Loyal to Royal Caribbean - Cruise Line GreedLoyal to Royal?

Expect to pay more in gratuities.

Effective June 1st for all sailings departing on or after July 1st, the new gratuities charged by Royal Caribbean to its passengers will be $12.95 per day, per guest in standard accommodations, and $15.95 per day, per guest in suites. 

There seems to be a trend across the cruise industry to nickel & dime the customers. NCL, for example, just started charging a room service fee.  

NCL’s CEO Del Rio said this while reporting on last quarter:  "… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes that are commensurate with market conditions can be implemented to improve performance.

A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line." 

Royal Caribbean’s increased gratuities is designed to increase profits and put more money in the executives pockets. 

What RCCL is not telling you: not all the gratuities go to the hard-working crew members.

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has been diverting tips from the crew into revenue ever since it began the pre-paid gratuities. Remember when you used to hand your cabin steward cash at the end of the cruise? Most cruise lines stopped that practice in order to grab a good chuck of the money intended for the crew for themselves.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean do a poor job taking care of their crew members. You see evidence of it everywhere. Carnival canceled the meager retirement plan for its crew a couple of years ago. NCL is Richardd Fain - Royal Caribbeancharging for room service and is charging higher prices for drinks and excursions but there’s no indication that it will pass any more money along to the crew. The crew members’ benefits have been cut and they are still working insane hours every day.

I have never heard of any cruise line making changes designed to benefit the crew in the last decade.

Some passengers say they are fed up and will no longer be loyal to their favorite cruise line. So the "Loyal to Royals" will switch to NCL, and the "Loyal to Norwegians" will switch to Carnival and so forth and so on. Around and around the guests will spin as the cruise lines suck up their nickels and dimes while the cruise executives pocket millions and millions without a thought of their hard-working crew. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

May 15, 2015 Update: USA TODAY’s Cruise Log says that "with the increase, a family of four will pay more than $350 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise — one of the highest levies in the business.

  • John Goldsmith

    On different sites and discussion groups this has been a topic for discussion. There is concern for the Nickel and Dime increases following on the decreases in certain services. Cruisers will now have to be aware of all these charges and changes before they leave on their trips. I will bet you dollars to donuts that there will many passengers surprised by the bills at the end of the cruise.

  • Axel Krack

    Jim, many thanks for your information. That’s really a shame. I’ve a lot philippinian friends and I know how hard they have to work every day, for a hand of Dollars.

    Is there a statement of ITF about this practice existing? This is truely modern slavery. All Coustomers has to be inform about this before they book a voyage.

  • jerome Goldchain

    This is outrageous!!!! From now on I will give my tips directly to the people who deserve it and opt out of the prepaid or automatic tip charge. The hard working crew deserves the money not the greedy executives. I never knew that the company was skimming the tip money. This has to come to an end now!!!!!!

  • Яро

    Yes. They increase gratuity and nothing goes to crew…. Well… They say if you have any issues, you can always go to seafarers unions etc… But in reality those unions do not do a crap and addressing issues to them is like shouting in an empty bucket – nobody will answer. Unfortunately, there is no protection for crew from anybody, not even ILO that is why cruise lines do whatever they want

  • Skip

    I have been on several cruises on different cruise lines and I still can’t work out the best way to reward people that give me good service.

    I remember the days when you used to give cash in envelopes to various people at the end of the cruise. This was an imperfect way to tip since many people just didn’t bother to hand out the the envelopes (I was always amazed at how empty the main dining room was on the last night of the cruise) and it required you to have a lot of cash on hand to fill them. In addition, I was told, on a few occasions, that if you did not tip the supervisors, people you likely never saw, they just took their cut from their subordinates.

    So now they have automatic gratuities. I don’t think anybody actually believes that the full amount you pay goes to the people you want to reward for their good service. So, what to do? Opt out of the automatic gratuities and just give money to the people who impressed you with their service? I’m not sure this is the best option since, due to the way cruise lines compensate their employees, it likely means some people that helped make your vacation enjoyable miss out.

    So, pay the automatic gratuities and give extra tips to the crew that gave you excellent service? This might seem to be the best option, but on lines like Royal Caribbean and Holland America, the policy is for the crew to pool their tips (give a tip to crew member on one of these lines and see if it goes in their pocket or into a drawer) to be shared amongst all people in that department. For me this is a big disincentive to tip extra. The “extra tip” line on the invoices is also a joke- almost none of this money goes to the person you want it to go, even on lines like Cunard which don’t require their crew to share their tips.

    So, what to do? I don’t know.

  • Ccz

    If you give the envelope to the crew member with their name on it, then you are making sure they get it. I used to be a Crew member. The *pool is BS and the company absorbs from it.

  • Sheri

    I cruise often and have found out that all you need to do is go to the front desk and tell them that you are opting out of the automatic gratuities. They cannot force you to accept them. After I do that, i personally tip the individuals that I want to tip the amount I choose to tip. This is how I ensure that the tip is going where I want it to go!


    That’s why I always ask them to take the charged gratuities off my bill and bring cash and hand it out on the last day. We’ve done this on Carnival, Disney and NCL.

