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Friday, September 10, 2010


Kerry & Nancylee Stange
Xpertise Cruise Travel

Who to tip? How much? What's "customary" and "recommended?" Should parents tip the full amount for children or is just half adequate? Why do you have to tip at all?

Even more so than their land-bound counterparts, cruise ship service personnel depend on gratuities for a major portion of their compensation. By the conclusion of your voyage you've experienced a level of service and attention you only heard about previously and probably didn't think possible.

WHO TO TIP…? The "who" part is easy. It's up to your discretion to tip anyone who provides a service you would like to recognize. Shoreside porters manage your bags once you arrive at the pier. They’re the people responsible for your suitcases getting onto a pallet and on their way to the ship. In general a $1 per bag will do. Stiff this guy and hours later you may be filing a report for your missing bags. We treat shoreside porters with respect and pass along at least $5.00 with a handshake and big smile. Why ruin your cruise on Day 1?

Whew... we've gotten you on board. Now what? Relax. Cash tips won't be expected until the last night of your cruise. With very few exceptions, a 15-18% gratuity will automatically be added to your bar bill during the cruise. If you use salon and spa services, a similar percentage is generally added to the bill.

ROOM SERVICE...? There are exceptions to every rule. Room service is one. Although there is no additional charge for room service, it is customary to tip the server who delivers it. In most cases, this will not be your regular steward. Depending on the complexity and “size” of your order, and whether it was delivered in a timely manner, $1 to $3 will suffice.

CHILDREN...? Parents often argue the need to tip the entire recommended amount for their little ones. I wonder if these parents don't see the mess that their children leave in the bathroom, stateroom, and dining room. Just because children are smaller than adults, it doesn't mean they are less trouble to clean up after.

Nancylee and our Room Stewart
Inacio onboard Celebrity Mercury
Onboard gratuity suggestions appear in your cruise documentation listing customary rates per person, per day. Small "tip" envelopes may appear in your stateroom during the last day of the cruise, along with luggage tags and written disembarkation instructions. By then you'll know whether or not the cruise line's recommendations are low, high, or right on target for the level of service you've received.

With the advent of alternative dining venues and options for freestyle or “dine when you wish” style dining, some cruise lines are now adding automatic gratuities to their passengers' on board charge accounts. If it suits you, then do nothing. However, you are certainly free to adjust the amounts up or down to more appropriate levels or ask that the charge be removed altogether. However, be advised that service personnel are also advised as to who has opted out of automatic gratuities, and it may impact your service levels.

There is one time when pre-tipping can be useful... we view TIPS as an acronym for "To Insure Personal Service". When meeting your service personnel for the first time, share that you don't like to run out of ice and fresh water for example. To make your point clear, slip them a "pre-tip" of about $10.00 and indicate there is more where that came from.

Whatever you do, don't skip out on dinner in the dining room on the final night of your cruise to avoid tipping, and don’t forget to have some dollar bills on hand when you disembark the ship... as there are porters to assist you with your luggage during disembarkation.

The key is to treat your service personnel with a smile and in the manner that you would prefer to be treated, and to ensure that they understand your preferences. As a result, your level of service will be Xcellent.

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