Travel agents have been asked to encourage guests for Celebrity Cruises to pre-pay gratuities at the time they make a booking.

Speaking to trade partners on Allure of the Seas, the new ship for sister line Royal Caribbean International, head of national accounts Nicky Tempest-Mitchell conceded it was a “contentious issue”.

But she added: “This is an industry norm. We ask you as trade partners to really work with us to get as many guests to pre-book gratuities before they travel.

“It’s there to reward the phenomenal service that they [the ship’s crew] give to our guests. We will support you if you need more tools to get that message across.”

Gratuities on US-operated ships have become an increasing issue for foreign markets like Britain where the culture for paying tips is different.

One agent said that she would like the operator to pay commission on this to compensate for the time and effort put in when they make just 8% on a premium product worth £2,000 plus.

Jo Rzymowska, UK general manager for Royal Caribbean, said: “Overall the cruise industry does pay very good commissions.

“This is about adding value to the consumer, making sure that the way that holiday is sold to then they know everything they can about that holiday, making sure they maximise that holiday and when they come back to book they come back and book with you.

“Commissions are very generous and there is no other sector that supports the trade in the way the cruise industry does. We do believe we offer favourable commercial terms.”

Tempest-Mitchell urged agents not to sell Celebrity on price and to drive early sales to keep the premium brand out of the late discounting market.

“We want to try to take Celebrity out of the late booking sales market as much as we can so it does not get in that late market as much as it did this year,” she said. “Hopefully that will stop some of the price sensitivity issues.

“One of the biggest challenges is to help us sell Celebrity as a premium cruise line. We really ask you not to sell it on price.” Due to deployments for 2011 Celebrity is set to rival P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises in Europe next year in terms of capacity.

Product innovations revealed today included a Champagne tea for $19 per person inspired by a similar offering at The Ritz in London that charges $250. There will also be art themed ship audio tours conducted in iPads which will also be available to hire for people wanting to keep up with news from home.