Unless the gratuity is included, which is very rare and always clearly stated, it is expected that charter guests tip the crew at the end of the charter.
Tips can make up a large portion of a crew's pay. By keeping it as a separate item, the charterer can reward a crew that has done a fabulous job and a crew can feel that if they go the extra mile, they have a chance of getting a bonus for their extra efforts.
How much should you give? For The Caribbean, the range is 10 to 20 percent of the charter fee. If the charter fee does not include meals, the tip should be based on just the boat fee.
If you feel the crew has done a good job, 15% is a good tip - by giving 10%, you are telling the crew that things were OK but not perfect.
These guidelines are the same for hired crews or owner operators. Many of the owner operators work hard to cover the cost of the cruising lifestyle they have chosen and don't have the funds of an absentee owner who might have invested in a boat just for personal vacations. There are of course exceptions - not all absentee owners are wealthy or owner/operators broke, but the same rules apply regarding gratuities!
Checks can be difficult to cash, particularly for a boat cruising in a different area, and all banks charge a fee for checks drawn on an overseas account. It is therefore much nicer to give the tip in cash or travellers checks. Leave it in an envelope, perhaps with a nice card or note. Unless you have strong opinions, give just one gratuity, which the crew will divide up between themselves. For enormous charters, where the tip can run well into five figures, it is obviously impractical to use cash, and tips are often prepaid or wired to the boat at the end of the charter.
Please don't be one of those charterers that try to trick the system. We have had guests write copious, glowing notes in the yacht's log book and even on the post charter form they send to us when they return home, yet they walk off the boat without leaving anything.
We try hard to make sure you know about the gratuity at the very beginning of the booking process, so you can budget in this cost when selecting a boat in your price range. We also include it in the cost summary we send with the contract, to look over before confirming.
Please let us know if you have any questions regarding crew gratuities.