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  #31 (permalink)  
Old August 19th, 2004, 08:00 PM
Newt
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I personally think it is a great idea, that way tips are shared with all the staff and you don't have to deal with envelopes at your dinner table.
However having said that you must also remember that you can go and remove or change the tip amount when you pick up your final bill. It is still optional and up to you whether you pay the tip or not.
We did not change or remove our tip, but we know of passengers who were not happy and removed theirs entirely.
The choice is still yours.
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  #32 (permalink)  
Old August 19th, 2004, 08:26 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Hi Newt, check out the top of this thread. NCL is different than other cruise lines. The service charge is NOT removable, currently on the Pride of Aloha it is NOT a tip. The choice is not yours if you receive bad service Don't know what will happen when this goes fleetwide next May.
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  #33 (permalink)  
Old August 19th, 2004, 09:42 PM
Bruce Chafkin
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL


It appaears that the public is finally realising that NCL and NCL America are two different companies with two different products - and two different pricing structures.
It is unfortunate that NCL chose to include their name on the new American product.

The monthly payroll for a ship like Grand Princess (with over 1,000 crew) is about $1 Million.
The monthly payroll for the Pride of Aloha (with about 700 crew) is over $3 Million.
Is that our problem? Indirectly - Yes it is.
Somebody needs to pay that extra $2 Million every month.

If the Pride of Aloha sails every week with 2.000 guests, and charges each one $10 per day, they take in about $20,000 per day or about $600,000 per month. That doesn`t begin to cover the $2 Million payroll shortfall. Nor does it cover the full year round medical benefits for all crew required by Hawaiian State Law. Nor does it cover the vacation pay they must now pay to all employees. Nor does it cover the high recruitment and training costs for American Crew. Nor does it cover the high turnover costs with American crew.

Is that our problem. Indirectly - Yes it is. Somebody needs to pay for it. NCL America can operate at a loss - as it is doing now - only for so long. That`s why prices for POA are high and probably going much higher.

Looking at the numbers above, does anyone now wonder what happens with the mandatory "Service Charge" on POA?

Should NCL America add the "Service Charge" into the price of the cruise? It sounds like a good idea - until you look at the big picture. A higher cruise price means a higher commission paid to the travel agent and higher sales taxes paid several times. That would force NCL America to then raise the cruise fare even higher to cover those costs, which in turn forces them to pay an even higher commission and even more sales taxes.

You want to buy American? It is generally going to be more expensive than foreign products. You decide with your pocketbook.
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  #34 (permalink)  
Old August 19th, 2004, 11:05 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Ok but maybe NCL should have computed all this before they decided to offer this American Crew Cruise. It's not our fault they didn't compute the costs before they offered this cruise.

So we get *** service because of this? How is that fair.

If this is such a great thing to be able to cruise Hawaii without a foreign port then people should be willing to pay more for this unique product.

Does NCL believe that they can't charge more? Does NCL believe that they can offer a **** product, but because it's all Hawaii they can get away with it?

Either the market will bare the increased costs or it won't. It's hard for me to believe that NCL didn't anticipate the 3x increase in costs. If so then they purposely made the cruise a **** one knowning that the popularity of a all Hawaiian trip would be high.

I would say, reading all the complaints, that NCL has made a grave miscalculation.
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  #35 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 12:07 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

The POA is just about fully booked through next year so I don't think people paying a higher price for the cruise is a problem. I would gladly pay more, much more to have a cruise with good food and service. Just don't nickel and dime me to death. I feel that same way about hotels and try to avoid those types as much as possible. The economy is doing better (fingers crossed) and that is clearly shown by the sold out sailings. I would be willing to bet the majority of travelers would pay the extra to be guaranteed a nice ship. Don't forget people from all over the world visit Hawaii. If NCL did it right they could probably kick butt
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  #36 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 08:38 AM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

It seems to me that if NCL had done their homework, calculated what it would actually cost to run the American flagged ship and priced the cruises accordingly, they could have got a pretty good idea if this venture would be economically feasible.
Instead, it appears that they set the prices for this cruise too low to actually pay the expenses, and are trying to make up the shortfall by some combination of reducing costs (and quality) and adding extra service charges.
The POA may be booked up well into the future, but it is booked at prices that are apparently too low to allow it to operate as a usual cruise experience, so we still don't know if the public is really willing to pay what is necessary to make this venture viable. What we do know now, is that many customers are unhappy with things they way they are organized right now.
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  #37 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 09:36 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Bruce, good points.

