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Eclecticist

Can someone explain the theory of cruise ship tipping?

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Let me just start by saying that I've always tipped at least the recommended amount (6 cruises), and on land, I'm relatively generous in tipping in restaurants, etc. However, as I was reading the RCCL "guidelines" on expected tipping for a cruise we're about to embark on, it made me wonder:

 

1) Why should I tip a head waiter at all? As far as I can tell, he does nothing for me except to stop by the table once an evening (at best) and ask, "Is everything all right?" I don't see what value accrues to me from that. Or, if he only stops by 2 or 3 times in the week, should I pro-rate the tip (just kidding)?

 

2) Next, on our last cruise, our waiter was invariably too busy with another table to deal with ours, and we were served almost exclusively by our Assistant Waiter. I didn't mind at all, as the AW was wonderful, both in personality and service. However, in a situation like that, why should I tip the waiter substantially more than the AW?

 

3) I also saw it stated that even if I eat most of my meals in alternative dining facilities, I should still tip the standard amount to all the main dining staff. To me, the cruise line seems to be saying, "We refuse to pay our employees decently, therefore we are making YOU responsible for keeping their families from starving. You should pay them for us regardless of any service actually provided." On land, I don't tip waiters whose services I don't use; why are ships diffeent?

 

I know this sounds a little stingy. Trust me, I'm anything but stingy. I love to reward superior service generously; it just seems like there's a disconnect between service and tips. But am I totally off base on the above points?

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There is a new problem coming up for tipping dining room staff and that is all the alternative restaurants. That said most cruise lines pool tips and split them up.

 

On ships where tips are not pooled, waiters typically have to pay part of their tips to the kitchen staff (or things will really be hard on them for the next cruise.)

 

I hate the whole tipping system and also wish people were paid properly. I've met people who rejoice in not tipping at all!

 

But with cruise lines competing on price, tipping will be with us for a long time.

 

There is no easy answer.

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Every cruise line has different guidelines on tipping. It is true, the vast majority of cruise ships are not flagged in the US, and thus are not subject to US wage and hours laws. The wait staff (often from eastern Europe or the Philippines) makes very little in salary and depends on tips to make a living wage for their family. Before anyone rails against the inequity of the system, answer this one -- would you prefer to pay double or triple what you are paying for the cruise and not have to tip anyone?

 

I'm not suggesting that you reward shoddy service. However, both exceptional and standard service should be rewarded with either exceptional or standard tips.

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If tips are pooled, then why bother tipping above the recommendations for an outstanding waiter or cabin steward?

 

That said, I do understand about the shameful wages the cruise lines pay their employees; my point wasn't that I don't want to tip at all. My question has more to do with why tip people by whom I wasn't served--and how to better address the service/remuneration imbalance.

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We had a horrible waiter once, but the ass't. waiter was fabulous. We "over-tipped" the ass't. and tipped the bare minimum to the waiter. (In cash, so they could keep or "pool" whatever they wished!) If the head waiter makes himself known, and does something for us, he gets tipped. If we never see him, it's "his bad"!

We tip in cash--that way, no one but the "tippee" knows what has been tipped--it's up to them what they want to do with it! If you pre-pay tips, then the payroll dept. handles it, and can divide it at will. I don't like that. if the folks want to keep it all, then it's their money!!!!!!

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The tipping of service staff has always been a part of cruising, it is nothing new. The auto-tip program has the advantage that it is much easier to handle for the pax rather than running around getting envelopes and bills broken down into the correct denominations, it also satisfies the dilemma of who and how to tip AD staff. Its not perfect but until someone comes up with another idea then I am all for it.

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We give cash. I have been told by cruise employee's that if you do the auto-tip program they don't get the money for at least 2 weeks. We have had one good head waiter, well really 2. On one cruise our waiter got sick after the 3 day and the Headwaiter took over his tables, one of the best waiters we have had. I don't always tip the headwaiter.

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. On one cruise our waiter got sick after the 3 day and the Headwaiter took over his tables, one of the best waiters we have had. I don't always tip the headwaiter.

 

 

I imagine he was promoted to Head Waiter because he was an outstanding waiter. :)

 

Automatic tipping might have come into being as more and more new comers to cruising were not tipping. Many happily left the dining room at the end of the cruise and left nothing for anyone. They did the same with their cabin stewards and every other department on the ship.

