10 Tips on Tipping on the Disney Cruise Line

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Tips on tipping! See what I did there? First time cruisers always have questions about tips. In a somewhat all inclusive environment, it’s easy to forget about gratuities! Tips are expected on any cruise line and they can be a significant expense you need to be prepared for. Notice I said tips are “expected” not “mandatory”. Tips are always optional. But, just like you wouldn’t walk into a nice restaurant and consider not tipping (and if you would, that’s a whole different conversation), you really shouldn’t consider taking a cruise and not tipping. If you are someone who wants to tip appropriately, but are worried you don’t know the standard cruise tipping principles, this blog post is for you. And, Disney has made a lot of this easy for you (well, if you are planning to give the recommended amounts). See below for more!

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 are your three dining room servers (Head Server, Server, and Assistant Server), as well as your Stateroom Host or Hostess. Now if you’ve never cruised before, the Head Server is kind of like the maitre d’, the Server is in charge of your personal table service team, and the Assistant Server is just that, the assistant to your lead 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. The recommended amounts per night are $4 for Server, $3 for Assistant Server, $1 for Head Server and $4 for Stateroom Host/Hostess per person in your sailing party. You’ll notice that adds up to $12 per night. Take that $12 and multiply it by the number of nights and the number of guests in your stateroom. That will be your suggested tip amount. For my family of four on a 12-night cruise this summer that was $576. That’s a lot of money, but the people who received the tips did a ton of work for us during those 12 nights (all with a smile on their faces)!

2. You Can Change Tip Amounts – As mentioned above, Disney now 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. If you just want to add a little, you could also add some cash to the tipping envelopes you will find in your room on the last day of the cruise.

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 to 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. 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 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 from your dining Server, they 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 for many 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 can be 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. $1 – $2 per person is a good tip. When my kids were younger, they always enjoyed handing out the tips when the room service arrived.

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 can’t tell you how many times we’ve forgotten to take cash off the ship when going on an excursion. Seriously. It’s embarrassing. Don’t be like my family. And on an unrelated note, apologies to all affected tour operators or friends and family traveling with us whom we’ve had to borrow money from.

9. There May be People You Want to Tip but Shouldn’t – That sounds a little crazy doesn’t it? It’s true, though. Not cash anyway. There are some positions that are non-tipping positions and they cannot accept cash. Kid’s club counselors come to mind. Any cash tips they receive are supposed to be turned into the supervisor and pooled for a group party or something similar. If that’s what you had in mind, then go ahead! If you’d rather reward a specific counselor, come up with something other than cash that they can keep.

10. Palo and Remy Tips are Included in the Price. Kind of – Brunch and dinner at Palo cost $25 per person. Brunch at Remy is $50 and Dinner is $75. Disney is clear as mud on whether that includes a tip for your server. Apparently there is a small portion of that cost that goes to your server. And when I say small, I mean about $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. If you purchased any alcohol not included with the meal, there will be an automatic tip added for that. So get off your wallet! The chocolate soufflé alone at Palo is worth the tip!!

So do you have any tips on tipping for us? Any questions about tipping?

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Posted on December 10, 2013

26 Responses to “10 Tips on Tipping on the Disney Cruise Line”

  • Great post, thank you. The signs on the buses say “gratuity permitted for exceptional guest service.” I’m a driver, so I’m quite aware of that phrase.

  • We were on the Dream in Sept and were a little confused on whether or not we were supposed to bring our envelopes with the automatic tip amt to the last night’s dinner? Are you supposed to even if you aren’t adding additional money? We added additional money for our room steward and left it in our room but not any additional to our dinner servers. So are you to take your envelope with your slip in it to dinner or not??

    • by Laurel Stewart on December 11, 2013, at 6:55 pm EDT

      Yes, take your envelope with the gratuity ticket in it to dinner on the last night.

    • Yes! As Laurel said, bring the envelopes. It’s more of a courtesy, the servers will still get paid if you forget your envelopes, but it is nice to bring them and say thank you in person.

  • Thanks for this great information! I leave Saturday on the Fantasy!
    First time on a Disney Cruise (Big Red Boat 20 years ago doesn’t count!)