NMNita
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  #38 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 01:10 PM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Originally posted by Bruce:

"Should NCL America add the "Service Charge" into the price of the cruise? It sounds like a good idea - until you look at the big picture. A higher cruise price means a higher commission paid to the travel agent and higher sales taxes paid several times. That would force NCL America to then raise the cruise fare even higher to cover those costs, which in turn forces them to pay an even higher commission and even more sales taxes."

Do you mean that just by calling this by a different name(service fee) they can avoid paying a lot of tax on this money? Why don't they charge half price for all their cruises then and add a whooping big 'service fee' ? If this is legal, and saves them so much money, you would think they would be doing that.
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  #39 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

This is NCL's 2005 policy:

Quote:

A service charge of $10 per person, per day will be added to your onboard account. For children ages 3-12, a $5 per person per day charge will be added to your onboard account; there is no charge for children under the age of three. This is a fixed service charge and is not adjustable. Of course, if you have any concerns about the service you receive while on board your cruise then please bring them to the immediate attention of our reception desk staff on board so that we can address any issues in a timely manner before the cruise is over.

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.
[Emphasis added.]
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  #40 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 10:59 PM
Bruce Chafkin
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

John and Gardencat,

You have great points.
NCL America should have priced the Hawaii cruises much higher from the start, but as with many new product introductions, they heavily discounted the initial cruises to cover for start-up difficulties that surely happen with a brand new concept / company. When first time cruisers on POA ask why they didn`t get a discount or partial refund for all the training / organizational / operational difficulties they encountered, the simple answer (that they do not want to believe) is, "You did get a discount. But since cruising on an American Ship in Hawaii is far more expensive than on a foreign ship, a discounted American cruise is still probably more costly than a standard priced foreign one."

Another part of the challenge was an informal agreement between NCL America and the State of Hawaii to keep prices in line with other 7-day cruises. NCL America has been slowly edging up the prices, but they will need to go far higher to cover costs and just break even. OR - the other way to keep the published prices in line with other 7-day cruises is to find other revenue opportunities, like a mandatory service charge.

Gardencat, they could probably take half the cruise price and designate it as a fee in order to avoid paying sales taxes and Agency Commissions, but the Hawaii and Federal Governments might have a problem with this tax evasion technique. I certainly would. That`s probably not the smartest PR or legal move for a new cruise line company to make. If it was do-able or legal, other cruise lines and airlines would be doing that by now. Since the Managing Director of NCL America was formerly NCL`s top legal advisor, I`m sure that he knows what he is doing in that department.

Does anyone believe for a moment that NCL America INTENTIONALLY created a sub-standard product in order to ruin your vacation and bankrupt their new company?
Does anyone believe for a moment that the executives at NCL America didn`t make incredibly detailed business plans and calculations over the past three years they have been putting this together?
Could it possibly be the case that unforseen circumstances (Union challenges, Coast Guard difficulties, etc) that we are not aware of may have had much to do with the present problems?
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  #41 (permalink)  
Old August 20th, 2004, 11:10 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

very well stated !!! they are dealing with more than what meets the eye
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  #42 (permalink)  
Old August 21st, 2004, 12:39 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

"Originally posted by Bruce Chafkin:
"Gardencat, they could probably take half the cruise price and designate it as a fee in order to avoid paying sales taxes and Agency Commissions, but the Hawaii and Federal Governments might have a problem with this tax evasion technique. I certainly would. That`s probably not the smartest PR or legal move for a new cruise line company to make. If it was do-able or legal, other cruise lines and airlines would be doing that by now. Since the Managing Director of NCL America was formerly NCL`s top legal advisor, I`m sure that he knows what he is doing in that department."

That is sort of my point, You used the phrase this 'tax evasion technique" if it is indeed a tax evasion technique, then it is wrong ,whether it is for $120 per person per cruise or for $800 per person per cruise. Is it possible that NCL thinks it can disguise it or sort of 'fly under the radar' by making it an amount similar to the usual tips? I have no way of knowing this, but the fact that they seem to be dancing around and not saying exactly where it goes makes me curious. Your explaination of how it could save them taxes and commissions to do it this way got me thinking.
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  #43 (permalink)  
Old August 21st, 2004, 12:46 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Actually, I don't think NCLA planned this out at all. From what I understand from a former crew member all of this was entirely predictable. While the substandard working conditions may have worked well with a foreign staff, Americans aren't goint to take it. If you contact Stephen Hensley on the Pride of Aloha thread you will learn how NCLA marketed the POA to cruise members and how NCLA did not live up to it's promises. Obviously there are many unhappy workers on that ship, and they continue to sail at full capacity with a 20-25% reduction in staff. Whoever is running the company is either not doing their job or just thought the workers would take it as well as the passengers.

