Why am I charged for gratuities?
First time cruisers may be surprised when they get their shipboard final statement the last evening of their cruise. Along with charges for specialty restaurants, onboard purchases, and cocktails, they'll discover a few hundred dollar charge for "gratuities" (some cruise lines are now calling it a "service charge" or "hotel service charge"). While gratuity charges are technically optional on most cruise lines, they are automatically added to your bill, and if you want to have them adjusted or removed, that will take some extra effort on your part. Usually the reception or guest services desk can take care of it for you.
But before you remove the charges, understand that for many crew members, tips are a major source of income, up to 95% on some cruise lines. Cruise lines are not subject to US or European regulations on pay - there are no minimum wage laws that apply to cruise crew members onboard ships. So those hard working people serving your meals and cocktails, and cleaning your stateroom, depend you those automatic gratuities.
How much a cruise line charges per day varies by cruise line. Many upscale or luxury lines are eliminating automatic gratuities. The chart below outlines automatic charges by cruise line:
Cruise Line Automatic Gratuity Policies
With many cruise lines you can pre-pay the gratuities (or tips, or hotel service charge) in advance - thereby not needing to worry about it at the end of your trip.