I've read the threads about the Princess $6.50 per person/per day charge on the "Cruise Gripes" section of this board. I thought those who frequent here may have some more information.
We are cruising in the spring and were unaware of this policy. I haven't seen anything about it in our cruise literature. Can anyone explain? From what I've read on other threads, this charge is made to each person's shipboard account to cover dining room tips. Does this eliminate the need to tip the dining room staff on the last evening?
Princess is new for us, and I understand this is a new policy. Any insight would be appreciated.
On 9/12/00, Princess made a public announcement about some upcoming changes to it's policies including Personal Choice dining. The Grand Princess and later in the Spring, the Golden Princess will be the first ships to include these changes. Officially the changes take place this week, so no experience with them to date. It is my understanding that you will have the option to adjust these charges, erase these charges, leave them on your ship board account, and/or pay in cash on the last night of the cruise as is traditional. With the new alternative dining programs, I believe Princess is trying to assure that their waitstaff are not neglected, because someone who does not eat at the main dining room each night or day and if you dine at the Bistro or Buffet, too may not know tips should be extended. Plus, service fee for Sabatini's is increased to $15 pp and $3.50 pp for the Painted Desert. Many travel agents are not up on these new changes because literally they are only effective as of this week. I just received my pre-cruise doc's for 3/18 on the Grand, and there is no mention of any of these changes in any letter or literature.
I think you are correct in saying that the new charge is related to the "Personal Choice Dining." Specifically, my impression is that passengers who choose the traditional dining option, and thus retain the same waiter and assistant throughout the cruise, will continue to tip in the conventional way at the end of the cruise while passengers who opt for the new "open seating" arrangement, and thus are served by different waitstaff each night, will have tips for the dining staff billed to their shipboard accounts automatically. I gather that there is some provision for adjustment of the amount at the end of the cruise, but I'm not sure how it works.
I should note that Princess also now offers the option of giving tips in the form of vouchers charged to one's shipboard account rather than in cash.
The automatic billing of each passenger's shipboard account $6.50/day for food service tips will apply to ALL passengers - those who opt for the traditional 1st & 2nd seating as well as 'Personal Choice' dining. It will take effect when Personal Choice dining is introduced to a ship.
It has been suggested that when Princess raises the amount for tips by $1.75 from $4.75 to $6.50/person/day, automatically bills passengers' accounts, and pools the total, service will not suffer as peer pressure will serve to motivate anyone not performing up to par.
While somewhat plausable on it's face, I believe this to be a specious argument and the result of some finely crafted 'spin doctoring' on Princess' part. Please don't misunderstand - I am not arguing these people don't deserve a raise. However, a critical examination should reveal this will only serve to eliminate incentive.
Most pax will be disinclined to eliminate any charges even if they receive poor service, and many of those who would 'stiff' the personnel under the old policy will now be tipping. Even if a couple eliminates their charges, it will result in only a fraction of a cent difference to the personnel because of the pooled nature of the policy. Peer pressure will come into play, but only for those individuals who are performing at a truly substandard level (and I would suggest this is already the case). Human nature being what it is, I believe that personnel who perform at an exceptional level now will gradually come to realise that 'going the extra mile' makes no difference to their tips. There will be no feedback at the end of a cruise in the form of a envelope they can correlate with their level of performance - as a result, service will gradually decline to the 'just acceptable' level due to a lack of incentive.
If what you say is correct, I agree completely with your assessment.
In the grander scheme of things, I really wonder how long the "personal choice dining" scheme will last. The reality is that the dinner hours of the conventional dining arrangement were timed to coincide with the shows, and it's unlikely that show times will change because the stage crews need time to reset the stage, put the costumes back in order, etc., between shows. The same is true of events such as the Captain's "Welcome Aboard" Cocktail Party and the Captain's Circle Reception. Thus, most passengers probably will choose to eat within a few minutes of the normal mealtimes of the traditional arrangement anyway due to the scheduling of these events.
The only real value of Princess's "Personal Choice Dining" program and similar programs at other lines might well be in advertisements to overcome the notion that a cruise is extremely regimented and that passengers have to function on somebody else's schedule -- which, BTW, is a misconception that I have heard from quite a few people who have never taken a cruise.
We'll be sailing next week on the Sea Princess. We're beyond excited at this point, however after reading all the above posts, I'm even more confused about the personal choice option. Do I assume it has nothing to do with the Sea Princess for the time being?
Also, around how much cash should we actually bring with us? We're not real big shoppers.
Also, when we are at the Caymens, we were planning on skipping the organized outings & want to take a taxi to Seven Mile Beach. Are there lockers or anything there we can use? Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks in advance for anyone's help. Six more days!!!!!!!
