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Auto gratuities on Carnival and other cruise lines

Discussion in 'Know Before You Go' started by holfam, Jun 13, 2010.

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  1. holfam

    holfam Active Member

    After just returning from a 7 day cruise on Carnival, I have been caught by the auto tipping scam again. I know most cruise lines do it now, so to single out Carnival is not completely fair.

    I think this automatic tipping policy by cruise lines is deceptive and just wrong. Most of all, it leaves you with a really bad 'ripped off' taste in your mouth after a nice cruise.

    I DO NOT believe that everyone should be tipped. Gratuities and Tips are a privilege or bonus not a right. It is the cruise line's responsibility to pay their staff at, at least the minimum wage that the law requires. It is the employee's decision to either work for that wage or not.

    That said. I am a very generous tipper. Usually 25 to 30% on all bills if the service is good. 15% automatic gratuity on drinks on a cruise ship creates no incentive for the wait staff to provide any level of service. On ships where I could decide the tip, the wait staff would learn my name and what I like to drink and create a fun and friendly atmosphere in the hopes of a better tip... which they would always get. Ships that add this automatically have staff that, for lack of a better term, could not give a damn either way. As was the case with Carnival.

    Then the auto tipping on the room bill. $40 a day for 2 adults and 2 kids. This is on top of the tips I already gave the waiters, stewards, babysitters, spa staff, casino staff, bar tenders, Maitre D and more etc. Frankly this is a con. They claim these are for 'behind the scenes' staff. However, if I stay in a hotel I DO NOT tip the janitor or other behind the scenes staff. They are paid by the establishment. I tip only those that directly attended to me and only if the level of service earned it.

    A much large issue that I would like to see investigated, is where these funds go. A number of crew members have told me that they never see any of this. One guest services person told me it is used to pay for medical or other emergencies for staff who can't afford it... WHAT, they don't give their staff medical ??

    Anyway, that is my rant and I know a lot of other people agree with me. The cruise lines do have their PR team out in full force to jump all over topics like this.
  2. bob

    bob Chief Engineer Staff Member

    You might have been ripped off......... by the crew members........ looking for a few extra tips. the ships automatic tip policy puts the tips in a pool for each passenger then that passengers main staff (steward, waiter, asst waiter, whatever) get the bulk of the main tip, the rest is spread out, yes for behind the scenes personnel with exception of the bar staff, they are covered by the 15% that is added to your bar tab.
    You do have the option to go to the customer services desk and have the automatic tipping removed from your account, they will usually balk at it but it is your money and in the end they will remove it, then you are free to tip accordingly.
    As far as getting a wage, ship personnel are under contracts they work for a set wage, they don't have to sign the contract, they don't have to work for the cruise line, they do it because most of them make good money. The reason for implementation of the automatic tipping was so that the deadbeats stiffing the staff would start coughing up not to force the passenger that respects good service and compensates accordingly. So lets get practical, when was the last time you tipped a lido buffet waiter or server. Granted most of them do double duty as far as being dining room staff but still what about the guy that gave you a little extra up on the buffet, the auto tipping makes sure he doesn't get missed for all his service where ever it is. We usually choose alternate dining anymore so I will usually not see the same waiter twice in a cruise so auto tipping makes sure I don't stiff anybody that took care of me, then that give me the option to give extra to those that I do interact with like my cabin steward or a bar I frequent, or the guys at the lido grill that make my hamburger just the way I like it.
    And yes their medical, dental, food, work clothing, are all taken care of by the cruise line, but not out of tip money. The shipboad doctor treats far more staff than passengers any day.
  3. ShipMaven

    ShipMaven Forever Remembered

    Well said, bOB.

    And for everybody's information, the shipboard medical staff and clergy (if there's clergy on board) are there primarily for crew, secondarily for passengers.
  4. holfam

    holfam Active Member

    Bob... Deadbeats passengers stiffing the staff... really ??
    The deadbeats are the cruise lines if they are not paying their staff enough and need tips to make up for it. You prove my point that it is expected by the cruise line, which no longer makes it a tip but rather a fee! Tipping is not a right or requirement and if a 'deadbeat' passenger as you put it, does not want to tip anything, then they should not have to (AND I bet the bar tender wont be so quick to get to them for their next drink).

