Last updated: 07:22 PM ET, Sun May 08 2016

Carnival’s Gratuity Increase: Travel Agents React

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Lisa Iannucci | May 08, 2016

Carnival’s Gratuity Increase: Travel Agents React

Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Starting Sept. 1, Carnival Cruise Line is raising its gratuities from $12 USD to $12.95 USD per person, per day in a standard stateroom and $13.95 USD per person, per day for guests in suites.

Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations in Atlanta, Georgia, applauds this increase.

“If you have been on a Carnival Cruise you know that the staff are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet,” said Griswold. “They work usually on six-month contracts. The staff works for gratuities and almost every one of them sends the money home so their family can have a better life. Frankly, I think $12.95 is not enough for the level of service the Carnival Cruise Line staff provides.”

READ MORE: Carnival Cruise Line Raises Gratuities

This news from Carnival Cruises follows another announcement from Royal Caribbean International that said on May 1, their passengers will be required to pay 55 cents more per person, per day for gratuities, bringing the total to $13.50 for standard cabins and $16.50 for those in suites.

“Carnival is merely adjusting the daily gratuities so they are in line with their direct competition,” said Jeff Leach, franchise owner and vacation specialist with Dream Vacations in Omaha, Nebraska. “With Royal Caribbean and Norwegian at $13.50 per person per day, Carnival’s staff will now be compensated more closely to what the market is bearing. That being said, as a travel professional I wish all cruise lines would create comprehensive pricing where cruise fares, port fees, taxes and gratuities were all included.” 

Chuck Flagg, Cruise Planners franchise owner in Canton, Georgia, said that he hasn’t received any complaints about the gratuities increase from his customers. “I know that any value-adds for the highest yielding passengers is always bonus,” he said. “In the case of Carnival, it has been two years since they raised their gratuities. I think all of the mass market lines are in line or becoming in line with each other as far as gratuities for the crew.”

“I think raising the gratuities is a good idea,” said Chris Caulfield, Cruise One franchise owner and vacation specialist in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. “The crew on cruise ships work very hard to ensure passengers have a great vacation. In fact, one of the common praises of cruising is how well people are treated by the crew.”

However, whenever a cruise or destination raises any kind of prices, there is always concern that this might raise eyebrows among travelers who will then be reluctant to book. But Andrea Joyce, franchise owner and vacation specialist with Dream Vacations in Somers, New York isn’t too concerned.

“For our clients already booked, Carnival has given us until May 9th to communicate the change and offer them the option to add the prepaid gratuities onto the sailing at $12 per person per day,” she said. “This should eliminate problems from clients already booked who were expecting to pay $12 per person, per day.”

In addition to the raise in gratuities, Carnival is thanking customers by rewarding them with a complimentary bag of laundry per voyage. “The Suite guests will also receive priority tender service, complimentary in-suite bottled water as well as enhanced turndown service,” said Joyce.

Anita Covic, destinations specialist with, said, “By adding benefits such as a free bag of laundry, the cruiser feels that they are getting a bonus — however, oftentimes, they won’t remember to use the extra benefit. Carnival Cruise Line and others should be sure that the passenger gets top treatment for the required reward.”

Janet DeVito thinks sweetening the pot with a free bag of laundry is a fabulous idea. “I would not mind the extra $0.95 if it meant that I could pack less considering I could do laundry once during the cruise,” said the franchise owner and vacation specialist with Dream Vacations in Freehold, New Jersey. “That would be worth the approximately $7 extra for a seven-day cruise. This is especially valuable for families! For my clients, I don't think they would notice the extra money. They will like the extra perk too.”

Eileen Entin, Diamond Cruise & Travel in Trenton, New Jersey doesn’t see the increase as either good or bad, but as more of a hidden tax. “It’s a way for the cruise lines to charge a little bit more without increasing the published rates,” she said. “At the same time, working on a cruise ship is not an easy profession and the gratuities make up a large amount of their earnings so if we’re going to be charged an extra $.95 a day then better for it to go to the staff. As far as the suites, the newer cruise ships have more suites with higher ticket prices so the cruise lines need to keep sweetening the deal and adding more perceived value to keep these suites sold — and they are selling well.”

Bryan Shilling, AAA’s managing director of travel products and services, said that the decision to set gratuity levels is a business decision made by each cruise line. “As the consumer’s travel advocate, AAA feels it is imperative that cruise lines and all travel providers remain transparent about fares and any additional fees from the start of the booking process,” he said.

READ MORE: Tipping Etiquette Around the World

He reminds consumers that these changes make it more important than ever to book cruises with a travel agent, since they often have access to special offers and added benefits, and they can discuss these options with the traveler to find the vacation that best suits their needs.

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