  • Don Sayman

    very good article. We only sail Disney, completed 65
    so far. so, we know many crew from the four ships.
    We find it hard to believe nothing is worse than the people. the stories we hear. the guests are far
    worse than the cruise line could ever be. Kids eating
    on the beds every day, so that means change of sheets
    every day. and they leave nothing $0.00 this is not
    rare. table for eight very demanding end of cruise
    they left $10.00. could go on all day. believe me
    the guests are cheap. thanks for reading my latest rant.

  • costa crew member

    One of the bad cruise liners is costa cruise liners. They take the money from passangers and tell them that its for crew. To the crew mmembers they say passangers they didn’t give good comment regarding the service & food. So the crew members they didn’t get the money. So where the money goes? ????? Crew members r dieing for the money in costa.

  • donnie

    For us (crew).. Automatic gratuity its much better then the old style (envelope).. At the end of the cruise we had the list the guest who paid and who opt out.. I am suite attendant and lots of suites guests opt out and paid less, some of them just run away with the envelope.

  • Axel Krack

    Well, to hand out the tips personally is one thing… but what’s about all the persons you didn’t see naturally…? All the crew in the galley, in the stores, cleaning during the night… security personal, deck crew… and so on.

    Did you hand out, as passenger, an envelope to them as well? I guess no…. but without them, your ship didn’ sail a mile…. General gratuities are the only way to honor their work also. BUT !!!! the income has to be controlled by the crew representative… not only by the company – purser office.

    Remember this, if you book your next cruise… the big cruiser has approx. 850 crew…. not only your steward and waiter…

  • Susan Jones

    I am one of those who opt out of “automatic gratuities” I don’t trust RCCL to hand out to everyone. NOW, they have raised the price of their drinks (pina colada,etc) to $12 each. I am very disappointed in how greedy RC has become in the last 3 yrs. They don’t treat their best customers with pride anymore. They just became greedy & took most of our special “favors” away-pocketing that extra money. We have 2 more RCL cruises booked, but I believe that will be then of our loyalty. It’s a shame, they used to honor their Diamond Plus passengers, now, I suppose there are too many of us to be “special”. Pretty soon, I won’t get anymore “gifts” on each cruise. It was fun while it lasted. They really s/b supervised more closely. I’m sure they still shrug every rule in the books. They will be losing a lot of my family cruisers, but I know they don’t care.

  • tinikini

    A lot of interesting comments. Myself I paid the automatic gratuity, for the people I never see but aid in my vacation, and then I tipped people on the spot or at the end of the cruise. I do not put it in an envelope, I hand it to them when no one is paying attention, on the sly. I will give them a hug and tuck it in their pocket or shake their hand and slip it to them. They may still pool it with the others, but that is their choice at their discretion. My room stewards I tip at the beginning of the cruise that way my stateroom is perfect. I also arrive heavily armed with candy that I pass out to everyone all the time, just to brighten their day as they all work so hard. It is unfortunate that their own employer rips them off. The only way it stops is if we all stop cruising. I am not a professional cruiser, but I am done for awhile until they clean up their act. There are other vacations to take and other places to see.

    We recently traveled to Playa Del Carmen Mexico (never felt unsafe) with friends for two weeks. We watched Lucia bust her hide walking up and down the beach area getting drinks for everyone, by herself from 9 to 5 everyday. Hard work in the sand and heat, carrying a big tray and picking up after everyone at the end of the day. She had to pool her tips with 3 bartenders everyday. While I know they had to make the drinks…she worked far harder than they did. They have a comment page, so I commented that I thought it was unfortunate that she had to pool her tips. Tip the bartenders a percentage yes, but not pool.

    Pooling tips is crap, unless you have a team that works together and covers each others backs, no matter what. You should earn your own way, not on the backs of others.

  • Dana

    I always have my tips taken off and I tip in person!! Last year on a Carnival cruise; my sister’s cabin steward told us that the workers doesn’t get all of their tips. So we told him that we would go and get the tips taken off and tip him in person. He was very happy to know that he would be getting all of his tip plus extra!!

  • Bill

    Yes, we got an email last week from RCI saying our early June cruise was going to cost a bit more. Thanks for the good piece and also for the good responses. I recall when NCL started this ‘their resort charge’ and our cabin attendant told us her allotment decreased from the normal tips. Up to about two years back the lines would provide you a sheet telling you how the tips were broken out (about $5/day for the attendant, per person. Work it out, they do 14 cabins a day). We never eat in the main dining room but tip plenty on the very able crew in the lounges. We get the service and they should directly get the tips. The solution is easy–simply RAISE THE FARES and drop the tips, like it was on HAL, before carnival took them.

