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There’s a wide variety of services that you will receive during your cruise. For some of them, depending on the cruise line, you will have the option to prepay gratuities or have them charged automatically while on board.
Other services are provided only to a few guests, not all. Let’s take as an example René’s favorite Norwegian Cruise Lines when it comes to Suites and Haven guests that receive the services of a Concierge and/or Butler. While tips are always appreciated, it is important to consider that there is such a thing as a tipping protocol, where keeping certain things in mind may go a long way and may prevent situations from being more awkward than not tipping at all!
First thing would be doing your homework as to who is included in any prepaid or automatic gratuities (AKA Service Charges) with your cruise line. Cruise line websites are the best source to learn what is and what is not included.
Let’s first talk about the amount to tip. While the crew on cruise lines work hard, for months at a time, far away from their families and home, the money they receive from gratuities certainly helps their livelihood a great deal. However, tips should be proportional to the quality of service they have provided.
It is important to note that the right amount may not always coincide with what you put inside an envelope, but if the difference between the services received and the amount of money you want to extend is not at least a bit consistent, it may be taken as a an insult or as a sign of dissatisfaction with the crew member’s services.
For instance, placing at tiny $5 tip on 14-day cruise for a Butler who delivered breakfast promptly every morning – it would be preferable to just not tip at all! I have observed these situations and the value of the tip fades through the concern that the guest may have been unhappy or just plain unfair.
Another thing that could be considered less than polite is to tip with several single dollar bills in a sealed envelope, thus building up the crew member’s expectations as to the contents, unless it is maybe accompanied by some personal praise for their services. Also coins are generally not a good idea (major world currency’s like US Dollars or Euros are always apricated).
On the plus side, tipping in any currency is widely appreciated, as crew members have access to exchanging this money in the different ports of call, and in general their value multiplies in their countries of origin due to the exchange rate, meaning 20 Euros would mean a lot more spending power in the Philippines than it would in Europe or the United States.
Another important aspect of tipping is to give it hand-to-hand. There are several times when my gratuities were left inside the room and the guest would tell me on their way out that that’s where they left it, creating a great deal of anxiety as to whether the envelope is clearly marked with my name or that anyone could claim ownership of it, or that it would simply disappear.
Finally, it is very important to be clear about the people that the tip should be split between, as this can create some animosity between crew members that may be under the impression they were part of the same envelope or gratuity.
Bottom line, tipping should be a celebration of what has been an amazing experience on board, and the person that provided the service as much as possible should be part of that celebration, in no unclear terms. Most importantly, when in doubt, just ask! – TG
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