Mega-ships may have hundreds or even thousands of crewmembers (the Oasis-class duo have almost 2,200), many of whom are mostly invisible to passengers. Some of these shadowy figures may even get a cut of the tips … which prompted Larry to ask the Lido Deck: “Why does the head waiter get tipped if you use suggested or auto-tipping? You may never see that person.”
Until the final night of the cruise, Larry could have added.
Before we answer, let’s make a quick distinction between the maitre d’, who manages the whole dining room, and the head waiter, who manages teams of waiters, assistant waiters and bussers. The maitre d’ is almost always left out of the tipping pool; the head waiter always gets a little something to wet his beak.
For example, Royal Caribbean suggests that each passenger tip the head waiter 75 cents per night (of its $11.65 per person per day recommendation), which can be handed over in cash, added to the onboard bill or pre-paid. Carnival’s auto-gratuity policy — $10 per person, per day — allots $5.50 for the waitstaff, a small blob of which goes to the head waiter.
So how much should passengers
really give to each? For an answer, we turn to Cruise Critic contributor Greg Straub, a salty veteran of 105 voyages and one generous tipper.
“I usually do not tip the maitre d’,” writes Straub in his Insider’s Guide Cruise Tipping. “The only service he/she provides is assigning a table. If I like my assigned table, there is nothing he or she can do further.” In all but the rarest exceptions, Straub says moving passengers to a “more congenial table” is, simply put, the maitre d’s job. Another reason for not tipping the maitre d’: He/she is a ship’s officer and is paid accordingly — and is, unlike the head waiter, not typically included in the cruise line auto-gratuity pool. And yet lines like Carnival include an envelope on the last night of the cruise marked “maitre d’.” But unless exceptional service has been rendered, Straub leaves this envelope empty.
Straub is more magnanimous with the head waiter. In addition the auto or suggested tip, he gives $1 for each night he eats in the dining room, even if the head waiter has done nothing more than say hello. But why, Greg?
“The head waiter supervises the waiters and assistant waiters, and much of what he/she does is behind the scenes,” Straub writes. “If, however, the head waiter has promoted ordering off-menu items, prepared special dishes tableside or provided a cake for a special occasion, I would add an additional $5 per person, per service.” We’re certainly not suggesting that you have to tip on top of the amount already set aside for the head waiter — but Straub argues that this invisible man has more of a hand in the service than you’d think.
Have your own thoughts on when not to tip onboard? Share them in the comments section.
You have questions, we have answers: Check out our Ultimate Guide to Cruise Ship Tipping.
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