Azamara have recently changed the rules. Yes, gratuities are compulsary. Who ever told you that the amount was up to you was actually incorect as the tips have always been added to the onboard account. So you either pre pay them (as we always do) or $12.25pd gets added to your on board account. If you do not feel you have had good service then you go to Guest Relations and discuss with them the reasons for your dissatisfaction. Given the recent rave reviews on Azamara I really doubt if you will have this problem. Remember that Azamara is open dining, so you have different waiters everynight so there are no 'regular' servers to tip - prepaying just makes things easier IMHO. Personally I think they are just laying the groundwork to get the gratuities built into the cruise price (such as they are on lines like Seabourn) so that in the future tipping is neither required nor expected.