    You are also arguing on one hand that the staff get paid really well and on the other that the passengers stiff them and yet on another that the staff are ripping off the passengers for a few extra tips. Seams that you like to blame everyone except the cruise line for their fault policy.

    No I don't tip a waiter in the Ledo buffet because they are paid by the ship for what they do. I don't tip people to do their job. Same way I don't tip the checkout lady and grocery store. If a particular waiter made an impact then I would definitely slip him/her something.

    Sorry Bob but I remain unconvinced. If gratuities are required they should be added to the advertised price, not a hidden line item in a contract somewhere.
  5. Beryl

    Beryl Trivia Specialist

    You can have the "tip" removed....so it is definitely not a fee! You will be asked why you want to remove the tip because it is assumed that you have not received excellent service and the line will want to fix that!!

    A gratuity is automatically added to a bar bill! It will not be removed by asking to have the "auto tips" removed. It is a fact of life. I have never heard of anyone asking to have this tip removed before.

    I recommend that the next time you cruise you make yourself happier by asking to have the auto tips removed and tip those you feel "deserve" your gratuity...but understand that these tips will indeed be placed in a pool and your steward, waiter or whoever may not actually "feel your goodwill" but instead "feel the pinch"!

    Oh....and yes, there are deadbeats among cruise ship passengers...you might be surprised if you found out who some of them were!!
  6. ShipMaven

    ShipMaven Forever Remembered

    Beryl - good for you for replying. I've been sitting on my hands and biting my tongue, but then, what would I know?! :madd:
  7. Gayle V

    Gayle V Cruiser's Compass Editor

    Hello Holfam, I'm a bit confused here. If you were so unhappy about tipping these people via the auto tip system, then why on earth did you give them even more.? The majority of the auto tip money goes to the very same people you tipped extra. And if you really wanted to physically hand them the tip, why didn't you just take those auto tips off your bill and then only do the in person tipping, like you wanted to. (Clearly you already knew about this system, as you said: You had
    If this happened before, you really can't claim that this cost was
    I don't understand your complaint. Did you just forget to remove the auto tip? I can understand that, but if so, aren't you really just mad at yourself, and not the cruise line.

    I'm not happy with the system the cruise lines use to pay their staff., either. I would be happier with a higher cruise fare, and no tipping. But this is the way it works now, and we agree to participate when we book. It sounds like you knew, so why complain now?
  8. bob

    bob Chief Engineer Staff Member

    First of all so that it is clear, I am not arguing, just making comments based on personal observations, and having met and know staff of all positions and ranks on several cruise lines over my 20 years of cruising.

    It is a known fact among seasoned and even not so seasoned cruisers that hotel service staff on cruise ships are contracted, and are paid minimum wage, they know that when they sign the contract, they do not start getting a higher set salary until they reach mid management, (head steward, dining room captain, department heads) this is not secret stuff. They make their good money that I mentioned, from TIPS, just as many other service personnel do. Not uncommon for waiters/waitresses at even high end land based restaurants to have a wage base of minimum wage and take home some big bucks based on their tips, cruise ships are no different. As far as stiffing by passengers, it would be naive to think it doesn't happen, and that is what was cutting into ship service personnel's wage factor, again one of the main reasons for the implementation of automatic tipping. This is not a case of the cruise lines being cheap. Service personnel on cruise ships have been paid minimum wage and make the difference from tips for probably as long as there have been cruise ships.

    Maybe they should just be added to the advertised price and be done with it, but then once you are onboard the ship, you have paid your fare, no refunds, you have paid your tips, no refunds, you get bad service, no refunds, no choice. At least with this method you have choice, if your getting bad service, you go to the customer relations desk and have the auto tipping removed, done, over, your in control now. So as far as having tips being made part of my fare, that I would have a problem with because then I have no control at all, no matter what cruise line it is.

    But, this policy is not hidden real deep, buried somewhere in the contract, most all cruise lines make it quite prominent on their websites, in their what you need to know brochures and yes it is in your passenger contract.

