On all cruises up until October 1, 2010, a recommended gratuity of $7.50AUD per person, per day, will be added to onboard accounts. From October 1 onward, the cruise line will not add tips to passenger accounts, instead letting travelers choose, at their discretion, to reward crewmembers offering outstanding service. Travelers who wish to tip can do so by handing cash directly to the crewmembers they want to thank or by adding a specific amount to their onboard accounts.
According to P&O Australia's press release, Jenny Lourey, Senior Vice President of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Australia, said that "the removal of automatic tipping followed passenger feedback and was in line with the cruise line's continued commitment to ensuring its holidays & onboard products reflect Australian values." A spokesperson adds that as "tips are not part of the onboard pay structure for Australian ships," the end of the auto-gratuity policy will not impact fares or crewmember salaries, but instead, reinstates the previous policy that ended in 2008.
With cruising's growing popularity around the world, not everyone taking a cruise today is comfortable with automatic gratuities, especially travelers who come from a culture –- like Australia -- where tipping is not as prevalent as in the U.S. In October 2009, Royal Caribbean announced that it would be re-evaluating its gratuity system in light of the rise of British and European travelers on its ships. (Royal Caribbean sticks to the old school system of handing cash in envelopes to crewmembers, but adds an auto-gratuity to all passengers who choose the line's flexible dining option.) To date, we have not seen an updated policy from Royal Caribbean, nor from other cruise lines. (Check out our comprehensive list of cruise line tipping policies.)
Will other lines follow P&O Australia's lead and leave tipping decisions up to travelers? Or will they stick with auto-gratuities, forcing passengers who want to tip on their own to make a trip to the purser's desk to have the auto-tips removed? We'll keep you posted.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor