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  #61 (permalink)  
Old August 27th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Thank you for your following conments on my post.. I can tell that everone has a though, but no one is really, really, really, sure.. I'm I correct?? Your are just not really, really sure.. Bruce may be correct on the POA, but even he says that all tips are shared(even cash).. Re-read his post.. And things can change in the future.. Even Paul sounds like he is not 100% sure himself.. Polices do change.. I hope the conditions on the POA change.. And to NMNita the answer is they all know.. These people (the other waiters and room people) are not dumb.. They know and if one of them holds out on the others it is not a pretty sight.. You find in most up scale restaurant on land that the staff pool all of their tips.. Believe me they know, so they pool the money that you give them "on the side".. It's "not on the side" as you are led ot believe. So keep tiping, because these people work hard for their money and should not be stiffed.. I am not complaining, I am just explaining.. Hey, everone have a nice trip and keep on tipping.. OM
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  #62 (permalink)  
Old August 27th, 2004, 09:53 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Paul is correct.. In you heart of hearts you want the credit for the tip.. But most of the time it just ain't so.. Why would they bother to give a speech to the other waiters on your wonderful tip?? They have another 2000 people getting on board and you are a distant memory.. Too bad, but that's how it works.. Keep on tipping ..OM
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  #63 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 05:59 AM
Stephen Hensley
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

It has been a couple weeks since I made my first post, and nearly that since I last checked out the board. I have received many emails from other posters, all politely inquisitive and/or supportive. I did not intend to post this weekend, just check it out for entertainment I thought. Quickly scanning all the POA threads only took a day and a half. A little of that time was spent composing my other two posts this weekend; there is a lot of misinformation out there.

I do not pretend to know the truth about everything but I do know the details of bar department ship life and pay on the NCL Star, Sky and later NCLA POA. I was asked by co-workers in other departments to decipher their payroll too. Unlike at other resorts, I was unable to figure out how room-stewards or bell-men were being paid. What I can tell you is that on the Star, Sky or any other NCL ship, wages paid by NCL to bar servers for up to 70 hours per week are ~$60 per month.

Talk about fuzzy math, you must be over 280 hours on a monthly basis to get overtime on $60. That’s less than a quarter per hour so paying for overtime is no big deal. You can earn more money, from the guests’ pocket, so you work the extra hours. All bar server sales have 15% auto-gratuity which is pooled, with 4% going to the bartender pool and 1% to managers. The monthly guarantee is $1200; the simplest explanation is that $1140 from the gratuity pool makes up the balance of the monthly guarantee. Shares are equal so you still make some money when you are rotated to the bar that does no business. There is a sales quota, $12,000 per month, in order to qualify for the “extra tip” on the bar check. At that point you have paid them back the $60, but you get paid all the extra tips on your checks! If you don’t make the quota, your extra tips get thrown in the pool to cover the guarantee. In the Caribbean, many cruisers are there to party, so most of the bar crew can make the quota, and there is maybe gratuity to spare. Hawaii cruisers are not usually that kind of traveler, so only the best or pushiest servers made the quota. Many of the bar servers work more hours than scheduled trying to reach the quota, and those extra hours are rarely documented.

Again on NCL ships the $10 per day per person service charge is an auto-gratuity of sorts, to “tip” the hotel crew other than bar department. It is pooled and used to supplement nearly everyone’s guarantee. At 2,200 guests (some kids) that’s $20,000 per week, $80,000 per month to help NCL pay what internationally is consider the salary. This service charge can be removed from the bill, with a trip to the front desk (for now). Maybe not being in that department I just never heard of the rule for pooling cash tips from service charge removers, but as far as I could tell all cash tips went into the pocket of the recipient.

Back to the bar; On NCL in Hawaii, the lower volume bar sales can mean the high quality servers (vs. quantity) are under the monthly quota and therefore not eligible for the “extra tip”. If you want to make sure your server gets your tip, always tip in cash!

The international workers gladly put up with this because the exchange rate for their home country can be up to $50 to $1US, making $1200/mo = $60,000/mo. These people leave families behind for a few years to return with enough to buy a sugar cane farm or a bar/restaurant, build a nice house and be set for life. NCL also likes this arrangement, able to order Half Billion Dollar ships every year or so, due in a large part to the cheap labor. I would be pretty darn happy for $60,000/yr!

Many things are different on the NCL America Ship, starting with the fact that every non management type is paid hourly. Deck and Engine have had the union representing them for many years, so they get the going rate (very good) plus the normal union perks, like double time after 12 hours a day &/or over 80 hours a week (something like that). The Union representative told me that they (Union) had been easy on NCLA over the hotel wage package, to help with the startup process. Something was really messed up with salaries in the kitchen, as most of the top quality Chefs quit. Nearly every department claimed that they were significantly underpaid with regard to their “offer letter”.

