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It's About 'Gratuities' on Cruise Ships…

The problem with tipping is tipping. When does it start and when does it end. On cruise ships, sometimes you never know. On almost all cruises, you pay "gratuities" up front. End of story? Not necessarily.

On almost all cruises, there's the suggestion that you can tip room stewards, servers, bartenders, spa specialists…something a little extra if you think it's deserved. It's always nice to get permission to do that, but we've also been on cruises where it's more than a hint. Envelopes for you to leave for each of the people who served you — empty until you put something in them.

Princess Cruises just had a taste of how passengers feel about surprise tips, although it wasn't called that.

On the Regal Princess, reportedly without notice, a surcharge of $3 was added to all room service deliveries. A few earfuls later, the cruise line canceled the surcharge, telling one unhappy passenger it was a trial on the Regal Princess.

What do some of the other lines do?

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian add a fee if you order room service between midnight and 5 a.m., and Norwegian charges for pizza delivery.

Holland America's room service is complimentary, 24 hours.

So is Carnival's.

Passengers expect tipping to be covered once they pay gratuities up front. Gratuities are gratuities, right.

Unless you want to give something extra…

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
October 5, 2014
Galveston (return): RoatanBelizeCozumel
Inside: $453
Cost per day: $64

Reasons for Cruising's Extra Costs

Sometimes, it gets a little wearying to hear cruise passengers complain about having to pay for soda pop. In all the years we've been on cruise ships, that's always been the case so in the end, there are only three words to say:

Deal with it.

Besides alcohol, charging passengers for pop may have been the first "extra source" of income for cruise lines. Like everybody else, we were shocked at the tactic the first time we went cruising. Over time, we have come to understand, because generally cruise lines have kept the cost of cruising in line, while searching for other ways to make a buck. That is, after all, what business is all about, isn't it? Is it just a coincidence that fares have stayed affordable as cruise lines have added extra cost options.

And one more thing:

For people who think cruising should be an all-inclusive experience, because that's what it's always been, here's a few things to remember:

1. You don't have to pay for the pop…don't drink it.

2. You don't have to pay for booze…don't drink.

3. You don't have to pay to dine at a specialty restaurant…there are always enough eateries included.

4. You don't have to go on a shore excursion…you can just be a passenger.

5. You don't have to pay for souvenir photos…take your own, or go home without them.

The fact is, you do have a choice. If you want to pay your cruise fare (plus gratuities and taxes) and nothing else, you do have that option.

Diamond Princess
16 nights
September 22, 2012
Anchorage, Sapporo, Aomori, Vladivostok, Shanghai, Dallan, Beijing
Inside: $898
Cost per day: $56

Tipping on Cruise Ships, Part 2

We’re really not obsessed with this subject but it does warrant another comment, even though yesterday’s blog was all about P&O’s new policy. This time, Carnival’s in the news.

This isn’t a big deal, at least in our world, but some of you may be happy to hear that the maitre d’ on Carnival ships is no longer part of the tipping community. You don’t need to tip the maitre d’…you don’t have to watch videos about tipping the maitre d’…you don’t have to worry about getting an envelope implying that you should tip the maitre d’.

But you still can, of course.

Obviously, Carnival was getting some heat about that implication. Since the people wearing that nameplate and title are happy about the change, Carnival has clearly given them something to feel happy about it.

Like tips.

Carnival Spirit
9 nights
March 2, 2012
San Diego (return) to Cabo San Lucas
Inside $539

Carnival tips the scale for balance

Call it tipping. Call it rewarding good service. Call it paying gratuities. Whatever you call it, this is one of the most contentious issues among people who take cruises.

Carnival is the latest to cruise line make news on tipping and/or gratuities, a subject cruise lines would prefer not having to address when charging more. The daily gratuity on Carnival ships goes up 15% on December 1, from $10 to $11.50.

In making its case — price increases always need to have cases made — Carnival points out it’s the first increase in 10 years. It also points out that Carnival’s rate is now in line with other lines: Royal Caribbean is $11.65 and Norwegian $12.

Like most people who have cruised numerous times, we’ve always accepted the gratuity policy as part of the trip, whatever it is, and that it’s one more thing you don’t have to think about on the cruise. What we’ve objected to is being made to feel that the “daily gratuity” should be increased if we’re happy (or happier) with the service…and that has happened to us.

To us, if you want to “guarantee” tips, don’t imply that more would be a good idea. Cruise lines can’t have it both ways.

And you?

Azamara Journey
14 nights
December 4, 2011
Barbados to Rio de Janeiro
Inside $2,849

Playing the Cruise Tipping Game

Tip can be a four-letter word on cruise ships. When do you tip, when don’t you tip?

The rule of thumb is that you pay $10 or more per-person per-day, and that’s it. Well, that used to be the rule of thumb.

People on vacations generally prefer some form of all-inclusivity, even with tipping. Today, tipping etiquette on cruise ships is all over the place. Some cruises include tipping, most don’t. Some room stewards expect an extra tip, some don’t. Some cruise lines expect extra tips for stewards, waiters, etc…with the caveat that they have provided “exemplary service.”

And now there are specialty restaurants. You pay $20 to $35 to dine there. There is usually no mention of whether that extra fee is all-inclusive. Should it be?

Tips…as you can see, it is a four-letter word after all.

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