Cruise Gratuities and tipping

Before we came to the US, a friend of mine warned us that America was a country of tips. He said that you were more than just expected to tip people who served you – they almost demanded it. Now I’m a guy who hardly ever tips. Sometimes I leave a few coins on the table in restaurants because it’s too much of a headache to put them into my wallet. I had heard that tipping in the US was a customary 15%. Plenty of literature out there makes me aware that this figure has been climbing and now hovers around 20%.

Image Credit: Cali2Okie

But in the spirit of America (The whole when in Rome, do as the Romans do idea), my wife and I decided to tip while in this country. We agreed to pay a dollar or two now and then to the waiters who served us in restaurants. We never pay a percentage of the bill because most of the time that’s too much. We travel a lot and dollars are scarce. We can never spare more than a couple.

Two incidents however have made me realize just how much the tipping culture has been ingrained into people in the US.

On a certain weekend, we decided to eat Korean food. We settled on a particular restaurant and while the food was good, the waitress (who may have been the owner) was somewhat inattentive and rude. We didn’t really mind, and we simply decided not to leave a tip. As we were leaving, the woman in question accosted me and demanded to know why we didn’t leave a tip! I was so startled by this, that I simply blurted out that we never left tips, upon which, she just walked off in a huff. My wife and I had a good laugh over her anger and went on our way.

But the second experience was more frustrating and really pissed me off. We went on a three day cruise to the Bahamas with a company called “Carnival”. Now this was supposed to be an “All expenses” paid trip. Of course, it goes without saying that we chose this particular trip because it was the most affordable.

On the second day of the cruise, the bill arrived. And it was a shocker. Each of us had been charged $10 per day per person for gratuities (namely tips) – totaling a magnificent $60. For tips! I was stunned that the company included tips for the staff in the bill without asking me. Of course, it was probably there in the contract fine print – but who reads all that when on a vacation?

We almost had a heart attack. $60 is no joke and not something we can afford. My wife thought that we wouldn’t be able to remove it, but I decided that it has to be outright illegal to force people to pay tips. So I went to the information desk and asked the woman to kindly remove it. She did so, and gave us envelopes whereby we could put the tips in cash at our discretion. They actually have envelopes for the purpose of tipping – I kid you not.

When I contacted the agent who booked the cruise and told her about this, she asked me why I removed the $60. I replied that I couldn’t afford it. Upon which she said that the staff don’t get paid for the services and that I should have paid the tips to make it up for them! I merely replied that I never asked anyone to clean my room or render any other service to me. If they did it without asking me, that was their choice. I shouldn’t have to pay for something I didn’t ask for.

Moreover, unless I’m mistaken, it was the job of the crew to clean my room. Since when do I pay people for doing their job? One might argue that the crew don’t get paid enough and rely on tips to shore them up. My only answer is why is it my job to make up for their low wages? Sure the service was great, but I wouldn’t pay a single cent for it.

I feel that most people are simply too ashamed or shy to walk up to the counter and demand that the gratuity charge be removed. The cruise company is essentially blackmailing us – pay up, or face the embarrassment. Of course, money is money and I would rather face any embarrassment than pay $60. Those who say that it was unethical not to pay, should realize that if it was so important, then they should have included the extra amount in the cost of the cruise upfront as service charge or whatever. Once I agree to pay a certain amount for a package, I should pay nothing else since it’s already expensive as it is. I pity people who come with their entire families – those guys can end up paying hundreds of dollars in tips.

There are people who say that if I don’t intend to tip, I shouldn’t go out and eat or go on a vacation in the first place. What nonsense! Withholding my money instead of tipping is hardly illegal. If the waiters can’t do without tips let the management include the cost in the price of the food. Don’t expect me to pay anything that I don’t legally have to – especially if I feel obligated to do so.

All in all, the American tipping system is rather odd. Not that tipping is an odd concept. What is unusual, is that people here demand tips rather than expect them – as if they have a right to my money.

What do you think of this post?
  • You're an asshole (112)
  • Agree (91)
  • Don't Agree but Interesting (18)

68 thoughts on “Cruise Gratuities and tipping”

  1. There are so many things wrong with this. First off if you can’t afford to pay the people who serve you, then you have no right to be taking a cruise. Vacations are are a luxury! You can afford a cruise vacation but a mere $60 to pay the people who put in their time to make it happen for you, you can’t afford? What is wrong with you? Furthermore, the point of going to a restaurant is to be SERVED by a SERVER. To enjoy a fresh hot meal that is brought to you, made to you liking that you don’t have to prepare or perform any clean up whatsoever. The system is built that restaurants are legally allowed to pay their employees below minimum wage because they are tipped employees. It is the servers that provide you with a clean environment to eat in, food brought to you without clean up, made to your liking. The cost of your food goes to the cook, managers and owners, not your server because you are expected to pay your server for the fact that they are serving you. Finally screw you for trying to justify your actions by saying India is full of poverty and people have to work hard to earn what they deserve. Servers are earning their tips by simply doing their job of setting your table, taking your order, putting in your order, getting your drinks, bringing you your food, bringing your bill, bringing your change and cleaning up after your filthy crack. By the end of your meal and beyond they’ve earned their tip. The two some dollars per hour they make is for side jobs such as utensil rolling, cutting lemons etc. By saying servers need to go and get educated to earn money they can live off of is so ignorant, you haven’t a clue how many servers have college degrees but in areas that lack opportunities, well, there are always restaurants and always people like you who can afford to have their meals prepared and served to them. It makes me sick that you can afford to go on a cruise but somehow complain you can’t afford $60 gratuity. No it’s not that you can’t afford it, it’s that you obviously can’t afford to be a logical decent human being.


