Sunday, March 10, 2013

So what about gratuities?

First-time cruisers often ask about gratuities for the ship's crew that serve their meals, clean their cabins, and generally look after your needs whether onboard for a few days or over a week.  These crew members work hard around the clock to make sure that the cabin is clean, with fresh towels, emptied trash cans, and beds made up during the day and turned down invitingly in the evenings, often with a towel folded into the shape of an animal. They make sure there is hot, fresh food ready no matter the time of day so when you're hungry, there's something to eat.  They place napkins in your lap, remember your preferred beverages, and serve your dinner with a smile. They will go out of their way to bring your favorite dessert (see Crème Brûlée Cheesecake post) even if it's served in another dining location.

Tipping is handled differently on each cruise line, but generally guests pay their gratuities all together, a specified amount for each crew member based on the job that was performed. On Disney Cruise Line, the recommended tipping is $12 per day per person in a stateroom, split up like this:  $4 for the cabin steward, $4 for the main dining server, $3 for the assistant dining server, and $1 for the dining room head waiter.  That's about $4/day for someone to clean up after you in your room, and $8/day for meals - which if you normally tip 15% of your bill, that's about $53 worth of dining out per day. 

You can pre-pay your gratuities before sailing, or you can have the gratuities added to your stateroom account before the end of the cruise. If you choose either of these methods, the gratuities are automatically processed and added to the crew member's account, so no money need exchange hands. Cruise lines encourage this as part of their cashless environment.  But as a guest, you are welcome to give cash to the crew members in whatever amount you want. Some people like to pre-pay their gratuities and then, for a job well done, will add some extra cash to their tip envelope.  One thing that some cruise lines offer is a set of envelopes for you to give to the crew members who have served you during your vacation.  For pre-paid or tips charged to your stateroom, they will leave a ticket for you to include in the envelope that you can hand to the crew member directly.

However you decide to take care of gratuities, the one thing to remember is Don't Forget!  Many crew members are working for very minimal wages and the gratuities they receive make up a large portion of their wages.  Here's an article with more information from Cruise Critic.

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