Hubby found this item in his cruisepage.com newsletter this morning. What do you think about it?
When Is A Tip No Longer A Tip?
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that effective May 2005, it will be
the first cruise line to add a mandatory "service charge" of $10 per
person, per day to all passengers' onboard accounts. This mandatory
service fee program is already in place today on NCL's Pride of Aloha,
which is the only American-staffed ship in the fleet. It will be
implemented on the remaining ships in the NCL fleet by May 2005. On the
other NCL ships today, the $10 per day fee is added as a "convenience"
and passengers have the option of adjusting it before disembarkation.
While the addition of an "optional" service charge to passengers onboard
accounts has become more and more common over the past few years, NCL
is the first cruise line to implement the mandatory fee. The move is
sure to rankle veteran cruisers, many of whom are unhappy with with
cruise lines' growing efforts to extract extra fees any way they can,
and it will be interesting to see how the change will impact service
levels on board the NCL fleet.
For most of the past 40 to 50 years, passengers on cruise ships, and
ocean liners before that, followed the tradition of tipping service
staff on the last night of the voyage. On most ships, the Cruise
Director or equivilant would make suggestions about how much to tip, and
envelops were provided at the front desk on the last night of the
cruise. This approach was based on the theory that holding the tips
until the end would ensure that the staff would remain motivated to
provide good service throughout the voyage.
For the most part this approach seemed to work. Staff that provided good
service would be rewarded and those that did not would see their income
reduced. Passengers would hand the tips directly to the staff so they
could be sure that deserving crew members were rewarded. Economics would
eventually force the under performing staff out.
Over the past few years though, with the advent of the automatic but
adjustable service fee being added to onboard accounts, things began to
change. Since all of the money was pooled, and shared amongst the crew,
exceptional staff were penalized and the under performers were rewarded.
As a result, morale amongst veteran crew members who were used to being
rewarded for exceptional service began to suffer, and many of these
crew eventually moved on to other jobs.
While the cruise companies argue that they have systems in place to
measure and ensure quality service, many veteran cruisers will argue
that service levels have become noticeably more "average" as the pooled
systems were put into place. It is still to early to tell how the
mandatory service fee will impact service levels onboard the NCL fleet
and whether it will be adopted by other cruise lines.
It is also curious why NCL decided to take this approach rather than
increasing the passenger fare and just announcing that they had done
away with tipping? After all, their own web site says that "Unlike most
other ships in the cruise industry, there is no required or recommended
tipping on Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America ships. Our staff is
paid salaries. Guests should not feel obliged to offer a gratuity for
service that is generally rendered to all guests." Unfortunately, it is
difficult not to feel "obligated" when the "service fee" is
automatically and irrevocably added to your onboard account
We stopped going on NCL a few years ago, service, IMPO, went down hill every time we went on NCL. I agree RD, they should just raise the fares to adjust. I know this would not go over well for a lot our friends that cruise a lot more than we do.
NCL's automatic fee doesn't work for me....but I wouldn't sail any of the ships they own unless the Norway were to return to service. Freestyle just doesn't seem to offer "good waiters" on a regular basis. Too often its hit and miss in the dining rooms.
Rollerdonna's hubby here. I think what gets me is that one CANNOT remove or adjust this 10 dollar p.p. amount under ANY circumstances. Presently as most of us know, we have the option of adjusting or eliminating these "gratuities". (TDixon please note on Carnival you have the option) This idea by NCL is brand new. I hope other cruise lines don't follow NCL because it will be the end of cruising for Rollerdonna and me. As an adult I strongly object to being told I HAVE to pay this so called "servive charge" which is another way of saying gratuities, regardless of the kind of service I may or may not receive during my cruise.We were hoping to take an NCL cruise in the future but not anymore.
I honestly wouldn't have sailed NCL anyways but this is the nail in the proverbial coffin.....I would want to be able to adjust tips for the crappy crew they have nowadays if we manage to get through the cruise without sinking, discharging hazardous waste into the only protected area on our course, or exploding
Holiday 5-day Western Caribbean
Liberty 8 day Western
Well, first off it is NOT a tip. It is a service charge that is non-negotiable and from what I understand all of it does not go to the crew but some goes to pay Union benefits and even some sort of charity. Don't quote me on it because I have no proof of that, just what has been rumored. In addition they still say that you can tip if you feel the person deserves it! Hey, wait a minute, isn't that what a tip is all about anyway? The other lines are not doing this. What they are doing is making it an automatic charge to your shipboard account and you can change it, or modify it anyway you choose and it does go to the crew. You can bet that the other lines are watching to see how this affects NCL bookings and if they get away with it then I have a feeling that the other lines will also try this. My opinion is that it is nothing more than part of the cruise fare and it should be said that this is what it is.
In the case of NCL it's all really a matter of semantics and legalize because of the Pride of Aloha, and it's need to meet the standards of U.S. labor laws, regarding minimum wage, overtime etc.
Think, if they have already decided to make it a mandatory service fee, they really should just say tips are included in your fare.... much as the luxury lines do. The reason they haven't taken that step is simple... people look at the advertised prices, and NCL's would appear to be higher at first glance, and not a large enough percentage would stop to note that the "tips" are included.
On the luxury lines where tips are included service does not suffer because of it!! So... it's not really a given that no tipping equals bad service.
All the cruise lines are examining their tipping policies, and at the moment they are all pretty fluid. We noted on our recent RCI cruise, that early in the cruise you decide if you want your tips added to your shipboard account. If you choose to use that feature, NO adjustments are allowed!! It's simply yes or no.
On the other lines, if you adjust your tips downward, you CAN NOT specify who's portion is reduced. If you're lowering because your cabin steward didn't do an adequate job, you are NOT directly "punishing" them. The total amount is STILL pooled!!! So, everyone in the pool is getting less.
Some people would say that these problems wouldn't exist if they'd left tipping the way it was; with everyone being given envelopes to put cash in and delivering these themselves.
The problem is that scenario was the passengers!! The "skip rate", of people leaving no tips at all was approaching 20% (probably regardless of service received).
Then with the advent of freestyle, anytime dining, and people eating in the casual alternate restaurants on Lido deck, the tipping isse became even more complicated. People were feeling that if they didn't eat in the dining room, they shouldn't have to tip. BUT... what about the servers working in these other areas?
The bottom line is it's really not a simple problem, and I think it will take some time for a solution that meets most everyones needs will be developed.
RD, I saw this same article in the L.A.Times Sunday Travel Section. The reporter was very negative about it, and I agree. I would never sail with NCL anyway, but I worry about other cruise lines doing the same thing. It's getting to the point where it's pay, pay, pay for everything on the ship. How tacky.
I let NCL know I would never cruise with them because of this. I suggest that anyone concerned do the same.
I am a good tipper, but I don't appreciate a "service charge" being disguised as a "tip". It's not. Those cheaper stiffers have ruined it for us all. This new policy catches them out and treats everyone like a stiffer.
Did not know that RCI was doing there program in this manner. At Carnival you can adjust the amount at anytime during the cruise and be specific in who gets what. In addition I have only known of one ship that during my 15 cruises on CCL where the tips were pooled. On all the others the person gets to keep what they earn.
In the article, the comment was made that travel is up in general. So the cruiselines are getting a little arrogant. After 9/11, none of them would have dreamed of adding mandatory tipping or any other kind of extra expense. They scrambled for your business even if you didn't tip at all.