Gratuities, always a hot topic of conversation for us Brits. Our cousins from across the pond happily pay a gratuity and expect to pay at least 15-20% on service provided in bars, restaurants, hotels (the list goes on) even if the service has been poor. But as a nation, we British really do not like having to pay for a service up front that we are yet to receive or even a high cost for the service once we have received it.
Cruise ships have always charged for gratuities, most have added this on to the onboard account as a daily charge whilst you are on the cruise. A few companies allow you to pre-pay the gratuities before you sail so there is less to pay once onboard. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are an example of this. With gratuities starting from £5 up to £15 or even more per person per day (depending on the cruise line and exchange rate at the time) they can add a hefty bill to the end of the cruise.
However, as cruise lines are noticing more that we are not keen to pre-pay or have added to our onboard accounts, some have taken the decision to no longer charge gratuities as an extra and now include in the fare for the cruise. If you then choose to tip for exceptional service for a particular member of the crew, then that is at your discretion.
P&O announced last year that they would no longer be adding gratuities to the onboard account and MSC have just made the same announcement at the end of last month. Of course, these will be factored into the base cruise fare so the cruise line and their staff do not lose out completely. In April Norwegian Cruisline did away with their not so successful all-inclusive prices and have reverted back to base cruise fares with the option to then add a gratuity and drinks packages to the fare if you wish.
I wonder if any of the other cruise lines will start to follow suit as more and more people remove gratuities. It is a sight to see on a cruise in the first few days when you pass guest services and see the queue of people asking for these to be removed. I have witnessed this on the last few cruises from the UK that I have been on.
Tipping is a personal choice and I agree that it should not be forced upon guests, Costa makes you pay and will not allow you to remove in any circumstances. If I feel the charge is too high then I will ask for the gratuities to be removed and then will pay what I wish at the end of the sailing. If the amount is fair, I will leave on the account to pay at the end.
But, I do think it is always a better option for them to include in the fare and then not have to worry again about it at the end of the cruise. What do you think?