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Old 09-21-2005, 04:56 PM
Carlalena1's Avatar
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Buffalo, NY
Posts: 495
Someone on another thread just mentioned the option of going to the purser's desk and opting out of the mandatory gratuity. This is a subject that pops up here and there on other forums and I want to open it up for discussion as its own thread.

I don't know if everyone has the same understanding of what it is like to be a crew member on a cruise ship. I am not talking about the people in the laundry, kitchen, engine room, sanitation, etc. I am talking about the 500 or so people on a cruise that spend their lives waiting on people like you and me.

Imagine going to Denny's and watching a waitress work her tail off during a dinner rush. Then imagine that she has to work a double shift that day. Then imagine that she has to work a double shift every single day from New Year's Day until Halloween. She doesn't have to worry about driving home because she sleeps in the broom closet with two other women from halfway across the world. Then think about taking away the 5 bucks a day that you were contemplating paying her for serving you and your family two full meals.

Working for a cruise line is like being in the Navy, except that instead of being paid the 25K that a new sailor is paid you are paid 3 bucks a day. Instead of being able to shop at the PX for the rest of your life, getting health insurance for you and your family, and of course a military pension, you get to prepay your own round trip ticket between your home country and whatever port the cruise line wants you to begin your "contract" in. This will expedite things if you are busted riding in the wrong elevator and get tossed off at the next port of call.

Anyone who has ever worked as a waiter in a restaurant knows how critical a good busboy is. If you want your salads to come out looking better than anyone else's, if you want that bread and water on the table the minute the people sit down, if you want to run over to see if the customers are done eating and find the table cleared and the people happily drinking coffee and smiling at you- you had better tip that busboy well at the end of the night. If you want to be able to pick up your drinks without standing at the service bar for 20 minutes, if you want to be able to throw a free drink here or there to a great table, you had better tip your bartender out VERY well at the end of the night.

This is how it works on a cruise ship. It is a trickle down economy, with the head waiter tipping the team waiter and the bus staff and the bar staff and the maitre' d (for the best section). Now think about those relationships, with the waiter being from the Czech Republic and the bus boy being from the Phillipines and the bartender being from Croatia and the maitre' d being from Germany, AND YOU ALL HAVE TO LIVE TOGETHER IN A FISHBOWL.

And on a cruise ship, the same goes for other areas, such as the cabin staff. The cabin steward, that guy that appears like a holograph every time you turn down the hallway, folding towels, pushing a cart, talking to some demanding person (ever looked in a cabin as you walk by and thought "My GOD what a mess?" Guess who gets to wade through that mess and make a towel animal in his "spare" time) has to tip out the laundry, his helpers, and God knows who else. This is so that he can get the things he needs to keep us happy FIRST, or at least ON TIME, so he has a chance of keeping John Q. Public from writing out a negative comment card stamped FORWARD TO MICKEY ARISON ASAP and dropping it off at the purser's desk while he's busy crossing that 4 dollar a day "gratuity" off his bill.

Cruise lines have limits on the amount of workers from each country they hire from. They will not allow too many from each county, which is wise of them, because of a strike by Honduran employees (mutiny, really) in the early 80's. So when you hear the CD praise the "United Nations" on board, please gag.

Here are the top countries in terms of per capita income (2003)

1. Luxembourg
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. US
5. Japan
6. Denmark
7. Iceland
8. Sweden
9. UK

If anyone has ever seen any of those countries represented on a cruise ship, let me know. No points if they were wearing an officer's uniform.

Here is where our friendly cruise ship workers come from, per capita income-wise:

42. Czech Republic
45. Poland
54. Panama
86. Romania
112. Phillipines
120. Sri Lanka
123. Ukraine
138. India

The argument is often made that people from these countries are glad to have these jobs. I'm sure they are. Glad enough to pay a broker two months pay to get the job. Glad to wait on someone who holds the whole table up ordering three entrees in a row while the clock ticks "hurry hurry hurry next seating in 10 minutes" in the waiter's head. Glad to miss ten months out of his childrens' lives every year. Glad to live on a bunk. Glad to contribute in his special way to the millions of dollars in tax free profits that the boss is going to make this year. Glad to strain the cigarette butts out of the warm pina colada you left sitting in the elevator. Glad to have absolutely no job security or employment protection of any kind.

