July 27, 2011 | By Dan Askin | 78 Comments
We’re constantly fielding questions about when, whom and how much to tip. But when should you slap away the outstretched hand, figuratively speaking? Many first-timers may be perplexed by what palms need to be greased … and which don’t. Lisa Lubrano e-mailed the Lido Deck asking: “If someone helps me carry my food in the buffet, how much should I tip? I get to the point where I want no one helping me with anything because I’m tired of tipping for every single darn thing.”
We know the feeling, Lisa. But you’ll be happy to learn that there’s no pressure to tip the buffet waiters — on big-ship lines, the auto-gratuities take care of the waitstaff, who may work both the main dining room and the buffet.
But beyond the buffet-ers, when else is no tip required?
Don’t tip when….
You buy a drink. Old salts know the drill: When you purchase a beverage, be it Bud Light, dirty martini or soda, mainstream cruise lines automatically add 15 percent to the bill. Many first-timers make the mistake of throwing a buck on top as they would onshore.
You’re sailing luxury. When sailing with upscale small-ship lines like Seabourn and Silversea Cruises, tips are neither required nor expected. If service is exceptional, no one’s going to stop you from pulling a $10 out of your cabin steward’s ear and handing it to him. (Not all luxury tipping policies are created equally: For instance, as of now, Crystal Cruises has suggested tips. The line will, however, fold gratuities into the fare in spring 2012.)
When you order room service between midnight and 5 a.m. NCL and Royal Caribbean charge passengers $3.95 per room service order delivered during the early a.m. hours — so there’s no requirement to tip more. At all other times, we typically tip a few dollars per delivery.
You’re dining at the specialty restaurant. As we noted in a previous tipping Q&A, paying $30 for surf-and-turf at the for-fee restaurant means there’s no need to tip on tip — again, unless you really appreciate that special waiter who is so very gentle when he or she puts on your lobster bib.
It’s already on the spa receipt. Not every onboard spa automatically includes gratuity, but it pays to check the receipt. Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown recalls giving close 40 percent for a spa treatment on Seabourn Odyssey — the automatically added 18 percent plus a 20 percent “bonus.” Somewhere out there, a Swedish woman with powerful hands is smiling.
When the plumber fixes your shower or toilet. It can be tempting. The man who restores the whoosh of the vacuum toilet or hot water in the shower is, in a way, restoring balance in the universe. But these onboard engineers don’t work for tips.
The captain keeps you safe or the cruise director makes milk come out of your nose. While we’d very much like to see the look on the captain’s face when you slip him $20 at the welcome party, cash-handshakes are not necessary. He will not linger in port or let you steer the ship. The Australian or British cruise director, whose hilarious morning briefings have you believing, once more, in laughter, should also never be the recipient of a tip. But you knew that already.
Have your own thoughts on when not to tip onboard? Share them in the comments section