 

Automatic Tipping "for the ease and convenience of our guests' may have originated as a way to get these people to leave a bit of something in gratuities. I realize there are still those who stand in line at the front office to have their tips removed but there is little one can do about that except make tipping mandatory. It then becomes a bill and they may as well have it paid upfront at time of final payment.

 

IF everyone tips appropriately, the stewards make a decent living....the reason they are on the ships sometimes for a year at a time. This is not a hobby for them. They have hungry mouths to feed/educate/clothe and house at home.

 

If you feel you service is lacking, don't wait until the end of the cruise and 'tip time' to make it known. Isn't the point for you to have excellent service and enjoy your cruise? If your point in staying silent during the cruise is so you won't tip the steward and 'you'll show him', you have in the meantime had bad service which could have been made better.

 

Speak up. Tell the Maitre d'. Tell the Head Waiter. Tell the Hotel Manager. Tell the Front Office. The point is to get good service from stewards who you will be happy to tip at the end of your cruise .

 

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we have always had excellent service and have been happy to tip accordingly...but the Head Waiter question is something we have asked ourselves...we have always just paid it because it is a nominal amount, but good point

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1) One of the responsibilities of the head waiter is to help train and administer the waiters in his/her group. I'll agree that it is upsetting if you never see the head waiter, but there is work being done in between dining times.

 

3) I've never heard a definitive version on tipping and how it is split ... I'm sure it varies from line to line and information gotten from crew members is probably a little biased. However, I always figure that some of my dining room tip money is going to the people at the buffet, etc, because I doubt they have a salaried position.

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The short version:

In 1910, American Industrialist/Banker JP Morgan purchased the White Star Line just as they were building the RMS Titanic.

Even though he was the wealthiest man in America, he decided to save on operating costs by having his passengers pay the bulk of the ship's crew salaries in the form of tips.

So Mr. Morgan paid his crewmembers about 10 cents a day - plus any tips they might receive.

The theory was that if a crewmember performed well, he received many tips, was very happy, and stayed with the company. If he performd poorly, he received very few tips, starved, and left.

 

This system worked reasonably well for about 80 years.

 

Many variations and developments were made to the basic idea. Customized envelopes came along in the 1950s; names and positions were added to the envelopes in the 1960s. The math was even worked out for you on the back of the envelopes in the 1970s. One of the early developments remained a secret. To protect waiters who might get stuck with frugal passengers, or to protect waiters who were not quite up to speed, they started pooling all the tips in the 1950s. By the 1970s, every cruise ship pooled all the tips amongst the service staff. Then the service staff had to pay some of their tips to the back of house people.

 

The waiters and stewards quickly learned that if they told the passengers about the tip pooling scheme, the passengers would tip them less. So the tip pools were very hush-hush.

 

By the 1990s, the system was failing. With cruising now affordable to middle America, we suddenly started seeing more and more passengers who could not - or would not - afford to tip. The tip pools started getting smaller and smaller. The best waiters and stewards realized that they could earn more money at home, see their families every day, work shorter hours, and avoid the personal abuse they get from passengers more and more often. Many of the best service people left - never to return. (Now you know why service has suffered on ships over the past 20 years or so.)

 

The cruise lines panicked when they saw how many great employees they were losing. They had to come up with a scheme to convince more passengers to tip the service staff. Auto-tipping was born.

 

Before auto-tipping, as many as 30% of passengers tipped nothing at the end of the cruise. With auto-tipping, about 5% tip nothing at the end of the cruise. The staff now earn more and stay longer.

 

A few bits of trivia:

 

Since we have been pooling tips for over 50 years (and still do) we ALWAYS knew we would get a tip (from the pool) even if you didn't tip. This nonsense that today's auto tip and pooling of tips has caused the staff to give poorer service (because they know they will get a tip regardless) is just that - nonsense. It is usually spouted by people who cannot afford to tip and are looking for new excuses to get out of the auto-tips without looking cheap.

 

In the old days we ran the pool through the Maitre d' and the Chief Housekeeper. The pooled tips were paid out weekly, or by cruise.

Today the tip pool is managed by the Crew Purser and is usually paid out twice monthly.

