Carnival Prepaid Gratuities: Worth It Or Not?

One of the questions I often see debated on cruise forums and social media groups is whether or not to prepay your gratuities. It’s the same for any cruise line, but it comes up a lot with people who like to take Carnival cruises.

Bartender pouring cocktails on a Carnival cruise

I think part of the reason is that so many Carnival cruises are cheap, and people want to keep it that way – so they’re looking for the most cost-effective way of paying their gratuities as possible. Because we all like to save a few dollars where we can, right?

When it comes to prepaying Carnival gratuities, there’s no definitive right answer – sometimes it’s better to prepay, and other times it’s not

In this guide, I’ll give you all the best tips about paying tips. 

What are prepaid gratuities on Carnival?

Prepaid gratuities are when your tips for your cruise ship’s crew are paid in advance. All Carnival guests are asked to pay gratuities, and you can either prepay before you sail, or wait until your cruise is finished and then settle the bill.

A lot of people prefer to pay their gratuities up front, but some others choose not to. It’s entirely up to you, but there may be some benefits to both approaches, depending on your particular booking.

How do prepaid gratuities work on Carnival?

Your gratuities for a Carnival cruise are calculated automatically, based on a set fee per day. Therefore, the total fee can be calculated as soon as you book your cruise – and you can prepay them either as you are booking your cruise, or any time on the lead-up to your sailing date.

When you’re making a booking, you’re able to pay for your gratuities at the same time as paying off your cruise fare if you want to. Otherwise, as soon as you have a booking you’ll be able to log onto the Carnival website to manage it.

And from here, you’ll be able to prepay your gratuities if you wish, as well as book other options in advance – such as a WiFi package or a drink package.

If you book your cruise with a travel agent, you can also speak to them to ask them to add your prepaid gratuities onto your booking.

If you don’t prepay your gratuities, then they’ll be added to your Sail & Sign account on the second-to-last day of your cruise. If you’re not happy with the service you’ve received then you could, theoretically, have the gratuities removed from your account.

But to do this you need to speak to Guest Services before you disembark. Once you’ve left the ship, your account is considered final and you need to pay it off. 

It’s also not recommended to take gratuities off your cruise account. They go a long way to topping up the salaries of the crew onboard, including a lot of people behind the scenes.

Even if you tip cash to the person who made your burrito, what about the guy at the back cooking the meat? Surely he should get a tip too? Removing gratuities affects the people that you don’t have contact with as much as the ones that you do.

Blue Iguana Cantina crew members

How much are prepaid gratuities on Carnival?

For any Carnival cruise departing before 1st April 2023, the standard gratuity charges are $14.50 per person, per day for standard stateroom guests and $16.50 per person, per day for suite guests. For cruises departing 1st April 2023 onwards, these rise to $16 per person, per day for standard staterooms and $18 per person, per day for those staying in suites.

Gratuities apply to all guests aged two and over, so yes, if you’re cruising with your family you will be expected to pay gratuities for your children too if they’re two or older.

They’re also added to your account regardless of whether you choose open-seating dining, or only eat in the buffet – it’s all standard.

crew member working in the buffet

Carnival tends to increase the prices of gratuities every year. Before 1st May 2022, the gratuity costs were $13.99 and $15.99. This means it can be cheaper to prepay your gratuities if you’re booking far in advance.

If you booked a cruise and prepaid your gratuities, and then there was a price increase before you sailed, you wouldn’t be asked to pay the difference.

It’s also worth noting that prepaying your gratuities doesn’t stop you from automatically being charged for gratuities on other purchases you make onboard – specifically for drinks, some room service orders and speciality dining bookings.

These are all automatically added with a fee of 18%. Prepaying your daily gratuities doesn’t get you out of paying those extra charges. 

Do you have to pay prepaid gratuities on Carnival?

You don’t have to prepay your gratuities on a Carnival cruise. You are entitled to wait until the gratuities are added to your account during your cruise, and then pay them off when you clear your account.

Carnival won’t push for you to prepay your gratuities – to the cruise line, it doesn’t really make a difference. In fact, it may be to their benefit if you choose not to, depending on any onboard credit offers you might have.

What happens if you don’t prepay gratuities on Carnival?

If you don’t prepay your gratuities for your Carnival cruise, they will be added to your account on the second-to-last day of your sailing, while you are onboard. Your registered debit or credit card will then be used to clear your account on disembarkation day.

As soon as you’ve left the ship, your cruise bill is considered final and so you can’t apply to have them removed or reduced. You can do this while you’re on the ship only.

Is it cheaper to prepay gratuities on Carnival?

It can be cheaper to prepay your gratuities on a Carnival cruise, but only if you are booking a cruise far in advance. Once the cruise line has announced a price rise, you would be expected to pay the higher fee if you’ve not already paid for your gratuities. Otherwise, it costs the same to prepay or pay onboard.

Generally, there is no price difference when you’re paying gratuities on Carnival. Whether you prepay or pay on your Sail & Sign account, the cost will be the same.

