Depends on the cruiseline and the ship. I know on CCL one ship I was on pooled the tips but the others allowed the individuals to keep the tips directed at them. It is very hard to find out as they just don't like to talk about it. The only reason we have been able to find out is because of personal relationships with other crewmembers who let those getting tips know it was okay to be completely honest with us and that we would never mention names.
Since that is the case, would be appropriate to give my room stewart a personal gift to show my appreciation for there efforts? of course this would not be in lieu of the standard tip. What are your thoughts on this?
on holland america the policy is: if you leave the ten percent tip on your account, you may tip additional amounts to people like your room steward, and they do not have to turn that additional tip into a pool. if you remove the automatic ten percent, they do have to turn in whatever you tip them. this confuses some people, but it isn't really that challenging to deal with.
cash is always preferred, most cruise lines do pool their tips, ask your cabin steward directly and go from there. You don't need to bring a lot of small bills, simply go to the Purser's desk for change. Since their living space is so tiny, trinkets and gifts usually get tossed, INTERNATIONAL phone cards are a good addition to the tips if you want to give them something that they can keep and use for themselves
I gave my steward extra money, and a couple of books I had finished. He said it helped with his english. He didn't ask for them, but told me that, and so i thought it was a good idea. Hope he doesn't read out loud the part about the lily white breast. lol