    • In reply to James

      And here we have the attack of illogical rudeness that keeps the tipping system in place. Do tell why a cruise company sold an “all-expense” trip which tacked on 60$ (PER DAY, lol), no doubt multiplying the cost of the cruise. That’s deliberately deceptive. How is someone to know whether the cost for the server’s wage is included before buying?

      Just give a clear explanation what difference it would be for the server if the cruise company had included the gratuity price up front? If this price has a justified reason, they can certainly include it up front and let people decide whether to buy it.

      You actually said tip covers them keeping the restaraunt/establishment CLEAN. In every other job, that is called bare-minimum professionalism. Try not keeping the work area, especially a sales area, clean in any other line of work – unless tipped, of course – and see how long you keep your job.

      You also said the point of going to a restaurant is to be “SERVED by a SERVER”. Haha, please tell me you’re joking. The popularity of buffets must confound you.
      Jesus. People go to relax with food. Getting inane fake-flattery (or the variations: lazy fake flattery, etc.)? Hell on earth. No exaggeration, it is at best a minor headache even when I try to ignore it. It disturbs whatever people are enjoying talking about and makes them uncomfortable by having a stranger wedge himself into your privacy and thinking you now owe him/her 5$.

      As for the typical low-wage spiel, don’t try to leave out that employers are required to compensate if tips fall below minimum wage. Restaurants who do not do so should be facing legal action, and I would never go to a place that violated labor laws.

      I love the local Japanese place that pays their servers adequately and mandates no-tipping. Besides the food, this has been very popular.


      • In reply to AlexD

        First of all I assume you can’t read (and I go with the rude tone because honestly reread you comment and realize how rude you sound) because it wasn’t $60 a day, it was $60 flat. If you’re on a cruise, you can cover that or you shouldn’t be on a cruise. Also, yes the popularity of buffets is nice, they’re also designed for the people who again can’t afford to eat at better restaurants, lets be honest, they’re not nearly as nice quality. And if you don’t like people being nice to you, whether real or not, well that’s a personal problem, I’m sorry a smile offends you.


    • In reply to James

      The answer is simple: He just doesn’t tip because he is not intelligent enough. By the way i use to work on a cruise ship by RCCL, fortunatelly there are very less of them.


  2. I agree people should be given proper wages like they do get in European countries and in Australia where I live . In saying that one has to follow the norms of other places one travels to.
    We tipped when we travelled through U S and on occasions overdid it as weren’t really sure at times ( when in doubt tip more rather than less was our mantra ) . I must say we made a lot of people very happy and on occasions they looked very surprised too but thankful ( we even tipped the receptionists at the first few hotels we stayed at ) .
    The sad thing is that nowadays because of the U S influence even Europeans and Aussies have started expecting tips. Restaurants and cafes have a tips jar near the counter and it looks like it’s a spreading problem . A bit of a worry !


  3. The secret for a server/bartender is to work for banquets and private clubs……You get a decent wage and a tip is just that a tip. This way you have a lesser chance of begin taken advantage of by some cheap person who knows full well they are cheating you.. I dont care what the serves earn if they give good service they have earned extra. aka tip. As far as the cruise tip /you better go over any drink order you placed your charged a percentage for every ordered drink…….Carnival may owe you a few more $$$$$ . You can collect it and give it to a homeless veteran……..


  4. “If you can’t tip – you don’t have a right to take a cruise!” – Yes I do.
    If a company firstly names one price for a cruise and then it turns out that the price is higher – it’s scandalous. I don’t understand why most people don’t realize that.


    • In reply to c@t


      It is rude and absurd to demand for tips.

      You should at least have the chance to chose if you will give it or not.

      I give tips when the service is good and when I can afford it. On other cases, deal with it. I’m paying what I have to pay and tips are not mandatory. It is a favor!


  5. Whoever wrote that article may you get colon cancer and die you don’t deserve to live you shameless piece of trash on my shoe boy


  6. I walked up to the desk and made them remove it. I was very angry and pissed off.
    Extremely rude and disrespectful to do that. She told me the employees count on the money. I told the girl I don’t give a fuck. You cost me 5 min of my vacation inconveniencing me.


Leave a Comment