But if you prepay before a price rise is announced, you’d get the gratuities at the cheaper rate.

To be clear – only if you prepay before a price rise is announced.

For example, the latest price rise for gratuities is in effect for all sailings from 1st April 2023.

If you booked a cruise before 1st April 2023, but departing after that date, you would pay the new higher rate.

However, if you booked a cruise for May 2024 now – so before any 2024 price rises have been announced – and you prepaid then you would pay the current higher rate from 1st April 2023, and not any higher price that is likely to be announced in 2024.

Is it better to prepay gratuities on Carnival?

For some people, it’s better to prepay gratuities, especially if you are booking your cruise far in advance or you want to control your cruise budget more. However, if you prepay, you can’t use onboard credit to pay for your gratuities – you have to pay for them using your debit or credit card.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of prepaying Carnival gratuities…

Pros of Prepaying Gratuities

Here’s a list of the benefits of prepaying your gratuities:

1. It’s easier to budget

If you pay for your gratuities in advance, it makes it easier to plan for how much you want to spend during your cruise.

It’s possible to enjoy a Carnival cruise without spending a penny onboard, especially if you also buy a drinks package.

But anything you can remove from your Sail & Sign account in advance just makes it easier to know how much you’re spending. Especially if you forget about the gratuities during the cruise – considering how they’re only added on the second-to-last day of your sailing, it’d be a nasty shock if you did.

2. One less thing to think about

There is a lot to think about when you book a cruise, and if you can take away one thing to be paid for, then it just makes your cruise that little bit smoother.

You also don’t need to worry about whether the crew will be looked after – by prepaying your gratuities, you know you’ve paid your part towards their salaries. Job done.

As one cruiser said: “I’ve been on 19 cruises and have always pre-paid gratuities. It’s just less hassle. If the cabin steward goes beyond the call of duty I’ll give him/her an extra $20 at the end of the cruise.”

Suggested read: How Much Extra Do People Tip Cruise Staff?

3. It might save you money

If Carnival raises the gratuity prices again as they do every year, then it could cost you another $1 to $1.50 per person, per day. That might not sound like a lot, but for a family of four on a 7-day cruise, that could be an extra $42.

Prepaying your tips avoids this uncertainty.

Cons of Prepaying Gratuities

And some reasons not to prepay your gratuities:

1. You’re concerned about poor service

It’s rare, but sometimes people feel like they haven’t received the service they expect on their Carnival cruise.

And those people sometimes wish to remove gratuities. You can’t remove them for an individual person or team, so some people either remove them completely or reduce them.

It’s not great to do that, because Carnival’s staff rely on gratuities to make up their salary (they’re an American cruise company, so this isn’t completely unusual).

But if you’ve prepaid, you can’t then ask for a refund on your gratuities.

stateroom attendant on a Carnival cruise

2. You want to use onboard credit

If you book a cruise with any onboard credit offers, that only gets added to your account as your cruise begins.

If you want to use that credit to pay towards your gratuities, you’ll need to pay on the ship. You can’t do it in advance.

If you plan on spending a lot onboard anyway, on drinks or speciality dining, you might prefer to prepay gratuities from your own money and save your credit for those charges.

Otherwise, you might save money by letting the credit cover your gratuities, at least partially. In fact, gratuities is one of the best ways to use any onboard credit that you have on a Carnival cruise.

Read more: 12 Ways to Use Your Carnival Onboard Credit Like a Pro

So, should you prepay gratuities on a Carnival cruise, or not?

There’s no simple answer, but generally, if you aren’t using onboard credit to pay for your gratuities, most people should prepay them. It makes budgeting and planning easier and it could save you money. But, if you plan to use onboard credit for your gratuities, don’t prepay them.

Ultimately it’s your choice, and you might prefer to pay for them on the ship regardless. It’s just that most people tend to find it easier if they are paid off in advance.

How To Prepay Carnival Gratuities

You can prepay your Carnival gratuities at the point of booking your cruise. If you’re booking with a travel agent, you should ask them to add gratuities to your booking.

If you choose not to prepay your gratuities at the time of booking, you can instead do it at any time during the build-up to your cruise.

Just head to the Carnival website and, at the top of the page, hover over ‘Manage’ and then select ‘My Booking’. Using your cruise details you’ll be able to log in to see your booking, and in this menu, you’ll be able to add gratuities to your account.

Once that’s done, just navigate to the option to make a payment and you can pay them off.

If you have any problems adding them to your account, you may need to call the cruise line. Some people have reported issues.

As one person on Cruise Critic said: “I remember this came up before. I think the issue may have been you can’t add gratuities online once paid in full. However, you can call to pre-pay them.  This was pre covid though, and what I read here- not me personally.”

Carnival prepay gratuities issue

It might be that you’ve paid in full or that your gratuities are already included. If you have any problems prepaying gratuities, just call Carnival or your travel agent.

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