 

In the old days, only front of house Service Staff were included in the tip pool. Then they had to personally tip out money to dishwashers, laundry staff, buffet waiters, etc. Today all those people get a share of the pool directly.

 

In the old days, service staff were paid about 10 cents a day, plus tips.

Today they are paid around $1 a day, plus tips.

 

In the old days, the management of the dining room were also paid next to nothing and had a share of the tip pool. Today most of them are salaried employees who get a pretty good wage. They should only be tipped if they do something very special for you.

 

For all of those who whine and moan about just adding extra money to the price of the cruise and omitting tipping altogether, you may be surprised to learn that the cruise lines have actually considered that idea a few times over the past 100 years. If we did it, that money would be taxable and commissionable, reducing the net earnings of our crew rather substantially.

 

And if it is such a great idea, why doesn't every hotel, restaurant, and taxi company in America do it?

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1) Why should I tip a head waiter at all? As far as I can tell, he does nothing for me except to stop by the table once an evening (at best) and ask, "Is everything all right?" I don't see what value accrues to me from that. Or, if he only stops by 2 or 3 times in the week, should I pro-rate the tip (just kidding)?

 

We've never cruised but will be on our 1st in a month. Are you saying that, besides the auto-tips, we will be asked to also tip the head waiter? In what form are we asked - an envelope, announcement (giggle) or what??

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I know about tipping back of house becasue I've had jobs where I had to do so. As I depended on tips when my family was young, I tend to over tip now.

 

I understand.

 

The people who brag to me that they never tip, even in a restaurant in the US, lose my respect very quickly.

 

In case anyone wonders, the only appropriate tip is money either in cash or 'auto tip' but never ever used clothes, old books or whatever you don't want to take home with you.

 

Money!

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Let me just start by saying that I've always tipped at least the recommended amount (6 cruises), and on land, I'm relatively generous in tipping in restaurants, etc. However, as I was reading the RCCL "guidelines" on expected tipping for a cruise we're about to embark on, it made me wonder:

 

1) Why should I tip a head waiter at all? As far as I can tell, he does nothing for me except to stop by the table once an evening (at best) and ask, "Is everything all right?" I don't see what value accrues to me from that. Or, if he only stops by 2 or 3 times in the week, should I pro-rate the tip (just kidding)?

 

As someone else said, he is responsible for the service in his sector and the training of the waiter/asst. waiter. He's the one to ask if you want anything special, like shrimp cocktail every night. He ensures low sodium, lactose free, etc. diets are served. He's the problem fixer. If you have a problem ith your waiter, go to your head waiter.

 

2) Next, on our last cruise, our waiter was invariably too busy with another table to deal with ours, and we were served almost exclusively by our Assistant Waiter. I didn't mind at all, as the AW was wonderful, both in personality and service. However, in a situation like that, why should I tip the waiter substantially more than the AW?

 

Tip the water the minimum and double the tip for the assisstant. You could talk to the head waiter about the situation and see if you could et another waiter. But, if the asst. is doing an excellent job, it might be best to ignore the situation.

 

3) I also saw it stated that even if I eat most of my meals in alternative dining facilities, I should still tip the standard amount to all the main dining staff. To me, the cruise line seems to be saying, "We refuse to pay our employees decently, therefore we are making YOU responsible for keeping their families from starving. You should pay them for us regardless of any service actually provided." On land, I don't tip waiters whose services I don't use; why are ships diffeent?

 

The main dining staff works all over the ship when they are not working dinner. If you eat breakfat or lunch in the buffet, your dinner staff will be working there. Room service breakfast one morning was delivered by our waitress. Serving dinner in the evening is just 6 hours out of their 12 to 16 hour day 7 days a week. So, you're not just tipping them for serving you dinner.

 

I know this sounds a little stingy. Trust me, I'm anything but stingy. I love to reward superior service generously; it just seems like there's a disconnect between service and tips. But am I totally off base on the above points?

 

Hope the above information helps. The staff works long hours to serve us and keep us happy. And they do it with a smile.

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The short version:

In 1910, American Industrialist/Banker JP Morgan purchased the White Star Line just as they were building the RMS Titanic.

Even though he was the wealthiest man in America, he decided to save on operating costs by having his passengers pay the bulk of the ship's crew salaries in the form of tips.