    As far as the comment about you might be getting ripped off by a crew member, tongue in cheek, but it is also pretty well known that crew members will look for that soft spot in passengers and plead poverty or whatever else they can do to drum up a few extra bucks in tips, cabin stewards and waiters alike.

    The bottom line is still real simple, if one doesn't like the way the cruise line does it, opt out, have the auto tipping removed, take control and pay who you want. The only option you would really have to go to the wall over is having the 15% removed from a bar tab, BUT you can even do that if you think it is worth it.
    As far as the deadbeats, yup, they have the right to not tip at all, and they don't get thrown overboard, they don't get chastised, the don't get a red X on their forehead........... but if the cruise the same line, the do get remembered.

    Nope, I'm not trying to convince you, just open your mind..............
  9. holfam

    holfam Active Member

    This happened the last time I went on NCL but we were notified in time that we could dispute it. Frankly I didn't even think about it this time on Carnival and I am not one that reads every line of a contract when going on vacation. The first time I saw this charge was on the day of checkout when we got the bill and it was way to late to dispute.

    If I had known (or remembered) this, then I would not given my 2 waiters in the restaurant $60 each or the Spa Staff $40 each or left money in the room... never mind the rest. Now you telling me that the $120 I gave to my 2 waiters will go into a kitty and not to the waiters ? This makes me even more upset.

    That said, it is a fee or tax, not a tip. Otherwise it would work in reverse where you could "opt in" to automatic gratuities, not be forced to "opt out" by their rules and timing. There should be big signs in the restaurants, bars, rooms and spa stating that tips are included on your bill.

    I don't mind and can understand the 15% on the bar bills but I still think it is a flawed way to incentivise good service... "why should I do any more than I have to if I'm getting the 15% anyway". I bet they would make more and create a better experience by allowing passengers to tip bar staff directly.

    Anyway, I've made my point thanks for the comments. Personally I don't trust for profit corporations to do what's right with money intended for their staff, call me Naive.
  10. iluvcruzin

    iluvcruzin Well-Known Member

    When auto-tipping was started there were many that did not like the procedure. There were others who did like the convienance of not having to bring extra cash onboard. And of course there are deadbeats that were part of the equation for setting this method up. It was no cruiseline conspiracy as what I'm interpreting what is being said.

    I understand your frustration and I'm guessing you are relatively new to cruising. Most cruiselines do a pretty good job communicating the auto-tip policy. And it's not a matter of reading the fine print on a cruise contract. Some lines notify passengers when the cut-off day is for removing auto-tipping via announcments or the daily newsletter.

    I personally don't care for the pre-paid tips. Yes, there are cruiselines that require the "tips" be paid at time of final payment if you choose to participate in anytime dining. I think that should be called a "service charge".

    I disagree on the 15% bar gratuity when it's connected to service. Those wait staff want that tip just like any other bar staff/server in a restuarant. I don't mind having it added to my bill versus carrying cash around. I'm glad those days are over.
  11. Einstein

    Einstein Well-Known Member

    My beliefs are a lot like Maureen here as I do NOT like the Auto Tips either. I do understand that there are behind the scenes folks that if it was NOT done would NOT get a tip. On the other hand I sorta agree that the cruise lines should be paying these folks more and NOT and taking the tip out of the equation. A couple of other problems that have harvested from the institution of Auto Tipping are the actual loss of tips for the staff due to admin fees from the cruise lines being removed.

    Yes I know there are some that do NOT believe this happens but I know for a fact that they do at least on certain lines. If the entire tip or a good portion of it went directly to the staff then I would be ALL for it. :doubleup: However I believe a hefty admin fee is one of the main reasons the cruise lines are so Gung Ho to make sure the Auto Tip program is in place.

    The other area that has suffered with the evolution of the auto tip IMO is the level of service. When your top performers are tipped equally the same as your poor performers this is NOT a good recipe for success and happiness. :hammer:

    I do still use the Auto Tip program as I do feel that the behind the scenes folks are deserving to some tips as they are indeed a part of my enjoyment. That being said I do have to say that tipping in today's society has allowed corporate america to rake in MORE profits at the expense of placing more emphasis on the customer tipping rather than the base salaries.

