Let’s talk gratuities on Disney Cruise Line! Gratuities on a cruise are an interesting animal. They’re optional, but not optional. They are vague at times, and very specific at others. Disney loves to keep us guessing, and it can definitely be confusing. Confusing or not, they are absolutely an expense you need to prepare for! Hopefully this will help.
1. There are Four Main Tipped Positions – There are four positions where tips are expected. These tips are so expected they will actually be charged to your onboard account automatically (see #2 below for what that really means). Those four positions are your three dining room servers (Head Server, Server, and Assistant Server), as well as your Stateroom Host/Hostess. Now if you’ve never cruised before, the Head Server is kind of like the maître d’, the Server is in charge of your personal table service team, and the Assistant Server is just that, the assistant to your Server. The Stateroom Host/Hostess is the person who keeps your cabin clean, makes your bed, turns your bed down at night, makes those awesome towel animals, leaves you chocolate (!), and generally ensures you have everything you need in your room. The total amount you will tip is determined by the number of nights of your cruise and the number of people in your sailing party. The recommended amounts per night are $1 for Head Server, $4.50 for Server, $3.50 for Assistant Server, and $4.50 for Stateroom Host/Hostess per person in your party. You’ll notice that adds up to $13.50 per night. Take that $13.50 and multiply it by the number of nights and the number of guests in your stateroom. For a family of four on a 7-night cruise, for example, your suggested tip amount will be $378. Scott Sanders has a great tip calculator on his website to help you plan. I’ll be honest, whether you eat in the main dining rooms or not, you should be prepared to tip your servers. They are assigned a certain number of guests on each sailing, and they rely on the guests’ tips to supplement their salaries. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be penalized because the guests assigned to their tables decide to eat in Cabanas every night.
2. You Can Change Tip Amounts – As mentioned above, Disney automatically charges the standard tip amounts to your onboard account. Those amounts are auto-charged, but not set in stone. If you want to give more, or in the rare circumstance where you may want to give less, you can go to Guest Services before the cruise ends and have them changed. At the end of your cruise, you’ll get a sheet listing the tip amounts that were charged, plus envelopes, in your stateroom. You can pass out the envelopes to your serving team the last night at dinner, or the last morning at breakfast; and you can give your Stateroom Host/Hostess their envelope directly at any time (or leave it in your room the last morning). Don’t worry, if you forget to pass them out, or don’t have a chance, they will still get the tips. You can also add cash to the tipping envelopes if you would like to increase the tip that way.
3. You Can Prepay Tips – If you want to keep down that onboard bill and pay for everything ahead of time, just call Disney or your travel agent and you can prepay your tips up until 3 days before you sail.
4. Bring Small Bills to Tip Porters and Bus Drivers – If you use Disney transportation (or some equivalent) during your trip, you will probably notice a not so subtle sign posted near the driver saying something along the lines of “Tips are Appreciated for Good Service.” Consider giving them a few dollars after you arrive. The old adage that everyone who touches your bag should be tipped also applies here at Disney before you board the ship. There are several possible times someone may assist you with your bags. When you arrive at the port, tipping the driver will cover that since he/she will help get your bags on and off the bus. If you’re in your own car or arriving via a private transfer, when you arrive at the port the porters will offer to take your bags from you to deliver to your stateroom. It’s customary to tip them $1 to $2 a bag.
5. Some Drinks Have a Gratuity Automatically Added – Any drinks, non-alcoholic or alcoholic, you order from a bartender will automatically have a 15% gratuity added. Any soft drinks, bottled water, or alcohol you order from room service will have an automatic gratuity. In addition, if you order a smoothie, bottled water, or alcohol in the dining rooms, your server will add a gratuity. You do not need to add more unless you are so inclined.
6. Spa Tips Are Automatically Added – An 18% tip for services at the spas onboard will automatically be added to your bill. Again, you do not need to add more unless you are so inclined.
7. Room Service Tips – With the exception of a few packaged items and the drinks listed above, room service is complimentary. It is, however, customary to tip the person that brings it. They will bring a “bill” for you to sign when they bring the food, even though the bill total is usually zero. Sometimes they don’t offer the bill to you, but they always have it if you ask. You can sign it and add a tip onto your onboard account. If you’d rather tip in cash, have a few small bills on hand. I tend to tip $3-5 every time, and if they bring a lot, I’d tip more.
8. Bring Cash to Tip Excursion Operators – Tipping your driver and tour guide on excursions is customary, so bring some cash with you for your excursion operators and drivers! We’ve found US dollars are accepted just fine in many foreign ports (particularly in the Caribbean), but you can obtain foreign currency to use for tips at Guest Services onboard when needed. I hate to admit it, but remembering this tip is my family’s personal kryptonite. We have forgotten cash for excursion operators on more than one occasion. It’s embarrassing how many times we’ve had to borrow it from family or friends with the misfortune to be on the same excursion as us. So maybe the real lesson here is not to go on an excursion with my family.
9. Concierge Positions Work Exclusively for Tips – If you are sailing concierge (lucky!), be prepared to tip even more. You will receive an extra envelope for your concierge hosts. How much to tip, is completely up to you. There are no recommended amounts listed, and no auto-charging. I have it on good authority that the concierge hosts work on tips alone, so if you had a great experience (and you will), tip generously. If you spent a lot of time in the concierge lounge taking advantage of the free drinks, you may also consider tipping the bartenders there.
10. Palo and Remy Tips are Included in the Price. Kind of. – This is one of those vague tipping situations. Brunch and dinner at Palo cost $40 per person. Brunch at Remy is $75 and Dinner is $125. Disney is clear as mud on whether that includes a tip for your server. From what I am told, there is a small portion of that cost that goes to your server. And when I say small, I mean maybe $5 split between several people at Palo. If you’ve ever experienced the level of service you get at either restaurant, you’ll know that they easily “deserve” more than that. Personally, I’d recommend tipping based on the value of the meal you received. You’ll find at Palo especially, that meal would have cost much more on land and you can tip accordingly.
Bonus – As much as you want to tip the youth activities cast members, they are not allowed to accept cash tips. I’m guessing mentioning them by name in your survey at the end of the cruise is one of the most appreciated tips you can give them!
How about you? Do you have any tips on tipping?
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation!