you feel is deserved. By handling gratuities this way, you’re able to make more informed decisions and potentially even save some cash.

What Happens If You Don’t Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you don’t prepay gratuities on a cruise line? It’s a common question among both first-time cruisers and seasoned travelers. There’s a lot to consider when planning your voyage, and how gratuities fit into the mix can sometimes be confusing. Let’s break down everything you need to know about this aspect of your cruise experience.

Why Are Gratuities Important on a Cruise?

Gratuities or tips are a significant part of the compensation for many of the staff working aboard a cruise ship. These employees often rely on tips as a vital part of their income. From your cabin steward to the dining room servers, many crew members depend on these extra earnings to support their families back home.

When you prepay gratuities, you ensure that these hardworking individuals receive fair compensation for their services. However, some people prefer to have more control over who gets what amount in tips, which leads to the question: what happens if you choose not to prepay?

How Are Gratuities Handled if You Don’t Prepay?

When you choose not to prepay gratuities, the cruise line will typically charge a daily gratuity rate to your onboard account. This amount will be automatically added at the end of each day and will appear on your final bill. It’s designed to cover the tips for all the service staff you encounter during your journey.

Daily Gratuity Rates

Cruise Line Daily Gratuity Rate (Per Person)
Carnival $13.99 – $15.99
Royal Caribbean $14.50 – $17.50
Norwegian $15.50 – $18.50
Celebrity $15.50 – $19.00
Princess $14.50 – $16.50

These rates can vary depending on the type of cabin you book and other factors. Knowing the daily gratuity rates beforehand can help you budget more effectively.

How the Charges Appear

When you don’t prepay, these daily gratuity charges accumulate on your onboard account. They will be clearly itemized on your final statement, which you can review before disembarkation. This method allows some flexibility, as you can review the charges and contest any discrepancies at the guest services desk if needed.

What Happens If You Dont Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

Pros and Cons of Not Prepaying Gratuities

Like many aspects of cruising, there are pros and cons to not prepaying gratuities. Understanding these can help you make a more informed decision.

Pros of Not Prepaying

  1. Control Over Services Received: You might feel more comfortable rewarding staff based on actual services received. This gives you the power to tip extra for exceptional service or less if you feel it was lacking.

  2. Budget Flexibility: Some travelers prefer to pay for everything at once, while others like to spread out costs. By not prepaying, you can manage your expenses differently, possibly paying with onboard credits or using a payment method of your choice at the end of the cruise.

  3. Custom Adjustments: You have the flexibility to adjust the amount allocated for gratuities if you feel certain services were above or below your expectations.

Cons of Not Prepaying

  1. End of Cruise Stress: A significant downside is the potential for a larger bill at the end of your voyage. This can create some stress, especially if your onboard account starts adding up faster than you anticipated.

  2. Inconvenience: You might find it bothersome to keep track of who provided what service and how much each should receive. Prepaying simplifies this process, as the cruise line handles the distribution.

  3. Possible Service Discrepancies: There’s a debate among cruisers about whether prepaying affects the level of service received. Some believe staff might provide better service when gratuities are left to the end, although this is a contentious point.

How to Adjust Gratuities Onboard

Most cruise lines provide a process for adjusting gratuity amounts if you feel it’s necessary. Here is how you can handle it:

At Guest Services

  1. Visit Guest Services: During your cruise, you can always visit the guest services desk if you want to adjust the gratuity amounts.

  2. Provide Feedback: Explain why you wish to change the gratuity amounts. Whether you want to add more for excellent service or decrease it due to a less-than-ideal experience, be prepared to provide specific feedback.

  3. Adjust and Approve: The staff will usually accommodate your request, and the new amounts will reflect on your final bill.

Via the Cruise Line’s App

Some modern cruise lines have apps that allow you to manage your onboard account, including gratuities. This can be a convenient way to make adjustments without needing to visit guest services.

What Happens If You Dont Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

Who Receives Gratuities on a Cruise?

You might wonder how the gratuities are distributed among the staff. Typically, they are divided among various employees who assist you throughout your journey.

