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Cruise lines increase automatic ‘gratuities’ and call them something else now

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Norwegian Cruise Line is boosting its service fee, saying the money will be passed along to crew members like the chefs at its Teppanyaki specialty restaurants.
(Norwegian Cruise Line)

To tip or not to tip, that is the question. Actually, it’s not really a question. Many large cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, add gratuities to passengers’ bills, saying the money will be passed onto crew members.

And the daily rate has been steadily going up.

Norwegian Cruise Line increased the gratuities it says passengers should pay, with rates for standard cabins and mini-suites increasing from $13.99 to $14.50 per passenger, per day. The increase went into effect April 1.

Norwegian also now calls it a service charge instead of an “automatic gratuity.”

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It’s not the only to boost fees. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises raised the tips added to passengers’ bills earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean’s fee is $14.50 to $17.50 per person, per day. “As a way to reward our crew members for their outstanding service, gratuities are shared among dining, bar and culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes to enhance the cruise experience,” according to the website.

What happens if you think the service you received wasn’t worth it?

“In the unlikely event that a guest onboard being charged the daily automatic gratuity does not receive satisfactory service, the guest may request to modify the daily amount at their discretion by visiting Guest Services,” says Royal Caribbean. The same is true for most other cruise lines.

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Celebrity Cruises now charges $13.50 per day, per passenger ($14 for Concierge Class and AquaClass cruisers). Suite passengers will pay $17 per person, per day.

Besides other charges, most lines tack on an 18% gratuity for all bar bills.

Many of the lines that automatically add gratuities say they do so as a convenience to passengers, so they don’t have to tip individually. But the companies also urge passengers to give separate additional tips to crew members who provide exemplary service.

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travel@latimes.com

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