Extortion - The "Elephant" in the Room (Cabin).

By decoupling “end-of-trip tip envelopes” from the ship staff bottom lines, service has suffered – and passengers are being conditioned to accept the lower standards as “one of those things.” Cooly civil vs unctuous service is the new norm. But - wait a minute. It isn’t as though this is a trip to somewhere, like an airplane, bus or train – where the stewardesses, stewards, ticket booths and baggage handlers are merely facilitating your travel. With cruise ships it is different – the cruise experience is the whole reason you are “traveling” – it’s like a hotel, theater, restaurant all in one – with the added plus that occasionally you wake up to find yourself in another city/town/port.  You shouldn’t have to pay top dollar and then pay an additional 30 or 40 percent “To Insure Prompt Service.”


So what can you do about it? Stop tipping. Not much you can do about the automatic “gratuity” inflating your bar tabs – but you certainly can refuse to tip extra above and beyond the built-in extortion.  Visit the guest services desk the last day of the trip and have the “automatic gratuities” removed. Repay “above and beyond the call” courtesies by lavishly filling out those “special comment cards” available at customer service.

Tags: Tips Shipboard nickle and diming Shipboard Extortion

8 Answers

The business model of the cruise lines is to have the majority of some crewmembers paycheck come from the tip pool.

If everyone were to heed your advice, then many crewmembers would not only lose a large percentage of their check, but would also lose their jobs as corporate would figure that you pulled your tips due to the employees ineptness.

There are calls to stop the automatic gratuity and just add it to the fare. If this were to happen, the customer would be paying the same as they are currently with the gratuity, so what difference would it make to the customer? On the other hand, the corporate taxes would go up, thereby necessitating another fare hike.

I have an idea that might be easier to swallow for out European or Australian friends (where tipping is not the norm). Instead of calling it automatic gratuity charge, just call it additional daily charge. Then you are no longer tipping, you are just paying a daily surcharge (much like a resort fee). There, now, Everybody's happy!

I agree with both of you. Calling it a gratuity is misleading at best. I personally would rather it be built in the price of the cruise to avoid all the "hub-bub". I know the tax the headquarters goes up, but it isn't a gratuity if it is "required". When we have outstanding service we actually tip that crew member. We have gotten to the point where we consider the "standard gratuity" as part of the cruise price.

If I'm already paying for the cruise I look at the auto tipping as part of the price. I prepay it and then it does not bother me. I know not all of it goes to the crew members that work so long hours and hard to insure I have a great vacation. I still give cash tips to the crew that I feel deserve it.

To just pull all tipping off is mean spirited to all the people that work so hard to be sure you have a good vacation. The crew does not make much money and they work very long hours. I know I would not do the job they do let alone be cheerful and smiling all day every day as they do.

To the cheap people that pull the tips no matter how good the service, Karma is a bitch and I hope it bites you in the behind.

If you can not afford the extra $ 13.00 a day per person, maybe you can not afford the cruise and should stay home and camp in the yard, have a camp fire and eat canned chili, canned beef stew or canned pasta. Even with the auto tipping cruising is still the best vacation value.

Well said and so true!!!

I've been thinking that more experienced cruisers probably incorporate the tips into the cost of the cruise while the new cruiser may be "blind sided" by them. It reminded me to be sure our friend, who is going her first cruise, (without us Crying) knows about them. Thanks for the push to remind her... we already had.Big Smile

This is the dilemma in any service based industry. How to keep front line staff motivated.

On some lines the gratuity charges are increasing but staffing levels are decreasing. Many reports of long bar lines with a single bar tender when there used to be 2 or 3 behind that bar. Attempts to cut cabin service to once per day are another example. Fewer staff doing the same jobs usually means they are doing more work and are therefore less happy about it translating into a poor front line experience for customers.

I've always paid the 'automatic' gratuities plus tipped beyond that on a one-to-one basis, but with service and staffing levels both decreasing I've started questioning that. I'd rather tip generously to those that earn it but recognize in the cruise industry there are lots of folks behind the scenes I never meet.

It's a complex problem the industry better figure out without letting the marketing nuts drive the show so they can advertise $199 cruise fares while loading on three times that in fees and charges on the back end.

"Gratuity" onboard a cruise ship is a euphemism for "scam." Unless you hand it out personally in cash as a tip - the worker never sees it. And being expected to "tip" people you never see is ludicrous.

We have never asked for the automatic gratuity to be removed or reduced. If someone goes above & beyond what is expected, we will tip something additional. My husband gets special meal requests, so we do tip our servers extra since they have to make extra trips to the kitchen and also get him the next night's menu.


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