Common Recipients

  1. Dining Room Staff: This includes waiters, assistant waiters, and other dining service facilitators.
  2. Cabin Stewards: The people who clean and maintain your stateroom.
  3. Behind-the-Scenes: Some gratuities also go to employees you might not directly interact with, like laundry staff and kitchen workers.

Understanding this distribution can give you peace of mind that your tips are helping a wide range of crew members.

What If You Want to Tip Individually?

If you’d prefer to tip staff members personally, you can certainly do so. However, it’s essential to understand how this affects the broader gratuity pool.

Adding Extra Tips

If someone provides exceptional service, feel free to give them an additional cash tip. This should be in addition to the automatic gratuities, not a replacement. The staff members usually greatly appreciate these extra tokens of your gratitude.

Opting Out of Automatic Gratuities

While you can opt-out of the automatic gratuity system, many cruise lines discourage this practice. If you do choose this route, you will need to inform guest services and distribute tips on your own. This can be more complicated and might not cover all the hard-working staff.

How Do Different Cruise Lines Handle Gratuities?

Each cruise line has its policies and practices regarding gratuities. It’s useful to be aware of these before booking, as they can affect your overall experience and budget.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival offers the option to prepay gratuities at the time of booking or before the sailing date. If you choose not to prepay, they will add a daily rate to your onboard account. They also provide the option to adjust or remove gratuities if needed.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has a similar system where you can prepay or have gratuities automatically applied daily. They recommend prepaying for a hassle-free experience but will allow adjustments onboard if you prefer a different distribution.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian encourages prepaying gratuities to streamline the process. They add a daily service charge to your account if you don’t prepay, which covers various services throughout the cruise.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity includes a daily gratuity rate that automatically charges to your account unless you’ve prepaid. They also provide the option for adjustments but generally encourage prepaying to avoid end-of-cruise surprises.

Princess Cruises

Princess allows you to prepay gratuities or have them added daily to your onboard account. Similar to other lines, they recommend discussing any discrepancies at guest services to ensure a fair resolution.

Can Opting Out of Prepaying Affect Your Service?

The idea that not prepaying gratuities might affect the level of service you receive is a topic of debate among seasoned cruisers.

Service Quality Considerations

Some travelers believe that prepaying gratuities removes any incentive for staff to provide exceptional service, as their tips are guaranteed. However, most cruise staff pride themselves on high levels of service regardless of gratuity arrangements.

Staff Perspective

From the crew’s perspective, knowing that their gratuities are assured can contribute to a more relaxed and focused service environment. On the other hand, individualized tipping might create inequalities or tension among staff members.

How to Ensure Fair Tipping

Ensuring fair compensation for service staff while managing your own expectations and budget requires a balanced approach.

Be Transparent

If you plan on adjusting gratuities, inform the staff early in your journey. This transparency helps manage expectations and ensures everyone understands your tipping preferences.

Observe Service Standards

Keep an eye on the standard of service provided throughout your cruise. If certain staff members go above and beyond, additional tips or positive feedback can make a meaningful difference in their overall experience.

Use Discretion

Extra tipping is always appreciated, but it’s essential to use discretion. Ensure any additional tips supplement rather than replace the standard gratuity system already in place.

Summary: Should You Prepay Gratuities?

Deciding whether to prepay gratuities involves weighing convenience against control.

Prepaying Gratuities

  • Pros: Simplifies the budgeting process, ensures all staff are compensated fairly, reduces end-of-cruise stress.
  • Cons: Less control over individual tipping, might feel impersonal.

Not Prepaying Gratuities

  • Pros: Offers control over tipping, allows for personalized rewards based on service.
  • Cons: Can lead to larger final bills, increases administration, potential for overlooked contributions.


In conclusion, deciding whether to prepay gratuities on a cruise involves various factors, including convenience, budget management, and your tipping philosophy. While prepaying simplifies the process and ensures fair distribution among staff, not prepaying gives you more control to reward service excellence. Either way, understanding the policies and being mindful of the crew’s hard work will contribute to a more enjoyable and stress-free voyage.

So, are you ready to embark on your next cruise with a better grasp of gratuities? Happy sailing!