Carnival Cruise Line just increased its automatic gratuities on drinks (both alcohol and non-alcohol) from 15% to 18%.

Automatic gratuities result in money being deducted directly from the guest’s accounts.

A Carnival employee sent a copy of a letter from Richard Morse, Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, explaining that from the the 3% increase, 1.5% will go to the Carnival server and the remaining 1.5% will go into a pool to fund Carnival expenses including the costs of  uniforms and return airline tickets for crew members.

This development was first reported in an article by the popular Crew-Center website. When I posted this information on our Cruise Law News’ Facebook page, this is how cruise passengers reacted:

  • Greedy bastards! So WE are paying their increased salary, not the rich cruise lines! 😡 
  • They should be paying for benefits and employees uniforms, etc., not us!
  • Raise prices. Tips should be part of fare.
  • Next we will have to pay for the fuel you nickel and dime us guests more and more every year to pay for all your new ships you keep building.
  • Total and utter rip-off.
  • CEO will get how many million $$$$$$$ bonus for increasing profit??
  • . . . so where is that increase going ? uniforms and return ticket lol….

The letter (image above), dated November 29, 2018, sent to all beverage positions is itemized below:

“We are pleased to announce effective on sailings starting on or after December 1st, the automatic gratuity added to the guests’ check for all beverage sales and a la carte dining outlets will increase from 15% to 18%. In addition the extra tip line will remain on all the guests’ checks. This enables our guests to add any additional extra gratuity they deem appropriate. This increase will reflect your first paycheck of December 2018.

From this 3% increase, 1.5% will go to server and remaining 1.5% will go into the ASP pool. As you know the ASP pool funds employee compensation and benefit programs that you receive; including bar level pay, itinerary stipend pay, as well as free uniform and return airline tickets.

Our Bartenders and Bar Waiters lead the cruise industry in compensation. This is a result on everyone’s hard work and efforts to increase overall bar sales as well as the success of the Working Smarter program. As we look forward to 2019, we expect this trend to continue and this will ensure that Carnival Cruise Line remains the employer of choice.

As you know the Beverage Team plays a vital role in creating Fun Memorable Vacations for our guests. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your Positive Attitude and for the Pride you show in our company.”

It is rather amazing to watch a cruise line, incorporated in Panama where it registers its cruise ships in order to avoid U.S. income taxes, requiring its U.S. guests, who pay their taxes, to pay gratuities which are going to pay for the crew employees’ uniforms and airline tickets!

Automatic gratuities is an issue involving all of the major cruise lines.  Whereas the luxury lines like Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream do not charge automatic gratuities, the mass lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean do. We have written about this issue many times, including Royal Caribbean, NCL and Carnival.

November 2, 2018 Update: We received the following statement from Carnival:

“We have increased the bar gratuity to 18% which is in line with the industry and hotel and restaurants on land.  Those funds are shared across all crew members who support the beverage operations, including those our guests may not see but are working to stock, clean and run equipment and support tasks.  A very small portion of the gratuity pool funds items that crew members normally cover beyond what the company pays for in travel and uniform costs.

Our crew appreciate everything our guests do for them. They work very hard and understand the policies in place. The salary Carnival pays them and the gratuities our guests give allows our crew to provide a better for life for themselves and their family.  And they are also supportive of how we administer the pool portion of the gratuity which fully and exclusively benefits our shipboard employees.”

November 4, 2018 Update: Carnival’s website claims that: “It is customary for our guests to extend gratuities to the shipboard staff in appreciation for their hard work and exceptional service. 100% of your gratuities are distributed to the crew who you interact with, such as your stateroom attendants, dining, bar and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes to enhance your overall cruise experience.”

This appears to be false considering that Carnival is using half of the increase in the drink gratuities to pay for things like uniform and travel costs. It also appears questionable whether customers can remove pre-paid gratuities on drink packages.

The Sun newspaper reported on the gratuity increase today.

