Q & A: Tipping, Dress Codes and More

| November 22, 2004

Art Sbarsky, CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor, answers letters and comments on key issues posted by readers. If you have a question about cruising, send it to .


Subject: Loyalty Programs

A question has come up over the merged benefits of Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, since both are part of the same corporation. The reader expressed concern that if passengers earn repeat-guest benefits from either line, their numbers might be overwhelming compared to the lines' programs being kept separate.

Art says:

There certainly is a possibility that a large number of people will show up at a cocktail party if past-cruisers of both lines get the merged benefits, but this is a logistical issue that the cruise line will deal with as things roll out. If they need a bigger space or multiple parties, they'll do it.

Rather, look at it positively: You can accrue benefits that much more quickly if you travel on these two lines instead of earning benefits separately. If you want to see how this works, look into the benefits Carnival Corporation is offering through its "World's Leading Cruise Lines" programs, in which all of its cruise lines are linked together, providing cross-benefits.


Subject: Tipping

I recently read a positively infuriating message in which the cruiser says, point-blank, that he would never tip on a cruise line. He argues that tips should be included in the fare.

Art says:

Shame on this reader. Do you never give tips in restaurants, to a valet parking your car, to hotel housekeeping staff or cab drivers, to the newspaper delivery boy? Tipping is a way of life in America, and on most cruise lines. Yes, the line supplies recommended tipping guidelines. They do this because a cruise is unlike any other vacation, and guests are always asking what's appropriate. The crew members work awfully hard to provide you with a great vacation. On a line that has tipping optional, these folks really depend on tips as part of their income. I suggest guests should always factor tips into their vacation budget and accept it.

Some cruise lines now supply easy mechanisms to do this by adding a certain amount to your bill. To simply eliminate all tips is grossly unfair. I do think, however, that one should only tip if the service warrants it. If you have truly bad service to the point where you do not want to tip, don't. But try to correct the situation during the cruise by going to the supervisor who oversees the person you are having difficulties with. You should be able to get a change made, or improved service. And you'll actually be doing the ship and other guests a favor by bringing it to the attention of someone in authority.

My extended position on tipping is featured in a full column you can find by going to my section of the CruiseMates web site.


Subject: Dress Codes

There were several posts recently about how casual the dress codes are becoming on all ships, from the giant vessels to the smaller luxury ones. Some cruisers are for it, some against.

Art says:

It's not a big surprise that there are different points of view on this. But yes -- overall, cruise lines are becoming more casual at every level. Compared with even five years ago, there are fewer formal nights and fewer informal nights as well, replaced by more casual nights. And lines that do have more formal dress codes in place are offering casual dining venues as an alternative so guests don't have to dress up. This leads to quite a mix of outfits once the dining rooms are emptied out and guests are enjoying the run of the ship. But let's face it: Our whole life is becoming more casual, and not just in warm-weather cities. The older, more metropolitan markets are seeing more and more relaxed dress codes as well. Cultural events such as the theater, opera and ballet are becoming more casual.

But on a ship, it would be nice if people would adhere to the code for any given night. To decide arbitrarily on a formal night that jeans and shorts are ok is the wrong way to go. People can dress casually all day long, on or off the ship. So it's sort of nice in the evening if everyone looks a bit classy. It's not that big a deal to dress it up a bit. At the very least, don't dress down and take something away from the experience for fellow guests.

 

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