When the initial uproar over the non-refundable service charge happened, at the end of the first California Coastal Cruise, the explanation from management to crew was either that the $10 went towards the paid vacations or just to supplement the high American wages (same, same). Most of the Project America trainee crew were told in hiring that they would get a competitive wage. We were told about our departments’ peculiar (NCL) gratuity pool and the possibility for cash tips. Obviously, stewards would get less grat and tip, but a higher hourly rate than bar servers. At the time of hiring, NCLA was going to be very similar to NCL, just more pay and benefits. Eventually, in the bar we were told that the competitive wage was calculated with our tips included. For all but alcohol and specialty restaurant servers NCLA tells the guests there is no need to tip because the wages are high enough. All of us had the gratuity pool taken away and management recommended the guests not to tip, both things we were all promised in hiring.

I agree that NCLA is probably misrepresenting the price of the cruise in this manner to cut costs in both commissions and taxes. I also believe the real reasons behind the lack of auto-gratuity in the bar are to lessen the “sticker shock” of their raised drink prices and to avoid serious quarterly tax burdens on collected revenue.

PS. The Coast Guard is stricter on MMD’s since 9/11, but I’ve been told of a convicted wife killer with an MMD from before and I personally know plenty crew with new MMD’s who had misdemeanor convictions of drug, alcohol and/or theft. If you disclosed all your offences, paid your time and fine, completed your probation and passed your urinalysis, most people got them within a couple months.
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  #64 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 09:15 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Stephen, once again, the facts speak for themselves. I don't see how anyone could argue with the numbers as you present them here. Saying that NCL lied to employees is one thing, but when you can attach actual numbers to that statement as you have, it makes the case so much stronger. To top if off, NCL actually put this down on paper and in ads. So I guess I can say without deletion that NCL lied.

Post Edited (08-30-04 22:14)
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  #65 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 11:41 AM
tigersshadow
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

We never put a name on the envelope, there is no need, the recipient sees who you are and the management doesn't. My husband likes to give the "money handshake" when leaving the dining room on the last night. No envelope and no one the wiser. We learned about this a few years ago from some passengers talking about the "eyes" that watch in the dining room for tip envelopes. If "The NCL policy says people should not feel obligated to tip people who did not do a personal service for them" then why would my part of the mandatory service fee go to the butler and sitters when we have no use of their services. We could not afford to take our children on cruises every year when they were young so we just didn't cruise, choosing instead to vacation in the USA and stay at cabins and motels. I would have preferred to cruise with them but I didn't know I could split the cost with everyone on the ship. I know that's a a sarcastic statement but I'm only trying to make a point. If you bring children shouldn't you be the one tipping the sitters and not the whole ship and if you have a butletr then if I'm splitting the tip with you -would you mind sending him to my room? Please don't get down on me for saying that. I love children, we have 4 of our own and took them with us on every vacation until they were older and didn't want to go. In fact, they got older, the youngest is 21 and now they do go on cruises with us. Why can't we just tip the people who serve us and let it be their business only? We are going to Alaska in 3 weeks, I will take a "survey " amoung the staff we talk with and see what the majority of them prefer. If tipping staff privately is wrong, I'm sorry, but I do not feel right about tipping for those who don't or worse for staff who did not receive a tip because of really bad service. Our daughter worked at Dunkin Donuts while in high school and I can't tell you how many times she would say she hates making tips for bad workers. A tip was originally meant as a way to say thank you for a deed well done. It should not be mandatory, if the deed is well done the tips will be too. I know some refuse to leave a tip even if the deed was over the top but for the majority that do tip the waiters and room stewards along with the other staff each will get enough to survive. Remember they have no utility bills, no oil bills, no car payments, no groceries, etc. Yes, their families have these things but in countries where their light bill is not $100 a month and their mortages aren't over $1,000 a month. If they make $13,000, and they do, it's like $65,000 or more in their country. If you start up a conversation with the crew they will always tell you how they miss their family but only have ?? years left. They don't make it a career, they make it a dream. They know this is the way to make enough money to give them a healthy and better life. Most waiters we have talked to tell us they are on the ship for 7 months and home for 4 of the best months of the year before coming back for 7 more months on the ship. I hope I haven't offended anyone with my opinions but remember they are just that. Maybe next time you cruise you might notice the amount of "money hand-shakes" and "little white envelopes" in the pockets of the waiters, we do and we were on a mandatory service fee ship. (The Celebrity line already had this policy in effect when we were on her in April) The line at the purser's desk was so long they had everyone who wanted the fee removed to form one line so others could move through faster.
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  #66 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 08:47 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Well anyway.. Tipping automatic or with cash, I'll just bet that the automatic tipping system of $10.00 a day person or more, without the option of removal, will be in effect on all of the cruise lines in two to three years.. It's just too easy and convenient, and it means 100% responce from the passengers.. No more stiffs.. Am I right or wrong?? OM
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  #67 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