    Smart business move as they can shell out fewer $$$ by having the general public subsidize the employees salary. Yes I know that one way or another we will subsidize the salaries either it be by a raising of the standard fare to pay for the salary increase or by letting the consumer pay a larger portion thru tipping.

    Of course this also shifts the burden of employee satisfaction away from corporate america and more to the consumers as well. Another bright logic as if the employees are more perturbed because of lower tipping than a lower salary the gripes will be more focused toward the consumer and NOT the employer.

    The Main problem I have with this theory however is that they are lessening their contribution by lowering their tax burden as well as their employee benefits. MANY employee benefits are calculated on the base salary and by using a tipping mechanism as part of the salary (that is NOT part of the base salary) the amount of benefits paid out is minimized.

    So in the LONG run Corporate America is the BIG winner by lowering their taxable base as well as their benefits base. Probably not an analogy that some will agree with me on but its my belief and we are all entitled to them. :whistle: All this being said I as well as most of US do feel sorry for the little guy as most of us are one of them in reality. So we will more than likely continue to do more than our fare share to make them feel appreciated with additional tips.

    The only difference with mine for the most part is I will let the person who has served me more than adequately choose whether he wishes to accept my tip/gift as his or pool it for the entire staff to share. :scratch:Well at least until they take that option away completely. :hammer:

    Given that happens then I guess the only alternative left is to see what type of gift whether it be a watch, jewelry, phone card, liquor, etc. is to their liking. Would be FUN to see how the cruise lines equally divided those up. I can hear the announcement now over the loud speaker. At 10AM in the theatre we will be having an auction of the workers gifts from the last cruise .. U will NOT want to miss out on the bargain. :hammer:

    Probably should of bypassed this thread as I have done over the past few days but the temptation was just to MUCH. :biggrin:
  12. BSeabob

    BSeabob Reinststed due to good behavior-Subject to change Staff Member

    A very very long time cruiser might remember these days but I sure don't. But they still remember my name. You can tip extra if you want :)

    Auto tips work very well for me as I don't have to worry about math and cash. :biggrin:

    If somebody is not up to snuff I deal with it or have that option long before it is "Tip" time...

    & I sure don't worry about who pays who what or when. My purpose is to be a passenger and relax. I don't care to run the ships business.
  13. Cruizer

    Cruizer Well-Known Member

    It is called a tip or gratuity, but really it is a service charge.
  14. Priscilla

    Priscilla Well-Known Member

    I like auto tipping. It takes away the sham that I am some Lady Bountiful taking care of the peasants. Everyone knows that waiters and such are underpaid by the company, and make up their low wages in tips. Everyone knows a tip is not some gift, it is a service charge which you are expected to pay unless you want to be labeled a deadbeat. Why keep up some fiction?
  15. ShipMaven

    ShipMaven Forever Remembered

    I'm still sitting on my hands and keeping my mouth "duck"-taped shut. :madd:
  16. Mbandy

    Mbandy Well-Known Member

    Oh my goodness, "tipping" is always such a lively topic. :biggrin:

    Most of the cruise ship employees are paid very little for very long hours of hard work. US labor laws do not apply to cruise ship employees because the ships are registered in foreign countries such as Panama and The Bahamas where such laws, if they exist, are different. Because of the low pay they depend on the gratuities to round out their income. (The exception to this is the Pride of America in Hawaii which is of US registry)

    Having grown up in a family that owned restaurants I firmly believe that any server should be tipped according to the level of service they provide. I have only had the gratuities removed from my account one time. Our waiter was making his assistant do all the work. The waiter would show up briefly once per dinner and that was it. I had the gratuities removed and tipped the bus boy handsomly for his efforts. I didn't "stiff" the waiter but I tipped him what I thought he was worth (which wasn't much).

    Call it a tip, gratuity, service fee, tax....whatever. It is customary to reward good service so it is no big deal.

    I don't mind having tips added to my on board account and when traveling with RCCL and Celebrity I ask guests services to add them. To me, just one less thing to worry about. If a waiter or steward is really good I usually tip a little more at the end.

