A cruise line's principle of work is that being on board you will have to pay the so-called service charge (generally called gratuities). Usually, the service charge is not included in the cost of a cruise and must be paid extra. In fact, it represents the only compulsory payment to be carried out additionally alongside the cruise cost.
The service charge must be paid by each passenger staying in a cruise ship’s cabin, whereas its amount depends on the cruise line and itinerary duration. On average, it is equal to 11-12 euros a day per person if we deal with European cruise lines, and 13-16 US dollars in case the cruise line is American. As a rule, the service charge is debited from your onboard account daily.
Service charge is your remuneration to the skilled cruise ship’s personnel. Besides, cash is not used at all on cruise ships (if you don’t know why I advise that you should read this article), which is why it would seem strange to leave gratuities using cash. The contemporary format of gratuities applied on a cruise ship represents a centralized service charge. Every day the amount is withdrawn from your onboard account so you do not have to think of it at all anymore.
And yet, what should I do if I don’t want to leave gratuities? If you are not satisfied with the quality of service or someone from the staff was impolite to you, or your cabin was not cleaned during the cruise, you have the right to refuse from paying the service charge. To solve this problem you have to contact reception and explain the reason for your unwillingness to pay. If the service turns out to be unsatisfactory in reality, gratuities will be returned to your onboard account.
And yet, actually, it rarely happens, and the staff working on cruise ships is excellently trained as a rule. So if you are satisfied with service at the restaurant, room service, and cabin cleaning do not prevent service personnel from getting gratuities. It is a significant part of their earnings. The staff is usually recruited from relatively poor countries, such as Indonesia, or the Philippines where the level of salaries is not the highest. Gratuities represent an essential part of their income. In addition to the staff members who are visible to you, there is a lot of personnel you do not face every day (some of them are not seen at all), for instance, cleaners of public areas, swimming pool cleaners, animators, etc.
Sometimes, cruise agencies sell cruises with prepaid gratuities. In this case, you will be free from the need to pay service charges on board. Besides, some European cruise lines (such as AIDA, TUI, or Celestyal) include gratuities in the cruise cost by default. Being on a cruise arranged by these cruise lines you won’t have to pay anything additional at all.