I know tipping is a hot topic, and there is a very good argument to be made for tipping to be a reward for excellent service, but I hope people realize that gratuity-based crew depend on tips...and that it's not a reward...it's the majority of their wage.
They're paid very poorly by the lines and they work very hard. I know it's not right that the burden is on the guest, but the cruise companies have decided that it's the stockholders who should be paid, and not the crew, so they've put it on you.
So, don't punish the crew by not tipping. It's not their fault that the CFO wants the stock to go up, by cutting costs. Tip the hard working crew, and then call the cruise line, get together on a forum like this, and communicate to them that you won't cruise with them again unless they address the issue.
I worked on a ship called "The World" for a year, and it was a no-tipping ship. Everyone made a living wage. That's not the case on cruise ships. They really do depend on your tips, but it created a really nice atmosphere where everyone felt like an equal among the crew. Everyone was validated by making a living wage...which isn't the case on cruise ships. Many crew work like slaves, and then are made to feel like it's their fault they didn't get tips. They're being stretched further and further in this new economy, and the kind of personal service that you think deserves a tip is almost impossible, given the massive workload most gratuity-based crew have.
Let's just put it this way...How would you feel if you made $200/mth and worked 14 hour days? It's hard to always be positive when people aren't tipping. That's less than $2/hr. I'd find it hard to go above and beyond when I knew it wasn't going to make a difference. It's hard these days.