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Tipping on Ships: An Australian Culture Clash
7 Times You Shouldn't Tip on a Cruise
Chef staff in one of Princess's dining rooms (Photo: Princess Cruises)

7 Times You Shouldn't Tip on a Cruise

7 Times You Shouldn't Tip on a Cruise
Chef staff in one of Princess's dining rooms (Photo: Princess Cruises)
Dan Askin
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Many cruise travellers are confused about when, whom and how much to tip. Most mainstream lines automatically charge passengers a daily gratuity, yet still expect them to fork over cash for luggage porters, room service deliverers and tour guides. But what about the nice waiter who carries your plate at the buffet or the spa therapist who just reduced your tension-filled body to jelly?

You can learn more about when to tip in our insider's guide to cruise tipping. Here, we tackle seven times when you most definitely shouldn't tip.

Don't tip when...

1. You buy a drink

Old hats know the drill: When you purchase a drink -- be it Pedigree Bitter, glass of Champagne or Diet Coke -- mainstream cruise lines automatically add a gratuity to the bill. First-timers often make the mistake adding a tip on top of this. (Though you don't have to tip, some cruisers like to hand some cash to their favourite bartender, usually at the beginning of the cruise, to ensure good service throughout the sailing.)

Dining with the chef on a Seabourn cruise (Photo: Seabourn Cruise Line)

2. You're sailing luxury

When sailing with upscale small-ship lines like Seabourn and Silversea Cruises, tips are neither required nor expected. If service is exceptional, no one's going to stop you from pulling some cash out of your pocket and handing it to your cabin steward, but one of the big perks of a luxury line is that service and gratuity are included.

3. You're dining at the speciality restaurant

Paying £35 for surf-and-turf at the for-fee restaurant usually means there's no need to tip on top. Gratuities are almost always included in that rate or, on some lines like MSC Cruises, automatically added on top of your final bill. (If you're unsure, do some research before you dine.)

4. It's already on the spa receipt

Not every onboard spa automatically includes gratuity, but it pays to check the receipt. When your spa bill on a line like Norwegian or Royal Caribbean includes an 18 percent gratuity, do not feel obligated to add an additional tip. Spa treatments are pricey enough to start with.

Grandeur of the Seas Nursery (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

5. Your kids spend all day in the kids' club, letting you have adult time onboard

What wouldn't most exhausted parents pay for a morning at the spa or lounging by the pool? But on a cruise ship, kids club fees are included, and you're not expected to tip the supervisors who have entertained your offspring all week long. However, if you're feeling especially grateful to the kids' team who have gone above and beyond, you are certainly welcome to express that sentiment in cash.

6. The plumber fixes your shower or toilet

It can be tempting. The man who restores the whoosh of the vacuum toilet or hot water in the shower is, in a way, restoring balance in the universe. But these onboard engineers don't work for tips

7. The captain keeps you safe or the cruise director makes milk come out of your nose.

While we'd very much like to see the look on the captain's face when you slip him £20 as you pass him in a stairwell or at the welcome party, but cash-handshakes are not necessary. The captain will not linger in port or let you steer the ship. The cruise director, whose hilarious morning briefings have you believing, once more, in laughter, should also never be the recipient of a tip.

Updated April 24, 2020

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