Royal Caribbean Int'l changing tip policy

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean International will change its policy on gratuities at the end of February, leaving few cruise lines that don't automatically add them to a passenger's onboard bill.

After March 1, passengers on Royal will have to opt out if they want to tip more or less than the standard $12 a day ($14.25 for suite accommodations).

Previously, the line had a recommended gratuity of $11.65 a day, including $5 for housekeeping and $6.65 for wait staff. Guests were in charge of distributing tips, not the cruise line.

Royal is the largest cruise line not to use an automated system.

"Everyone else has been doing it for so long that I've actually been asked why Royal [does not]," said Glenda Russe, a Cruise Planners agent in Louisville, Ky.

In a statement, Royal said "serious consideration and assessment" went into making the change. It said the adjustments place it in line with competitors and simplify the service recognition process.

Carnival Cruise Lines went to automated billing for tips fleetwide about 10 years ago, a spokesman said. The tips are added to passengers' onboard account.

A $12 daily charge is added to the onboard account of each adult on Norwegian Cruise Line, subject to adjustment. The daily amount for passengers cruising in a standard cabin is $11.50 at Carnival, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.

Disney Cruise Line has automated tipping on some ships, but not on others. Costa Cruises varies its tip policy by ship, length of cruise and region.

Royal said its recommended level can be modified or eliminated by visiting the guest services desk.

The new gratuities charge is a 3% increase and raises the tip on a seven-day cruise for a family of four by about $10. Royal previously raised the rate 19% in 2010, from $9.75 a night.

Gratuities can still be prepaid, but those cannot be changed onboard.
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