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Vacation Budgeting Hack – Don’t Forget About Tips!

by Ryan Guina

Cruise ShipMy wife and I recently returned from our first cruise. I must say, our trip was expensive, but well worth it! I haven’t sat down to compute the final bill for our vacation, but I know it is high. In fact, for just under 2 weeks, we spent well over $250 on tips alone!

Yes, $250 is a lot of money, but you have to realize that cruise line employees make most of their money in the form of tips. The best thing you can do is recognize the associated cost and budget for it! Here is more information about tipping cruise line workers.

My wife and I traveled on Celebrity Cruise Line, so I included an example of their recommended tipping schedule, which we followed.

Celebrity Cruise line recommended tips (These tips are per person, per day):

  • Waiter – $3.50
  • Assistant Waiter – $2.00
  • Assistant Maitre D’ – $0.75
  • Stateroom Attendant – $3.50
  • Assistant Chief Housekeeper – $.050
  • Total – $10.25 (per person, per day)

For a 10 day cruise, that equals $205 for 2 people. The total my wife and I paid for tips on our cruise was at least $230. (We tipped extra for a special dinner, and a 15% gratuity is automatically added to all drinks and services, including alcohol, sodas, spa treatments, etc.). Including the cruise, taxis, excursion drivers & tour guides, and other restaurants, I think we spent around $275-300 on tips for our 2 week vacation.

Well-earned money. While I thought the cruise company did everything in their power to extract as much money as possible from their customers (more on that in a later article), every crew member on the ship did everything they could to make our vacation memorable. The service was everything we expected. Because the crew members were such hard workers and pleasant people, I had no problem giving them the money they earned.

Can you save money by tipping less? You can, but I would also recommend against cutting back on tips as a way to save money. Tips represent a large portion of these workers pay, and by scaling back, you are taking money away from individual people, not some faceless corporation.

Travel Hint: When budgeting for your next vacation (especially if you will take a cruise), don’t forget to budget for tips you may incur during your travels – such as tipping bag porters, taxi drivers, waiters, hotel staff, cruise line workers, and tour guides. These tips add up quickly!

photo credit: maxsomma.


Published or updated October 12, 2008.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark

Great article. I always wondered how much they made on the big ships considering how many people there were cuz the big ships carry at max a few thousand cruisers.

When I worked the ship in Alaska, it was a small ship, 240 feet, 210 passengers max, 22 crew including officers. Basically, all the tip went into a pool and was split equally among each of us, excluding the officers.

So the tips varied from each trip because some trips we were filled to the max, others a little less.

I find it funny people say they don’t make much money on these ships but no one ever takes into consideration how much it cost the company to purchase food, store the food in their holds, transport the food, so the crew is fed three times a day for free. Not to mention free room, water, etc…

All the same, I made 9 thousand for three months, about 6 thousand in tip, and 3 in salary.

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2 Ryan

Cool. I thought about working on a cruise line, but I joined the AF instead.

The way the big cruise lines do it, is each group (waiters, assistant waiters, stateroom attendants, etc.) pool their money in their respective groups and split it amongst themselves. They also each receive an hourly wage in addition to overtime. The waiters make the most money by far!

And 9 grand for 3 months isn’t too bad – especially considering you have few costs during that time. Thanks for the comment. :)

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3 Mrs. Micah

Excellent point. We don’t go out much and we go even less to places which require tipping (Chipotle, for example, has good food but no tips). But when we do, Mr. Micah and I both think it’s very important to tip unless the service actually sucked. Because we’ve had friends who wait tables.

I hadn’t connected it with a cruise, though. I normally think of those as pay-up-front and don’t worry about it deals.

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4 hank

I actually just got back from Australia 3 months ago and just last week I got 6 pieces of mail from there – apparently I went through 3 toll booths without paying and ALSO apparently was speeding each time… All in total costing me another $460 that I didn’t plan on putting in the budget… Maybe a better tactic would just be to not speed, and I wouldn’t need to toss that into the budget… :)

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5 Katie

Tipping is important. As a bartender going to school full time, my very exsistence is tied to tips. I would love to say I do not get upset when someone comes into my bar and spends $200 dollars on alcohol but zero in tips, but I do get upset.

It is also amusing to me that people who buy a $2 beer will tip $1… a 50% tip, but those who buy a round of drinks totaling $20 will leave a $1 tip… which is a 5% tip.

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6 Ryan

Katie, I agree, people work hard and should be compensated for that. I generally tip about $1 per drink. But, I drink beer that costs around $5 or less. If I lived in the city and drank $10 cosmos, I would adjust that accordingly.

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7 nicole

Just thought I would give everyone a heads up on a app I saw in the itunes store called cruise card control lite. It is a free budgeting app for cruisers and it also has free countdown clocks and ship images, thought it was pretty cool and would share.

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8 Nico

This is a good point! When budgeting your new lifestyle, don’t forget to budget your tips!

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