Service charge

The rise in ‘optional’ service charges – and how it adds up to £290 to the cost of a cruise

VSouples on a two-week cruise with P&O Cruises this summer will have to shell out almost £200 extra on top of the cost of their holiday to cover the cost of their tips.

The cruise line is increasing its recommended tip by 17% from £6 to £7. The increase, which applies to all cruises after March 23, comes just 12 months after he increased his tip from £5 to £6. P&O says the charge is a “simple way” to thank the crew for their service. Anyone over the age of 12 pays unless they request tipping.

It is traditional for cruise passengers to tip the crew, but this remains a thorny issue with Brits, especially as fares have risen dramatically in recent years, dramatically increasing the cost of cruising. With this latest hike, P&O Cruises will have more than doubled its fees since 2011. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises increased fares in January and now take between $14.50 (£10.33) and $18 (£12.83) ) depending on the quality of the cabin.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which sells almost exclusively in the UK, is also raising its service charge, but by just £4 to £5 per day from March 7. The company said it was the first increase in 20 years.

Cruise lines add the fee to every bill every day – a system that replaced cash tips a few years ago to both make it easier to pay (people don’t need a lot of money) and discourage passengers to jump without paying. It is optional but cruise passengers must request that it be removed from passenger service.

Karen Allen, writing on, said: “I disagree with [tips] being included automatically. [They] are given for excellent service and a pleasant attitude.” Pam Coombe, another reader, added: “If you were stopping at a hotel, you wouldn’t be tipping the staff every day. So why on a cruise?

Some London hotels, including The Connaught and Claridge’s, impose an optional 5% service charge on the final bill and many restaurants now add 12.5%, but tipping remains foreign to British culture. A Direct Line survey in 2016 found that Britons were the second worst tippers after the French.

Select London hotels apply an optional 5% service charge on the final bill

Credit: GETTY

Norwegian Cruise Line has included tipping in the UK fare since April 2017. Nick Wilkinson, managing director of the cruise line, said: “People have a hard time understanding tipping, so we’ve made it simple.

Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises) and Saga Cruises, which sell exclusively to UK cruise passengers, include gratuities. On the luxury lines Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea and SeaDream, no tipping is expected.