Editor's Note

A bad tip isn't always a reflection of bad service.

Why Brits Don't Tip on Ships

By paul motter

Much ado came afoot recently when Royal Caribbean protested on the disinclination of British passengers to offer a gratuity at the end of a cruise. The situation escalated when Royal Caribbean officially notified a British cruise conference that "the line may need to rethink their strategy." Stiff upper lips trembled.

One Scotsman, upon hearing he was expected to tip at the end of a cruise, said he would refuse to leave the ship. Another was heard to say "I'd paddle my rowboat behind a Royal Caribbean cruise ship for a week and save £1000!" His friend replied, "Why don't you row behind the Queen Mary and saved £2,000?"

Seriously, Royal Caribbean is building its brand admirably with Britain and the European nations. Last week CEO Richard Fain predicted the majority of the line's profits will come from non-U.S. passengers within two years time. That is great news for the company in the face of a weakening dollar, but there is just one drawback - that tipping thing.

Americans tip generously - and while that is a good thing, it has created a dependence on the part of Royal Caribbean, and other cruise lines, for a major part of the line's compensation to several crewmember positions onboard.

According to the worldwide tipping guide at Magellan's Travel Source, Americans are arguably the best tippers in the world, to the point where it is very rare for any business to feel the need to include a mandatory service charge on any bill. That is different from the rest of the world where restaurants especially never trust the guest to dig deeper, so they include a service charge on most bills. In Europe a 15% service charge on almost any restaurant bill is de rigueur.

While 15% is a pretty standard service charge in Europe, left to their devices most Europeans will tip less. The Magellan guide says that if a service charge is not included in the bill then the average Brit will leave only 10%. The French and most Western Europeans are likely to leave only 5%.

The Americans are outdone by only one place - the "city-nation" of Macao, the Asian version of Las Vegas, where it is normal to tip 10% in addition to the service charge on the bill. But the point is that mandatory service charges are common outside of America.

Carnival Corp and its subsidiary cruise lines, plus NCL and other lines have mostly moved to automatically charging tips to the guests' shipboard accounts. This is better than the old system which, frankly, never made any sense. The old system required bringing enough cash to fill the tip envelopes at the end of the cruise, or to procure the cash onboard the ship (at sea) somehow. The ATMs that some ships now have onboard charge an outrageous $5 service fee. Most casinos charge a 3% service charge to get cash from your shipboard account. Then one had to personally stuff the envelopes and hand them out to each of the service people (who then pooled them and redistributed them anyway).

I suppose some guests find this process satisfying, but I find it about as pleasurable as paying taxes.

Royal Caribbean still does not add gratuities to guests' onboard accounts unless the guest specifically asks for it to be done. That requires the passengers' authorization; filling in a form and handing it in to the purser's desk in the middle of the cruise, when end-of-cruise tipping should be the last thing on his mind. If the passenger asks too late (well before the last day of the cruise when the tips are actually paid) he is told he must to go the "cash route" to fill those envelopes. The guests who do opt to include the tips on their shipboard account are still given verification slips to put into envelopes and hand to the servers.

Bottom line - the staff has to get paid. It isn't paying gratuities I object to, it is the old gratuity system that needs to go away. In the "cashless" cruise ship system, asking passengers to cough up cash at the end of a cruise has never made sense. And in Europe, where cruising is just catching on, but tipping has never caught on, if many passengers don't tip it is because the cruise line gives them so many reasons to opt out. We say, "do yourself and the guests a favor and make the tipping process as seamless and invisible as possible."

To read more about this topic, go to "Cruise Tipping Policies."

We want your cruise reviews!

CruiseMates started publishing our readers' cruise reviews long before other web sites even thought of it. We already have thousands of reviews online, but there are never enough! CruiseMates and our sister site cruisereviews.com both want more of YOUR cruise reviews. So, please send them to us:

  • To submit a cruise review to CruiseReviews.com, please go here.

