The Silversea, Radisson and even Seabourn are small ships that require excellent service and attention. If you were to build a new Seaburn vessel which held 2000+ passengers, service would go down based on the availability and inexperience of the crew. You brought up a good point in that "lots of employees were sick" due to rough seas and no experience in 40 foot waves. When I was on QE2 we had 60 foot waves for six days and even lost a grand piano which went flying out of a window, however, the crew never missed a beat. In fairness to Cunard, the other problem that they have been presented with is the lack of the number of experienced service staff they can recruit. As newer and larger ships enter the market, the quality of the work force goes down due to the lack of available (experienced) crew and staff. I don't doubt that the staff worked their tails off to "try" and satisfy the passengers, they're between a rock and a hard place. The smaller ships tipping policy on established ships is welcomed by passengers who have cruised and/or will cruise on those lines in the future, as they are high end ships which also ensure that the gratuities are higher and those who cruise on those vessels disburse additional gratuities at the end of their cruise. In the case of QM2, the company decided to automate the tipping policy in order to retain employees, as they are seeking to broaden their market to the masses and not a select number of high end cruisers. The fear of losing employees (you can't afford to lose) rises when you have no clue if these passengers will tip appropriately. The automated tipping policy also hurts the employee staff more than it helps, as those who might tip more have no incentive to do so. Many cruisers (experienced or not) do not always tip those they never see. Sometimes a Head Waiter shows up on the last day to ask if you had a good time and his hand is out and many passengers are like "hey, wait a minute, who's this guy?" He's basically in a management position, earns more than a waiter or a busboy and you should only tip a person in that position if they went out of their way for you during the entire cruise (not just a stop by the table toi say hello). The automatic tipping policy helps those in management more than it does the lower ranked employees. If a Head Waiter did absolutely nothing for me during a cruise, I give more to my waiter and bus boy (in addition to the suggested tip). If service was exceptional all the way around, I tip everyone 40% more than suggested and that includes the Head Waiter as well. It goes back to the cruiser making the decision as to "whom" did what and how much of a tip they deserve. If you go out to restaurant and the service was poor, you mgiht leave 15% but, if the service was exceptional you would leave 20% or more. When a cruise line charges $30.00 per person for dinner as in the case of the TE. Four people are paying $120.00 and the average tip would be $24.00 for great service. However, you more unlikely to tip because you're now paying $120.00 for four people to dine in a venue that was included when you purchased your ticket. The cruise line states that they imposed this dining fee to control the amount of passengers who dine in the TE. How much of the $30.00 per person charge is earmaked as a tip for the waiters? Do we know if the employee receives any tip out of the service fee? If the employee receives nothing, then Cunard should be ashamed of itself on that issue, if they actually disburse a tip out of the TE fee then those who work in the TE will acutally benefit more than main dining room employees. If they receive nothing, then Cunard stands to earn that much more revenue in a venue, which was originally included in the price of the ticket. Automated tipping was offered (originally) as a way for first time cruisers to take the guesswork out of how to tip. Experienced cruisers on lines such RCCL do not use the system, as they know from experience that the service staff dreads the customary tipping guidelines issued by the cruise line. When you cruise frequently, you get know just about every staff and crew member who you would normally come into contact with during a cruise. If you cruise on a line such as RCCL, you see the same faces hopping from to ship. Experienced cruisers tip these people well as they're coming back on board frequently and want the same level of service. In contrast, Cunard is not yet appealing to repeat cruisers. The ship is too big to fill it up with a majority of repeat cruisers. However, QE2 is smaller and the only reason that ship is still afloat is due to the large number of repeat cruisers (Europeans) who support her. How many cruisers have said "it's not the QE2?" When the marvel wears off of this one, it will be interesting to see if Cunard switches the QE2 back to transatlantic crossings and moves QM2 to Florida 6 months or more out of the year. Yes, it's bigger and faster but, cost more to operate than the QE2. Europeans have supported QE2 as they take "holidays" as opposed to Americans who take "vacations". This is another reason that QE2 has survived as well as it has in the last decade. How many Americans can afford the time (not the money) to take a six day crossing to Europe? Not too many, however, Europeans take a holiday for three to four weeks and have the time to cruise one way and take a plane back the other. Interesting that complaints on service are coming from those who have cruised a number of times on the QE2. On the tipping issue, let your conscience be your guide. Many will not tip in addition to the tip already charged to their onboard account as they feel they don't have to, it's been taken care of. This is where the service staff loses out. The back bone of any ship is the service staff and if they jump ship (as they have done already) Cunard will be faced with running a ghost ship. I'll go on this ship just once (as will the majority)and will never travel on her again. When Cunard runs out of bodies to fill her and make her profitable, what will happen then? The point is clear. If you keep making changes every other week and passengers (especially Americans) are subject to those changes, they will not put up with the nonsense for long, they'll get on Celebrity and RCCL as they KNOW what to expect. There's no problem when you're fine tuning a ship and that fine tuning does not affect the passengers financially, when you begin to use cruisers as a paying focus group to fine tune, then you end up with problems.