I recently went to Alaska on the Sapphire Princess. I have an observation. On my other cruise to the Caribbean a year ago, it seemed that everyone we encountered on each island always went through the same embarassing speech at the end saying something to the effect of: "...this is the service industry and tipping would be appreciated...", in fact, on one tour, the tour guide actually waited at the exit of the bus waiting for you to hand him money. This was different in Alaska. Not once did this happen...however, on each tour, the tour guide would always throw something in similar to: "...I love your ship...I've been saving up my tips to buy one...haha". (or something like that) But never was the normal speech given.
I liked this, and for that reason alone, I gave tips. It is customary I believe to tip $1 per person for a 1/2 day tour, and $2 for a full day. The problem is that NO ONE else did. On a bus of 50 some people, maybe 5% gave tips. This bothered me. One the one hand, when the tour guide is obnoxious an basically tells everyone they'll be poor and not be able to feed their kids unless they get tips, everyone shells it out. But when the driver doesn't say anything other than throwing it the story, he/she gets very little. Maybe people just didn't think of it, I don't know.
And don't get me wrong, tipping annoys the HECK out of me. It seems that EVERYONE is supposed to get a tip for doing basically nothing. There is a great episode of Curb Your Enthusiam that really pokes fun at this. The problem I have is that why was everyone so willing to give tips when begged for, and then no one did when it was only briefly mentioned in passing.
I choose to tip, (even more than suggested) because I WASN'T given the normal speech. I thought it was classy to do that, probably knowing full well that he/she would get less. I guess my point is to try and notice that next time on a tour. Like I said, ALL tour guides gave "the speech" in the Caribbean, NONE of them did in any of the Alaskan ports (not even Victoria).
And just because it isn't asked for, that doesn't mean it is still not expected. A waiter doesn't ask for a tip, but people still tip waiters. I guess the same should be for tour guides.
I worry that I'm going to convey the wrong tone here and am going to get a backlash of people saying how awful I am for perpetuating the tipping industry. LIke I said, I HATE tipping. I think the cruise lines should just charge a tad more and pay the tour guides/crew/etc more. Nevertheless, as the current social structure stands, it is etiquette to tip tour guides.