So Mr. Morgan paid his crewmembers about 10 cents a day - plus any tips they might receive.

The theory was that if a crewmember performed well, he received many tips, was very happy, and stayed with the company. If he performd poorly, he received very few tips, starved, and left.

 

This system worked reasonably well for about 80 years.

 

Many variations and developments were made to the basic idea. Customized envelopes came along in the 1950s; names and positions were added to the envelopes in the 1960s. The math was even worked out for you on the back of the envelopes in the 1970s. One of the early developments remained a secret. To protect waiters who might get stuck with frugal passengers, or to protect waiters who were not quite up to speed, they started pooling all the tips in the 1950s. By the 1970s, every cruise ship pooled all the tips amongst the service staff. Then the service staff had to pay some of their tips to the back of house people.

 

The waiters and stewards quickly learned that if they told the passengers about the tip pooling scheme, the passengers would tip them less. So the tip pools were very hush-hush.

 

By the 1990s, the system was failing. With cruising now affordable to middle America, we suddenly started seeing more and more passengers who could not - or would not - afford to tip. The tip pools started getting smaller and smaller. The best waiters and stewards realized that they could earn more money at home, see their families every day, work shorter hours, and avoid the personal abuse they get from passengers more and more often. Many of the best service people left - never to return. (Now you know why service has suffered on ships over the past 20 years or so.)

 

The cruise lines panicked when they saw how many great employees they were losing. They had to come up with a scheme to convince more passengers to tip the service staff. Auto-tipping was born.

 

Before auto-tipping, as many as 30% of passengers tipped nothing at the end of the cruise. With auto-tipping, about 5% tip nothing at the end of the cruise. The staff now earn more and stay longer.

 

A few bits of trivia:

 

Since we have been pooling tips for over 50 years (and still do) we ALWAYS knew we would get a tip (from the pool) even if you didn't tip. This nonsense that today's auto tip and pooling of tips has caused the staff to give poorer service (because they know they will get a tip regardless) is just that - nonsense. It is usually spouted by people who cannot afford to tip and are looking for new excuses to get out of the auto-tips without looking cheap.

 

In the old days we ran the pool through the Maitre d' and the Chief Housekeeper. The pooled tips were paid out weekly, or by cruise.

Today the tip pool is managed by the Crew Purser and is usually paid out twice monthly.

 

In the old days, only front of house Service Staff were included in the tip pool. Then they had to personally tip out money to dishwashers, laundry staff, buffet waiters, etc. Today all those people get a share of the pool directly.

 

In the old days, service staff were paid about 10 cents a day, plus tips.

Today they are paid around $1 a day, plus tips.

 

In the old days, the management of the dining room were also paid next to nothing and had a share of the tip pool. Today most of them are salaried employees who get a pretty good wage. They should only be tipped if they do something very special for you.

 

For all of those who whine and moan about just adding extra money to the price of the cruise and omitting tipping altogether, you may be surprised to learn that the cruise lines have actually considered that idea a few times over the past 100 years. If we did it, that money would be taxable and commissionable, reducing the net earnings of our crew rather substantially.

 

And if it is such a great idea, why doesn't every hotel, restaurant, and taxi company in America do it?

 

We have always had very good service, and always tip accordingly (in addition to the auto-tips). I also bring along extra envelopes that I pre-print saying thank you. Most of the staff are men and women who are the same age as our children, and I find it commendable that they work as hard as they do, and put up with all of us!!! I always tip room service, and this time I am including a small candy treat (suggested by one fellow cruise critic writer), with the $2. tip.

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Philip--thanks for the history...very informative and well written. I find auto tipping convenient and also will tip extra to those I feel do a great job--room steward, the bar guy at dinner...it is harder to tip someone you don't "see" doing anything, like the head waiter, but I have never considered not tipping them as it does seem like such a nominal amount, I would feel "cheap". We always tip the bar staff above the included 15%, it's amazing how they remember you and even seek you out at shows, when they know they'll be getting extra.

 

I was once a waitress and my mom was a career waitress, I think this really matters when you know how bad a service job can be. Even when I get a crappy waitress at home, I still tip enough to cover taxes.

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Since we have been pooling tips for over 50 years (and still do) we ALWAYS knew we would get a tip (from the pool) even if you didn't tip. This nonsense that today's auto tip and pooling of tips has caused the staff to give poorer service (because they know they will get a tip regardless) is just that - nonsense.

