Should I prepay gratuities on a cruise?
Introduction to prepaid cruise tipping
Pre-paid gratuities are an option offered by most cruise lines where tipping is expected. These tips are a daily charge that go to the crew members on the cruise ship who make your stay on board a memorable occasion. For example, carnival cruises automatically charges tips at $13.99 per person per day with tips going to the stateroom host, server, assistant server, and head server.
First, if you want to take care of everything ahead of time, pre-paying the gratuities allows you to do so. Your cruise booking agent might offer to let you take care of everything with one payment now, rather than paying for the cruise now and for the tips later. You might also prefer to plan in advance, because the trip is a gift to a loved one, or you want to pay for your whole party while avoiding an on board discussion about who will pick up the tips.
Secondly, if you are taking a cruise where the tips are charged in a currency that is not your own, you will be able to lock in the current exchange rate. For example, if you receive your income in dollars but your cruise tips will be paid in euros, you will be able lock in today’s exchange rate, rather than worrying about currency fluctuations increasing the amount you end up paying. This, however, can work in reverse: if the exchange rate moves in your favor, you would have been better off not pre-paying.
If you choose to pre-pay your gratuities, you will be paying the cruise line’s recommended daily gratuity rate. You can’t choose to tip how you want to, according to the actual service you receive. Remember, you haven’t yet received the service you are tipping for! If you might also want the crew members that you tipped them well for excellent service or were unhappy with poor service. You can’t signal that through tips with prepaid gratuities.
Our Take: Is it better to do prepaid gratuities on a cruise?
Unless the cruise is a gift for a loved one or you are worried about exchange rate risk, it is better to pay on board. An automatic gratuity is often automatically added to your on board account but these amounts can be changed by visiting guest services while on the cruise ship. This allows you to reward excellent service or to punish poor service.