Who here would not be surprised that travelers are upset when the non pay restaurants have the same menu night after night all week? What about the limited dining times? More pay restaurants than regular dining rooms and the dining room food is terrible? Is it too much to ask to eat a meal with real china and not paper plates? Who thought this out? Most cruisers are repeat customers and they know what to expect from a cruise line. They aren't getting it here and finally NCL is admitting there is a problem. One can hope that things will get better from here on in.

Raise the fare, that's fine but don't torture the cruisers by making them buck up at every corner to get a decent meal or drive them crazy to be able to use the soda card they purchased because all the bars are closed. I could go on and on, all of this was forseeable. Why not just build a quality product, pay the staff well so there's no turnover, and charge more if you have to?

I'm not trying to sound harsh but to me these are common sense issues.
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  #44 (permalink)  
Old August 21st, 2004, 02:43 AM
Bruce Chafkin
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

cnmiranda,

Common sense is all fine and good until you apply it and expect it from Governmental employees and American Labor Unions.
The Union Contract negotiated between NCL America and the Seafarers International Union is nearly the same - but slightly better (higher wages) - as the contract negotiated by the same Union with my past employers (Aloha Pacific 1989, and American Hawaii Cruises 1992). In typical American fashion, the Union gets loads of money and the workers get screwed. My colleagues who worked on those old American Ships with me - and who are now working on the much nicer and newer POA - tell me that general working and living conditions on POA are better than we had experienced earlier on the SS Monterey and the SS Independence. Those few "old-timers" are quite happy with their new home and employer. It is the newbies who never worked on ships before who are having problems adjusting. American Hawaii and Aloha Pacific had the same problems when they got started. Unfortunately there was - and is - no easy solution when you do not have a pool of experienced workers to start your new American Cruise Line. No cruise line in the world (except POA)will hire an American to work on a ship
At American Hawaii Cruises we had an annual crew turnover rate of 85%. So far, POA is doing better than that. They must be doing something right.

The US Coast Guard was - and still is - the most problematic issue with recruiting and hiring Americans. They insist on very extensive background checks before issuing the Merchant Marine Document that alllows an American to legally work on an American ship. Getting that card can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 months. But when you call the Coast Guard they always tell you that it will be ready "in a week".
If you don`t have the card, you cannot work on the ship. At American Hawaii Cruises we were forced to hire people with zero qualifications, only because they already had the card. Meanwhile the really qualified new hires were sitting in hotel rooms for weeks or months - waiting for their cards from the Coast Guard.
Since there are very few American ships of any kind left in the world, the Coast Guard issues only a few hundred of these cards every year. NCL America asked if the Coast Guard was prepared to issue several thousand cards for their new crew and their relievers. Somebody at the Coast Guard said "Yes" without doing his homework. The Coast Guard is hopelessly behind in issuing the cards.
Since 9/11, the Coast Guard has been much slower and thorough with issuing these cards. NCL America had no way of knowing about this slow-down. The "staff reduction" on POA is a result of newly hired crew sitting in hotel rooms (getting paid) while waiting for the Coast Guard to get their act together. Even worse, some crew who received the cards are suddenly pulled off the ship after the Coast Guard changes their minds and recinds the cards. Any drug or alcohol activity in your past means that you cannot get the card. Even a speeding ticket can cause them to refuse to issue it. I had a battle with the Coast Guard when they uncovered a speeding ticket I received 20 years earlier. They wanted to revoke my card based on the fact that I had not written a letter describing my rehabilitation procedures.

Having worked on American and International ships for many years, my advice to NCL America is to can the entire thing. It just is not worth it to hire Americans and pay American taxes.
They should remove the American flag, fire the American crew - and management - put a Bahamas flag on the stern, hire Filipinos for crew, and take the ship to Europe. Everyone will be happier if they do.
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  #45 (permalink)  
Old August 21st, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Bruce Chafkin
You seem to have a pretty clear view of the problems that would be involved in this type of venture, was NCL not aware of all this? If they had the history of the SS Independance and SS Monteray as an example shouldn't they have been better prepared?
According to your figures the 85% turnover on those ships, should have warned them about needing more backup staff. As you stated "the American Coast Guard was and still is the most problematic issue with recruiting and hiring Americans" this was an issue previously it seems, so again I wonder that NCL didn't seem to realize how big an issue it would be this time.
The way you describe all of this it does sound as if NCL had their hands full dealing with all the problems involved in this venture but I think they could have anticipated most of them had they done a realistic evaluatuion.
Once they started this project and saw that it was not coming together as they had anticipated, shouldn't they have delayed or held back until they could have provided something like the expected service levels? Maybe cancelled a few more cruises or given customers a warning and a chance to cancel bookings with a refund and thus lower the passenger load to more managable levels?
I know hind sight is 20/20, but this is not really hindsight. There were several people on these very cruise boards (lay people ) who were starting to make suggestions like this after the first few 'trainning cruises of the new American ' staff on the then Sky.
If these passengers could see the problems then and if people on these boards could forecast the disaster this looked like becoming why couldn't NCL.

