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My acute embarrassment - an analysis of cruise tipping for Europeans

My acute embarrassment - an analysis of cruise tipping for Europeans

Old Oct 22nd, 2011, 06:18 AM
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My acute embarrassment - an analysis of cruise tipping for Europeans

As a resident of Spain I was rather confused on my recent first-time cruise of the eastern Mediterranean as to the ins-and-outs of tipping on Celebrity. At first I opted out of the default automatic tipping charge as recommended by Celebrity. My reason was that I wanted to experience the quality of the service before I chose to accept the recommended levels. But then I got to speaking to some cruise veterans and this led me to pose questions to Guest Relations and finally to a senior dining officer. What I learned shocked me.

Those recommended 'tips' are not what we Europeans understand them to be. Most cruise lines are either managed from the US or follow US practice, so even when in the Med on a Malta registered boat, US habit reigns. And I subsequently learned that these also apply to most restaurants in the US itself. Those 'tips' are in fact supplementary salary elements because most US restaurants and cruise companies pay their staff well below the minimum wage. I am not making this up - it is an easily verifiable fact. I felt so strongly about this issue that I wrote a special blog in which the detail of my research can be found - http://pedro-in-spain.blogspot.com/

And if you think that by opting for the automatic gratuity system you are free from having to 'tip', you will be confronted by sad faces from the ship's service staff when you provide them with nothing at the end of the trip. I was not prepared for this second round of 'tipping' and so I arrived unprepared (no cash in my pocket) on the last night.

I remain rather bitter at the industry for conning us that 'tips' are a voluntary recognition of a high service quality, when in fact they are a sly way for the restaurant or cruise company to move legitimate operating costs (in this case salaries) from themselves onto their guests and trying to camouflage this as a payment for exemplary attention and quality. And it gets even worse as I posted on the blog. Amongst these are that tipping levels have reached 20% in New York and Miami, and seem set to go even higher.

As a result of my extremely awkward embarrassment on that ultimate cruise night, I offer this post to first-time European cruisers so as not to make the same gaffe as I did. I also advise them to evaluate their 'dining out in the USA' and their cruise trip values by adding at least 15% to the seeming 'full cost' that they are expecting.

So if you are ever accused of being tight-fisted because you usually tip 10% and not the ridiculous 20% or more, then take solace in the fact that you are used to companies paying a liveable basic wage.
Pedroinspain is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2011, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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The auto tips were enacted for this very reason, so as to not stiff the crew by ducking out on the last night when the tips are handed out. Its true that the cruise companies pay their staff very little but the flip side is that as most of them are from countries with developing economies what they do get is a lot more than what they could get working at home. We auto tip ad usually add some more as well because it goes a long way to helping them. If you take the time to speak with the crew, like the ones you see more often like your cabin attendant and those who wait on your table you find out that they are often working the ships to support their families or extended families are have to be away for six mos. at a time or more. They work very hard so if we can afford to tip a bit more then why not. Thank you for this thoughtful post. BTW this subject has turned up on cruise critic as well and it seems those who live in countries where tipping is not the norm have a difficult time understanding this. They say the crew should be paid more. If that occurs then so will the passengers so I say tip as suggested. It won't kill you to do so for the time on your cruise. Then go back home and do what you please. JM2C
jacketwatch is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2011, 02:27 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Tipping varies quite widely lots of chiselers cruise

and used to leave 0 auto tip system works well for most.

Some lines like SeaBourn have a no tipping policy

Personally always leave something 15% for good 20% for great

0 for abysmal(you can do this) and 10% for poor.

The least I can do for the hardworking staff.
qwovadis is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 01:15 AM
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I suggest it is the cruise company who is "stiffing the crew" by paying paltry wages and expecting their guests to top these up to a level that provides a decent wages for the job. I would far prefer to have a higher overall cruise cost that provides staff with a proper wage. That way I can give them a REAL tip (and not a salary supplement) in appreciation (or not) of the level of their efforts. No stiffing - just and fair reward.

So I suggest that, instead of blaming the guests, it is the cruise companies who should enter the first world.