  • To submit a cruise review to CruiseMates, please go here .
hr blue bar
7-Nt. Caribbean Cruise from $399!
MSC Poesia roundtrip to Fort Lauderdale to San Juan, St Martin, Tortola and Nassau.
•  America's Vacation Center (866) 501-7271
CM Note: A beautiful newer ship with European flavor.
hr blue bar
NCL Cruise Sale - FREE onboard credits, 50% Reduced Deposit + more!
Book your NCL Cruise TODAY and receive FREE onboard credits up to $250.00, 50% Reduced Deposits, FREE Travel Insurance plus more! Offer ends 10/20/09
•  Direct Line Cruises 1-800-352-8088
CM says: The NCL sale of the decade ends soon - book now.
hr blue bar
Chef Matt Sigel from Hells Kitchen!
Join CruiseMates on Norwegian Epic for a special culinary cruise. Sails October 30, 2010. A great new ship and a very special cruise.
•  Cruise Planners 1-800-561-0802
CM says: This culinary cruise is only available through the link above!
hr blue bar
5-Night Caribbean Cruise: $249
Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas- Ft Lauderdale to Grand Cayman, Cozumel
•  America's Vacation Center (866) 501-7271
CM says: Recently upgraded ship offers Royal Caribbean quality at a bargain price.
hr blue bar
Rare Disney Cruise Special!
Up to $100 Onboard Credit on select Disney Cruises when you book now through October 28th
•  CRUISE MARKETPLACE 1-800-826-4333
CM says: Disney doesn't offer discounts often - get this while you can!
hr blue bar
hr blue bar
4-night Oasis of the Seas from $699
Direct Line Cruises has preferred rates & inventory on the BRAND NEW Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. Rates from $699 pp + FREE travel insurance + FREE onboard credits!
•  Direct Line Cruises 1-800-352-8088
CM says: The most exciting new ship and private beach yet. Grab this one!
hr blue bar
Chef Matt Sigel from Hells Kitchen!
Join CruiseMates on Norwegian Epic for a special culinary cruise. Sails October 30, 2010. Great new ships and a very special cruise.
•  Cruise Planners 1-800-561-0802
CM says: This deal is only available through Cruise Planners!
hr blue bar
14-night Transatlantic Cruise from $2018
Oceania Cruises Regatta from Barcelona to Tangier, Madeira Island, Bermuda (two days) and Miami.
•  America's Vacation Center (866) 501-7271
CM says: Great food and plenty of quiet sea days!
hr blue bar
Mexico Sea of Cortes Bargain
Norwegian Sun 11 Day Mexico Sea of Cortez RT San Francisco Balconies from $949
•  CRUISE MARKETPLACE 1-800-826-4333
CM says: One of the best Mexico itineraries at a bargain price.
hr blue bar
hr blue bar
hr blue bar
You can access all of these specials above - or go to CruiseMates' Cruise Bargains for even more!
hr blue bar
more about

CruiseMates, a popular online resource for unbiased and authoritative cruise information, features ship reviews and articles, cruise news, polls, message boards and more.

NEW YORK TIMES: "Many sites that offer reviews are selling cruises, which raises questions about impartiality. An exception is CruiseMates."

FORTUNE MAGAZINE: "The Web's best site for articles, advice, or chatting with Cruise People. Self-financed and run independently of the industry, so their opinions are impartial."


"CruiseMates Best of the Web
Cruise Bargains Newsletter"

The ONLY travel newsletter containing cruise bargains we verify to be the Best Cruise Bargains on the Web. For each listing, you will not find a better price for that ship, sail date and cabin category on the Internet. If it isn't the best of the Web, we won't print it!


  hr blue bar  

We are an online, interactive CRUISE SHIP GUIDE with ship reviews, features articles, message boards and more. Recommended by: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN Television, a Forbes Magazine "Best of the Web" site.

Prices listed are cruise only, per person, double occupancy and include port charges (also called non-commissionable cruise fare).

Fuel surcharges and government taxes & fees are additional unless otherwise noted. Prices are in US dollars, airfare is extra unless otherwise noted. Limited availability and restrictions may apply. Prices are subject to change without prior notice. Typographical errors may occur. Offers apply to new bookings only.

CruiseMates.com is an Internet Brands, Inc. website. Internet Brands is located at 909 North Sepulveda Blvd., 11th Floor, El Segundo, CA 90245 — This email was sent to %%#EMAIL%%. If you no longer wish to receive our emails please click here.

  © 2009 Internet Brands