I'm about to get on one of my favorite band wagons here, but NCL seems to have a corporate habit of refusing to look problems in the face and refusing to make the hard decisions. They seem to operate as if the the best case scenario will always occur, if they just carry on with business as usual. When it doesn't (as so often happens in life) they pass on the resulting disaster to their customers. Even at that point, they seem to hope or pretend that if they ignore the problems and tell the customers, " We are not aware of any problems on that ship", the problems will disappear.

I sense a great deal of frustration in your last sentance about reflagging the ship and I sympathize, I too would like to see American flagged ships operating successfully in Hawaii, but my feeling is, that by their inept attempt to 'float' this poorly conceived American flagged fleet ,NCL has simply done more to reduce the chances for this too ever happen.
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  #46 (permalink)  
Old August 21st, 2004, 09:53 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Thanks for your comments Bruce- I'm on my way out the door for the airport.

Have a great week folks!
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  #47 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 11:35 AM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I have a group going on Norwegian Dawn October 2004. We took a cruise on Norwegian in October 2001 and the $10 per person fee was already in effect. This was not called a "service charge", it's considered the tipping for the staff so that you won't have to be bothered with several different envelopes to give out at the end of the cruise.

Personally, I thought it would lower the service we received because the staff knew they would be tipped regardless, but, I was pleasantly surprised.

And yes, it is true that you can add to and/or take from the $140 (this is the total cost per couple for 7 days) the amount you give them, it's not written in stone, it is RECOMMENDED.

In any case, there is always someone you feel deserve something "extra" and you can hand them that at the end of the cruise.

This is our third Norwegian cruise and I'm hoping it will be as pleasant as the other two.

Peace
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  #48 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 12:50 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL


Thadora, that's the way it is now and has been since NCL went to freestlye cruising This thread is about the mandatory fee that begins next year and can NOT be adjusted.
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  #49 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 12:59 PM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I do believe NCL did their best to foresee all possibilities but that unexpected events occured. This happens in business all the time. Monday morning quarterbacking is easy, running a cruise line isn't. I am sure there are many things they would have done differently if they could have seen the future. Who amongst us wouldn't?

But this thread is about the service charge, not about the problems on POA. Please try to stick to the topic!

Regarding the service charge. It replaces the tip. Personally, I don't agree it should be mandatory, but I don't think hotels, resorts and restaurants in Europe should impose mandatory tips either. Even restaurants in Florida do it, and many all over the US for larger parties.

So my point is, "how often do you NOT tip on a cruise?" I have never been on a cruise when I didn't tip, even on Holland America when it wasn't required. Okay, the fact that it is mandatory on NCL is a little irritating, but not enough to raise my blood pressure about it, because I would have tipped anyway.

The guidelines posted by Newt are pretty self-explanatory:

"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. "

That means no tipping required at all. It does look like they leave the door open for people who might want to tip (like Holland America did for decades before just recently changing their policy). I would not be surprised to see this implemented by other cruise lines soon, either. Things are changing in this industry right now.

It's almost like now that all the ship building and worry about filling ships is out of the way, the cruise lines are all able to focus on their methods once again rather than just logistics.

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  #50 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 01:33 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

We sailed on the Celebrity line in April and the service charge was mandatory but you could have it removed. We were told it works better this way because the entire ship's crew received a percentage of the money except the bar staff who received their tips at each ordering. We were then told that the butler and concierge received the same percentage as the rest of the crew along with the playroom staff. This really went over big as there were only a few rooms which included butler and concierge service and most of us didn't have a need for the play staff as we didn't have kids. Should the rest of us be paying part of the butler's tips or the babysitters?? I don't think so. Another thing, our waiter told us that they do not get as much as when people tip themselves and the female wine steward agreed. The waiter said even if the people tip half the recommended amout it was better than the new way because they were now getting less than that. He also told us that a $25.00 tip should have been suggested instead of $50.00 and more people would happily have tipped. His reasoning was that every American $1.00 was worth $50.00 in his country and that is why they only need to work a few years to earn enough money to go back home and send their kids to colledge. Is this true? Can our $ be worth $50 elsewhere? We questioned him and the other waiter because we thought we misunderstood but they assured us they meant 50 times our $. If this is true I'm glad we tipped him privately. How does everyone else feel about splitting the cost of tips with the "rich and famous" so their butler and concierge can provide THEM with superior service.
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  #51 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 01:52 PM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

i was only replying with what i thought they were referring too. Apparently the service charge is a separate charge from tipping.

