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Thoughts on Gratuities?


Emrys
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Just wondering what everyone's thoughts are regarding gratuities?

Some major cruise lines have already increased their rates, and Royal Caribbean could be next. Do you usually just tip the crew member directly, such as the room steward, or just go with the automatic rate the cruise line charges from the onboard account?

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Gratuities are a necessary evil.  We go with the automatic tip charge to our onboard account and bring cash as well for extra tipping. 
 

We have done a Azamara cruise where tips were included. We still left a tip for our cabin steward. Currently looking at Virgin Voyages where tips are also included. 

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We always apply the full automatic tip as well as do a bit extra for the cabin steward and our MDR wait staff, based on their level of service.  They all work extremely hard at making our cruise the best.  We found these really fun and inexpensive ship-themed greeting cards on Amazon that we write a nice thank you note and include the tip in.

We've also started a new tradition.  It's not uncommon for us, as we walk around the ship (especially in today's post-COVID world), to see crew members around the ship in the public areas diligently cleaning every surface or doing other maintenance work to keep the ships in tip-top shape.  These crew members get little one-on-one feedback or attention from guests it seems.  And, they are a big part of making the cruise work.

So, we now make a habit to search some one out each day and also hand them a thank you card with a small cash tip inside and a chocolate treat.  They are so appreciative and shocked at the attention.  We've even done that for the guest services people who help us as we know they mostly just get a lot of complaints or negative feedback.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Crew member certainly do work hard and always good to directly tip the steward who has been looking after your cabin for the voyage. @RoadTravelled, that's so nice to give out a thank you card each day, it's especially nice for those that making sure the ship is clean and don't often get much attention.

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I honestly would rather pay gratuities, because it does make sure that everyone working in service-related jobs gets a piece of the extra dollar.  There is a lot of crew in the background and we never get to see them,  Like the washers, security, chefs, cooks, kitchen cleaners etc.  We only see the waiters and stewards that clean our cabins and they are the ones that generally get generous tips, while the others don't.  So, I do not mind paying gratuities.  

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Merriam-Webster Definition of gratuity - something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service

My preference would be for how it was. Cruise ships gratuities have become a service fee rather than an inducement for outstanding personal service. So now, the expectation is to pay the fee because the crew is counting on it and also tip for extraordinary service. Essentially, the cruise lines have found a way to separate out crew pay from the fare, so that fare quotes are lower (just like port fees and taxes)! How many people actually go to customer service and request removing the service fee / gratuity? I'd bet very few.

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  • 1 month later...
On 8/27/2022 at 1:36 PM, kefthecruiser said:

Merriam-Webster Definition of gratuity - something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service

My preference would be for how it was. Cruise ships gratuities have become a service fee rather than an inducement for outstanding personal service. So now, the expectation is to pay the fee because the crew is counting on it and also tip for extraordinary service. Essentially, the cruise lines have found a way to separate out crew pay from the fare, so that fare quotes are lower (just like port fees and taxes)! How many people actually go to customer service and request removing the service fee / gratuity? I'd bet very few.

Thanks for posting the definition.  So many have forgotten (or deliberately ignore) the true purpose of tipping.  As @RoadTravelledopined, a true tip is earned and is in recognition of superior service.  A Daily Service Charge is not a tip or gratuity IMHO - it is a fee.  Thankfully, there is still some latitude with some cruise lines to reflect your true impressions of the staff's performance.  When I get great service, the staff member will know it and be able to continue to set an example for their colleagues.

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  • 1 month later...

I prepaid gratuities on Carnival, but found that's it's really awkward to not tip as you go so we also tipped our room steward and MDR staff extra.I also prepaid gratuities with the drink package but found ourselves tipping anywhere from $1-$5 per drink. After getting into a deep conversation with our MDR main waiter he accidentally told us how much he made.... a whooping $700 a month. So, we will always tip and then some. He could have been lying but I doubt it.... 

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19 hours ago, cben said:

I prepaid gratuities on Carnival, but found that's it's really awkward to not tip as you go so we also tipped our room steward and MDR staff extra.I also prepaid gratuities with the drink package but found ourselves tipping anywhere from $1-$5 per drink. After getting into a deep conversation with our MDR main waiter he accidentally told us how much he made.... a whooping $700 a month. So, we will always tip and then some. He could have been lying but I doubt it.... 

Based on what I've researched and discussions with various crew, I would be skeptical that a lead MDR waiter made only $700/mo.  That might be what he makes in tips though.  After all he does have an incentive to make you want to tip him?  My understanding is that bar and waitstaff positions are highly coveted on the ship as they get loads of tips — both pre-paid, automatic gratuities applied at the end, and individual tips along the way.  I would suspect that it's more likely that an experienced lead waiter makes in the neighborhood of $1,500 - $2,000/mo.

Also, it's very important to note when talking about income for crew, that Carnival provides them housing, food, transportation, laundry, uniforms, medical, internet, etc. that for the most part does not come out of their pocket, like would be the case for a land-based waiter.  So, let's say that for a land-based waiter those type expenses amount to a conservative 60% of their income.  So, that makes the ship waiter's income in comparison to be between $2,500 - $3,333/mo.  This represents a very healthy income that they can use to support both themselves and their families back in their home country (where spending power generally is even more powerful with these dollars).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/23/2022 at 3:09 PM, RoadTravelled said:

Based on what I've researched and discussions with various crew, I would be skeptical that a lead MDR waiter made only $700/mo.  That might be what he makes in tips though.  After all he does have an incentive to make you want to tip him?  My understanding is that bar and waitstaff positions are highly coveted on the ship as they get loads of tips — both pre-paid, automatic gratuities applied at the end, and individual tips along the way.  I would suspect that it's more likely that an experienced lead waiter makes in the neighborhood of $1,500 - $2,000/mo.

Also, it's very important to note when talking about income for crew, that Carnival provides them housing, food, transportation, laundry, uniforms, medical, internet, etc. that for the most part does not come out of their pocket, like would be the case for a land-based waiter.  So, let's say that for a land-based waiter those type expenses amount to a conservative 60% of their income.  So, that makes the ship waiter's income in comparison to be between $2,500 - $3,333/mo.  This represents a very healthy income that they can use to support both themselves and their families back in their home country (where spending power generally is even more powerful with these dollars).

Great post @RoadTravelled.

As a former crew member myself, it sure is a good place to be saving money, due to low expenses. Many departments do rely on tips to make more money than the basic salary. I think a big aspect of making sure the crew do get good tips are those that the passengers never see, such as those working on the lower decks ironing all the bedding sheets and those cleaning the public areas. They sure do work hard and deserve good tipping for sure!

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  • 2 weeks later...

@kefthecruiser I have never gone out of my way to request to remove the service fee/gratuity. Even if I had an issue with something (like when our toilet overflowed in the middle of the night all over the bedroom) I still paid what I committed to pay. If anything the staff, deserved that fee more than ever. They helped us move out of the room wading through toilet water in the middle of the night to a new room. The jobs onboard a ship can be quite demanding and tedious! 

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