The ships accounting systems are all computerized. All your monetary transactions (including prepaid tips) are linked to your cabin number - so your cabin steward knows even before you board that tips have been paid. Your table in the dining room is assigned by cabin (not name) and once again the wait staff knows your cabin has pre-paid. That is one reason they keep track of guests who request seating changes in the dining room, just so the right wait staff is given credit for pre-paid gratuities. There is no expectation for you to tip more, however, you may get onboard and find that someon has been exceptionally attentive, or provided extra services and you may wish to reward them.
This is only my second cruise I'll be taking in two weeks, but I plan to pre-pay my tipping in advance this time. I like the fact of just getting it out of the way and not over analyzing the service all thru the trip or how much money it will end up costing me in the end. I also think these employees depend greatly on these tips. The service would have to be awfully bad for me not to pay it or less than the standard. I'm considering pre-pay because I've cruised with RCCL before and the service was exceptional. I'd never do it again if I pre-pay and the service was bad, but I've only heard nothing but positive things about pre-pay tipping. As far as paying additional money at the end of your cruise, if the service was exceptional, throw in a few more dollars for each of your servers, after all they probably deserved it and it would make yourself feel better.
There is not a savings to be had. On the last night everyone will be handing out their envelopes, and appreciation, and it might look strange if you weren't. Trust me- with the service that you receive from all you will want to thank each and everyone of them in person. That's just my opinion. Just a little note- there will be some that you will want to over-tip.
Wow, thank you all so much for such insightful replies! Looks like there are advantages in pre-paid tipping as well as advantages in waiting and tipping them in person. Well we will think about it. I like the convenience of pre-paid tipping but also would feel bad about not tipping each of them personally with personal thanks. My problem is, i always tend to overtip extravagantly, because i've worked in wait staff positions in restaurants and i know how much those tips and compliments mean. Meanwhile hubby gets out the calculator
More questions -- let's say we decide to wait until the last night and hand out tips personally. How is that done? I mean, will everyone that we need to tip show up at our cabin door, or what? LOL Probably a stupid question but what do you expect from a newbie
I've read that you take envelopes, and you write the name of the person you're tipping on the outside, and inside you place whatever amount you want to tip. And you give them out individually. I understand that part. But i can't find info about exactly when/where/how the envelopes are to be handed out. Do all the staff line up somewhere, or what
The envelopes will be left in your cabin the day before your last day of the cruise. I'm not sure if different ships operate differently but that's how I remembered it on the Majesty. If you pre-pay, you may want to bring your own envelopes. I'm sure if not positive that these staff members know whether you've pre-paid your tips. Tell hubby to leave more dollars to spare at the end of your cruise so that you can tip them personally, that way you'll have the best of both worlds.
Just back from my first cruise and yes the tipping thing is a little confusing. Read Tom and Mary Milano's reviews and they have a unique tipping plan. I used some of their ideas and they were helpful. We gave half of the tip to the room steward, waiter, and assistant waiter the second night of the cruise. I brought my own small thank-you cards and made them out. I waited till the second night to make sure that these individuals would be my staff for the entire trip. We had a unpleasant experience at our assigned table the first night and asked to be moved to a different table for dinner. The second table was much better. The next to the last day envelopes were delivered to our rooms for tipping. We used these envelopes to give the second half of the tips. Handing these envelopes personally to our room steward and waiters. You can have the tips billed to your account, but this seems quite impersonal and doesn't really give you the opportunity to express your appreciation of their services in my opinion.
Another great idea was the two dollar bills, although I didn't use them exactly the way Tom describes(no story as I gave them out.)They came in very handy for tipping for room service, cabs, baggage porters,bus drivers, etc. This way I always had some small money with me and wasn't stuck with only a $10,$20 or $50 bill at an inopportune time.I talked with my bank the week before I left and was able to get 50 - $2.00 bills. I will definitely do this again.
Offering a personal 'Thank you' to your cabin steward and wait staff at the conclusion of a cruise while handing them their gratuity is usually a very pleasant experience and far superior than doing your tipping via a computer using the pre-paid method. In addition, you may find that the quality of service might (repeat, might) not be as good if the staff serving you know that they have received your tips before the cruise actually starts!
The policy of mandatory pre-paying of gratuities is slowly being introduced as a means of preventing the practice (by some) of short changing or not tipping the staff at all. I think that the day will come, when gratuities will automatically be included in the price of the cruise by all cruise lines. Bobby