Cruisers Beware!

Published: Wed Jan 26 2011

With cruise holidays gaining in popularity, one of the key barriers to purchase still seems to be the issue of gratuities – How much? To whom? What’s the etiquette? has looked into the true cost of cruising which can add $480 or more (£312) for four people travelling on a 14 night cruise.

The team compared the gratuity price difference between 18 of the world’s top cruise lines. Their report looked at the average additional cost per adult and child per day, as well as the method of payment and any other additional mandatory ‘charges’ added to services such as bars or spa.

P&O Cruises was the cheapest by offering the lowest suggested rates for adults per day at £3.10, and no charge for children under 12, plus no additional tips added for bar staff. The most expensive of those surveyed was Oceania Cruises who charge $13.50 per person, per day in stateroom rising to $21.50 per person, per day for suite. This would add on a cost of £802 for a family of 4 sailing in high end accommodation on a 14 night cruise.

The report also found that from the cruise customer’s perspective, there is confusion with some cruise lines now calling gratuities, service charges, and making it difficult to cancel these on board. Comments from the Forum Members of suggest that many of the participants feel that it’s the American cruise lines who are leading the way in excessive and unnecessary automatic charges. One member stated that they had been ‘grilled ‘onboard as to why they were not complying!

The discussions in the Forum suggests that the pre-pay methods employed by Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean should be abolished – the comments coming through say, ‘you don’t tip in restaurants until you’ve sampled the food and service.’

Further comments suggest that, P&O Cruises have the right balance as it’s left up to the individual to tip to whom and how much they want to give. In addition P&O and Fred Olsen don’t add 10-15% to drinks, which again gives them favour with the members.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Seamus Conlon, Managing Director of said: "We all recognise that tips have been a traditional method of rewarding staff for good service, but as Brits we’re not used to this whole issue of adding gratuities to the holiday price which seems to be only found in the cruise industry.
"What’s the answer? Well the market isn’t going to change so we suggest that passengers budget wisely, especially those new to cruise and take into account the things they purchase on the cruise and weather these are subject to additional service charges. The alternative is to look for an inclusive operator but these tend to be at the more expensive luxury end of the market.

"Our findings generally conclude that whilst it’s down to individual choice many cruise lines have significant hidden costs in their prices. Know what you are buying; go beyond the glossy brochures and consult with a cruise specialist. If you are still confused have a look at our Members’ Forum."

For more information including the latest discussion pages and the guide to tipping, please visit:

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