Funny that you should say that tips are optional and not mandatory. Not for us Aussies - it seems. Should we book through an online or US Travel agent we are told that tips MUST be prepaid.
Yet on my first cruise in 2006 on the Marco Polo I was advised that a couple sharing a stateroom only need to pay ONE lot of gratuities, not two. And that supposedly went for the waiting staff as well.
Is this correct ?
We very rarely tip in Australia - except when getting really good service.
Furthermore, and this is an issue which I am only mentioning as a "by the way". Most of the Cruise Lines are not honouring bookings made through US or online agents if made from Australia. When enquiring with the companies themselves we are told this is not so yet not a single cruise line was prepared to put that in writing prior to me paying a deposit. And of course, I am not prepared to take the chance.