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To Tip Or Not - Cruise Etiquette

May 29, 2008
The issue of tipping can cause a lot of problems, usually as a direct result of a lack of understanding or clear communication. This is not helped by the fact that policies and expectations on tipping vary widely depending on which cruise line company you are travelling with and even, in some cases, which ship you are going on.

Often it used to be the case that passengers would tip each waiter, waitress or steward a small amount each time they did some kind of service, but then found out later that 15% had been added to the bill anyway for gratuities. In this way, the passengers ended up paying twice, and it can certainly add up to a considerable sum of money, especially since many cruises are ten to fourteen days.

Some companies make it clear that no tips are expected, but that instead there is a 15% gratuity charge on each bought service. Of course, this does mean that if your steward provides you with an excellent service you are quite free to tip him or her at the end of the cruise. As a usually guide, tipping is considered to be in the region of 1.50 pounds per person per day. There are some cruise line companies that don't include gratuities but also don't expect tips. Instead, they add a 5 pounds charge per person per day to the cruise, and this is then divided between the restaurant staff, the stewards and waiters. Again, you are more than free to add your own tip, but this reduces the expectation and helps clear up the matter so that people know where they are.

Having said all that, it is still the case that you are likely to expect a slightly higher level of service, and a slightly more prompt one, if you are known as someone who tips. Word will spread, and it is important for you to bear in mind whether the additional cost is worth it for a very slightly sharpened service.

An alternative way of managing this which a few companies have started doing is to have a single pot of tips that are automatically included in the overall cost, but that passengers have the chance to vote for their favourite steward or waiter. In this way, you can still reward those staff you feel have provided an exceptional service, but not directly from your pocket. Those staff who receive the most votes win a proportion, or greater proportion of the overall funds available for tipping.

As you can see, the schemes and rules are very varied, and it is not easy to tell in advance what the advice will be. If in doubt, it is always best to contact the cruise line and ask. Often, you'll find that you will be given literature which will offer you specific advice regarding this, usually to be found in a section of 'frequently asked questions' Make sure you look at this in advance and query anything you're not sure of. If this is your first cruise you are likely to be somewhat flummoxed by the varied expectations, and if this is not your first cruise, you may be unsure as to the expectations since it will have varied so much in the past. Don't assume, ask, if in any doubt at all.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant about luggage, cruises, hotels, and shopping. You will find the best marketplace for luggage, cruises, hotels, and shopping at these sites for bags, luggage, cruises, etiquette, tipping, and shopping.
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