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