drgreene, I agree with you 100% even though I haven't read loyd's. It's just human nature to do better when there is the incentive to earn the tips. I also don't think it's fair to those who give their all. Most of the mass market lines now offer the automatic tipping even though you still have the choice on some.
On our last cruise you had to sign up for the automatic tipping by the second morning. Who knows at that point which ones are going to be outstanding? Also we don't tip the Maitre d' or the Chief Housekeeper unless we've actually had contact with them outside of "good evening". I know that obviously we can tip extra at the end of the cruise for extra service but if we are going to be handing out the extra money at the end anyway, why not just do it all at the end of the cruise? I know that there are many who prefer to do the automatic for the convienience even to the point of getting the tipping overwith during final payment but for us it doesn't work that way. We get great service for 10, 14, 21 days and we feel the least we can do is take a few minutes to actually thank these people in person for the great service and hand over an envelope to show our appreciation. It's not a big deal. We simply bring a tip sheet from home and on the last evening get the cash from the casino charged to our card. Divide the money into the envelopes. 15 mintues.
I don't believe we would cruise on a line where the only option is automatic tipping for the exact reasons you mentioned.
I know about automatic tipping from traveling in Europe years ago. I was "yelled" at by a cafe' waitress for mentioning that the soup was so salty I couldn't eat it. She assured me I would be paying for the soup if I ate it or not. I left much happier knowing that even though she yelled at me and I left the soup, SHE GOT HER TIP.
I know there are two sides to the automatic tipping on a cruise for convienince but no one will ever convince me that it's the right choice for us. Perfect example is NCL.