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

  • jsb

    A disgrace stopped sailing on carnival

    • dont sail on HAL, Princess, Cunard and I think P&O because they are owned by Carnival Corp. and maybe others I am not aware of..

    • Darcy McKillop

      So I guess you are going to stop cruising completely.

  • MrChocoholic

    Is there a way to calculate the economic impact that this “raise” will have on the individual server/bartender in actual dollars? Does it reduce costs incurred by those employees, or mitigate their associated cost increases such as laundering their uniforms? Is this about bringing their pay equivalent to that earned on sister lines (HAL, Princess) and competitors?

  • brian

    Bullshit they won’t give shit to to the employees !!!!! uniforms my ass they have washing machines on board !!!! and as for return tickets who the fuck gives you money to go home from work !!!! workers on those ships have no rights that why they don’t employ Americans because we would tell them to go fuck there mother’s !!! it’s basically slavery and exploitation !!!!! CEOs will pocket that money

    • David Hoffman

      I believe the uniform portion relates to damaged beyond acceptable repair, frayed, or permanently stained uniforms, not normal cleaning.

  • JLWJr

    Greed is causing cruising to be less and less competitive with other vacation options. It is not even close to the value it was 25-30 years ago or even 10 years ago. This comes from someone who had been on 15+ cruises.

  • Lonny

    Gratunity or tips by the definition is customary and not mandatory to be given.
    The cruise line make an abuse and they should be brought at the Court

    • Just A Point of View

      They need to recoup the billion dollars they spent on the new medallion program.

  • Melisa Paddock Pehl

    This is why I get the “automatic” gratuities taken off my account. I would rather hand the tips directly to those who make my vacation memorable. When the tips are automatic the commitment to service goes down.

    • Terry Bowler

      So one person in the team benefits and you shaft the others.

      • Jeff

        Maybe wages should be taken care of by the cruise line? Do you ever tip the busboy or cook at your restaurant?

        • Darcy McKillop

          Yes, part of your tip is shared with those people in restaurants as well.

      • David Hoffman

        The problem is the abuse of tips by restaurant and bar owners. The tips are supposed to be from the customer to the server and ONLY to the server. All this tip pooling and tip sharing is nothing less than theft. The fact that corporate lawyers use weasel words to do otherwise makes no difference, it is immoral. PAY the back of the house proper wages and benefits, the tips are ONLY for the server.

      • Cigary

        How’s that shafting….do you tip the bank teller…the rental car attendant….the dental attendants…etc… don’t be such a hypocrite.

    • Glenn Pohl

      Amen

  • Kimmykimkim

    I understand how upsetting this is, but please remember most cruise ships are registered out of the US . This is not exclusive to Carnival . And gratuities are not required. I will still choose to pay them as the staff splits them and they do work so hard for us, and it’s really not that much. They don’t make very much money. I still even tip above that to my room attendant and anyone else who serves me directly. I don’t agree with not grandfathering in bookings made prior to this increase if they weren’t purchased yet . Being that tips are a huge part of the workers pay, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

    • falcon

      Where else can you go that before you get service or food you must pay for it before? How about letting servers work off of tips and pay others a standard wage. If the cruise lines added the gratuities in to the cost of the cruise their bookings would probably drop. Cruise lines know this!

      • you can go to the ships customer service desk and request to have the gatuities refunded, but you would have to be a low life to do that.

        • John

          Removing gratuities is a bad idea to do.We are playing in their backyard.The staff has access and can track the spending of everyone on the cruise.Tipping by cash is not shared by the staff but it’s a much more personal way of showing appreciation to your servers.I don’t agree with paying gratuities ahead of time unless your using a cash account.

    • Glenn Pohl

      Then you make it easy for the ships to pass increases to the customer for unjustified tips. if you are a a bar do you give 4.00 for two drinks for you and your spouse every time you place your order? and do you tip when the bartender take 10 minutes to get to your order because he or she is busy?