 

For all of those who whine and moan about just adding extra money to the price of the cruise and omitting tipping altogether, you may be surprised to learn that the cruise lines have actually considered that idea a few times over the past 100 years. If we did it, that money would be taxable and commissionable, reducing the net earnings of our crew rather substantially.

 

And if it is such a great idea, why doesn't every hotel, restaurant, and taxi company in America do it?

 

I really appreciate all the answers; it's really given me a better understanding of how the whole thing works. They've also raised a couple of additional questions, though.

 

1. So if I got really great service, say, from an Assistant Waiter and decided to tip him $1,000, not only would he not get to keep it, but it would be taken by the office and divided up amongst all the tipped employees, and he wouldn't even know I'd tipped him that much?

 

2. Human nature being what it is, any time your truly outstanding people get paid the same amount as your employees who are just barely good enough not to get fired, you're going to create discontent and disincentive. It can't be any other way. People just aren't that altruistic.

 

3. As far as commissions and taxes are concerned: Cruise lines have already proven they know how to add non-commissionable fees to cruises. (Anyone here heard of fuel surcharges?) And calling someone's income a tip doesn't exempt it from income tax in any country I know of; it just makes it easier to evade the tax if an employee is so inclined. So that last point doesn't really hold water.

 

And I wonder about the "since lots of other industries do it wrong, it must be okay for our industry to do the same thing" approach. When I used to tell my mom, "All the other kids get to do [insert dumb idea here]," it never convinced her. (And I never let my kids get away with that, either.)

 

That said, I'm still planning on tipping at least the minimum recommended amount this trip. :) (Because they really do work long, hard hours for pay that most people in developed countries wouldn't stand for.)

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Before we sailed in April, we posted on here that we were worried about tipping as it is not the norm here in the UK, whilst on the cruise, we received wonderful service, from our 2 x assistant waiters, wine steward and waiter and room steward, we placed some money not alot but some in individual envelopes with there names on it, with a card saying thank you. All were very grateful, from our table of 4 couples we were the only people to do so.

 

The assistant waiters worked in the Lido at breakfast, and I had my English tea on the table without asking, also at dinner whilst everyone else had coffee, they remembered that I have English tea, not speciality, with three sweetners, they even opened the sweetner bags and stirred it - best cuppa Ive had for a long time.

 

To be honest do what comes naturally to you.

 

Our wine steward's wife had their first baby whilst we were on the Oosterdam, and we were so pleased to share his day with him.

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In reply.

I really appreciate all the answers; it's really given me a better understanding of how the whole thing works. They've also raised a couple of additional questions, though.

 

1. So if I got really great service, say, from an Assistant Waiter and decided to tip him $1,000, not only would he not get to keep it, but it would be taken by the office and divided up amongst all the tipped employees, and he wouldn't even know I'd tipped him that much?

 

I am pretty sure that if you do not remove the auto-tip/ service charge from your bill, then any amount you personally give your server may be kept by him/her. You may reward excellent service acordingly.

 

2. Human nature being what it is, any time your truly outstanding people get paid the same amount as your employees who are just barely good enough not to get fired, you're going to create discontent and disincentive. It can't be any other way. People just aren't that altruistic.

 

See above. Outstanding employees do tend to get those extra tips which they may pocket w/o having to pool and thus remain incentivized. This is why it is important to give an extra tip for very good service especially nowadays because the relatively weak dollar is causing many capable employees to rethink their employment options.

 

3. As far as commissions and taxes are concerned: Cruise lines have already proven they know how to add non-commissionable fees to cruises. (Anyone here heard of fuel surcharges?) And calling someone's income a tip doesn't exempt it from income tax in any country I know of; it just makes it easier to evade the tax if an employee is so inclined. So that last point doesn't really hold water.

 

I 'm not sure what your point is (other than appearing to be argumentative as opposed to sincerely inquisitive). I have no idea how the income tax laws of foreign countries operate, but assuming tip income is in deed taxable the same as salary, do you really think that ship personnel want to have their remuneration in the form of documented salary? Hello? For someone who recognizes the non altruistic element of human nature, it's pretty naive to think so. Moreover, from the employer's perspective, any payroll taxes and accounting costs thus incurred would only increase operating expense and guess who would ultimately bear that?

