Sara Macefield is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and Contributing Editor for Cruise International

A Royal Caribbean International butler
A Royal Caribbean International butler

Q. I’m confused by the variety of onboard gratuity policies – to avoid a big final bill, should I choose an all-inclusive cruise, or should I pay the gratuities in advance?

A. Paying gratuities in advance is a good way of budgeting and prevents any nasty surprises at the end of the cruise. Of the mainstream cruise lines, only Thomson Cruises includes gratuities in the overall price, while others, such as Crystal Cruises and Seabourn, are luxury all-inclusive lines. Cultural cruise companies Swan Hellenic and Voyages to Antiquity also include tips, as do some river cruise lines. Opting for these means you won’t have to pay the daily charge, which on US lines tends to be about $13 per person per day, and on UK lines average at around £4. Cruise lines also stress that if you don’t want to pay the charge, and instead tip cruise staff personally, you can ask to opt out; and you may want to tip extra for particularly good service.
Sara Macefield

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