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.