PHOTO: Norwegian has provided a thorough explanation as to why shipboard gratuities are increasing. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
USA Today is reporting that Norwegian Cruise Line is about to raise its daily service charges, or gratuities or tips, effective on April 1, 2017.
The per person per day rate for those in standard staterooms and mini-suites will be raised to $13.99 and for those in full suites to $16.99. The regular cabin and mini-suite rate is increasing by 3.6 percent from $13.50 while the suite rate is adjusting up remarkably by nearly 10 percent from $15.50.
The good news is if you made a reservation before April 1, the service charge will remain at the previous amount regardless of the actual sail date. Otherwise, the new amounts will take hold for booking and sailings beginning next month.
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For those wishing to compare to the tip amounts of other standard mainstream cruise lines, here’s the breakdown for Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. Carnival suggests $12.95 per person per day for staterooms and $13.95 for suites. Meanwhile, MSC recommends $12 for adults and $6 for children two and older, and Royal Caribbean suggests $13.50 for those in staterooms and $16.50 for those in suites.
That currently places Norwegian Cruise Line at the top of the heap for the highest charges either prepaid or automatically added per diem. While its amounts are only slightly ahead of Royal Caribbean’s, they are substantially higher than MSC’s, significant at a time when extra gratuities are highly debated.
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In fact, we just discussed whether or not a parent company like Carnival Corporation might be large enough to lead the entire cruise industry into simply bundling tips into bottom-line fares. So far, that has not yet happened as brands like Holland America Line also plan on raising tips. Worth noting, however, is that even the premium line will tally its below standard Norwegian at only $13.50 in staterooms and $15.00 in suites.
On its website, Norwegian Cruise Line clearly states why the gratuity amount exists for itself and competitors: “The reason there's a fixed service charge is an important one: Our Crew (as are the crew from other lines) is encouraged to work together as a team. Staff members including complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff are compensated by a combination of salary and incentive programs that your service charge supports.”
Still, those account charges can come as a bit of a shock once added up on a final cruise statement, so Norwegian encourages prepaying the amounts as do others, further stating, “The convenience of pre-paying the service charges allows you to plan your budget prior to your cruise giving you additional freedom while on board.”
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Of course, with that being the case, it does continue to make the argument for rolling them in with the total cruise fare from the get-go, which definitely stands to reason when plenty of other cruise lines already include gratuities. Take, for instance, Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea Cruises. Yes, these brands are upscale or luxury, but every one of them bundles service charges without the need for guests to consider them separately. Surely, if every cruise line followed suit, consumers would be happier for it.
For the time being, the trend of gratuity increases for most companies, Norwegian Cruise Line included, continues on. Whether or not a tipping point will eventually be reached for amounts to level off or simply be included across the board is what remains to be seen.