Is there spit in my soup?
When cruise lines introduced “auto-tipping,” I was thrilled. The ye-olde tradition in which passengers expressed gratitude by handing out fistfuls of cash at the end of a cruise seemed crass. I get it, though: It doesn’t bother everyone and in fact some people prefer it that way. That’s why most cruise lines have a system in place for those passengers who want to tip the old-fashioned way. You have to make an effort, though: In most cases the “recommended gratuity” (ranging from $10 to $15 per day) is automatically applied to your onboard account, and you must queue up at the purser’s desk and request the charge be removed.
But beware. You could be branded a skinflint.
Dawn Klieforth Hoff tells us on Facebook that, “on our last cruise, we had the automatic tip taken off so we could disperse it the way we wanted to. The next morning at breakfast, our regular waitress from the whole cruise shunned us. She ignored me when I said good morning, and just stood there to take our order (instead of asking). The thing is, she was awesome (until then) and we had a nice tip for her. I was so put off by her obvious reaction to what she assumed was no tip, I only gave her $10.”
My first reaction to Hoff’s story was that she could have communicated with the waitress from the get-go — letting her know that she was a cash tipper and even handing over half of the gratuity on the first or second day as both an incentive and a gesture of goodwill.
But wait a minute. Why did the waitress assume she was going to get stiffed in the first place? Did the cruise line rat out the Hoffs?
Some cruise lines play a nasty little game called “humiliate the cheapskates.” Check this out: A couple of years ago, several Cruise Critic members were on a galley tour of Carnival Splendor when they spotted a series of e-mails identifying passengers who’d requested that their auto-tips be removed (kudos to eagle-eyed Wennfred for snapping the photo below).
Wennfred’s photo caused such a stir after it was posted in a forum that Carnival quickly responded with a statement that read: “It is not standard protocol for information regarding which guests have removed the pre-paid gratuities from their shipboard accounts to be provided to crew members during the course of a voyage. Crew members do not receive this information until after the voyage is completed and guests have disembarked.”
Tell that to member stthomaslover, who shared this tidbit on the same forum: “On my last cruise in January, I was being nosy and searching the room stewards cart for some soap. There was a list of all his cabins, room number and a column for tips and I think it said yes and removed … maybe that’s why some people get not so good service while most others have great service.”
I don’t believe for a minute that cruise lines deliberately set out to sabotage service to these passengers. But perhaps they could be more proactive in letting their staffs know that no auto-tipping doesn’t necessarily mean “no tipping.”
Has opting out of auto-tipping impacted your cruises? Share your stories below.
And oh, by the way: Those of you who opt out of tipping because you don’t want to shell out the dough, shame on you.
You have questions, we have answers: Here are more Tipping Points. and we’ll be adding to them all week.
Read other Sea-Mail columns on kids running wild, saving tables at the buffet, the death of cruise traditions and bad balcony behavior.
Know before you go: Check out our feature on cruise line tipping policies.
Here’s a tip: Get your own Lido Deck subscription.