Although the idea of tipping is that it’s for “extras,” on a cruise ship it can make up a significant portion of the crew’s compensation, so we generally suggest clients who want a complete “cost” for their cruise add on about $10 - $12 per person, per day to their cruise cost estimates. That estimate includes your room steward, dining room waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter.
The general suggested guidelines are $3.50 - $4.00 per person, per day for your room steward and your waiter. The assistant waiter (who often works twice as hard!) would be about $2.00 and dining room captain would be at your discretion for special favors or service.
When ordering drinks separately, a service charge of generally 15% is usually added to your bill. Spa services, etc would also be additional at your discretion.
Each cruise line will provide guidelines on your specific cruise. Many cruise lines including Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess and Windstar now charge gratuities to your account automatically. It’s much easier than figuring out all those dollars in cash! But if you feel this amount needs to be adjusted, you may certainly request that.
Our suggestion here at Interliner on tipping is to take advantage of the automatic tipping, it’s very convenient. But then we usually leave a bit more in cash in the cabin for the room steward, and provide the wait staff with an additional small token in cash. Also it never hurts to tip your favorite bartender or pool waiter a bit more in cash, as well! They will make sure you are taken care of and are sincerely appreciative.
Some lines include tips in the cost of your fare (even at the interline/military rate, making these lines exceptional values for our clients), which is part of a more “all inclusive” experience for the guest. These lines pay crew members at a higher rate and thus they are not considered tip dependent. However, many people tip additionally for outstanding service or special favors, which you will most assuredly receive on these special cruise lines, which include Azamara, Crystal (as of most cruises departing March/April 2012), Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea.