MSC Italian Cruises released an announcement today reaffirming its "tipping not required" policy. It's a move that is somewhat curious given that the venerable Holland America, a long-time holdout in hanging on to its own ambiguous "no tipping required" policy, recently capitulated after numerous customer complaints. That line now offers specific suggestions.
Anyway, Switzerland-based MSC Cruises explains the reaffirmation in a statement by Rick Sasso, president of the line's U.S. operation: "We do not feel tipping should be required because every MSC crew member, including housekeepers, waiters and bar staff, is paid a full salary." Here's where it gets dicey, though. Sasso adds that "we also understand that a guest may wish to reward a crew member for exceptional service. We believe that should be a personal decision and not a company policy."
If you're confused, the line is willing to help you out by publishing some guidelines in its 2004/2005 Caribbean brochure: waiters ($3.50 - $5 per day), cabin stewards ($3.50 - $5 per day), and maitre d' ($1 - $2 per day). All totaled, the sum is about average of what most American-oriented lines either recommend or require. An MSC spokeswoman says that gratuities are tagged on to bar bills -- but the amount doesn't show up on receipts. She was not aware of a percentage.
Tips must be given in cash and ships do not have the capability to allow passengers to add tips to onboard accounts.
Beyond MSC, which has been making a major push to attract North American passengers to its newly built MSC Lirica and MSC Opera, the only other cruise line to feature such an ambiguous policy is Windstar. Although part of the Holland America family, that cruise line seems committed to maintaining its "tipping not required" policies.