Tips about Tipping

It’s fair to say that tipping in New Zealand is not really part of our culture. Unlike America, where you commit a major ‘faux pas’ if you don’t tip your waiter, taxi driver or room maid, in New Zealand you only tip if you want to and fairly randomly at that.

So, it’s a little bit confusing and stressful if you’re about to take a cruising holiday and you know you’ll be expected to tip the staff on the ship.

Different cruise lines have different ways of dealing with it – and that’s confusing in itself.  Then you have to work out how much to budget and whether you need to tip in cash, or, is it all added at the end of the cruise ?

Worry no longer because here are a few useful tips about tipping.

It is customary to tip cabin stewards and butlers, dining room waiters, assistant waiters and head waiters on the last night of the cruise, some cruise lines that follow this tipping procedure are American Cruise Lines, Disney, Hurtigruten, Lindblad, Ponant, Uniworld and Voyages of Discovery.

Passengers on most of these lines are encouraged to tip their cabin steward and dining room waiter US$3.50 to US$5.00 per passenger, per day, and their assistant waiter/busboy should be tipped US$2.00 to US$3.00 per passenger, per day. On most ships, tip the maitre d’ or dining room captain about US$5 to US$10 (total) only if you ask for special favours or tableside service.

You are also expected to tip bartenders and wine stewards 15%, and many cruise lines automatically add this to the bar or beverage bill. Gratuities for special services such as spa treatments are left to the discretion of the guest, but 15% is considered typical.

As New Zealander’s are not known for tipping, many cruise lines opt to include gratuities in their fares for our market Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Lines, P&O South Pacific, Princess Cruises (for cruises starting Australia & NZ), Oceania Cruises and other cruise lines don’t encourage or request tips at all Azamara, Crystal, Hebridean, Orion, Windstar Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Antiquity fall into this category. Even on these lines, some passengers still tip for outstanding service or special favours.

Lastly, some cruise lines now automatically charge tips, usually US$10 to US$12 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts and divide the total among all dining room personnel, cabin stewards and others who are involved in serving passengers. A passenger can change the amount automatically charged to their account (either higher or lower based on the service received) and the cruise line will make that adjustment when the bill is settled at the end of the cruise. These amounts do not cover tips for bartenders and wine stewards, which are generally 15% added to the beverage bill at the time of service.

These lines include Costa, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard, Princess Cruises, P&O International, Fred. Olsen, MSC and Holland America Line.

There’s divided opinion about which tipping policy is the best.

Most people prefer to have all tips rolled into the upfront price of the cruise so they don’t have to worry about it.

Whichever you prefer, find out what’s expected of you before you book, so you know what you’re letting yourself in for, you’ve budgeted accordingly and there’s no room for embarrassing misunderstandings once on board.


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