Princess Cruises customer service actually called me
today in response to a letter faxed through my TA which was essentially identical to the above message.
The representative was very polite in explaining their new automatic gratuity policy. She listened and noted my concerns and possible solutions. The bottom line is they claim it is new and so far they are getting positive responses. She also explained the necessity of implementing the program with the conversion to Personal Choice Dining. They will be implementing it soon on the Sun Class ships to Alaska. They will be continually evaluating the response and the level of service from the wait staff to determine its effectiveness.
In response to my question:
"If we remove the charged tip from our account in order to tip our wait staff directly as we prefer to do, will they still get a cut from the pot? We could be talking about some serious double dipping here."
She indicated that in traditional dining, the passengers are matched up to their individual waiter by table assignment, so that those who elect out of auto-tipping are reduced from that waiter's cut of the pool since he is will be receiving his tip directly from that passenger. The waiter will not know exactly who has opted out, but he will know how many. If for example, a waiter has 20 passengers at a seating, he will know if 6 have opted out of auto-tipping and that 14 have elected auto-tipping. Therefore, he will be expecting direct tips from 6 passengers. She indicated that anyone could opt out, even those on Personal Choice Dining. That would mean that the waiters in those dining rooms would be getting a smaller cut of their pool
Whew... this is WAY to complicate... but inquiring minds want to know.