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When you are looking to book a cruise the cost per day may seem very enticing. You may see splashed across the web “deals” for under $30 per person per day and that even includes free adult beverages for that low price – amazing right?! Well, that is before you add up the total price per day which often includes steep gratuities not stated in the teaser price. I mean, look at what my favorite cruise line NCL states on their site in regard to these add-on fees:
- What is the onboard service charge? Why is there a service charge?
The reason there’s a fixed service charge is an important one: Our Crew (as are the crew from other lines) is encouraged to work together as a team. Staff members including complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff are compensated by a combination of salary and incentive programs that your service charge supports.
- How much are the service charges?
For bookings made on or after January 1, 2023:
$25.00 USD per person per day for The Haven and Suites;
$20.00 USD per person per day for Club Balcony Suite and below
OUCH! If you are talking even the cheapest cabin on a 7 day cruise you can add on $140 PER PERSON for this sailing. Do keep in mind that this is up almost 33% from 2020 gratuities rates.
But what if you don’t want to pay this very steep daily fee? Is there a way to get the prepaid gratuities back if you want? On the same NCL page that shows the fee it also states the following:
- If there is a service issue can the service charges be adjusted on board?
Guest satisfaction is the highest priority at Norwegian Cruise Line. We have structured a guest satisfaction program designed to handle any concerns about service or onboard product quickly and efficiently. However, in the event a service issue should arise during your cruise please let our onboard guest services desk staff know right away, so that we can address these in a timely manner. It is our goal to reach a satisfactory solution to any issue when it happens and make sure our guests can focus on enjoying their cruise. Should your concerns not be met with satisfaction you can adjust the charges. – BOLD MINE
In other words, you can get your money back if you are not happy with something or even if you simply don’t want to pay it.
But should you?
The US has, for as long as I can remember, had a tipping culture. Part of this is because, unlike so many other parts of the world, low-end jobs do not provide a “living wage” and thus tips help to make ends meet.
Currently in the US tipping has become outrageous. I mean tipping for picking up a pizza? Really? All you did was make what I ordered and let me pay for it – why should I tip?
With this backlash on tipping, it may carry over to the cruise line you are on and you may feel that there is no need to tip because they are already paid a wage and after all stay for free and don’t have to pay for much of anything while on the ship working.
But that kind of feeling, in my option, is flawed. While cruise ship workers are paid much more than they likely could earn at home (and why they are working onboard in the first place) they still depend on tips to make the very long contract worth the effort.
Some may reason that I want my prepaid tips back so I can tip those who really give me world class service – not just those who do a minimum and expected service. The problem with this is there are a great many folks who work REALLY hard behind the scenes that you never ever see and they are part of the gratuities package and they will get nothing if you do this kind of tipping.
Another point concerns even the chance of getting the prepaid gratuities back. I have only ever once asked for my tips back and then chose who I wanted to give them to (not thinking about the above) and my request was granted but customer service desk onboard was none too happy about doing it for me. The only reason I could do this was because I had prepaid them. I have been told if you wait to have them billed the last day of the cruise you can NOT ask for them back. I am not sure how other lines are but do keep this point in mind.
For me personally, I think the prices are getting a bit out of hand. Sadly, at least with NCL, you can only ask for all of them back not only part of them as a way to show you have hit your limit on what can be asked for each day.
What do you think about onboard gratuities? Are you OK with them considering them a good value for the service provided or are they just too high at this point? – René
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