I found this post, it is long but really good, on another board. The information is reported to come from HAL's CEO. Read it i believe it will clear us much confusion.
Tipping per the CEO of HAL
Here's a few thoughts on tipping on HAL. We got most of this from Kirk Lanterman, the CEO for HAL, during a Q&A on board Maasdam. He was asked about the "confusing" tipping policy. His answer -- summarized a bit -- and with my own thoughts at the end.
There is no policy, or standards. His staff is not to solicit tips. If you feel that they were excellent in their job, and wish to tip them at whatever amount you'd like, you are free to do so. If you want to use industry standards as a base, fine. It is YOUR decision. He pays the staff 6-10 times the industry standard (depending on job and experience). He provides all uniforms, unlike some other cruise lines. He pays their airfare to and from the ship at beginning and end of contract, unlike some other cruise lines. His employees get medical and dental benefits (who knows how much, but I do know they have a dentist on board many sailings to take care of staff).
They are paid 6-10 times the living standard in their home countries, often making them the highest paid residents of their islands in the Philippines or Indonesia. This is before any of them include tips. Many of them take very good care of their families as well as other relatives at home on what they make, and they receive very
generous tips from those who enjoy rewarding excellent service. Excellent is excellent - by any standards.
His words were -- if it comes down to whether a bar staff member is hustling drinks to earn the tips, or helping an elderly lady with her tray, his staff has been trained to help the passengers, not hustle drinks, and they are expected to help. If the passengers then wish to reward their favorites for the excellent help they received on board, then that is their choice. The amount is their choice.
Now my thoughts --
Go to HAL's website. Check out the employment section. You will find this --- "Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities at
Holland America Line - Westours, Inc. Due to labor agreements that the shipowning companies are parties to with unions in Holland, Indonesia
and the Philippines, most of our crew positions are limited to members of these unions. Persons desiring to work on the ships in the gift shops, as photographers, in the casinos or beauty salons, as a masseur/masseuse, or in the physical fitness area need to contact the companies we have contracts with for the staffing of these positions."
Try and find that in many other cruise lines' hiring policies. Union employees -- with benefits, maybe not to US standards but certainly good enough that when you talk to the bar staff or your waiters, you find them with years of employment on HAL. For the most part, they are very satisfied with their conditions of employment.
Incidentally, this closed ship policy may be why many of us get a bit frustrated when the newer ships aren't fully staffed yet, or have some
very new wait staff. The Indonesians and Filipinos have a lock on these positions, and the staffing varies as the new classes "graduate" from
the school. Staff rotates ships, and they do get to put in choices, but they may not always get their first choice.
I find that the way they do business is, for the most part, very smart -- we generally benefit from it. Yes, I have to find my favorite bar staff the last night with something to thank them for all they did during the cruise, with an envelope -- because the 15% wasn't automatically added. What that meant though, was that the bar staff on Lido was always accommodating to our needs, often stopping by to talk and ask if we wanted more iced tea -- and getting it for us. As opposed to our being hounded by bar staff looking to make the 15% tip on alcoholic beverages.
Yes, they have lapses in service. Yes, I have heard the stories about staff members who were definitely trying to get tips (I have also heard that if you say something to management about any instance of solicitation that the staff member is "reminded" that this is NOT allowed.)
We have never been solicited for tips with 43 days sailing on HAL, but we have heard of incidents from fellow cruisers.
It is very difficult at times to for us to even find our cabin steward to give him his tip -- the last night they are running around with the
luggage and they service your room while you are at dinner so we generally have to seek him out in the morning as he is cleaning cabins. The waiters etc. don't hover around on the last night. We have had to go to them usually, although it is easier to give something to the waiter when he gives all the ladies their set of the dinner menus. The assistant waiter and the wine steward have to be approached by us to give them something. I feel that the staff on HAL genuinely loves their jobs, and most do very well at them.
With the huge influx of newbuilds, I have found the staff to be not as polished, but most really try to please the customers. Yes, the newer staff has limited English skills. We just learn how to work within that, and use the dining room supervisors for special requests.
The bottom line is --- you are not required to give some "industry standard" as a substitute for a living wage to the staff. You are free to tip as little or as much as you wish, to whomever YOU feel warrants the tip -- you can carry dollars to tip bar staff, or tip at beginning or end or wherever and however you wish. You are free to give presents as well as or in lieu of money. Many times a special present is much appreciated, such as an interantional phone card.
One of the most important thing to them is for you to mention them "by name" in the customer surveys, or to their supervisors -- as it will help them tremendously in their quest to move up in their jobs, or move into supervisory positions.
I have tipped above "industry standards" on many occasions on HAL, because I felt my service was better from those individuals than I had ever received on other cruises. I also know that I can tip whatever I want if I felt someone was just "Doing their job" -- which has only happened with a couple of individuals. I understand it is MY choice, and that I am not depriving someone of food on the table or a living wage -- they are making that in their contract. The tip, if rendered, is a reward for superior service.
I have yet to find a waiter on 11 cruises who was "worse" that the "best" services that I find in restaurants here in the states. Here where I have to give 17-20% as "industry standard" just to get adequate service.
I have found some very lousy bar staff on lots of ships (so far, not on HAL) and it's a shame that the automatic 15% rewards really bad service. That 15% is most of what that bar server on other ships is being paid, and it isn't based on how well he serves you, but on how many drinks he can hustle.
Bottom line -- I don't mind HAL's policy. I find it gives me the freedom to do what I wish. If the staff was truly suffering from this policy, they can always get jobs on other ships. So far, in
conversations with staff on our cruises, the vast majority of them have worked many years on HAL, and are perfectly happy with their employer. I find it is really lots of fun to unexpectedly tip someone outside the "food chain" just because they made my trip a pleasure. For example, the gentlemen who calls us to dinner with the chimes and who dispenses the little goodies on the way out of the dining room, with his ready supply of "puns" or pleasantries.