Opinion: Tipping on Cruises

This has been a hot-button issue as long as I can remember, and while I don’t expect my small voice here to change anything, I read something the other day that really made my blood boil, and I felt the need to vent about it.

We’re headed out on the MSC Divina for a Christmas cruise this coming Saturday, so I spent last week following Scott Sanfilippo‘s blog posts covering his time on the Divina. We know little about the ship, or even the line, so it was nice reading about his experience and seeing the pictures he was posting along the way. While reading his day 6 wrap up, this part stuck out:

(Side note: As I’m sitting here writing this, a couple is telling another couple that they removed their gratuities from their account over the missed port call in Great Stirrup Cay. Shameful and quite frankly selfish. The gratuities that are added to each passengers shipboard account daily are divided among the entire ships crew – from people you see every day, to those you don’t see working behind the scenes. The gratuity is what makes up the majority of the salary the crew members make, to pull that away from them over a missed port due to no fault of the crew or cruise line, is just unthinkable. Then to go and tell others to do the same? Ugh. I want to scream!)

Yea, me too, and I’m not even there. To recap: They had to head back to San Juan about 4 hours after they left the dock due to a medical emergency. This forced them to miss the next stop in Great Stirrup Cay, which apparently warrants removal of the gratuities for people who had absolutely nothing to do with the decision. Again, this all happened so the ship could rush someone with a medial emergency back to a hospital, which meant whatever happened was more than the doctor on board was equipped to handle.

That kind of reaction is unconscionable to me. Was it an inconvenience to their vacation? Sure, but how would they have felt if it was a loved one of theirs? I’m sure they’d have been more than happy to see the ship turn around and head back in that case. I know I would. Someone’s health was at risk, sorry you missed your port and had to “suffer” with more sea time and a short stop in Nassau. The Horror!

In my humble opinion, I have yet to hear a valid reason to remove gratuities from my bill. As numerous posts (such as this one and this one) have stated, it’s not just the crew you see that get a cut of your tips, it’s also the ones behind the scenes that helped make your cruise what it was. Other excuses I despise:

“The cruise lines should pay their employees a living wage and not make them depend on tips”: Okay, that’s true (I’d say the same for wait staff on land as well), but you removing your tips to “protest” it (example here) does nothing but hurt the people who worked hard for you on your cruise. No one upstairs cares, because it does’t negatively impact them directly. You want to change things? Write the CEO. Get the word out in the media. Do something productive that doesn’t involve shorting the staff of their income.

“Tipping isn’t a thing in my country”: Neat. It is here. Do the right thing and take care of the people who took care of you instead of thumbing your nose at the practice and refusing to tip. If you don’t want to tip, don’t travel to a region where it’s standard practice.

“I just tip the cabin steward and waiters directly and remove the automatic gratuities so I can make sure the money gets to the people who actually took care of me”: Well, in doing so, you shorted the people you don’t see who also worked hard to make your vacation a good one.

“My <waiter / cabin steward / whoever> didn’t do a good job, so I removed the gratuities”: Yea, sometimes bad service from a crew member happens for whatever reason. I’m not punishing the rest of the staff for one person’s bad day/week (we all have them), I’ll leave the tips in place and contact the cruise line later to pass along the issues I had with that one crew member. That’s just me, though.

Those are probably the most common reasons I hear for people to remove tips, so I’ll get off my soapbox now. All I ask is that anyone considering removing their tips take a step back and put serious thought into the impact it will have. A lot of people on these ships work hard to give their passengers a great vacation every week.

 

 

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