He probably isn't too happy to know that you couldn't see fit to tip him, though. But who knows! Maybe the next three thousand people getting on tomorrow will be a great gang.

One of my kids spilled an entire cup of tea on my duvet on day two of our last cruise. I gave it to the room steward with a ten dollar bill. I knew he was going to have to flash some cash in order to get a new duvet that night. Please note that out of respect I did not give it to a kid to give to him!

"Mandatory gratuity" is a term of art. It isn't really a gratuity, and it definitely isn't a "surcharge," as I have seen some posters write. The 70 bucks on a week long cruise is part of the price of the ticket. It just flows from us to them, stopping along the way to get corrupted and diluted and doled out as management decides. It represents the threshold level of tipping, beneath which you shouldn't be able to live with yourself.

Some regulars on here might have read that I was trained as an Admiralty attorney. I had very little training regarding cruise ships, except for the endless environmental issues. All of my seaman education and practice had to do with merchant vessels. I have to tell you all that the more I read up on this issue, the more astounded I am. I mean, these people have no rights, NONE. No right to cure, no right to a woman and a candle, nothing (see, doesn't it sound like a fun area of law!!!?).

If anyone would like to know where to go, and what books to read to learn about this topic, ask away and I will provide them.
  #2 (permalink)  
Old 09-21-2005, 05:24 PM
Raoul Fiebig's Avatar
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Location: Paderborn, Germany
Posts: 8,512
Originally posted by Carlalena1:
The 70 bucks on a week long cruise is part of the price of the ticket. It just flows from us to them, stopping along the way to get corrupted and diluted and doled out as management decides. It represents the threshold level of tipping, beneath which you shouldn't be able to live with yourself.

exactly that's why I've been saying for so long that the costs for a proper and fair payment of all crew and staff should be included in the cruise fare from the very beginning and that "tipping" should return to what it used to be - a reward for good service.

Several European and Asian cruise lines handle things that way, and IMHO it's a shame that the world's largest cruise market acts in a way that makes crew members desperately dependend on tips and that confuses and often enough angers passengers, because they don't understand why they are more or less forced to tip. It could be so easy...
Best regards,

Raoul Fiebig

  #3 (permalink)  
Old 09-22-2005, 08:00 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 7
I agree with you Raoul,
I'm from the UK, here we have a national minimum wage, so no one is working specifically to gain tips to maintain a living.
Hence in our country tipping is not so prevalant.
I have so far sailed seven times, five of these have been British orientated boats where tips are included in the price. Two have been cruises with tips of 3.50 per person per night.
At the end of each cruise I tipped staff for good service even the ones with automatic tipping. In the last two instances was I paying twice?
I like to tip for good service, but what if you get poor service? If for one crew member providing poor service you stop the automatic tipping ,those other crew that have been providing good service suffer too.
I say let the companies pay a working wage, then I can tip for good service, the better the service the better the tip.
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Old 10-02-2005, 03:41 PM
Crystal's Avatar
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Maine
Posts: 24

You have a way with words!!

I love it - you really put it into a prespective that I could understand. I always have tipped the "recommended" amount - this cruise (next week!) will sure to be more!

Thank you!!!!
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Old 10-02-2005, 09:06 PM
Frase's Avatar  
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Orlando, FLA
Posts: 961

I AGREE WITH YOU TOTALY! Everything you said;100%

I used to be a service worker (An airport skycap) that made a living off of tips. That is why I always tip generously. I know what it is like.

However, being a skycap in the US, and being a cruiseship crew member from a third world country doing the service jobs onboard, is quite a different thing. I do not trully understand what that is like. Myself and everyone else that take cruises as the paying passengers can be lucky we do not understand what that is like. We should count our blessings, but by the grace of God, go us.

