If you’re cruising in 2018, be ready to dish out a bit more in tips — at least on Royal Caribbean International.
On Jan. 2, the Miami-based cruise line is increasing its automatic gratuity — the amount passengers are recommended to pay in service fees per person, per day — by more than 7 percent to $14.50 and $17.50 for guests in suites. That amounts to about $203 for a couple on a seven-day cruise, or about $406 for a family of four.
The increase applies to both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships.
Though the fee is automatically applied to guest bills, it’s not mandatory. Passengers can opt to modify it or give out tips in cash instead, as on most cruise lines.
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Still, Royal Caribbean’s increase amounts to the highest automatic gratuity cost of the major cruise lines.
Carnival Cruise Line adds $12.95 ($13.95 for suites) to passenger bills in service charges. Norwegian Cruise Line adds $13.99 ($16.99 for the Haven and suites). MSC Cruises’ service charge varies by destination but is $12.50 in the Caribbean regardless of stateroom type. (Guests are also typically encouraged to tip crew individually for outstanding service).
The boost in Royal Caribbean’s automatic gratuity follows a move by other cruise lines to hike their recommended charges.
For Royal, it’s the third increase in three years, from $12 in May 2015. The nearly 21 percent bump since that date has outpaced inflation, which the U.S. Department of Labor has registered at 3.7 percent in the same time period, according to the U.S. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.
“The adjustment will put the cruise line in line with its competitors in the industry and recognize the exceptional work that Royal Caribbean’s staff and crew does to deliver unforgettable vacations every day,” Royal Caribbean International said in a statement.
Guests who are not satisfied with the service can change the amount they pay by contacting their ship’s Guest Services staff. Those who booked prior to the effective date of Jan. 2 can pre-pay their gratuities before the change is in effect, thereby qualifying for the previous rate of $13.50 for standard cabins and $16.50 for suites.
Originally, gratuities on cruise ships were optional, with envelopes left in passenger guest rooms for any cash tips they chose to leave. But that meant that some crew members, like housekeepers and waiters, were rewarded more than others, like table bussers, for example.
That’s why in the 1990s, the concept of the auto-gratuity was introduced. Passengers can choose to increase or decrease the amount added to their bills, or scrap it altogether for cash tips instead.