I have always just left the tips on the onboard account as recommended the cruiseline, until my last cruise.
My husband and I normally eat exclusively in the buffets for our own convenience. I'm curious how those auto-tips are actually divided at the end of the cruise? Does my buffet staff actually get direct compensation from me?
On my last cruise through RCI, I opted out of the auto tips and gave cash to my room steward and a waiter and supervisor in the buffet.
Anyone know what happens with auto-tipping and buffet staff?
RCI Sovereign of the Seas 2005
Caribbean Princess 2005
Carnival Paradise 2004
The gratuities are placed in a pool in which all of the servers get their share. Besides, much of the wait staff in the main dining room also pull duty in the buffet area. When in the buffet area, I often seek out my favorite waiters in the dining room. I am always amazed at how hardworking these people are - I am not sure how long I would be able to pull non-stop double shifts and still be pleasant.
I made some research about this on the Splendour and the Sun and spoke with different people about tipping in the Buffet Restaurant.
When they are working in the Selfservice they get nothing from the tips given to the waiters in the dining room. They change the staff every two weeks, because some of them work only in the Selfservice and some also in the Dining Room.
They told us, and we heard the same on the Sun, that there is no pool for gratuities.
All the waiters have to work for 2 weeks in the Selfservice and get only the 50 $ from the cruiseline and maybe some tips from a few passengers.
And itīs really bad for them to have sometimes only 50 $ for two weeks hard work and countless hours.
They also told us, that more and more american passengers are not longer willing to tip to the crew. And we heard that from some passengers too. Thats also the reason, that some passengers do not eat in the dining room, because they think, itīs not necessary to tip the Selfservice Staff but have to tip the waiters in the dining room.
Maybe thats one of the reasons, NCL has chosen for automatically tipping.
NCL was the first cruise line to start the automatic tipping. It was when the buffet restaurant and the alternative dining started to become very popular. I believe that is exactly why cruises went to the automatic tipping, because too many people would skip out of the formal dining room on the last night so they wouldn't have to face their waiter team and tip them. Several years ago the President of Carnival Cruise Lines; Bob Dickinson; went on one of their ships, the Imagination. He worked in the different positions on the ship to see what the workers went through. This was filmed and shown on PBS. This was when CCL started the automatic tipping. When Bob worked the purser's desk they showed a lady coming up to have her gratuities removed from her account. She claimed she wasn't told about them and that "she couldn't afford that." So ofcourse the cruise line had to remove them. And I'm sure that lady probably didn't tip a penny for the whole cruise. It is sad that people have this attitude. Carnival charges $10 a day, and $1 of that does goes for the alternative dining crew. I do like how RCI gives you the coupons to put in envelopes so you atleast have something to hand to the crew. By giving them the envelope myself with the coupon and adding some, I know that the crew is truly getting the gratuities.
Anyone that I feel gave exceptional service I always give an envelope with some cash. That way I know it went to them.
On Carnival it helps a lot to mention them in the survey they give you at the end of the cruise. This plays a big part in who gets promoter to a better position. I would assume the other lines do something similar.
Just come off an NCL cruise (my first) the level of auto tipping was surprising for one like me who has not been on a cruise before. One lady told me that she was even charged a a 15% tip for taking a drink out of her mini bar!
My question is why don't the cruise companies pay their staff decent wages instead of forcing them to rely on tips?
They can't even argue that it improves performance, for with auto tipping the money just goes to everyone regardless of how hard they work.
I noticed that on the Norwegian Jewel, pretty much the entire catering/waiting/house staff represented a roll call of the poorer nations of the world; Macedonia, Romania, Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, etc.. Presumably this is because the wage levels are so low that they are the only ones who will accept them. I understand that they work 9 months straight through before they get any time off.
It suggests to me that the people who refuse to tip are on the right track. The real issue is that to keep the up front cost of the cruise low in order to bring in the customers, the cruise companies hide the staff costs by makng the customers pay the staff in the form of auto gratuities. This is an issue of hidden charges. I'd respect a company which banned tipping of all sorts and paid its staff a decent wage.
Incidentally, I'd not recommend the Norwegian Jewel, many of my fellow passengers agreed with me that it was like spending a fortnight as a hostage in an airport departure lounge.