personally, they are giving people ample time in knowing that the service charge will be mandatory, and i agree with Paul Motter that who doesn't tip when they go on a cruise.

if you have a heads up on this (like we do about tipping in October), than you adjust your pocketbook accordingly.

every has their own opinion, and as far as my tips/service charge going to the butlers and babysitters, well, as long as they all perform their job responsibilities to the best of their abilities, i'm fine with where their money goes.

as far as the waiters (obviously i'm replying to two different post notes) stating they prefer the old method, well, if someone waiting a table is not doing their best, than it needs to be bought to someone's attention and that person needs to be replaced. if they feel that they are getting the same amount of monies and don't have to do their job effectively, it will all catch up to them eventually.

these folks need these jobs and the last thing they want is for us "cruisers" to lodge complaints about them "personally". in general, i see folks compaining about NCL's staff, but no names in particular, and i think that's the disconnection.

if you have a complaint about a particular staff person, than that should be addressed, because each complaint can lead to this persons dismissal. i wouldn't let it go if it bothered you to the point of venting about it in a message box.
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  #52 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 03:20 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Just a note to Tigersshadow.. You said that you tipped your waiter privately which is a good thing, I'm proud of you.. But did you know that he can not keep the money that you gave him?? He has to turn it in to the pool as do the other waiters.. So if you gave him $20.00 extra and there are 20 waiters he would only get $1.00 of the extra money that you gave him.. It's nice that you did that.. You are a good person.. It's just that they have to pool all monies.. If they don't, they are is big trouble..OM
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  #53 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL


Old man, I believe they are allowed to keep the extra money in tipping.
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  #54 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 09:19 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

What I have heard is that if you leave the automatic tip in place, then the staff is allowed to keep any extra tips you give BUT if you remove or reduce the auto tip then they must turn in any personal tips they receive.

If this is true then it would seem that once the tip is mandatory ( and can't be removed) any extra tips will be kept by the staff member who receives it.
To me what this says is that basically the price of the cruise just goes up by $10 per day and I can then go back to tipping any crew that I feel deserve it. Sort of like it was before they started the automatic tip a few years ago ( but $10 per day more expensive for the customer.)

The POA is different again though but I don't want to go into that here.
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Old August 26th, 2004, 10:04 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I know that you would like to believe that the extra money that you give your waiter or cabin steward all goes to them, but the truth is all money is pooled.. I know it's sad, your waiter works hard. You become friends.. You give him a good tip.. You are a good person and you should tip and that is all wonderful, but all of the money is pooled.. The automatic money is pooled and cash money is pooled. To do other wise there would be unhappy workers.. Now a waiter might tell you different, but then you might not tip extra if you knew it was going into a pool and not to him only, I know that there are great waiters and there are poor waiters and maybe it is not fair to the great waiters, but never the less, all money is pooled...Continue to tip and have a great trip..OM
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  #56 (permalink)  
Old August 26th, 2004, 10:12 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL


Any tips on POA will definitely be kept by that person ... and that's a fact.
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  #57 (permalink)  
Old August 27th, 2004, 12:08 AM
Bruce Chafkin
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Currently on all NCL ships the tipped staff share the tips through a tip pool. It doesn`t matter whether the tips are in cash to an individual or through auto-tipping.
This will probably change next May when NCL ships introduce the mandatory service charge.

On NCL America ship (s) any tips given to an individual crewmember are kept by that crewmember. Since they already have a mandatory service charge, it may not change.
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Old August 27th, 2004, 08:49 AM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I tend to believe Bruce is correct.

The NCL policy says people should not feel obligated to tip people who did not do a personal service for them, which in my mind implies that "personal" service may be tipped if desired and that implies the person giving personal service would get the tip.

I could be wrong, but that is what it says to me.

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  #59 (permalink)  
Old August 27th, 2004, 08:58 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I have heard many times all tips are shared even if given in cash. My question: how in the world does anyone know if I leave an extra $20 on the bed for my room steward or pass him/her in the hall and hand her a little something. Same with the dining staff in the specialty restaurants: I have never understood this.

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Old August 27th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Well... it is a policy in many places, especially restaurants where people share the work. I guess it is up to the individual who gets the tip whether they share it or not because in many cases no one else would know you gave them a tip.

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