Automatic Tips on Norwegian Cruise Lines – Who Really Gets Them?

I recently took a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. They are different in that they indicate you don’t have to "worry" about tipping because they take care of it for you automatically. Yes, they definitely put $10 per person per day onto your bill. And yes, you do tip servers in bars and restaurants as you would on other ships.

So why the "automatic tipping fee" if you’re leaving tips for your service people (who deserved it) all along during the cruise?

My suspicion is that only a fraction of the tips taken are actually distributed to the staff. The corporation holds back a significant portion and chalks it up to "administrative fees".

It is frustrating to me because when I asked servers about the "pooled tips" they had no idea what amount they were getting.

Anyone know how much really goes to the staff?

Let me tell you a little bit about nothing. The Tip system is not fair to anyone. The BEST thing you can do, and this is what I do. Pay the abosulute minimum that the ship automatically tacks on. If you have someone you want to "thank" DO IT PRIVATELY and give them cash. Sad but true this is what GETS GREAT SERVICE.

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  1. TINKERTOY ..... the 1 & only says:

    The answer is that we all really have to trust that the cruise lines do actually give the tips to the people who served us and all of it. Unless we do like it was done until about 5 to 7 years ago and hand an envelope to a person with cash money in it, we just have to trust that the gratuity gets to the proper person. And Norwegian is not the only cruise line where we have to just trust.

    I have been on four cruise lines, RC, NCL, Princess, and Celebrity and they all now use the automatic debit and voucher system. The problem that I have with NCL, and to an extent Princess also because their "Personal Choice" cruising dinner option is very similar to NCL’s "Freestyle"; since you have a different table and waiter each day for dinner, how does the cruise line know who to give the gratuity to. And more disturbing, how do we know who gets it, how much, or whether they get it at all.?????

    I am taking another NCL cruise this year, only because I like the itinerary and its on a new ship, but I stay away from them because I don’t like the "freestyle" dining particularly when it comes time for giving gratuities.
    References :
    experienced NCL cruiser

  2. david says:

    Let me tell you a little bit about nothing. The Tip system is not fair to anyone. The BEST thing you can do, and this is what I do. Pay the abosulute minimum that the ship automatically tacks on. If you have someone you want to "thank" DO IT PRIVATELY and give them cash. Sad but true this is what GETS GREAT SERVICE.
    References :
    on SEVERAL Cruises

  3. nil8_360 says:

    I looked into this, as I am going on NCL’s Pearl in October, their site said that tips do go to service personel, and some goes toward NCL’s insurance, retirement accounts and other expenses the cruiseline incurrs on behalf of the employee, ie…if they have a family emergency they are flown home…illness etc. I wish I could reference that but I just don’t remember where I read that, either cruise critic forums at or NCL’s website.
    References :

  4. jtaylor7993 says:

    The tips do get spread among the people serving you but yes… a portion of it does go to the cruise line itself. I’ve been on a few cruises and you will notice that you will see none or very very few American workers. That is because the workers come from poor countries to work on the ship and because the ship is on national waters, they pay the employees very very small wages. Our water on one of our cruises has his whole family back home in his country while he is gone for 6 months at a time working and all he gets paid is $189 per MONTH! He told us that he works seven days a week but on Sundays, he got half a day off. It is very sad. The 189, however, is not including the tips that he receives. On the last cruise I went on, I fought and fought with them about paying the gratuities. I absolutely refused and they eventually gave in. Then what I did was go to my waiter and give him a tip myself. He would not accept it at first but then he did after awhile. Then we did the same with our room service man… ect. That way, we knew that he would get our tip for the service that he provided.
    References :
    Frequent cruiser

  5. ocean.denis says:

    All of it goes to the CREW, not the staff. Waiters, Cabin staff etc are all crew. Believe me, there´s a huge difference between the 2…
    On Carnival at the end of the cruise, the very next day, the accountant payed the tips in full to the crewmembers.
    3,50 per person/per day to the waiter
    3,00 per person/per day to the cabin steward
    2,50 per person/per day to the asst waiter

    Bar staff gets % only
    waiters and assistants get % of the wine served at the meals.
    actually the waiter gets it and gives whatever he wants to the assistants.

    The thing is you can ask your tips back right?
    Well the crew members don´t get to know who asked for their money back.

    They work like slaves.
    And depends a lot on the passengers nationalities.
    Americans tip well.
    I worked on the Holiday briefly out of San Jose, and we got lots of charters from Germany, so every cruise we had like 300 germans or so…
    the waiters got desperate cause they knew there was no tip comming in. At all.

    Its amazing how its all about revenue, I worked for the concession that has shops on lots of ships and the first day we knew if we were going to hit our targets and get extra comission or not… and the company (both the cruise line and the concession) put a lot of pressure on us.

    But to answer properly, the cruise lines Ive worked for were very ponctual about tips. Very!
    They dont want a mutiny.
    The crew members are there only for the money… they hate the job in most cases.
    References :

  6. kimmer727 says:

    The tips are distributed among the waiters and room stewards. If you feel you have had exceptional service, you can tip more in cash at the end of the cruise.
    I found NCL waiters to be quite rude, and was not happy I had to give them the required $10 per day. You can have that taken off your bill if you want at the end of the cruise also. I did not.
    If you have a suite with a butler, as we did, he is not included in the $10 per day. So you have to tip him at the end of the cruise separately.
    References :
    Experienced Cruiser

  7. US_DR_JD says:

    The tips taken automatically by the cruise lines are distributed to the cruise staff in accordance with the American Express recommended amounts. It works out to about $10 per passenger per day. If you do not want the tips to come out and want to tip personally, then go to the purser and ask the tips be credited back to your account. If you did not use certain areas, then you can reduce the amount tipped and comment as to why and they will adjust the tips accordingly.

    The reason for automatic tipping was people did not have the correct amount of cash and spent too long trying to get change for tips. Often people saw the lines for change and just decided not to tip at all, or left tips in the assortment of foreign currency they had picked up at the stops along the way.
    References :
    Travel Agent

  8. Tivogal says:

    here’s an interesting article on tipping and where it "goes"
    References :

  9. duckyshe says:

    I dont agree with this tipping at the start of cruises, why would you want to tip when you haven’t received a service. Tipping should be at your discretion. If you get good service then tip the person that gave it to you.
    The travel companies are making enough to pay half decent wages. Also the service people know the rates of pay when they start working, why should we have to top them up.
    Just another hidden cost on a holiday
    References :

  10. Justme says:

    Gratuities/ tips on the cruise ships goes directly to cruise staff. This is pratice by most of the cruise lines. It is normally divided up between your nice waiters (head waiters & assistants) who served you endlessly during your cruise, the wonderful cabin stewards; who are responsible for cleaning clean your room twice a day and even preparing it for turndown.
    You should know that most cruise lines do not pay their service staff a living wage (or very small wage), therefore the tips or service charges make up much of their compensation. What is sad, is when the employers offer such great and on going service and people do not tip. That is why most cruise lines are making it mandatory today.
    References :

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