  • by Laurel Stewart on December 11, 2013, at 6:57 pm EDT

    Also, if you’re changing your tip amounts with Guest Services, you need to bring the tickets with you to the desk. This means that you can’t change the amount until you get your tickets (usually the next to last night of the cruise).

  • by James Platzer on December 12, 2013, at 1:41 pm EDT

    We stayed in Concierge on the Dream, and it is also nice to tip the Concierge Lounge team as well as the people who clean up after you in the Concierge Lounge and keep the food and drinks stocked. We also rented a Cabana, and (although we did not love our Cabana hosts) we tipped them.

  • Is it obvious while you are on board when gratuities are already added or not to thing you do/purchase?

  • So if I pre-pay my tips ahead of cruise, there still will be envelopes in my Stateroom for the Servers, Rm Stewards etc. Can I just add extra $$ into these envelopes and hand to them. Plus how many CM working at Concierge Level, for that is what catagory I am in..

    • by Tammy Whiting on January 2, 2014, at 10:33 am EDT

      You can definitely add cash to the envelopes, Pat! For concierge it varies by ship. There isn’t a lounge on the Magic and Wonder, so you are generally assigned one concierge person who takes care of you. On the Dream and Fantasy there is a concierge lounge and desk so there are several different people who may take care of you.

  • Why don’t they just include these in the prices and if the person does extraordinarily good, then you can add on? I thought going on a cruise would be relaxing but this just sounds downright confusing and stressful.
    I’ve never been on a cruise, so I’m very uneducated on the goings of cruiselife, although we are planning to go on a Disney cruise in a few years.

    • by Tammy Whiting on January 3, 2014, at 8:19 pm EDT

      That’s one of the arguments people use to move away from tipping in restaurants, Dana! I wouldn’t disagree.

      Don’t let it stress you though, it’s really not stressful at all. Disney lets you know exactly what is the norm for the 4 main tipped positions (currently $12 a night per guest) and many of the other tips are very similar to what you’re used to on land. I.e. Taxi drivers and what not. :)

  • Hello! Thanks for this informative post. We have cruised with DCL several times and this is always still a stress for us. It feels very awkward to hand the envelopes to the dining servers, not knowing if “the norm” is acceptable to them. In the past, even with adding a little, it has felt like maybe they were insulted. (Could just be our paranoia, lol) I am just curious – is the DCL suggested amount or slightly above considered pleasing, or do most people generally tip significantly above that? And if so, how much more? We are not “wealthy” – so obviously there will be wonderfully generous high-rollers… I’m talking more about the average, well-experienced Disney traveler, lol. Does that make sense? I know it’s personal, and based on individual experiences, but we really don’t want to disappoint our servers!

    • I’m glad it helped, Krista. I think it’s natural to be worried about the tips. I really don’t think they’re insulted by the standard amounts, and certainly not when you add a little more. Would they love more? Of course! But if all you can do is the standard amount, I’m sure that’s okay. We try to add some whenever they’re really great, which is usually, but if you can’t sometimes, don’t feel guilty. How much more depends on how long the cruise is.

  • by Michelle S. on March 31, 2014, at 5:36 pm EDT

    My family just got off the Dream yesterday, and I had a similar experience with Krista. We added 15 percent or so to the guidelines and I swear at breakfast on the last day we got the cold shoulder from our main server! To the point where my husband wanted to go back to our room and slip him more cash!! The man who always had a smile plastered on his face and was super doting suddenly disappeared.

    • Michelle, I have heard several people say that they felt like their servers weren’t as friendly on the last morning. I really don’t think it’s the tip (in most circumstances at least). That last morning is crazy for them. They’ve got to serve meals and turn over the whole ship in just a few short hours. I think they’re just so rushed that they don’t have the time they do in the evenings to spend with the families and getting to know them. It sounds very widespread, so I wouldn’t take it personally!

  • by Michelle S. on March 31, 2014, at 6:27 pm EDT

    Glad to hear it. I certainly didn’t want them thinking we weren’t happy with our service. Thanks, Tammy!

  • So whats the formula for tipping your concierge?

    • There’s no magical formula here! I’ve heard some say they based it on the cost of their cruise. Others don’t feel any amount is necessary. I’d look at it as a true tip. Tip based on the service you received with no set amounts in mind.