      • cinderellen

        Yes.

    • RB

      If it’s mandatory it is not a tip!

  • Carolyn Girone Tedeschi

    I wouldn’t mind if it was all going to the servers. We usually tip 20+ whenever we eat out

    • falcon

      Do you tip before the service and food or after?

      • Carolyn Girone Tedeschi

        after

    • Glenn Pohl

      Yes but many times you wait 10 to 15 minutes after you place the order and that doesn’t merit 15 percent much less 18 percent

      • geektinker

        I tip on based on the level of service from a waiter at a restaurant, not based on how long it takes the kitchen to prepare my food. I don’t want them to rush it, I want them to make it correctly. Most always 20%+. If they were so horrible at their job as to not deserve a tip, I would ask for the manager and explain to him where the service quality was lacking.

      • Carolyn Girone Tedeschi

        you can’t wait 10-15 minutes?

  • Serbian Wolf

    As far as I know, cruise line is obligated to pay for repatriation flight, as stated in MLC2006. Using crew tips to pay for it should be illegal.

  • Peggy Leach

    Being that Carnival owns Holland, Princess, Cunnard and others, does this happen on all of their brands?? Most people don’t realize as they choose to sail on “other brands” that Carnival owns them and have almost a monopoly on the ships that the general public can afford.

    • Squeak Scolari ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      They do not have almost a monopoly.

    • mencik

      The Carnival Corp. owns close to 50% of the cruise industry, but hardly a monopoly. Royal Caribbean is huge and owns Celebrity and Azamara among others. Norwegian Cruise Line is owned by a holding company that also owns Oceania.

  • Guss

    I have used Carnival for number of years but it seems like we are paying more and more. Going on the gratuities for each person should have been enough but not on drinks. This will probably be my last cruise with Carnival.

  • Dan Stepaniak

    I leave a gratuity based entirely on the quality of service that I receive from the server.

    Automatic gratuity is nothing more than an employer pushing more of their responsibility to pay their employees a living wage to their customers and I am unwilling to in any way support the practice. I don’t see myself taking a cruise in the foreseeable future.

    • Glenn Pohl

      Right you are

    • Darcy McKillop

      So you tip less than 18%?

  • Bionic woman

    Consumers can fix this by not going on any cruise until they play stop making consumers pay for their pay check and. Uniforms. Greed is everywhere where and we need to smarten up.

  • Lisa

    Good morning everyone. Despite it being Saturday and despite me having the chance to put my feet up and sit in my favourite chair at home in my underpants and watch re runs of Little House On The Prairie I will instead be on Visitors Posts for you to help you all I can over the next 9 hours.

    OK, lets talk about something important shall we.
    I’ve heard from a few of you the past 24 hours about an increase in the bar/beverage gratuity, effective on Dec. 1, well actually it was in affect yesterday online which was a bit of an oops on my part.

    I had said December 1st but it should have been November 30th and I am so very sorry, that was my stupidity for which I humbly apologise for.

    Let me clarify loud and with a massive dollop of respect that every single state room steward and dining room waiter you leave a gratuity for on your sail and sign card or give extra to keep 100% , yep, 100%. There are a few people who are gathering in basements posting otherwise.

    Anyway, we have increased the bar gratuity to 18% which is in line with the industry and of course hotel and restaurants on land.

    Those funds are shared across all crew members who support the beverage operations, including those you don’t see but are working to stock, clean and run equipment and items.

    Our crew appreciate everything our guests do for them. They work very hard and understand the policies in place.

    With regard to the bar gratuity increase, I spoke last night with some of my colleagues on the ships and was told that the crew are very appreciative of this news. In fact, they are much happier about this change than the few people who are unhappy and complaining to me.

    They have also always appreciated the pool that is created by a small portion of the gratuity to fund items that crew members normally cover beyond what the company pays for in travel and uniform costs, as well as to reward their colleagues who help them behind the scenes do their job serving all of you.