OM, you're right and that's fine if the $10 fee it a gratuity, on the POA it is a service fee and NOT a gratuity that goes to the staff. I'm curious what the "service fee" entails when it hits all of NCL's ships next year. Does that mean all crew will now be salaried? If so, look out for more mass exoduses like staffing on the POA.
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  #68 (permalink)  
Old August 30th, 2004, 11:45 PM
Stephen Hensley
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

The crew on POA is NOT "salaried" as we use the term in the USA. As far as I know only management are "salaried". The crew is paid by the hour and NCL has claimed the service charge helps "defray" the high cost of labor on the POA. In the letter explaining the mandatory service charge to the reposition guests from San Francisco to Hawaii, NCL stated that "Our staff are paid salaries" and now that same wording is being used for the international ships. Internationally that statement may be close enough, but in the US if you are paid by the hour you are not salaried! In the original job fairs, most of the jobs now being paid hourly also included a share of the gratuity pool and the possibility for extra tips. The new hires may be agreeing to work just for the hourly rate but the ones that trained on the foreign ships expected to get both gratuity pool and possible extra tips. To have NCL now say the salary is enough, tipping is not recommended or required is another slap in the face to all the original hires. This is a very successful company so maybe it is a ploy to get further concessions from the US Government with regard to foreign staffing. If they are successful it is a slap in the face to all Americans.
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  #69 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 12:23 AM
J P
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I mentioned on another post, this service charge is not gratuity. I'm a waiter on the Pride of Aloha, I won't see a dime of the service charge. I work harder that my counterparts on land, because on the ship, passengers don't expect to tip with every meal. Fair Enough. NCL is being shady about where the service charge goes, so pax are hesitant to tip. I understand that. Just know that your overworked crew isn't going to "get a cut."
As for all NCL ships doing this...it won't fly. I was a crew member on the Sky, those guys get paid less than half, and really do count on being included in a tip pool. Don't worry about the poa, look forward to mutiny on the international ships. Thanks
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  #70 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 12:24 AM
J P
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I mentioned on another post, this service charge is not gratuity. I'm a waiter on the Pride of Aloha, I won't see a dime of the service charge. I work harder that my counterparts on land, because on the ship, passengers don't expect to tip with every meal. Fair Enough. NCL is being shady about where the service charge goes, so pax are hesitant to tip. I understand that. Just know that your overworked crew isn't going to "get a cut."
As for all NCL ships doing this...it won't fly. I was a crew member on the Sky, those guys get paid less than half, and really do count on being included in a tip pool. Don't worry about the poa, look forward to mutiny on the international ships. Thanks
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  #71 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 01:34 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

JP, you may want to post that information on several message boards. There is a lot of traveler confusion regarding where the service fee goes. Thanks for checking in
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  #72 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 09:39 AM
tigersshadow
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I believe I read on NCL's site that it was not a tip but a service charge. I would assume that means the waiters and room stewards do not get anything from that fee. We just received our cruise documents and it may have been in there that I read it but I believe I saw it somewhere on their site. I'll have to find it. I hate to keep repeating myself but for those of you who have not read this before, we were told in April aboard the Celebrity Line that the service fee was to supplement all those who did not receive the normal tips such as: the sitters, butlers, concierge, recreational staff and laundry staff, etc. I wouldn't mind if it was up front in the cruise price, I just don't like it added later. In fact, it's now illegal for cruise lines to quote prices in the USA unless it includes all charges, port fees. etc. So I think someone will soon be telling the cruise lines to keep this new few in the cruise price and not separate. I guss it's just another "I's the way it is so deal with it and get over it" situation. Oh well, does anyone know which line is next cheapest. I'll just move up one level as this service fee adds $210.00 to my husbands bill for the 3 of us in addition to the quoted rate. I don't factor in the tip because you have to tip on every ship anyways.
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  #73 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 10:46 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Tigersshadow, Yes you are correct... The State of Florida sued the cruise lines and made them put the port fees and charges (not port taxes) in the price of the cruise.. Florida won the suit.. So you can look forward, I think to the same thing happing to the automatic service charge.. Of course it will take a couple of years to do.. and the cruise lines will fight it in court... What say?? OM
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  #74 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 11:25 AM
newmexicoNita
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

What difference does it make if the price is listed separately or all in one? For years the port charges were separate and in some ways that was better as we knew exactly what they were. To me, if my cruise costs $1000 per person, that's what it costs. I don't really care how it's broken down.

