A few hints that should save you time and aggravation at the end of your cruise:
Tips on Tipping.
Tipping is a subject that some people find confusing. First, let's establish that you are expected on most ships (with the exception of all-inclusive lines that include gratuities) to tip the crew at the end of the cruise in particular, your cabin steward, server, and bus person and not to tip is bad form. Recently, lines including Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess have made the process easier, adopting a system whereby they automatically add tips of $12 to $16 per passenger, per day to your shipboard account. Daily gratuity amounts are often on the high side of that scale for guests staying in the ship's top-of-the-line suites.
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You can visit the purser's office and ask to increase or decrease the amount, depending on your opinion of the service you received. Other lines may suggest that you tip in cash, but some also allow you to tip via your shipboard account.
If there is no automatic tip, the cruise line will give suggested tip amounts in the daily bulletin and in the cruise director's debarkation briefing, but these are just suggestions you can tip more or less, at your own discretion. Keep in mind, though, that stewards, servers, and bus persons are often extremely underpaid and that their salaries are largely dependent on tips. Many of these crew members support families back home on their earnings.
The minimum tip you should consider is $4 per passenger per day for your room steward and your waiter, and $3 per passenger per day for your bus person. That's a total of up to $77 per passenger for a 7-night cruise (you don't have to include debarkation day). You should also consider leaving about half of these amounts on behalf of child passengers 12 and under. Of course, you can always tip more for good service. You'll also be encouraged to tip the dining room maitre d', the headwaiter, and other better salaried employees. Whether to tip these folks is your decision. If you have a cabin with butler service, tip the butler about $5 per person per day, provided he has been visible throughout your cruise (if he hasn't, reduce that amount). The captain and his officers should not be tipped it'd be like tipping your doctor.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises include tips in the cruise fare, although some people choose to tip key personnel anyway it's really up to you. Small-ship lines have their own suggested tipping guidelines.
If you have spa or beauty treatments, you can tip at the time of service (just add it to your ship account; be aware some ships add 15% automatically). Most ships now automatically add a gratuity to bar tabs, but if not, you can hand a bartender a buck if you like. Otherwise, tips are usually given on the last night of your cruise. On some ships (especially small ships), you may be asked to submit your tips in a single sum that the crew will divide among itself after the cruise, but generally, you reward people individually, usually in little preprinted envelopes that the ship distributes.
If a staff member is particularly great, a written letter to a superior is always good form and may earn that person an employee-of-the-month honor, and maybe even a bonus.