Tipping on River Cruises in Europe

You do need to know what to do about tipping on river cruises in Europe. All the river cruise lines do have different policies on tipping. Especially in the UK where we don’t have a culture of tipping it can seem daunting for new customers. We have put together a simple spreadsheet to help you compare by operator what is expected so you can have confidence when on board that you have budgeted correctly.  Being forewarned is being forearmed.

River cruising tipping is different to ocean cruising gratuities, so don’t worry

Some ocean cruise lines have now increased their “service charge” per day to around $15 per person which automatically gets added to your on board account. This does not happen on a river cruise, so don’t go worrying about that.  In fact, don’t worry about tipping at all.

Tipping on river cruises in Europe

Insert tipping spreadsheet – go to lead box for email

Tipping on river cruises for coach drivers and excursion guides on river cruises

Firstly, these are not included, even where some operators say “gratuities included”. Not included for Avalon, Riviera and Saga.  We would absolutely say a 1 Euro tip per trip for a driver would be most appreciated.  For local guides, 2 Euros for a good tour would be in order.

Tipping on river cruises in Europe

Which river cruising companies include all gratuities?

There is nothing to pay tipping wise on Tauck – in fact if a staff member accepts a gratuity, they will be dismissed.
Scenic includes all gratuities both on ship and on land. If however you are in a hotel as part of your trip, then gratuities are not included for that part of the journey.

Emerald includes all gratuities both on ship and on land. If however you are in a hotel as part of your trip, then gratuities are not included for that part of the journey.

Uniworld – all gratuities either at land or on river or in hotel are included.  Job done!

Avalon – gratuities are included for ship staff and Cruise Manager.  They are not included for local guides and drivers, so again the recommended small tip per person would be most appreciated if you think you have had good service.

Which river cruise companies don’t include any tipping at all

The main river cruise companies which don’t include gratuities are: Saga, Viking, Riviera, Amadeus, Croisi and AmaWaterways. On our spreadsheet we have included the operator’s recommended daily amount which varies from around 8-15 euros a day to include the Cruise Manager and other staff.  This does not include the local guides or coach drivers.  Of course, gratuities are discretionary, dependent on service.

So, as an example, a 7 night holiday including seven tours on board an AmaWaterways FAQ vessel would cost, if guidelines were followed an additional 126 Euros per passenger, e.g 15 euros a day for staff and cruise manager and then 3 euros a day between the coach driver and local guide.  This would be roughly the same for all operators who don’t include tipping.

How are tips given on a river cruise?

Individual tour guides which are contracted on a day by day basis by your Cruise Director and  coach drivers are generally given a small amount of cash on a daily basis if you would like to. As suggested a euro for the driver and 2-3 euros for the tour guide.

If you are a customer on a ship where the staff and cruise director are offered discretionary gratuities, then here is what happens.  You will find an envelope in your cabin towards the end of the cruise.  This will allow you to place cash into the unmarked envelope.  The cash needs to be Euros.  You can then place it in a box near reception.  However, you will be given instructions at your disembarkation meeting as to how exactly the crew would like this done.  Some river cruise lines have separate envelopes for the cruise director and then for the other staff.  Sometimes this is because the Cruise Director is self employed.

Some vessels do allow you to add your discretionary amount by card to your account, but a definitive list is impossible.

Don’t forget to download our river cruise pricing spreadsheet to help you work out the total cost of your potential holiday. DOWNLOAD HERE.

Alex Leete

This entry was posted in River cruise information, River Cruise Q & A by Alex. Bookmark the permalink.

About Alex

Who is Alex Leete? A passion for travel and over 15 years' experience in the industry encouraged me to set up Global River Cruising, our own family run company. Over the last few years we have been on as many river cruises, ships and seen as many destinations as we possibly can so we can rightfully call ourselves "experts". As independent specialists we work hard to find the perfect river cruise for our clients - at the very best prices too! A little more about us ...

6 thoughts on “Tipping on River Cruises in Europe

  1. My wife and I went on a Avalon Cruise on the Rhine in September 2017. I beg to differ with Simeon as we are English and booked our trip with UK office and were told that all staff,crew and managers tips were included in the price we paid. However, as a previous passenger stated we were also given envelopes for crew and cruise director gratuities. May I also point out that Avalon travelling arrangements to the embarking and disembarking ports plus flights need a lot to be desired. These last two points have put us off booking a holiday in 2018 with Avalon.

    • Thanks for the comment John.

      I’m sorry Avalon let you down with their travel arrangements. We have certainly had experience where the default flight/rail options presented are not the best for our clients. On these occasions we will work with Avalon to find a more convenient routing. This is the approach we take with all of the river cruise companies we work with.

      As an independent specialist our focus is very much with our clients and ensuring they have a wonderful time – that way they come back to us! We would be delighted to assist you in finding a much more positive experience should you be looking at river cruising in the future.

      Regarding your points re tipping it does just go to show how confusing it can be for clients when operators differentiate the service inclusions to different clients. You had pre-paid gratuities for the Crew ad Cruise Director with your cruise fare. This is part of the published UK package with Avalon. You should certainly not have felt obliged to add anything further.

      Avalon’s current UK travel document pack does include specific information regarding gratuities, and one ‘pre-paid gratuities’ voucher per person. I have included the wording below for clarity. If you did not receive this information you may wish to raise this omission with Avalon.

      Please note that tips for your Cruise Director, the ship’s crew, local guides and drivers are included in the price of your holiday. However we have included pre-paid tipping vouchers towards the end of this document, which you may wish to cut out and put inside the tipping envelope, which will be delivered to your stateroom on board. If you feel you have had an exceptional experience and wish to give an extra tip, you can also put this in the same tipping envelope and place it inside the tipping box in the reception area on the last day of your cruise. Putting the vouchers in the tipping envelope or adding in an extra tip is entirely at your discretion.

      Kind regards


  2. We traveled Avalon in May 2017 (Paris to Normandy) and we were given envelopes and amount of tip due for Crew and Cruise Director. We were informed that the tips for the tour guides and drivers were included in our Avalon air/cruise package.

    • Hi Claudia

      Thank you for this. Am I right in assuming you booked your cruise through the US. Avalon’s US terms do still explicitly exclude tips for the ship crew and local guides – however they do state ‘subject to information at time of booking’. So perhaps they are using this as an incentive offer for certain departures – definitely one to ask about!

      Avalon have also changed their UK package for 2017 to include all gratuities, so a much simpler message.

      Kind regards


  3. Hi Alex, Thank you for your info above. I will be travelling on an Avalon Impression cruise trip in upcoming May. The tipping policy under Avalon guideline indicate exactly the opposite of what you suggested. Which is tipping is extra for Cruise Director and staff crews, but included for local guides and driver. The following link can clarify what Avalon current policy is, http://www.avalonwaterways.com/user/know-before-you-go/europe/know-before-you-go-avalon-europe.pdf

    • Hi James, and thanks for your comment, and the link to Avalon’s information for US packages. As a UK based travel agent we contract through Avalon in the UK; this package is a little different from the US one and does include gratuities for the ship crew and cruise director. I think this reflects the different cultural norms for tipping between the US & UK. More information on this can be found on the Avalon website from the following link: Avalon Waterways – On Board Information. What is very interesting is that you highlight the fact that the information relating to local guides is exactly the opposite – this seems strange and is something I will clarify with Avalon.

      We are, of course, delighted to offer our services and packages to international clients, and with the current exchange rate, are able to offer some really excellent prices to those purchasing in dollars!

      Kind regards


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