Is It Better to Prepay Cruise Gratuities?

While tipping has gotten out of hand in some areas, it’s standard cruising protocol. Passengers reward the hardworking staff with cash, especially when they go above and beyond. But should you prepay gratuities on a cruise?

Tipping is a hot-button topic for some people. As a result, we will tread lightly but deliver the truth.

So come aboard, and let’s answer this important question!

What Are Cruise Gratuities?

Cruise gratuities are what passengers pay to the staff that serves them. It’s a way of appreciating their hard work and efforts to help the passengers to have a positive experience. Like most service industry professions, these “tips” make up a generous amount of their income.

Contrary to popular belief, the cash goes to more than just room attendants and meal servers. These funds get split amongst a host of individuals responsible for taking care of passengers.

Some behind-the-scenes workers for the kitchen staff and other departments get rewarded for their efforts, too.

A woman lounging on a deck chair looking out at the water on a cruise. She has a cup of coffee and a laptop on the table next to her.

Do You Have to Prepay Gratuities?

Many cruise lines give passengers the option of prepaying gratuities. This is typically a per-day fee paid for each individual in your party. For example, Royal Caribbean currently charges $16.00 per person per day for most cabins.

So, you’re paying an additional $112 per passenger for a seven-night cruise. However, they do charge more for those in suites.

Prepaying gratuities isn’t mandatory and is simply an option most cruise lines provide. There are pros and cons to prepaying these fees. Ultimately, it’s up to you and how you want to reward those who help make your sailing memorable.

What Happens If You Don’t Prepay Gratuities?

As we mentioned, prepaying gratuities on a cruise isn’t a requirement. If you don’t like the idea of tipping in advance, you don’t have to.

Instead, cruise lines will tack on the charges at the end of your sailing.

This is important so you are not surprised when you receive your statement at the end of your vacation.

Your statement will have the gratuities and any charges you’ve made to your account. This could be drinks at the bar, a trip to the casino, or any items bought in the gift shop. Most ships run almost entirely cashless, and purchases get charged to your room.

Before leaving the ship, you must take care of this balance. Typically, they’ll charge the credit card on file for the amount on your statement. However, look closely at your account to ensure you get charged the proper amount for your tips and other purchases.

Can You Refuse to Pay Gratuities?

As we mentioned, if you don’t prepay, you will typically have gratuities added at the end of the trip. While most do not advertise it, many cruise lines allow passengers to remove this automatic charge.

This lets cruisers decide who and how much they’d like to tip. However, this typically leaves those behind-the-scenes workers empty-handed.

You’ll want to visit the guest services desk when you board the ship to remove this charge. Tell them you want to remove gratuities from your account and that you’d like to tip in cash. They’ll typically provide you with a handful of envelopes to make it easy to show your appreciation.

Benefits of Prepaying Gratuities on a Cruise

There are a few instances where you prepay tips for services. Sometimes, this can make it feel like the motivation for the worker to offer a first-class experience is no longer there. However, several benefits make prepaying gratuities worth it.


Taking advantage of prepaying gratuities is incredibly convenient. It’s one less thing to worry about throughout your trip.

You don’t have to think about rewarding every worker or overlooking anyone. The cruise line distributes the funds to each employee according to a certain percentage.

The purpose of cruising is typically to rest or relax while on vacation. Prepaying tips is a convenient service that can make it easier for passengers to relax. The cruise lines will often do all they can to make the entire experience as convenient as possible.

Budgeting and Financial Planning

In addition to convenience, prepaying allows you to budget and plan financially for your cruise.

You can treat gratuities as an expense of the trip and build it into the overall cost. By budgeting for these expenses, there are no surprises.

Most cruise lines allow you to pay your entire balance over an extended amount of time. This will enable you to pay in smaller, more manageable chunks. As we said, they’ll do all they can to make it easy for passengers to come on board.

Consistency in Service

Another benefit of prepaying gratuities on your cruise is that it can provide consistency in service. Prepaying gives workers some assurance that cruisers appreciate their hard work.

While passengers are on vacation, it’s a job for the staff and how they pay their bills. Naturally, most workers will give attention to those who reward them financially.

Allows You to Carry Less Cash

One of the biggest reasons passengers choose to prepay gratuities on their cruise is to reduce the cash they carry. Most travelers try to minimize the amount of money they take to avoid any potential issues.

Instead of having hundreds of dollars in cash, prepaying gratuities can be a single transaction to your credit card.

However, you will still need cash for some gratuities. You may want to give your stateroom attendant, server, or others something extra. The easiest way to do this is to give cash directly to them.

Doing so ensures that 100% of the funds go straight into the individual’s pocket and not split amongst other crew.

A person pulling US cash out of their wallet.

Should You Prepay Gratuities on a Cruise?

While prepaying gratuities on a cruise is more convenient and has many other benefits, it’s a tough decision. It’s an excellent option for many passengers and eliminates a situation that could be a huge hassle.

However, many choose not to so they can adjust the charge at the end of their trip based on the service provided. 

Do you prepay gratuities when cruising?

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