    I know there is some confusion about the math and how the gratuity pool is administered. But I assure you that your providing gratuities benefits our crew completely.

    Their pay and benefits are often a complicated thing compared to a more typical job given contract terms and international maritime law.

    So I’ll conclude with this: when you pay the gratuities in full, you are doing the right thing. If you are looking for a reason to complain about the gratuities or a reason to reverse them, I can’t stop you, but I truly hope nobody does.

    You are not hurting Carnival Cruise Line. You are hurting our crew who work so hard to take care of you.

    The salary Carnival pays them and the gratuities our guests give allows our crew to provide a better for life for themselves and of course their family.

    And to all of you who do tip for fun and dedicated Carnival style service, I say a massive huge cheers and if there is ever anything I can do for you please do let me know

    Cheers and have a brilliant day

    • lkwoos

      Just got off Paradise on 11/29/18.
      We spend alot of time on smoking deck #11. Each time we wanted a drink we had to go downstairs to bar and get ourselves. I seen a big difference in our service this pass Cruise so we get our own drinks and they got 15% each time. Service has went down and tip has went up. Went to Dinning room 1 night out of 5 food and service terrible. Dinning room staff get 6.43% gratuity each day from automatic that they charge. This trip I didn’t remove any gratuity even without service or using Dining room. We go again in January if it’s the same poor service I will remove. I feel service has went down because they are guaranteed the tip so they don’t care now. My opinion don’t even get me started on straws you have to ask for them now and hope Bartender don’t argue with you

    • RB

      Other establishments let the customer decide how large a tip is warranted. When a tip is automatic it is no longer a tip, it’s a price or fee.

    • Glenn Pohl

      You my friend are a diguissed employee masquerading as management. Stop it!

  • choclemmond51

    I’ve got a great and simple solution to this:
    DON’T DRINK THEIR BOOZE…BRING UR OWN …BEEN DOING IT FOR YEARS .
    GET “Warm and Fuzzy in your room ,and then go up to lounge and sip on a glass of water or soda and socialize..and you will feel just as relaxed and comfy as those who pay out their ashes for alchohol..lol

  • Isabel De Los Santos

    I’m DONE!! TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT! GUESS MY FIRST CRUISE WILL BE MY LAST CRUISE. I’d much rather spend 7days exploring a carribean island rather than trying to squeeze into a human soup bowl ie. 1 of 2 swimming pools The Breeze had…i was repulsed every time I walked by. 2 tiny pools for 4000.00 ppl I thought the pools would be huge. I spent so much once I added it up. The alcohol pkg and tips the percentage as well as the extra I gave which I did because it seemed to get me faster and better service. Oh and don’t even get me started on the first day I paid so much on the first day on drinks since the pkg doesnt kick in until the 2nd day. It us such a racket!!! AND NOW THIS!!!

    • Darcy McKillop

      Hope you are not planning on spending those 7 days at a resort.

  • Nick

    I won’t even buy a drink in carnival cheap basters that’s why they have bad luck bad thing happing to there ships I will travel with ncl and royal now

  • OILFIELD NDN

    My family and I cruise with carnival 2-3 times a year usually twice with my kids and my wife and I go on one just ourselves. Last 3 cruises I take gratuities off my account and tip the cabin stewards and my dining staff myself. As far as paying everyone else I’m not ok with that. That is carnivals responsibility not mine. I don’t get a gratuity at my job and don’t expect one either. The increases last few cruises are becoming ridiculous. We no longer drink on the ship if we do we bring on our own liquor using wine bottles or rum runners. Once on at port we get off boat refill our rum runners and ready for the evening.

    • TAO

      How are you able to get the alcohol on the ship? Don’t they scan for that?

      • OILFIELD NDN

        No they do not. They scan bags for weapons. You can take 1 bottle of wine per guest that’s 21 and over. There are ways to get the cork out fill with your liquor preference and reuse cork and sleeve. I also use rum runners. All this info is on the web for your info. Been taking my own liquor on board for years. I have only been caught once but they only took one of my runners and didn’t catch the rest. They leave a note in your bag if they do find it. I also carry on my person rum runners and walk right on every time.

