Cruise ship service staff get very little in the way of salary. $100 to $150 a month is probably typical. They work a multi-month contract with virtually no real days off in a 24 hour sense - they many get a morning and afternoon off once a week or so but have to be back to work that night. Most of the time they work 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Gratuities are essentially their total income. This is the nature of the beast when it comes to the mainstream cruise lines such as Princess, Carnival, RCCL, etc.
Tipping is usually not done on the upscale lines. Not even permitted in some cases. But then you are paying a much higher fare, so you are still footing the bill for salaries one way or another.
Thanks for the feedback on staff wages, however all this does is highlight how much of a profit the companies must be making. How can they get away with such poor wages? Regardless of how anyone feels about tipping, the fact that perhaps the majority of money made by the staff is provided by passengers rather than employers shows the employers in a very bad light. If this is truly the case you wouldn't catch me working on a ship! It has somewhat changed my attitude towards tipping, so thanks for that. At the same time, it hasn't exactly done wonders for my opinion of the people who pay their wages.... Guess it's just another case of the rich getting richer - it was ever thus
You are so right. The cruise lines are profiting here as we pay the crew's wages in the form of compulsory "tips." But face the fact that if the crew were paid that amount in a wage our cruise fare would go up by at least $10 pp/pd.
Karen is right- most shore side US waiters make under a hundred bucks a week for a full time job- with no benefits. And even though your sister might have mentioned that Massachusetts is well on it's way to compulsory health coverage for all, the rest of the US is NOT. So tips are again SALARY, not some kind of bonus.
I have been to the UK and Ireland many times and have had friends bring my change to me that I left on the bar as though I was ready for the nut house. It takes a few days to be able to walk away from the bar without leaving a tip. But your barmen are paid well, are for the most part unionized, and are also provided benefits. That must be reflected in the price of a drink- last time I was in Ireland I was paying over 5 bucks for a Guinness....
The cruise lines have largely succeeded in reducing their budget line item for employee salaries and moving the responsibility for salaries to the passengers. Of course, we'd still be paying the salaries regardless. It is the same as the old question of "how much income tax do corporations pay?" The answer being zero because the customers and investors pay for everything.
I personally would prefer some honesty in this area, and have the lines stop calling them tips or gratuities. Since it is a part of the cruise fare in my view, I'd just assume pay more for the cruise upfront and go back to what tipping is supposed to be.
Although the contract wage is low, the crew also receives room and board as part of the deal. Admittedly it still seems pitiful to most of us, but for many of those countries $150 a month is good money. Although the whole tipping process is pretty seedy these days, most of the waiters and stewards pull down a good bit of money each month. They are willing to do the work...they weren't shanghai'd.
I sympathize Excel because I found the tips and other shipboard charges really added up. And while this isn't the case for all cruisers, to me the cost of the flight, cruise and other travel/souvenir expenses really add up.
The reality is that when you consider how little the servers make, a tip does become almost a mandatory part of their income. However, the same rules do apply about really poor service. If you don't find you are being treated in a helpful courteous manner by people whose income depends on their tips, there could be something wrong. You have the right to expect good service, and I personally, have always gotten this onboard and don't feel the tips were unjust. Start budgeting for them now, and treat them as part of your overall trip expenses.
RCI Sovereign of the Seas 2005
Caribbean Princess 2005
Carnival Paradise 2004
Excelcius, Dave56, and others - my thoughts exactly. As I have voiced them more than a few times already. Tipping is either of one's own free will and in an amount that is decided upon by the person doing so, or it is not a tip. It becomes a fee. So don't lie to me and imply that I am tipping when in reality I am being charged an additional fee above and beyond the fare I've already paid.
This whole issue about waitstaff here making small paychecks. So? The reason their paychecks are small is because they are paying taxes on their tips, which are deducted from their paychecks. They are paid every shift they work, in cash. At the end of the week they pay their taxes on their tips. If they've made a lot of tips then their wages may not cover those taxes entirely or leave very little left over. But they have already received that tip money.
Sure, they get minimum wage as an hourly pay. So? Their tips add up to a lot more, obviously. Otherwise they wouldn't have such a large taxable amount at the end of the week. Do you really think the employer is going to inflate their tips out of spite? Hardly, as the employer has to pay taxes on the tips as well, in the form of matching FICA payments. So the waitstaff is doing just fine. If not, they need to find another restaurant to work at or give good enough service to merit higher tips. I know waiters who feed, clothe, and house their entire families on the money they make - and do a fine job of it. My niece works at a local diner. After an 8 hour shift she comes home with anywhere from $120 to $200 in her pocket. AFTER tipping out the busboys, etc. She works 5 days a week. So I don't think she's suffering if she only has a $50 paycheck at the end of the week. There are many others who work at other jobs that don't make as much.
I bet the cruise lines don't have to pay taxes to a government on the 'tip' amounts - which is why they choose to handle the staffs 'salaries' that way. I bet if they charged us a higher fare to compensate the staff better then they would have to pay more taxes. So this works out better for them, and no one else.
Regardless, I agree with everyone who said that tipping should be my choice, and a reward for good service. Not mandatory to pay a salary. I'd love to get on a ship knowing my bill is already taken care of, and any other charges are because I chose to incur them, not because someone in an office has decided that I should be chipping in another $10 a day towards someone's salary.
One of the reasons that cruise lines have started charging tips to an account is because of the different cultural influence concerning this issue. Bottom line is that the cruise lines do use tipping as a means to pay their employees and all the complaining in the world about tipping isn’t going to change the way they do business. Therefore, I consider the $10 a day charged to my account as part of the cost of the cruise and “tipping” as something extra that I give for excellent service.
A friend of mine works as a waiter for Princess and is towards the top of the pay scale. He works 14 to 16 hours a day and only receives $50 a month from Princess. He does get room and board, but even that is not totally without charges. He has to pay his room steward and for the same things that passengers have to pay for such as using the internet and drinks such as bottled water. Now factor in that he lives in a country that has the Euro as its currency and even $150 US dollars doesn’t seem like such a lot to live on.
But regardless of how little or how much a crew member makes, $10 a day per person that covers tips for both room stewards and wait staff, by US standards, is a bargain. Especially considering the amount and quality of the food served on a cruise ship. I spent $28 for a tip when I took my daughter and her friend out to a new Italian restaurant. And we only got half the amount of food than what we would have gotten on a cruise ship.