NMNita
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  #75 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 11:45 AM
tigersshadow
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

You say "it doesn't matter if it's listed separately" but then say "if it's $1000 then that's what it cost." Which one? If it's" $1000 then that's what it cost", then I agree. There should be no additional charges. If they allowed them to continue with separate costs as before when port charges were additional they would be finding new ones each year to add on. Oh, isn't that what they just did? I like getting the final price with no surprises. If the price goes up each year it goes up, big deal, doesn't everything? Just don't try to squeeze another $140.00 out of every couple with surprise tactics. It's not like their nickel and dimeing us, it's hundreds of dollars they are adding on. Let's be honest here most of us are choosing this line for the price. They are not that much cheaper when you add on the service fee which absolutely does not go to tips so you don't gain anything.
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  #76 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 11:56 AM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

NMnita, That's maybe true to you, but to the State of Florida it was a tax revenue problem.. The higher the published cruise price the more tax to the State of Florida.. Florida did not sue because they felt sorry for the cruise person, they wanted more tax money.. How about that.... Also the higher the published cruise price, the higher the commission to the TA's... TA's like higher commissions.. So I'll bet that within a couple of years the "service charge" will be in the cruise price and we will be tipping a new all over again..OM
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  #77 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 12:16 PM
tigersshadow
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I don't believe the State of Florida was doing it for the revenue, as I think they don't tax the port charges part of the price. I may be wrong. I believe they required it to be in the total because some lines were charging more than the "real" port fee as a way to increase their profits and that would come under "Truth In Advertising" Laws. I think they just received too many complaints as the article in the paper stated, not that they always have the real inside info either. But if it's true Florida didn't make any more revenue just more paper work to help keep the passengers happy. Happy passengers sailing out of Florida would in turn make more revenue for the state. So the end result would as you say, make more money for Florida.
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  #78 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 02:57 PM
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Tagersshadow.. Thank you for your reply...If you are correct about the complaints and I'll give you that, what about the up coming complaints that the automatic "service charges" are going to cause when the people don't read the small print and "suprise" a couple is hit with a $140.00 service charge for a 7 day trip.. Maybe a charge that should have been in the cruise price in the first place if it is now NOT tips.. hummm.. Very interesting....OM
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  #79 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 03:26 PM
tigersshadow
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

I hope enough people complain again and the penalty is stiff enough this time to make them think twice before implementing another money scheme. The sad thing is many won't know about the service charge until they get home and get their credit card statement 1 month later when it's too late to remove it. No, I take that back, it was talked about all over the ship. I don't think anyone on our ship was caught by surprise. Just another thought, what kind of service fee is it if it can be removed? We did remove it on the advice of our waiter after hearing others did at our table. We had 3 different rooms at our table and I saw them both "hand-shake" money along with my husband. I don't see how someone can walk away from the ship without tipping. I don't mean the people who received bad service. If I ever had bad service I would not tip either, it just has never happened. I keep hearing there are people who don't tip, I'm talking about the ones who can afford to tip but won't. We were once on a cruise and the man at out table tipped the waiter $20.00 every night and did not care if we saw him or not. Hopefully for every one who doesn't believe in tipping there's somone like him who can over-tip.
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  #80 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 03:30 PM
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Default Re: Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

Bravo Bruce! But, don't expect many of the posters on this topic to accept your most excellent description of the challenges to NCLA in this venture. I for one, sincerely hope that NCLA succeeds in this venture. But to be perfectly honest, I don't see how they can pull it off without having to charge a lot more to make the venture profitable. If they do succeed and the dust finally settles, I'm not sure it will be a competitive alternative to a multi-island land vacation.

Craig
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  #81 (permalink)  
Old August 31st, 2004, 04:53 PM
newmexicoNita
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Default Re: mandatory "service charges" on NCL

craig, good points: tigershadow I know what you are saying and I agree in part, but after cruising 15 times on all of the mass marketed lines except one I really see very little difference in pricing whether it's nickol and diming or the price up front. Most of the time when we see the price of say $1000 it states inc port charges and taxes. Hopefully it will eventually say the above and service charges.

NMnita
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