I've seen mentioned on other boards that sometimes people will bring a gift from their home, or even make up a small gift basket for their cabin steward, presenting it at the beginning of the trip as an advance "thank you" for all the work they will do.
What sorts of things go into this small gift basket? This seems like a really nice idea, something I'd like to do, but I'm having a hard time coming up with nice, small items that wouldn't be offensive or patronizing.
Most of those small gifts wind up in the waste basket. The crew have very small cabins which are shared and they have very little storage space. The thing they want and appreciate most is cash. Some people give phone cards but many of the crew come from places that do not have phones, they can sell the cards to other crew members but get very little for them. Also not all phone cards will work in every port.
The difficult part is that you don't know if your room steward will be a man or a woman...
so whatever you put into your basket needs to be unisex.
We choose to give phone cards instead....you might want to include one in your basket or if you don't get enough ideas consider it instead of a basket. (We also give the waiter and busperson a phone card, too.)
edited to state: It appears two of us had a similar idea at the same time. Most of the home ports...here in the US...will take the cards...so they can be used. We've given cards the last three or four cruises and they've been accepted greatfully even when we appologized for the fact that it would probably only give them a short call home.
A keychain?? Pens & pencils?? I'm sure the thought is appreciated but there is NO OTHER gift more appreciated then the good ole american dollar. This is why they are on this boat in the first place. Alot of them didn't choose to work on a cruise ship out of pure choice. This is their only choice if they want to make any kind of decent salary to support their families back home. When they are handed a few "extra" bills, their eyes light up. This is the best way in my opinion to to show your appreciation of what a wonderful job they have done and any extra little way they made your vacation more enjoyable.