Oh why not toss my $0.02 into this already way-long argument? Heh.
Views on tipping here in the US runs a wide spectrum and I've had one person tell me I don't tip enough in restaurants and another person tell me I tip too much. (Go figure)
I'm 1st-generation American w/ my family from southern Europe and I spend a few weeks every summer visiting Italy (I'm lucky to have dual-citizenship). To quickly summarize, when I'm in Europe, I don't tip because its added in a "cover" or "service" charge. When I'm here in the US I tip based on the level of service I get.
Here near Boston, minimum wage for servers is $2.63/hr while reg. minimal wage is $6.75/hr (i think).
I think we do have to admit that tipping here in the U.S. has become pretty corrupt, far away from how it was intended. I've been told by friends who've waited tables that no matter what the service, at least 15% should be tipped - if the service was good or better, leave extra tip. Well that rubs me the wrong way.......
I feel that if a server does a typical job (typical as in nothing extraordinary, but is diligent and takes my order and checks in now or then and brings me my food nice and hot; not even requiring small talk) then I'll tip 15%. If the server really stands out in my mind though because they were making eye contact and making me feel like they really cared about my meal and kept a close eye on the table's needs and they had a good personality and attitude, I'll tip somewhere between 20%-40%. But if a server doesn't seem interested, doesn't make eye contact, isn't being attentive and/or messes up the order multiple ways, I leave anywhere from 0% to 10% depending on how bad I thought the service was.
On my first cruise this past March on Celebrity, I thought every staff member on board did a fabulous job (how the heck the stateroom attendant get my room turned over so quickly twice a day?! once I left for just 20 mins and it was all done when I got back!). They were from all over the globe but they all acted like my happiness was their main concern. Even something as simple as the bartender in the Ocean Grille smiling at me and asking me if I was doing OK (I guess I looked like I wasnt to her? heh) made a difference. So I had no problems leaving the minimum tips and then some.
I for one think it would be better like others have stated to just include the "recommended tips" in the cruise bill as a service charge because it wouldn't affect me and the others like me who feel we would like to offer the tips. Those who offer truly great service would still get a tip on top of that to show my gratitude. Come on... I'm spending $2,700 on my balcony cabin for two and my shore excursions for my cruise in Jan, what difference does $138 worth of tips for myself and my gf make to me? It's not a lot compared to the fulfillment it will give to the crew that I know will do their utmost to make me feel like a king for a week.
I work as a corporate IT consulant and make a salary, so while I don't get tips (nor would I accept them), I do know how well appreciated an expression of gratitude is from a client. On the rare occasion a client of mine has felt I didn't go above and beyond to resolve their problem, its ruined my entire day because I take a lot of pride in what I do (and so far I see the same pride in the cruise staffers I've met).
Cheers! ...And happy cruising to all