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Guide to Royal Caribbean gratuities


While the advertised rate for any Royal Caribbean cruise might seem like a good deal at first, there are a few hidden fees that won't be applied until the final stage of booking, such as port fees and gratuities. 

Depending on your itinerary and cabin selection, these two fees can add hundreds of dollars per person to the total cost, so it's important to be aware of what they are before you eagerly go to book the "cheap" cruise that you found. 

In short, port fees are fees charged by the ports of call to the cruise line, who then pass these fees on to passengers. They're usually a summation of a few different fees, including the pilot fee, per-passenger fee (head tax), and docking fee, and are paid in full by the time of final payment since they're added to the total cost at the final stage of the booking process. Plus, they vary based on itinerary. Alaska, for instance, is known for having more expensive docking fees than The Bahamas or Europe. 

Odyssey of the Seas

Gratuities, on the other hand, are not automatically added to your final cost. Instead, you have the freedom to decide whether you want to pay them by final payment or have them added to your SeaPass account to be settled at the end of the cruise. Unfortunately, this means that they aren't included like on some luxury lines. Those seeking an all-inclusive experience won't find that onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, as even those staying in the most expensive suites will be subject to additional expenses, such as shore excursions. 

If you're planning a cruise, here's everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean gratuities. 

What are gratuities on a cruise and how much do they cost?


Gratuities are what Royal Caribbean calls tips. Each passenger is charged a daily amount, and the total is then divided between hardworking crew members onboard, including cabin stewards, those in dining and culinary services, the Guest Services team, and more. 

As of February 2024, the daily gratuity for passengers in standard staterooms (i.e., interior cabins to Junior Suites) is $18.00 per person, per day, and $20.50 per person, per day for guests in Grand Suites and above

The only exception is if you booked a Star Class suite onboard a ship with the Royal Suite Class. In that case, your luxury and (mostly) all-inclusive experience begins with complimentary gratuities and drink packages, among many, many other perks that will leave you wondering if you can ever cruise in a regular suite again!  


In late 2023, Royal Caribbean raised gratuities by a few dollars. Prior to this, the $16.00 daily rate for standard cabins was broken up by $3.55 going to your cabin steward, $5.95 going to dining staff, and $6.50 to other hotel-related services. 

Today, a family of four in a balcony cabin on a 7-night cruise will pay $504 in gratuities, whereas the same family in a suite will pay $574. While pricey, Royal Caribbean doesn't have the most expensive gratuities in the industry. Norwegian Cruise Line currently charges $20.00 for standard cabins and $25.00 for The Haven, while sister brand Celebrity charges $18.00 for standard cabins, $18.50 for Concierge and AquaClass cabins, and $23.00 for The Retreat.

Other mainstream cruise lines, like Carnival, have an age in which gratuities start applying to guests; this isn't the case with Royal Caribbean. The daily rate applies to all passengers, regardless of age. This means that if you're traveling with an infant, they, too, will be subject to the full gratuity amount for the duration of the sailing. 


It also doesn't matter which ship you're on, as gratuities onboard the brand-new Icon of the Seas will be the same price as those on Enchantment of the Seas, a Vision Class vessel that launched in 1997. 

In addition to the daily gratuity, select onboard purchases are subject to extra service charges, such as alcoholic and select non-alcoholic beverages (including Royal Caribbean drink packages) and spa treatments. 

If, for example, the online Cruise Planner is advertising the daily rate of the Deluxe Beverage Package at $75.99, you'll have to multiply that by 18% (0.18) to get the actual cost. In this case, it comes out to around $89.66. Thankfully, this means that you won't have to worry about tipping for each drink that you order. 


Those who opt to skip the drink package will have to pay the 18% service charge on each drink that they get. Let's say that you want a $14 cocktail. After the gratuity is added, your total will end up being close to $16.50. Unfortunately, nobody said that drinking on a cruise was cheap! 

Read more: Tipping on a cruise ship: Guide and what to do

While it isn't customary, if you're unhappy with the service onboard, you can visit Guest Services to have the rate adjusted or removed

Guest Services

Before you get to this stage of frustration, you should bring up the concerns to see if they can be addressed promptly to make the rest of your vacation enjoyable. 

Truthfully, I've never experienced poor service on a Royal Caribbean cruise. In fact, many crew members go above and beyond, which makes me want to leave an additional tip for them! 

I've had bartenders who recognize me after two or three visits and remember my go-to drink order throughout the sailing. My cabin stewards have always been friendly, too. 

You can certainly bring cash for extra tips


If you have a great waiter in the Main Dining Room or a cabin steward who goes the extra mile to make sure all of your requests are met, you may feel inclined to leave them an extra tip. While not mandatory, they'll appreciate that you noticed their hard work! 

Another way to recognize fantastic crew members is by filling out the survey at the end of the cruise. The more positive feedback they receive, the more likely they are to receive a raise and/or promotion. You can also visit Guest Services and ask if there's any way to leave a review while onboard. 

Note that gratuities only cover tipping onboard the ship. You'll need cash to tip shore excursion tour guides, porters, etc. If you are traveling internationally, you will want to bring the local currency, such as euros or Australian dollars. 

Read more: 10 do's and don'ts of cruise ship tipping

Should you prepay your Royal Caribbean gratuities? 


Personally, I love to prepay my gratuities, regardless of which line I'm sailing with. Despite the word "prepay," you don't have to actually have them paid off until the final payment date, along with the rest of your fare. This means that whether you prepay them or not, your deposit amount won't change. 

Moreover, I like boarding my cruise knowing that the majority of everything has been taken care of in advance. It's like a free vacation (girl math, right?)! If $18.00 were getting added to my onboard account each day, I probably wouldn't feel the same way. In fact, I'd most likely be less inclined to spend money on cruise add-ons like drinks, Wi-Fi, etc. 

Prepaying gratuities is also smart if you're booking a cruise far in advance, as Royal Caribbean does increase the rate every so often. If you've already paid them, you are grandfathered in, so you won't be subject to the new rate. 


In some cases, however, it doesn't make sense to prepay your gratuities, like if you have a substantial amount of onboard credit, as it will be applied toward your final balance at the end of the cruise. Note that Royal Caribbean doesn't accept cash on the ship as a form of payment, so you will have to use your SeaPass card for everything. 

Additionally, if you are a family of four, five, or six, having to have the gratuities paid off in advance could strain your pre-cruise budget for travel arrangements. Flights are more important than prepaying gratuities; you have to be able to get to the embarkation port to have a fantastic cruise! 

If you decide that you'd like to prepay them, there are a couple of ways to go about doing so. First, you can simply add them to your reservation directly from the website when you book. If you happen to forget or had not made up your mind when you booked, you can call Royal Caribbean before your cruise. Finally, those using a travel agent will have to let them know, and they'll take care of it for it. 

Planning a Royal Caribbean cruise? Here are some other helpful guides!

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