 

And I wonder about the "since lots of other industries do it wrong, it must be okay for our industry to do the same thing" approach. When I used to tell my mom, "All the other kids get to do [insert dumb idea here]," it never convinced her. (And I never let my kids get away with that, either.)

 

Again, this appears to be argumentative and not very convincingly so. Your personal anecdote may accurately reflect some universal truth inherent in the parent/child relationship, but it is inapposite. The point Phillip was making is that tipping exists in other industries because it is an efficient means to reward employees from both the employer and employee perspective, not because employers can get away with something wrongful.

It's fine that you pay at least the minimum recommended tip. Considering all the circumstances, however (and I think it unnecessary to enumerate them here) I might suggest you and others exceed the minimum if service is good. Otherwise, you and I may find service deteriorating as has the US dollar which doesn't go nearly as far in your server's home country as it used to go. I think if you track the amount of the recommended tip over the years it has barely kept pace with inflation - meanwhile, the dollar has lost over 50% in value against the euro in the last 6 years.

 

That said, I'm still planning on tipping at least the minimum recommended amount this trip. :) (Because they really do work long, hard hours for pay that most people in developed countries wouldn't stand for.)

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Tipping is only part of what you can do for the staff. We used to get a card where we could identify a staff member as going above and beyond the norm to be turned in at the end of the cruise. I asked our cabin steward if it did anything for him if we named him. He said it did as it gave him extra perks and helped toward promotion. He was very happy that I had named him.

So, even though they don't have that anymore on RCI, send an email to C&A naming someone for excellent service and why. They wll forward it to the appropriate people. I have received some very nice phone calls thanking me for doing that. It takes 2 minutes and can make a difference in someone's life.

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Excellent suggestion....... It means a great deal if a guest praises a particular crew person. That is how they get extra time off, rewards and promotions.

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Philip217

thanks that was a great post.

 

Let me add a couple of points.

1. On most places that have auto tipping(or as NCL has a service charge) if the passenger removes the auto tips ALL the cash any employee recieves from that person must be turned into the pool. If you leave the auto tips on and tip extra, they CAN keep the extra tip. How do they know? They issue a list to the crew...mostly this has to do with the room staff and wait staff.

 

2. Also in the past the tipped crew was expected to tip out to certain people some of the tips. This includes the head waiters and the laundry staff...now they are part of the pool....

 

 

Its also too bad that this was caused by the el cheapos in the world. Frankly most of the time when you see can I opt out its someone looking to see how they can avoid tipping ---not always but most of the time and when you call them on it and they protest its not me....it mostly is.....

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Tipping is the only way that works to achieve high levels of customer service. The drawback is that the majority of their income comes from tips....so people who decide to screw the staff out of tips, just because they (the passenger, not the employee) decides to eat elsewhere, can have a major impact on their earnings.

 

They still have to show up in the dining room, even if you don't. These people depend on your tips to support their family. They make good money, but only if people don't screw them.

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Philip217

thanks that was a great post.

 

Let me add a couple of points.

1. On most places that have auto tipping(or as NCL has a service charge) if the passenger removes the auto tips ALL the cash any employee recieves from that person must be turned into the pool. If you leave the auto tips on and tip extra, they CAN keep the extra tip. How do they know? They issue a list to the crew...mostly this has to do with the room staff and wait staff.

 

2. Also in the past the tipped crew was expected to tip out to certain people some of the tips. This includes the head waiters and the laundry staff...now they are part of the pool....

 

 

Its also too bad that this was caused by the el cheapos in the world. Frankly most of the time when you see can I opt out its someone looking to see how they can avoid tipping ---not always but most of the time and when you call them on it and they protest its not me....it mostly is.....

 

I was about to post here but then I hit page 2 and realized you'd said everything I was going to: Philip217's fabulous post (I added it to Favorites and plan to link to it in the future!); how pooled tips reward behind the scenes people as well as "face' people, and it takes all of them to make a great cruise; how tip pools work; and how frequently it's those who aren't planning to tip anything who post here about removing the auto tips (in the old days they ducked the dining room on the last night and avoided their steward); and so on.

 

So I'll just add... "What he said!" :D

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