Royal Caribbean Follows Carnival, Norwegian in Raising a Key Fee

While cruise-ticket prices have generally dropped from prepandemic levels, other costs of cruising have gone up.

When you sail with Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, or Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report, the cost of your ticket is not the full price of your trip. 

Yes, paying your cruise fare gets you a lot: your room, a variety of included dining venues, lots of entertainment, pools, and some basic beverages. But if you want to eat in specialty restaurants and drink soda, adult beverages or anything except a very basic cup of coffee, you will pay extra. 

In addition, you pay a little more for things like classes in making cupcakes or sushi as well as arcade games, escape rooms, and other non-included entertainment.

You don’t actually need to buy any of those things to enjoy your cruise. Having fun on a Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Norwegian cruise is possible without spending extra money on food, drinks, or added entertainment. 

But again, that does not mean that your basic cruise fare covers all your costs. And Royal Caribbean now has followed Carnival, and Norwegian in raising a key fee that’s not included in your basic cruise fare.

Image source: Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean Raises Gratuity Rates

Onboard gratuities — daily per-person tips that go to your room attendant, main dining room waiters, and other onboard personnel  — can be paid before your cruise or they’ll be added to your daily bill each day of your trip. 

These gratuities are in addition to the 18% added to a la carte drink, spa, and salon purchases made onboard. 

If you prepay, you not only get the charge out of the way, you are also grandfathered at a lower rate if Royal Caribbean raises gratuity rates before your cruise.

An important tip: If you have significant onboard credit, it may make sense to opt not to prepay. 

Cruise passengers can obtain onboard credit in a variety of ways. Some get it when the price of their cruise drops after their final payment was due (you have to ask for this, so be vigilant) and others get it as a thank you from their travel agent. 

If you have a credit and don’t plan to buy much onboard, using it to pay your gratuities makes sense.

Royal Caribbean on Aug. 23 sent an email to passengers on upcoming sailings, telling them that gratuity rates were going up.

As you prepare to set sail, we wanted to notify you of an update to our daily gratuity charges. As of September 7, 2022, the automatic daily gratuity charge will increase from $14.50 to $16 per guest, per day for non-suite staterooms and from $17.50 to $18.50 per guest, per day for suites. The daily gratuity is shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants, and other hotel services teams.

The cruise line did note that passengers can avoid the increases.

“If you’d like to prepay your gratuities at the current rate before your sailing, we’re happy to extend this opportunity to you,” RCL said. “If you’d prefer to pay onboard, your gratuity charge will be applied to your onboard account at the new rate.”

Carnival and Norwegian Already Raised Gratuities 

Both Carnival and Norwegian raised gratuity rates earlier this summer.

Carnival made changes to its rates in May:

Standard staterooms: $14.50, per person, per day (up from $13.99)Suites: $16.50, per person, per day (an increase from $15.99)

Norwegian raised gratuity rates in April, Cruzely reported.

$20 per person, per day for The Haven and Suites (previously $18.50)$18 per person, per day for Club Balcony Suites (no change)$16 per person, per day for all other cabins. (previously $15.50)

Many passengers on all three cruise lines also opt to directly tip crew members who provide excellent service. They can include your room attendant, waiters, bartenders, and any crew members whose efforts go above and beyond. 

Extra tipping is, of course, optional but crew members generally work very long days, which have been made longer due to staffing shortages related to the pandemic. 

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