    By the way, the term TIP was derived from the phrase "To Insure Promptness".
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2010
  17. John

    John I'm on Island Time Staff Member

    Hi Holfam, It sounds like you just didn't know or recall the Auto-Tipping police. I actually like this policy for the most part. Its so much nicer not having to worry about getting a certain amount of cash and then hunting down the head waiter, maitre'd and so on. It was a real inconvience and I recall having to do it many times. This keeps it simple and the service level was basicly the same.

    Could service be improved in some way? I'm sure it could but, the ships are so much larger and the service staff is working feverishly. They really don't have the time to whoo guests with "your king for the week" service as they once did. I tend to also prefer genuine service and caring rather than some of the "I need you to hand me dollars 24/7" spectacles you may see or have seen. Some of the treatment of crew and displays of "the ugly american" I've seen aboard cruise ships have made me ill at times.

    Some of the premium cruise lines have a small amount of guests, NO Tipping policies and an All-Inclusive atmosphere where your don't tip and ALL of your drinks, water, soda, liquor is included. Ofcourse the price of the cruise increases significantly but, this may be something you would really enjoy.

    I may have done a bit of an editorial piece on many topics but, you get my point I'm sure.

  18. George C

    George C Well-Known Member

    I also dislike auto tipping, was very happy that RCCL didn't do that on my cruise a couple of months ago ( I had tradional 2nd seating ).
    1- I like to give the tip at the end of the week, I want it to go to my waiter, bussboy and cabin steward
    2- I do not want it to go to the maite-de etc etc
    3- I still think the service is better when you have the same waiter each day and they know the service will depend on the tip ( one of the many reasons I will not sail NCL again )

    and since the service is normally great he will get a tip that exceeds the recommended amount, I think I only had a bad waiter on 2 of my 52 cruises.

    I have no problem with the 15 or 18 percent they take on drinks and bottles of wine
  19. Okie/Tex

    Okie/Tex Well-Known Member

    Thanks, E. Finally a realistic thought on TIPing. We have no idea where the funds go or how much it affects the moneys givin to the people that it's intended. After 15+ cruises, I think that the money goes to the cruise lines and a very small amount may go to the working group.

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  20. Calgon1

    Calgon1 Awaiting results of mental evaluation

    Tired of sitting on my hands ....

    OK Holfam, addressing your points, as identified above ...

    Wages - The cruise lines do pay 'the minumum wage that the law requires'. Just be aware that 'the law' that they adhere to is not U.S. law. If wages are regulated at all, the law(s) of the nation of registration would apply; not the law(s) of the passengers residences. Imagine trying to figure out what the prevailing wage would be with 6,800 passengers from as many as 210 different nations, divided by the number of days for the voyage, deducting for partial days (embarkation and debarkation), various national holidays (have to grant 'holiday pay', wouldn't you?). Oh, and should the staff receive full wages for those hours that the passengers are ashore? After all, they don't have to do anything while you're out 'experiencing' the natives, do they?

    Tipping - You're "a very generous tipper." Good for you. Having worked in the service industry before, please let me say, on behalf of all my fellow waiters and waitresses everywhere, a very sincere "Thank you". Hope you feel better.

    Of course, your perspective may be biased. What you consider 'generous' may be considered by others as insulting, and still others as being way too extravagant.

    A quick question ... You say you usually tip 25-30%? OK, then how do you figure out how much to tip your Cabin Steward? 25-30% of your cruise fare? Per person in your cabin? You said you cruised on Carnival. Their fares are running between $1,669 and $2,819 for a 7-day cruise. So, you're trying to tell me that you'd be willing to tip your Cabin Steward between $500 and $845 per person for the week? Not to mention what you'll be tipping the other staff? Considering the fact that you apparently only cruise the 'bargan basement' liines, I find that rather hard to believe!

    No, Carnival hit you for somewhere arouns $140-150, and now you're complaining ... Would you have been happier if they had charged you $1,690 for gratuties?

    There's an old saying ... "Cruising is not for everybody." I would submit that perhaps you would be happier with an all-inclusive, land vacation. Then you would have more control over how and to whom you could distribute your generosity.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
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