Recent Study Reveals 50% of Guests ‘Resent’ Cruise Line Tipping Policies

January 25, 2016

The results for the 2016 Cruise Community Awards were released last week after extensive polling of our award winning cruise community throughout December. (For the curious amongst you the award we won was for the World’s Leading Online Cruise Community in the recent World Travel Awards; the sixth time we’d won!).

You can see the full results from the award ceremony here but today we’ll be focusing on one of the more interesting trends highlighted by the Awards Ceremony…


In the award for Fairest Tipping Policy all three winners were British cruise lines, P&O winning the Gold, Thomson Cruises the Silver and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines won the Bronze.

That statistic caught our attention as most cruise lines these days tend to be American owned (Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line for example) with a couple of European lines thrown into the mix (such as MSC and Costa).

So what is it about British cruise lines’ tipping policies that people seem to prefer?

We decided to dig a little deeper into this and once again surveyed our Cruise Community.


Do You Pay Gratuities On A Cruise?

As you’d expect, the vast majority of cruisers confirmed that they did pay their gratuities with only 15% of people claiming never to pay them; however things got a little more interesting when we asked how people prefer to tip.

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What Form Of Tipping Do You Prefer?

In recent years the industry standard has moved towards automating the tipping process as much as possible, either by asking guests to pre-pay them before they board or by automatically adding them to guest’s on-board accounts to be settled once the cruise is over.

However of everyone polled only 14% of people wanted to pay them before their cruise and only 11% of people wanted them added to their on-board accounts automatically.

By far the biggest response (at 44%) was people preferring the method that used to be the industry standard just a few years ago, which was to tip who you chose with cash.

The remainder of people then either said they would prefer not to have to tip at all (12%) or to have it included in the upfront cost of the cruise as cruise lines like Thomson do (19%).

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Comments were obviously mixed but by far the most vocal were those who thought they were being forced into something they felt should be a voluntary reward for good service…


“It is not part of my culture. I have already paid for my Cruise and it is up to the Cruise line to pay their crew/staff”.


“Because I like to tip who I want to, not taking my money and not knowing where or who its going to”


“I’ve paid for good service in my booking fee and cruises are not cheap! I’ve never been in a job where tipping has been given! If the staff are not being paid a proper rate by there employee then the staff should move and get a job elsewhere, it’s not up to the customer to foot the extra! America’ism gone mad yet again!”


“I am not a great believer in tipping in general as employers should be paying their staff a decent wage without having to rely on tips, after all, no one tipped me for doing my job for 40 years.”


“As far as I am concerned, a gratuity is given as recognition of good service. It should most definitely NOT be a way of cruise companies (or US restaurants) having the guest subsidise the wage bill”.


“Because that’s the British way. We are not American tipsters who tip every Tom, Dick or Harry for doing anything and everything. The UK population are the most Charitable people in the world, the money we have left over after paying to go on a relaxing EXPENSIVE holiday, is for enjoying and spending on ourselves or for tips when visiting islands, if not what have we got?”


When Gratuities Are Added To Your Account Have You Ever…

Whilst the industry standard is to now have tips automatically added to your account at the end of the cruise, most cruise lines do give guests the choice to either adjust them up or down or even remove them entirely (providing you don’t mind going to reception and explaining why that is).

However of all the people that took part in the survey only 7% had ever upped the amount to be automatically debited from your credit card with a further 10% decreasing it and a massive 42% removing them entirely.

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When asked why the most common answers were…


“Yes remove them completely, I tip whom I want, when I want, I don’t like it forced on me”


“It is the Cruise lines job to pay their staff, not mine”.


“I’ve already paid quite enough for my cruise holiday and good service should be expected as norm. Exceptional service by individuals is different.”


“Because I make the decision who I wish to tip and how much!”


“Do not believe in them”


“Prefer to give what we want to give, rather than what we are told to give.”



Of those who’d answered yes to either decreasing or removing gratuities completely 33% did so because they were too high, 18% had done it because they’d received bad service and 5% had had to do it as they simply couldn’t afford them.

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What Do You Think Of Those That Don’t Pay Gratuities?

As gratuities can be such an emotive subject to cruisers we also asked those who do always tip what they thought of those who always removed their gratuities.

Answer ranged from…


“Don’t blame them , it’s their choice”


“Their choice and probably a modern trait which was originally alien to cruising”


“I understand completely passenger’s frustration with these gratuities. Cruise lines should pay their staff a living wage rather than expect passengers to augment their salaries.”


Right through to…






“I think they are despicable!!! This is purely their meanness and those who pay up are subsidising them. We ARE a tipping nation! I suspect these people do EXACTLY the same thing if they EVER eat in a restaurant. A college student possibly served them on less than minimum wage, that tip would mean a lot to them! But these tight wads would rather keep the money in their pocket!”


Does The Amount You Have To Tip Affect The Cruise Lines You Book With?

Of everything the data revealed however perhaps the thing cruise lines should be paying most attention to is that just over 30% of people said that the amount they’re forced to tip actually influences the cruise line they book with.

30% of our cruise community might cruise with somebody else if their tipping policies were different!

Tipping Policies


What Do You Think Tipping Should Be For?

Perhaps the whole problem behind the tipping/gratuity debate is in how different people and cultures define them. As we’ve already pointed out, the three companies with the Fairest Tipping Policies (as voted for by you) were all British cruise lines. Which, by default (we’re assuming), means that the companies with the most unfair tipping polices are American owned.

Now tipping is much more prevalent in America than it is in the UK; in fact it’s the norm rather than the exception. Roles that would typically be ‘tipped’ for their service are actually paid well below the national minimum wage with the expectation that their tips will ‘top them up’. In effect they’re a service charge and as such an expectation, rather than as a thank you for exceptional service which is more common in the UK,

When we asked our cruise community how they felt a gratuity should be viewed 79% of them saw it as a reward for good service with only 9% thinking it should be viewed as a service charge.

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In light of everything revealed by the survey and the fact that it was British cruise lines that placed highly in the Cruise Community Awards we asked one more question…


Do you resent the fact that the choice on whether you should tip someone has been removed from you by the cruise lines?

50% of you said yes, you did resent it (with only 25% answering no and the further 25% declining to answer).

Tipping Policy


So what are your thoughts about tipping?

Do you agree with the results shown? Or do you feel differently about them?

Let us know in the comments below…