From what I've managed to learn - cruises lines differ in their policies, and, onboard staff have 'different stories' they tell me. For instance, I've heard that the 15% gratuity added to every bar drink/dining room order does not go entirely to the serving staff, let alone the person who served you. Ok,you might think that the 15% gets distributed amongst the entire service staff, but, then you'll be told that it goes to those staff who were on duty at the time - or - that a percentage of the 15% goes to the ship, some to the person who served you and some to the entire service staff. And so it goes on. You can't even be sure that if you add an additional amount on to the chit you sign that that will go to......anybody in particular.
Seabourn (and the like) have risen above all of this and the question just does not arise. Nobody gets stiffed. Nobody has to wonder whether their mandatory service charge gets to the right person, additional gratuities......???
Which (next?) of the major lines is going to bite the bullet and come clean and just roll the whole price up and say 'We're done with tipping/service charges/gratuities and claim 'the price you pay is the price you pay'. Or, is there a pervading sense of 'We'll lose so so many customers if we don't apply these charges (at a later date)'.
Anyway, all that said, I'll make a bold statement. I think cruises have become too cheap.
Cruise lines are paying their staff peanut salaries, the crew don't like it (that much) the passengers are taken on a guilt trip, the cruise lines nickel and dime to extract the last cent from every passenger.
Ok. So wake up and pay staff a fair wage (regardless of their nationality)- make the staff feel valued and then (really) jobs on cruise ships will become the truly sought after position that will attract and retain those high calibre staff the passengers want.
Until then - it'll be cost cutting and penny pinching.
Take a Seaborn cruise -and try and say that the staff aren't 100% excellent and that you weren't sprung with 'additional charges'.
PS. I've never been on Seabourn - so it's not bias driving me.