US cruise lines are leading the way with “excessive and unnecessary” extra charges to cruise passengers, according to feedback given to leading retailer www.cruise.co.uk.

Research by the agency, which compared the gratuity price difference between 18 cruise lines, found that tips can add $480 or more (£312) for four people travelling on a 14-night cruise.
 
The study looked at the average additional cost per adult and child per day, as well as the method of payment and any other additional mandatory ‘charges’ added to services such as bars or spa.

The most expensive of those surveyed was luxury line Oceania Cruises with charges of $13.50 per person, per day in a cabin rising to $21.50 per person, per day for a suite customer. This would add on a cost of £802 for a family of four sailing in high end accommodation on a 14 night cruise, according to www.cruise.co.uk.

P&O Cruises was the cheapest by offering the lowest suggested tipping rates for adults per day at £3.10, and no charge for children under 12, plus no additional tips added for bar staff. 

The report also found that there is passenger confusion as some cruise lines now call gratuities ‘service charges’ and make it difficult for these to be cancelled on board. The agency’s managing director Seamus Conlon said: “Our findings generally conclude that whilst it’s down to individual choice many cruise lines have significant hidden costs in their prices.”

Members of the company’s online consumer forum feel that US cruise lines are leading the way in excessive and unnecessary automatic charges. One member stated that they had been ‘grilled’ onboard as to why they were not complying.
 
Discussions in the forum suggest that the pre-pay methods employed by Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and Italian line Costa Cruises should be abolished. Further comments suggest that P&O Cruises has the right balance as it is left up to the individual to tip to whom and how much they want to give.

In addition P&O Cruises and Fred Olsen Cruise Line do not add 10-15% to drinks bills, which again won them favour with cruise.co.uk users.
 
Conlon said: “We all recognise that tips have been a traditional method of rewarding staff for good service, but as Brits we’re not used to this whole issue of adding gratuities to the holiday price which seems to be only found in the cruise industry.

“What’s the answer? Well, the market isn’t going to change so we suggest that passengers budget wisely, especially those new to cruise and take into account the things they purchase on the cruise and weather these are subject to additional service charges.

“The alternative is to look for an inclusive operator but these tend to be at the more expensive luxury end of the market. Know what you are buying; go beyond the glossy brochures and consult with a cruise specialist.”