It is utterly transparent to me why they do this. It makes the total cruise cost LOOK lower. So it is a pure con. I say stop blaming the guests and start blaming a sicko industry.
Pedroinspain is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 01:18 AM
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You call some guests chisselers. It seems that you don't think that an industry that is paying starvation wages is the real chisseler? I do, and I utterly reject the lame argument that "that is the way it is, so stop whining".
Pedroinspain is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 03:26 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Fascinating stuff, Pedro and thanks for posting.

Where does the 12 - 15% service charge automatically added to everything come in to this? Do we auto-tip, then pay 15% service charge - then tip AGAIN?
dogster is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 08:25 AM
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Posts: 14,240
Very interesting research that you have done Pedro.

Thanks for posting
Percy is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 01:52 PM
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Your question hits the reason for tipping squarely on its head. "Where does the 12 - 15% service charge automatically added to everything come in to this? Do we auto-tip, then pay 15% service charge - then tip AGAIN?"

If you opt for the autocharge, it is clear to me that you are not 'tipping'. You are contributing to the salary of the service staff. So, in order to show your appreciaqtion for quality service, yes, you are then meant to 'tip' again.

Crazy, isn't it?
Now, ponder this one. When you only have one crack at giving a 'gratuity' (say at a restaurant), what % of what you drop on the table is meant to be a contribution to your delightful server's salary, and what % is your appreciation for the exemplary service that you received? If you don't know, how is the server meant to know?

How about this? Ask the restaurant/cruise line manager what he/she recommends that you offer to service staff so as to make up for the third-world salaries that their establishment is paying to its workers, and then ask them how much they recommend you pay as an appreciation for service above that which you expected.

If they have the cojones to reply to you, then ask them if they think this is fair to their loyal staff and to their guests.
Pedroinspain is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 08:01 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,244
As someone who has only recently begun looking at cruises, I too was surprised to find there is double-dipping via an auto-tip plus 12.5% added to spending on board. Now you're saying they expect tips for good service on top of that? Triple-dipping, no less?

I've never accepted the argument that tipping is necessary to supplement low wages, and agree that it is the cruise co who is 'stiffing' the crew if they indulge in this practice. In my world tipping is for service over and above excellent. After all, 'excellent' is the standard one expects as a minimum, before the question of tipping even arises.

How about this? Outstanding service (something special & extra) - tip; Good to excellent service - no tip, but happily pay the bill; Poor service - deduct from the bill or (if quality bad as well as service) refuse to pay the bill at all. Make sure they know why, of course - feedback is important.
twoflower is offline  
Old Oct 24th, 2011, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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It was my understanding (I think I read it on Cruise Critic a few years ago) that if you choose to do the auto tipping, at the end of the cruise your servers had received a list of their tables and which people did the auto tip. I assume it would be the same for the cabin attendants.

My last cruise was a couple years ago on Celebrity - I did the auto tip and didn't feel uncomfortable on the last night in the dining room. However, the auto tip is supposed to make it easier for the passenger - if I was made to feel uncomfortable because I auto tipped (or if I found out that the servers do not know you auto tipped) then I'd just opt to tip personally the next cruise.
chepar is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2011, 03:39 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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"I too was surprised to find there is double-dipping via an auto-tip plus 12.5% added to spending on board"

Huh? Where?

Flat rate of $10-12 a day is charged, depends on the cruise line, after that only 15% surcharge is added to drinks. If you don't drink, you don't pay. Some restaurants have surcharge per person. Again, if you go to a "free" restaurant, no additional fee.

Now the cruise lines issue vouchers for auto-tippers, you can add cash to the envelope if you like.
Dayenu is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2011, 11:48 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Cultures that are used to tipping and those that are not. Never the twain shall meet so hey when in Rome...... Not so hard is it? Try it. You won't change the culture any more that I will.
jacketwatch is offline  
Old Nov 10th, 2011, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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And the tips aren't astronomical either. We auto-tipped, gave the cabin steward a twenty, the dining room staff another $10 a night, and left a dollar on the bar when we got drinks. Judging from the reactions of the staff these were pretty good tips. If you can afford to take a cruise, I think you can afford to tip that way.