  • Jules

    The competition in cruise line industry became bigger. Companies need to bring new things to attract new customers and discounts for the large number of repeaters . The guests are cheaper and cheaper, cruising for almost nothing…like this reaching hundreds of cruises, canceling gratuity and complaining of something to get something free

    Imagine a ship is not always full, plus people canceling….WHAT IS LEFT is divided from manager to crew working buffet , stateroom attendant and galley. Crew is working around 10hrs daily , 7-10mo a contract EVERYDAY. longer hours in sea days. And yes they are smiling , do their best (sometimes hard with this schedule), rest or not enough rest, sick sometimes,but not enough to be confined, with problems home or not .. mistakes are done of course.
    The guests have a lack of information and curiosity to know more about gratuity. crew is not allowed to talk too much about this and it is easier to cancel to have extra money for their pockets than to pay something which goes to 300-1000crew depending of the size of the ship
    Excuses like I do not use restaurant, I do not trust.. somewhere you eat the food which someone cooked for you and if someone did not serve you, for sure someone will clear after you, the same like someone will clean your stateroom no matter if is from deck 3 or 10.
    The guests are coming to enjoy vacation or to add another `cruise` in which they did not spent a dime or went outside, in a port, except supermarket, just eating… and the waste is HUGE, only if fishes could talk..
    As business owner.. how you want a company to make profit? Food is unlimited(except few specialty places, some open with license) and some drinks. From couple hundreds of dollars you pay at last minute or, most of the guests as `diamonds` (=cheap)??? Who will pay salary from captain and officers to nurse,singer, dealer and dishwasher? Or how to repair and bring improvements or build a new ship?
    Crew on ships working not to get rich , just to make a better life for them and family, which not possible by staying in their countries and many do so for a lot of years because sometimes you have no better choice.

  • royal cm

    as much as i agree with the fact that the industry pockets too much, and crew members are not paid enough, when royal increased gratuities they also added other positions into the gratuity pool

  • MarleneM

    A couple from Brisbane in Australia had to pay a waiter $2500 who tripped and injured himself whilst bringing dinner. The couple has prepaid the gratuity and under Australian law the waiter was deemed to be an employee of the couple since it accepted that the gratuity was used to pay the staff wages, under health and safety law.

    I bet this is cruise they will never forget.

  • For the sake of the exercise…let’s imagine a ship with 2500 guests. Each is charged $13 per person per day in service charges. It is a 7 day cruise. That ship – assuming it is sold to capacity and that 100% of passengers pay their service charge every week for that month, makes $1.6M in “TIPS ALONE”. Let us assume that the ship isn’t full to capacity and that only 2000 guests paid gratuities. Now we make $1.3M per month in tips alone. A regular team of stewards for a ship that size might be about 50 something Stewards, let’s make it 60. And average let’s give them a $1,800 salary a month, across the board. Which in some cases, it is high, as not all of them are at the same “level” of seniority and some make less. And let’s assume that the wait staff in restaurants are 120 to say any number that might make sense, and they too….not all of them make the same salary, so $1800 is a very good average to do this math exercise. So now you have that the $1.3 million per month that the cruise line makes out of service charges in JUST ONE (small) ship, is needed to pay the salaries of stewards and waiters. Based on the numbers above, they would need approximately $324,000 to pay those crew mentioned. They are then left with $950,000 extra cash to “play with”. You don’t need to be a math genius to easily see that the “tip money” collected pays for a lot more than salaries for those positions.

  • Carol lyle

    As a Brit I have a different attitude to tipping, in that I only tip good service. I expect their employer to reward them with wages/salary which is worked out by what their business can afford that still allows for a reasonable profit for the ‘risk’ they have taken with their investment money. Like a lot of people I have worked hard all my life in a job that supplied me with a salary and did not provide situations for “tips'” Once one accepts the concept that tips are salary we give employers the green light for exploitation ! I refuse to accept the responsibility for other people’s wages. Now I know that’s a mighty leap for Americans I have visited your country many many times in my 69 years and have thoroughly enjoyed it, and whilst there I follow your tradition of tipping, somewhat reluctantly in some cases though. I will opt out of the automatic gratuities for all the above reasons and tip where I have received exceptional service and I have to accept I cannot fight the fat cats whose pockets we are lining day in and day out and whilst I feel sorry for those trying to live on low wages everybody has choices and my personal fighting days are over ! I have fought for living wages and better conditions my entire life now I am RETIRED.

  • David

    I’ve never taken the automatic gratuities off…but I will in the future…and not give a cent to crew…and not feel a bit bad or “cheap” about it! This system is set up by the cruiselines to screw staff and passengers. We pay for our cruise with expectation that they provide what is now minimal service. No problem. Just don’t expect me to pay extra for it. I WILL continue my practice of generously tipping those who go beyond expectations specifically for me, as is the true meaning and purpose of “gratuities”.

  • Julie

    I am going on a cruise next year with my daughter for her 18 th birthday ,and I have opted out of the automatic tipping. I’ve worked, and saved hard to be able to do this, I’m a single parent, my daughter is disabled, and the approximate 400 dollars it would cost me in tips is more than I am prepared to pay. I will happily tip the people that look after us, but it’s the cruise companies job to pay their employees, not mine.

  • Joan wood

    We went on an MSC cruise ship and noticed how hard all the crew worked .I asked the stewards and cabin crew did they get any of the tips people had payed the answer was an infatic no ,we were told that they get the same salary every month so that doesn’t make sense if they recieved a portion of theirs their salary would be different depending on how many people were aboard the ship so something should be done to make sure theses young vulnerable get what they diserve
    Mrs Joan Wood