That is why I go beyond the minimum reccomended gratuity. On my Royal Caribbean cruise, it was easy to do that. R.C.s system of tipping involved the option of paying for pre-paid gratiuities. I chose that option. Then on the last night, I recieved my pre-paid gratuity vouchers and envelopes to give to the crew members, personally. I placed each voucher in their respective envelope, [B] but I also added a few extra dollar bills in each envelope; 1s AND 5s [B/]. I hoped that all the other passengers did the same, but there is no way of knowing. These crew members really have hard jobs and deserve as much gratuity from all of us as possible.
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Old 10-02-2005, 09:37 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Orlando, FLA
Posts: 961

Let's see if I can get some levity on this subject (if that is possible).

You said that if anyone saw a cruiseship crewmember from one of the top per capita countries, they should tell you:

- On my cruise, I did see a beautiful Japanese young lady working the Purser's Desk.

Although, I don't know if I get any points for that. She was wearing a uniform, but I don't remember if it was an officers uniform.

The captain, and all the high ranking officers on my cruise were from Norway. That is, according to you, the #2 highest per capita country. But as you said, no points for that!

However, there did seem to be a social hierarchy of the crewmembers. The one's doing all the cleaning, serving, and heavy lifting were ALL from those countries with the lowest per captia incomes. In the dinning room, my waiting staff was ALL from India. My cabin steward was from Panama. The poor guys lifting the heavy overloaded bags left outside the cabins on the last night, all looked like they were from the Phillipines or Indonesia.

However, the crewmembers that had more cushy jobs and were more in the public view, were from countries that were higher up on the per capita income list.
- The CD (cruise director) was American.
- The people that worked in the gift shops were from the UK, South Africa, Ireland, and Canada and other wealthy nations. Maybe that young Japanese lady working the pursers desk was amoung one of them.

S0, I don't know how many points I get from those cushy-job crew members?

Anyway, the point is to be generous with gratuities. Those crew members really work hard and do not have the most ideal of economical circumstances (not by a long shot).
  #7 (permalink)  
Old 10-04-2005, 05:29 AM
Carlalena1's Avatar
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Buffalo, NY
Posts: 495
Frase: that is so right! Were you by any chance on my last cruise? Thats is exactly the way the hierarchy worked... except that you forgot the kid's center staff: Canadian.

More than a social hierarchy it is a racial hierarchy!

Well, obviously you were on NCL or Royal Caribbean. NCL and RCCL's senior officers are Norwegian, Carnival's are Italian, Celebrity's are Greek, Princess' are British, HAL's are Sri Lankan.

Kidding. They are Dutch.

Anyway, I might be revising my rant soon. Stay tuned!
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Old 10-04-2005, 09:53 AM
Carlalena1's Avatar
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old 10-06-2005, 10:53 PM
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Carlalena1 you could not have written a more eloquent, and true statement. I was so distressed by the long hours, and shabby treatment of the workers on my last cruise. I was even more distressed by certain passengers who insisted on treating these hardworking people like they were less than human, and only there to serve their every need. I was on a ship that required the manditory ten dollar a day tip, and I thought it was outrageous, only because it seemed to be such a pittance. I tipped my room attendent $45.00 for my seven day cruise, and always gave my waiters and waitresses $5.00 (or more)at every meal. I was treated like royalty by every worker I had contact with, not because I tipped them, but because I talked with them, laughed with them and treated them as an equal (as they are).Except for an accident of birthplace, I could be them. The hugs and tears we shared on departure day was worth more than any amount of money. I am returning to this same ship early next month, and almost hope the workers who touched my life so much 14 months ago have moved on, and are warm and safe with their own families. Kudos to you Carlalena1
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Old 10-07-2005, 05:12 AM
bobinnm's Avatar
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Huntsville, AL
Posts: 140
Thanks Carla - I appreciate the tutorial and knowledge that I am not sure I would have had otherwise understood the way things work - again, thanks
9-16 OCT 2005 - Carnival Conquest (out of Galveston)
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