And we ate in the dining room a lot (every dinner-two breakfasts-an afternoon tea and a lunch). We would have tipped less if we had been in there less. We also gave room service a couple of bucks every time they came. We figured that the dinners alone in any even halfway decent restaurant would have come to $600 dollars easily, so even with the auto-tip, if was not all that wildly generous.
persimmondeb is offline  
Old Nov 10th, 2011, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Actually if you auto tip then whatever you give over that is a bonus in a sense so you dan't have to give too much and its still generous IMHO.
jacketwatch is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2011, 04:51 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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One issue tha has not been addressed is te behind the scene staff. You tip your server. How about the poor dishwasher or line cook? Do you tip the poor guy (or gal) who flip the eggs or make the omlette or pizza for you? The daily auto tip would be an even-handed way to amke sure everyone (including thsoe that you don't see) gets a share.

A lot of restaurants have policy taht the server tip-out the bus staff, hostess, cooks and bartenders etc from teh tip that receive.

As Larry said, when in Rome, do what the Roman's do. I remember an auti-tip on the guest check at a restaurant in Rome. We just came back from Peru & Ecudor and their menu prices actually have tax and tips built-in.

Everywhere is diffferent. So, Pedro, you are doing a good thing to tell your fellow Euro friends to "tip" proeprly. As to the "poor wages", it is an entirely different debate.
Eschew is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2012, 02:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I have been re reading this post and am perturbed. There are 6 of us-3 young children. This is a special trip for us. The automatic tipping is above what we expected to pay for the trip. If we agree to the automatic tipping, I truly would not add any extra, unless a staff person did something way above what is expected. People save up to go on a special trip and it is callous to suggest that if you can afford a cruise, you can afford the extra.

If the staff is made aware of the passengers who are opting in to the automatic tipping, does that mean that the service is poorer because the staff is already aware of their gratuity? Please explain.
ita is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2012, 06:40 AM
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They won't give you less service, but they may not go out of their way in the same way if you are not perceived as a "tipper", although I don't think they usually know if you have taken part in the auto tipping. Plus, these people work their bottoms off, for not very much money, and in most cases, seem to really enjoy pleasing the passengers. Our tip total, for that cruise on top of the auto tip, was $60 plus singles for room service and bar staff, probably to the tune of another 20 or 30 dollars.

I understand that it's a special trip, and that you have saved for it, and are not wealthy. Trust me, neither are we, and it's not something we do every day either, but if my budget could not stand that extra $80 or $100, I really would ask myself if I could afford it. As I said before, I might have tipped less in the dining room if we ate there less, and if you do not order room service or bar drinks, there's no need to tip there.
persimmondeb is offline  
Old Jan 17th, 2012, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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It is how you look at things. I see "auto tip" as part of the cost of the cruise and I built that amount in my budgeting and planning.

While we are on board, we tip extra for examply service, sometime maybe to the excess (according to some travel companions who had cruised with us), but that is at our discretions and we believe we are getting our money's worth.

Some of you may have heard me rant and rave about how great my TA teams are and how they go out of the way to do things for us. But then, we brought muffins when we drop in the Travel office and chat about potential plans, we sent them flowers or thank you cards after our trips, chocolates for Christmas and sometimes, even a gift card after an excellent orchestrated trip.

Offering rewards (tipping, as an expample) after a good behavior (great service) encourages more desirable behaviors.
That might explain why the above and beyond services provided by our TAs, and there are many times that they knew we might not even book after they have done all the homework for us.
Eschew is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2012, 09:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 925
more than the extra money it is the constant hassle of whether to tip or not to tip, when to tip, etc. I hate this part of travelling in the U.S. I much prefer travelling in Europe. I understand that the customer is paying somewhere but it is there and no game playing is necessary.
ita is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2012, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,739
I hear you, and that's why I liked the "auto-tip" on the cruise. No need to find cash or keep cash for tipping. I consider the auto-tip as part of the fare and that's the end of it.

The extra tips given beyond the auto-tip is for service above and beyond. On one cruise where DW was sort of sea-sick and we asked for some raw ginger to help settle her stomach. The Head waiter in charge took it upon himself to go the kitchen and got her some finely grinded fresh ginger in a small bowl. After dinner, he made another one and wrapped it so we can take it back to the cabin. The next night, he stopped by and ask how she was doing and he brought another bowl of freshly grinded ginger. They preapred special meals for her without the heavy sauces and other extras stuff. I called it above and beyond, and they were rewarded for it after the fact. (BTW, it was on the Ruby Princess inauguaral cruise and we hit some rough water)

There should be no hassle or game playing. Do the auto-tip and give extras only for above and beyond.
Eschew is offline  
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