Christine the new Personal Choice is on the Grand only until the Golden sets sail later in the Spring. For a 7 night cruise, I usually take $150 in cash for tips; $50 each for the waiter and room steward and $25 for the assistant/bus boy. With the remainder for discrectionary tipping of a maitre de or wine steward (which Princess does not have). Since you plan to take a taxi, you will need some US$. When we first went to Grand Cayman, the taxi left us off at the Colony Club. Buyer Beware! That is a rip off. Ask to go to the Marriott or other hotel. Don't bring anything valuable with you which would require a locker. The beach is narrow and very crowded at the Colony and it is definetly not worth an entry fee which does not include a chair (the beach is public) that you will be charged. Wear your swim suit under your cloths. Sometimes hotels will let you rent a chaise if you need a lounge.
Like everyone else, I am confused about the Personal Choice plan. I guess the biggest question is: how does the ship know what you want to do? We are on the Grand P in July, and have main seating listed on the booking. Does that mean we were placed by default in the traditional dining arrangement, or does every passenger have an assigned seating - we just don't have to use them every night or at all. My agent can't seem to get a clear answer from Princess. I think Princess has done a pretty poor job of rolling this new program out. The language is too nebulous in their ads and promos.
The "Personal Choice Dining" plan is new this month. Under this program, you will be able to request either traditional seating or open seating. With the inauguration of the plan, two of the three main dining rooms aboard MV Grand Princess will offer open seating.
Princess is proceeding very slowly on plans to introduce this program fleetwide. If everything happens on schedule, the next ship to offer it will be MV Golden Princess when she debuts in May. The rest of the fleet will follow sometime after.
There's a press release about this plan on the Princess web site (http://www.princess.com). From the home page, select the links labelled "Press Relases" then "Newsroom" then "1999," then scroll down until you find the story.
My agent finally got some more details, and indeed, if you want Personal Choice you have to select it at the time of the booking. So essentially, you get to request either main seating, second seating, or personal choice. Although, I guess you could select an assigned seating, then ignore it during the cruise and go personal choice every night. That is how I understand it anyway, and this would make sense. They would want to know how many tables they would need for an assigned seating before the cruise started.
I think that half of the problem here is that many travel agents don't take the time to read and to digest information that they do get on new products. As a result, when customers come in and ask questions, the travel agents don't know what's happening and end up having to research it. This leads to frustration of the sort that you experienced.
That said, I don't see very many people on this board advocating for the "open seating" dinner arrangement. The reality is that the two standard seatings are timed to coincide with other events such as the Captain's "Welcome Aboard" Cocktail Party, the "Captain's Circle" cocktail parties for repeat passengers (I have been on a few cruises where they have held these on different nights by dining rooms due to the number of repeat passengers aboard!), and the shows. Thus, the majority of passengers probably will end up eating within a few minutes of the traditional formal seatings anyway.
Additionally, something tells me that Princess might well end up shifting the balance of dining rooms to two with formal seatings and one with open seating because that many more passengers will request the traditional assigned seating.
BTW, just to split hairs, the later seating is traditionally regarded as the "main" seating, thanks to the British tradition -- still followed by "high society" here in the States -- of having "afternoon tea" -- actually a light meal -- around 4:00 in the afternoon, followed by dinner by around 8:00 or 8:30 in the evening. With cruise vacations appealing more and more to mainstream Americans, many of whom are accustomed to eating at an earlier hour, most cruise lines are deemphasizing the traditional distinction between "early" seating and "main" seating.
There's a press release announcing the "Personal Choice Dining" program on the Princess web site (http://www.princess.com). Just click on "Newsroom," "Press Releases," "1999," and the link for the announcement (you probably will have to scroll down to find the link). If you read the release, you will know as much about it as the rest of us since it started on the cruise that ended yesterday.
I request the traditional seating arrangement, partly because I enjoy meeting new friends and partly because I appreciate a stable cadre of dinner companions. Also, the two traditional seating times are timed to mesh with the rest of the evening schedule so you probably will end up eating at one or the other of these times even if you don't have an assigned seating. If you miss your assigned seating unexpectedly, you can always eat at the Horizon Court bistro that night. If you expect to miss your assigned seating for any reason, you can make a reservation at The Painted Desert.
Just to add clarity, we just got off the January 20th sailing of the Sea Princess. No charges were put on our bill for tipping, however, in the onboard guide found in your room, the tipping suggestions were $2.00 for assistant waiter and $3.50 per day for the waiter and room steward...a change from my Princess brochure.
The choice of dining areas is alreading corroding the dining situation as my husband and I dined alone at a table of eight for three of the seven nights..it would have been five had we not been invited to join the table next to us. The waiting service were not quick to find us more tablemates because no one knows if they will decide to come back any particular night.