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Can you tell me all I need to know about tipping onboard a cruise ship?

You will not lack guidance on this subject - you will receive advice on the tipping procedure in the daily bulletin, in the disembarkation presentation and on the in-cabin TV. On some cruise lines tipping is included in the cruise fare (usually the luxury cruise lines), or can be automatically added at the time of booking, or automatically added to your Onboard Account. Some cruise lines still operate a cash placed in an envelope system at the end of the cruise and give recommendations on how much to give to staff members.

cruise tips
  • Typical daily tipping rates per person recommended are £2 for your dining room waiter, £1 for his assistant, £2 for your cabin attendant and if you have a personal butler, about £2 per day. Some cruise lines suggest you also tip the headwaiter or restaurant manager 50p per day.
  • If you have children sharing your cabin, it is acceptable to tip at half the adult rate.
  • All drinks from the bar (including wine at dinner) have a service charge automatically added. Most American cruise lines add 15% and European cruise lines 10% to the bill.
  • Spa or beauty treatments may have tips automatically added to your shipboard account but you may have to tip personally.
  • Guides on shore excursions are usually tipped 5% of the excursion cost.
  • The luggage porters at the cruise terminal usually expect a tip - a dollar or Euro per bag.

These guidelines are suggestions only and of course, you may vary these rates depending on the quality of service you have personally received. We have provided information in respect of the suggested rates by cruise line. See our Gratuities and Tips section of the website.

Are there non-smoking areas?

Today, virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking tables or non-smoking sections in the dining rooms and lounges. In fact, many cruise ship dining rooms are now totally smoke-free, and at least one ship is a completely smoke-free cruise ship, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, just complete the booking preference information at the time of booking. Onboard, in "open-seating situations," you can advise your waiter or the Maitre D'.

Can friends or relatives come onboard?

For safety and security reasons, no visitors are allowed onboard, even when the ship is in port before sailing. Of course your friends are welcome to give you the traditional send off from the visitors lounge at the cruise terminal.

Can I access my company email?

You will not be able to access your company email account unless the account is web based. However, it may be possible to forward your company emails to your own personal, web based email account. We suggest that you check with your company IT department before travel.

Can I keep in touch with the outside world?

Quite easily. Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores. Cabins on today's modern cruise ships are equipped with satellite televisions and in some cases in-cabin internet connections. While most ships now have satellite telephones (calls charged directly to your Onboard Account) in passenger cabins, you can also call someone on shore through the ship's radio operator while at sea. And, you can make phone calls from most ports.

Can I smoke onboard a Cruise Ship?

There are designated areas for smoking and non-smoking on all ships. All theatres and dining rooms are non-smoking.

Can I take my own Hairdryer (& Shavers)?

Electric razors and hair dryers can be brought with you although most cabins are already equipped with a basic hairdryer. Most cabins have 110 and/or 220 volts AC and are capable of handling all normal appliances. Depending on the ship, you may need a plug adapter (normally twin pin).

Can I wash my clothes whilst onboard?

Most ships have laundries on-board, so you can have your clothes washed or dry cleaned as you go, through room service. Some ships have self-service launderettes. See our Laundry & Dry Cleaning section of the website.

Can you store suitcases under the bed?

Yes, there is room under the bed to store normal sized suitcases.

Is there a charge for entertainment?

cruise entertainment

Never. On a cruise, the entertainment is on the house. There's no charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live. The movies are first-rate. The variety is limitless.

Do cabins have televisions and what channels are available?

Yes, cruise cabins do have televisions and typically the following channels are available: Movie channels and special interest films, port enhancement lectures, satellite and BBC World, Mast camera, classical, contemporary, pop, jazz music channels.

Does my ship have Medical Facilities?

Every cruise ship provides professional medical staff and facilities on board to assist including a licensed doctor in the event of an emergency or routine medical condition. Medical staff are on call 24-hours a day. Doctors will be generalists and licensed. American and British cruise lines use doctors licensed in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the UK.

The size of ship may determine the extent of the facilities although some smaller luxury ships are very well equipped.

Ideally these facilities would include an examination room, isolation room, x-ray machine, defibrillators, cardiac monitors, airway equipment, external pacemaker, electrocardiograph, infusion pump and a mobile emergency trolley. Consultations with the doctor and use of the medical facilities will be charged on your Onboard Account.

Guests are responsible for providing all medications, equipment and supplies necessary for their care, and must have the appropriate levels of travel insurance cover in place before travelling.

How do I find my way around the ship?

You needn't worry about getting lost on board as all stairways display large "ship maps" to assist you, and most cruise lines provide a pocket size deck plan leaflet to help you find your way around the ship.

How do I keep my valuables safe?

Every cabin has a combination safe (free of charge)

How do I pay for onboard purchases?

All items onboard ship will be priced in Pounds Sterling, U.S Dollars or Euros depending on the chosen cruise line. Most ships now operate a cashless system onboard, an Onboard Account will be set up for you when you board the ship and purchases will be billed automatically to your credit card that you register prior to embarkation. On the final night of the cruise you will receive a completely itemised statement of your onboard account, delivered to your cabin. The transaction value of your spending onboard the ship plus the exchange rate (commercial daily rate of exchange) to be applied will appear on your itemised statement. See our Cashless Environment section of the website.

I've arrived at the cruise terminal, what happens now?

Embarkation normally begins approximately 4 hours prior to departure. Passengers must be aboard no later than 30 minutes prior to sailing. With most cruise lines you will be able to complete your Boarding Documents on-line before you travel, saving you time when boarding at the pier.As per new US Government regulations, it is entirely your responsibility to complete all documents accurately and before you sail.

When you arrive at the cruise terminal you will go through all the formalities of check-in, immigration, security. Completing an embarkation card (assuming you have not already completed this online) and present your passport, cruise ticket and credit card details.

You will be issued with your boarding card, which will double as your Onboard Charge Card and key to your cabin. On many cruise lines your photograph is taken at the start of the cruise and stored on computer to recognise you each time you board with your boarding card. The charge card is required for all onboard purchases (drinks, spa treatments, shopping etc).

If your credit card has been swiped all charges whilst on-board will be charged to the Onboard Charge Card, and you will be provided with a final statement of all on-board expenses at the end of the cruise (some cruise lines are able to show this on your in-cabin TV). If you opt to pay by cash or with traveller's cheques they may ask you to give a deposit in advance to cover your likely onboard spend and to top it up as you go.

Once on-board the ship and inside your cabin you will find a card with your restaurant table number and sitting as well as the daily newsletter with the day's activities, entertainment and opening hours for the spa and restaurants. Your luggage will be delivered to your cabin giving you time to explore the ship or make reservations in the speciality restaurants or spa. The buffet restaurant and bars will be open and there will be organised tours of the facilities onboard.

What are the onboard alcohol policies?

There are three aspects of cruise line alcohol policies that are worth noting - minimum drinking age permitted, drinks pricing and packages and taking spirits and wine onboard. The rules differ across the various cruise lines so we are only able to give a summary here.

Minimum Drinking Age

  • On most British and European cruise lines the permitted drinking age is 18, however some may raise this to 21 when cruising out of an American cruise port.
  • On American cruise lines the drinking age is 21.
  • Some cruise lines permit wine and beer to be served to 18 year olds with parental consent.