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Quick Guide: Tipping on River Cruises in Europe

Amadeus Symphony Restaurant

You do need to know what to do about tipping on river cruises in Europe.  Especially in the UK where we don’t have a culture of tipping, it can seem daunting for new customers. 

If you have sailed on an ocean cruise you will be familiar with either pre paying your tips or having them added to your on board account,  or they have been included in the cost of your cruise usually as a special offer (which is what Viking have been offering for sailing in 2019 and 2020).

We have put together a simple checklist to help you compare inclusions by operator to help you budget for your cruise.  Being forewarned is being forearmed.

Tipping on river cruising is different to ocean cruising gratuities, so don’t worry

River cruise tipping is almost exclusively discretionary, so you’re always in charge.

Tipping on river cruises in Europe

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

Firstly, these are generally 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?

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 (please be aware that this reflects the UK package, other offers may vary).

APT – Gratuities are included for all services included in the itinerary

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.

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.

Tauck  there is nothing to pay tipping wise  – in fact if a staff member accepts a gratuity, they will be dismissed.

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

Viking – for 2019 & 2020 Viking are including gratuities as part of their early booking offer.  Check at the time of booking to confirm whether this is still available.

Which river cruise companies include ON BOARD gratuities only

Avalon Waterways – All gratuities are included for the onboard crew

Emerald Waterways – All gratuities are included for the onboard crew

Viking River Cruises – All gratuities are included for the onboard crew

So just remember to take a few extra euro’s for tips to the local tour guides on excursions

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

The main river cruise companies which don’t include gratuities are: Saga,  Riviera, Amadeus, CroisiEurope and AmaWaterways. The operator’s recommended daily amount varies from around €5-€15 a day per guest, 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’ vessel would cost, if guidelines were followed, €119 per passenger;  i.e. €15 a day for staff and cruise manager and then €2 a day between the coach driver and local guide.  For Riviera Travel the recommended guidelines are slightly lower at €5-€10 per guest per day, so €35 – €70 per guest for a 7 night cruise.

All operators will stress that gratuities are absolutely discretionary.  They are generally collected in an envelope at the end of the cruise.  You are therefore entirely free to make your own decisions, which may be above, or below the operators’ guidelines, depending on your experience.

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 comparison sheet, by clicking the image below, to see what each operator includes and help work out the relative costs for your chosen holiday.

River Cruise Inclusions Comparison

If you need a little more personal advice on tipping on a river cruise, just give us a call!

Alex Leete

About Alex Leete

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!

View all posts by Alex Leete

Ask a Question


  1. 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.

    1. 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


  2. 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,

    1. 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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