Travel Tips

Gratuities and Tips…

…Should they be earned or just given freely despite the level of service?

I am sure there is a good discussion to be had as to whether gratuities and tips should be an automatic addition to a bill or should only be given where good service is deserving of such?

My personal view however is that within appropriate professions (or even sometimes less expecting professions) tips should only be given as an expression of gratitude as and when a person has gone above and beyond the expected level of service. A salary, fee or charge should cover everything else.

I have long stopped tipping taxi drivers who exceed the speed limit and spend the whole journey in the outside lane whilst on the phone to their friends and family. If they put mine or my family’s safety in jepody by driving like twats or make me feel travel sick within 5 minutes of getting in the car – no tip, period! (As a point aside since I have started travelling a lot I have discovered from experience that Uber tend to have much more careful drivers than most taxis, plus they are generally a lot more friendly and knowledgeable too, perhaps due to the fact that each passenger is able to give feedback via the app after each journey.)

The same goes for restaurant staff, tour guides etc, if they go that extra mile then I am happy to tip, but if they have a face like thunder and don’t make that effort to make things just a little bit special and uplifting then I don’t tip.

However for those who DO put in that little bit extra then I am of course more than happy to tip, but I also like to ensure my tip goes to the right person – in cash! I am never sure these days that adding tips to your card actually gets to the person you really want them too and I don’t believe in pooled tips being split either as 9/10 there will be the hard workers carrying the lazier ones.

I have discovered however that there is quite a big difference between tipping in the U.K. and the U.S.A. In the U.K. we add somewhere in the region of 10% tip for good service, where as in the U.S.A. it appears that a minimum of 15% is expected for standard service to form part of the servers wages and 18-20% to reward better service.

And as for cruising, the expected gratuities appear to be endless. Now I do know that generally the front end workers on cruise ships are pretty poorly paid and I am more than happy to pay my gratuities to the appropriate staff who assist and serve me personally. One of the worst overall service I received on a cruise ship several years ago though was one where all gratuities had to be pre-paid in advance of sailing. It just appeared that on that occasion the staff didn’t really bother because they knew they were going to get their tips anyway!

I have now stopped paying gratuities upfront when I cruise, I rarely use the formal dining room when we sail and therefore object to having to pay tips to a waiter, head waiter, assistant waiter and sommelier that I never ever see. If I do use said dining then I am of course happy to tip those pro rata for the nights I use their services. I do worry that if I pre-pay my gratuities in advance as to whether to full amount is passed on to the appropriate people by either the cruise agents or cruise lines.

If you have never cruised before it is worth knowing that many of the onboard services you that you pay for an additional gratuity will automatically be added to your bill. For example every time I purchased a drink at the bar an 18% gratuity was added and then as you sign the bar bill there is a space below asking if you would like to add an additional gratuity on top of that. Even just popping into the candy store for my son, the card machine pops up with ‘would you like to add a gratuity?’ “NO” I really don’t want to add a gratuity for a woman sitting behind the till with a face like thunder, who doesn’t even say good morning or even make eye contact with me because she is too busy texting her friends and the reality is that having to stop to weigh my son’s sweets and take my money really is a great inconvenience to her!!!

I did however on the last evening leave a generous tip to our housekeeping lady who was absolutely lovely, keeping our cabin immaculate twice a day and leaving lovely towel animals for Cameron each morning.

I was therefore pretty surprised to receive my final cabin bill on the last morning to see that Carnival Cruises had added another $97 EACH for 7 nights gratuities for many services which I didn’t even use! Thankfully guest services did remove these when I queried it and said I had paid my appropriate gratuities in cash. I am sure they will say it is written in the small print somewhere, but would have been nice if it had been printed somewhere a lot more obviously so that passengers like myself don’t get caught out paying both cash and automated tips!

I would be interested to know how other people tip, particularly in regards to cruise gratuities, as we still have another 6 wks at sea booked over the next few months?


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