Top five Cruise Lines for the Cheapest Gratuities

March 1, 2016

Whether you’re a habitual tipper who always has a wad of crisp notes on the go or you’d prefer to keep the pounds in your own pocket there’s no denying that gratuities are a part of cruising that’s here to stay, whether you choose to tip or not.

Nowadays many of the mainstream cruise lines add auto-gratuities onto guest accounts or pop a service charge onto a restaurant reservation before you even sit down to open the menu so there’s no escape!

Whilst some of us may begrudge that way of doing things (and the bravest of us may head to guest services to ask for these auto-tips to be removed from our accounts), it’s undeniably a good way of ensuring that the hard-working staff at sea, who work long hours for little pay are rewarded for a job well done with extra cash in their pay packet.

As Brits, tipping isn’t in our culture like it is for our American cousins, who tend to tip everyone from the pizza guy to the cab driver to the person who delivers their mail – but whether we like it or not, tipping the waiters, stewards and bartenders who work so hard to ensure we stay smiling, is a customary part of a cruise, no matter where in the world we sail off to.

To make matters even more confusing for us poor Brits, the amount of gratuity we are expected to tip or the amount of service charge added to our daily account differs enormously between cruise lines and can change often, too.

Luckily, are here to help save any on-board embarrassment or nasty surprises (we’re nice like that) with our guide to the top five cheapest cruise lines for tipping costs.

It might not be something that you base your cruise holiday decision on but if you’re torn between two cruise lines, it could be the tipping point, one way or another…


5 – Costa Cruises – £7.78 per person, per day

Costa’s tipping policy says that they use this mandatory tipping charge to incentivise their staff members who perform hotel duties, making sure that the quality of service is always top-notch for guests.

Many would question this approach – after all, shouldn’t great service come as standard on a cruise ship?

That doesn’t stop Costa from automatically adding the gratuities to a guest’s account though – and unless you have nerves of steel at Guest Services when requesting to remove them, they’re on your bill to stay. However, at £7.78 per person per night, it’s one of the cheaper automatic service charges on the ocean waves, and children between the ages of 4 and 14 pay 50% of the adult charge, while under 4’s are free.

There is also a 15% service charge added to drinks, so remember that when you order that extra cocktail, or three. Maybe let someone else get a round in every once in a while!

costa cruises


4 – P&O – £5.50 per person, per day

Being a British company P&O know full well that, as a nation, we don’t ‘do’ tipping like other parts of the world do – but they also know that we’re far too polite to grumble (and we love to grumble) about a charge that’s less than you’d pay for a beer at the bar.

Not only that, but children under the age of 12 aren’t charged, unlike some other lines – a nice touch on the part of this family friendly cruise line.

P&O also assure guests that 100% of this tip goes to the steward, butler and waiting team i.e. the actual individuals that have helped you during your stint at sea – £5.50 per person, per day, over the course of a sail, multiplied by however many other people they look after, soon adds up to happy crew members.

Unlike some lines, P&O don’t allow you to pre-pay your tips before you head on-board.

However, they do allow you to buy on-board credit ahead of departure, which you can use to cover the daily service charge, if you like.

This means that, essentially, if you decide to pre-purchase on-board credit, you won’t have to worry about delving into your holiday spending money to cough up the daily charge. More change for the bar or the video arcades!



3) Cruise & Maritime – £5 per person, per day

For any cruise duration up to 16 nights, gratuities cost a fiver per person per day on-board the Marco Polo and the Azores – nice and simple, just how we like it.

However, choose to sail for that little bit longer with Cruise & Maritime and this drops to £4 – even better!

It may not sound like much of a difference but over the course of those 16 nights, it’s another £16 in your pocket.

Fair enough, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the price you paid for the holiday but it will afford you a couple more drinks at the bar.

Children aren’t allowed on-board the Marco Polo and the Azores so there’s no need to worry about how much their service charge will set you back (or endless requests for fizzy drinks and ice cream!).

However, whilst there aren’t any dedicated facilities for them on-board the Astor, they are still welcome to cruise but when it comes to their tips, it doesn’t matter anyway, because they’re already included.

Fred Olsen


2 – Fred Olsen – £4 per person, per day

The £4 daily tip that Fred Olsen request is split down the middle for your cabin steward and waiter, so, per day, they each receive £2.

However, if they’re doing a splendid job and you wish to vary the amount (or, conversely, if they’re not up to scratch), you can alter this value as you see fit.

It’s automatically added to your guest account but we imagine Fred wouldn’t mind too much if you decided you’d prefer to tip the team members personally, instead.

Just contact the trusty Guest Services and stock up on those traditional brown tipping envelopes!

Fred Olsen


1 – Hurtigruten

And the award for the best grats policy goes to… Hurtigruten! Their policy on tipping is that you shouldn’t be expected to pay any tips up front or be forced to remove them from your account if you don’t agree with the gratuities.

Instead, they operate the old fashioned “brown envelope” policy whereby you choose whether or not you would like to tip, and leave whatever money you feel appropriate to give. This means you can reward staff as you see fit and won’t feel guilty for not leaving a large sum if you don’t want to.

Sounds like the perfect cruise line to us!



As well as these 5 cruise lines, we haven’t actually mentioned those cruise lines whose tips are already included in the price of your cruise.

Cruise lines that favour an all-inclusive approach tend to be the ultra-luxury lines, including SilverseaCrystal and Regent Seven Seas.

Whilst it may be insisted that white glove service is included as standard and that tipping is neither required nor expected, remember that you’re going to be paying far more for a cruise on a luxury line than one on a megaship – so there’s no such thing as a free cruise!

Some British cruise lines, including Thomson and Swan Hellenic, also state that tips are included in the upfront fare.

This is probably because they know their market – us Brits – don’t always like to dig deep.


Whatever your opinion on tipping on-board cruise ships – whether you fall into the camp of preferring to keep it simple with an auto-charge or you like to tip as you go (or maybe *whisper it* you don’t like to tip at all!) – we hope this top five for tips guide is helpful in tipping you off as to which lines expect the least.


If you want to compare the costs of gratuities between all cruise lines then you can use our handy comparison guide here.


Tipping is one of those subjects that gets debated all the time amongst the members of our cruising community – You can catch up on what they’ve said here