    • Darcy McKillop

      Do you tip at a land-based restaurant?

      • OILFIELD NDN

        Yes I do 20% unless service was terrible. As I said above I tip my dining staff.

  • dochedges

    I get a kick out of people complaining that “The corporation is putting the burden of paying their employees on us the customer. They should pay them a fair wage in the first place.” Who do you think pays for that wage? (or the big new ships one post mentioned) We the customer pay for everything. Taking automatic gratuities off doesn’t help, it only hurts people who can least afford it, not the company.
    Pay the gratuities. It’s not going to break you. If it is, you probably shouldn’t be cruising.
    After that, campaign for social change, not just for the cruise industry, but all service industry jobs that should be paid a higher wage.

    • Marcel

      Maybe you dont mind people telling you how much you enjoyed something, but the majority of us do.
      I served in the Marine Corps, was a firefighter/paramedic for 15 years and not once did I ever receive a tip (gratuity)
      If you take a job that requires gratuity to make a living, then dont tell me how much gratuity I need to pay. You tell me I have to tip you, well guess again, you get nothing, you treat me right and smile and be happy, your most likely going to receive an excellent tip.

      • dochedges

        Thank you for your service, but that has nothing to do with how compensation is structured in much of the service industry. If you have lousy service on a cruise, by all means talk to guest services and remove the portion that would go to who you felt didn’t do a good job. Feel free to give an additional tip to anyone that you feel deserves it. But, totally removing gratuities and only tipping a few people that you interact with, neglects the people behind the scene that also made your trip enjoyable.

  • nutman

    I will opt out of tip
    Maybe give 10%.

    • Darcy McKillop

      So you are cheap

      • OILFIELD NDN

        It’s not about being cheap but most people get their food on the lido deck which is self serve buffet style so why do I need to tip for that. Plus 10% is a lot of money some of these workers as they make shit for money where they are from.

  • nutman

    It’s time for the cruise line to step up and pay their employees more money. I always opt out of the auto top. Leave my cabin Stewart cash. I hate being told how much I have to tip .

  • Tangeryne Whigham

    Yall people sound stupid. Do you know that’s how all businesses work. Prices goes up to support something regarding the business. Go cruise on a different cruise line and pay more for the cruise itself.

  • Hannah

    I’m not opposed to this. I always add extra gratuity anyway and if they are using it for the employees, whatever. I’m sure the employees would rather 1.5% of the raised gratuity go into a pool to pay for their airline tickets than for Carnival to stop covering them.

  • Marcel

    Gratuity should not be automatic. Gratuity is what a customer gives based on how good service is.
    Unless you sign a form stating you agree to have the cruise line or any other type of establishment withhold gratuities, you do not have to pay them. If they take them from a credit card you can dispute the charge and have the money returned. This is because gratuity is not a service or product, it is a feeling of how much you like your server, it’s just like if you go to a show, a movie or sporting event. They cant charge you automatic applause or standing ovation fees.

  • CruiseLaw

    Anestasie Brocchini – Carnival pays no U.S. taxes at all because it decided to incorporate in Panama and flag its cruise ships there . . .

  • Cigary

    Here’s what I do….. I do MY OWN tips. I tip those that serve me on the cruise and have the Cruise Line take the charge off the night before we get off. I bring my own booze aboard…2 bottles per person… that’s 4 with double occupancy. If people want to tip more…g’head.

  • Just A Point of View

    It’s proably going to help offset the Billion dollars spent on the silly Medallion program that is a waste of money.

  • Carolyn Girone Tedeschi

    we eat out a few times a week and always tip at least 20%

  • Marcy

    Most cruise lines will not tell you that once you are on the ship you can switch to manual tipping. Then you are able to decide who your tips go to.