Booked on a Royal Caribbean sailing this year? Brace yourself for higher daily fees.
Effective June 1, the company is hiking the automatic gratuity for staff it tacks onto final bills by nearly 8% to $12.95 per person, per day for passengers staying in most cabins. Passengers in suites will pay $15.95 per person, per day.
With the increase, a family of four will pay more than $350 in service charges on a typical seven-night cruise -- one of the highest levies in the business. Among other major lines, Princess, Holland America and Cunard add $11.50 per person, per day in service charges to passenger bills. Carnival adds $12.
The practice of automatically adding gratuities to passenger bills is at a crossroads in the industry. A growing number of upscale ocean lines including Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream have eliminated added service charges and automatic gratuities entirely, and the practice also is disappearing at some river cruise lines. River lines Uniworld, Tauck and Scenic Cruises are among those that now include gratuities for crew members in the base fare.
Royal Caribbean says customers with existing cruise reservations for later this year can lock in the current, lower gratuity rates by pre-paying them before June 1. Passengers also can adjust the amount of daily gratuity posted to their accounts while on ships by visiting the Guest Services desk. While automatically added, the gratuity is just a suggested amount, the line says.
Royal Caribbean last increased its gratuity rate in 2013.