In case of doubt, I always believe in asking your server first how they prefer to be tipped!
My first cruise was booked through Delta Skymiles and the issue of tipping was not discussed until I received the final boarding documents with suggested dollar amount for tips per passenger, including minors! After complaining to my agent about the surprise assessment, I was informed that I can request to remove or reduce those tips at the end of the cruise. Living at NYC, we tip 20% or more, for F&B services.
So, I thought it is best to ask the workers themselves. I was told that back in the days, cruise workers were paid only tips! But that is not the case anymore. Requesting anonymity, of course, this server prefers to get tips directly as oppose to receiving a share from the common pool collected by the cruise line. Apparently, these workers have not received their fare share of the tips because there is no accountability, they do not know how much was contributed, or how much the management decides to tell them!
At the end of my cruise, my adult daughter reduced the amount she wanted to contribute for the tip, while I made sure I tipped my waiters after every meal ($5-$10 x4 per day) and gave one lumpsum tip for my room keeper ($80 or average of $10/day). I removed the rest of tips assessed on my bill, including the tips pertaining to my minor daughter who shared my room. As I prepare for another cruise, I am inclined to ask my servers the same question.
Can you please share your tipping tips from various cruise liners?
What a great question attycarol! As someone who has been on cruises many times in her life, tips has always been something I found tricky as well. We generally traveled on Royal Caribbean, but have also been on Princess and Norwegian too. Rather than asking the servers, I would ask the concierge, they might be less biased to the situation. Also, here is a great link my family references when traveling: http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=132.
I always tip in cash. I worry that by tipping in advance they won't see all of the money. They work SO HARD and they deserve every cent. I tip the room steward a little something the first day and that way we get awesome service. I also tip the drink servers even though there is a gratuity added - for the same reason.
I'm going through cruise withdrawals right now. Waaa!
Truthfully, I bring cash. They really seem to appreciate getting cash. We booked a grand suite on Adventure of the Seas, 7 day southern Caribbean with another couple. Some workers go way above and beyond and I want to tip them accordingly. I know everyone is different but that's how I do it.
Pete, You were right to say that because that is a huge perk for a lot of people. Plus many don't know how to tip or what the guidelines are. I remember on our NCL cruise, we had the chance to grab an upsell from an aft mini to a penthouse for $300 total. (Biggest balcony EVER!) We gave our butler $100 or more and the guy next to us was going to give $25. You never know! I always did wonder if the employees were getting their full share of pre-paid gratuities. Probably not is my guess.
ADVANCED TIPPING WORKS BEST. Our Breakaway to Bermuda was a blast! As soon as we embarked, we ordered our first lunch while my cousin tipped $20 right away to our waiter! Needless to say, the service and attention was beyond excellent. That became the norm for the next 7 days. We have two suites with a group of 7, we agreed that we will alternately tip our waiters every meal before the service starts! I can't tell you how much that paid off. During the lobster night, I didn't want to line at the buffet since we have unlimited specialty dining, so I booked Teppanyaki and asked my waiter to bring up extra lobster. We got more than 10 lobsters in addition to the normal lobster and steak meal cooked in front of us! Also, everytime we celebrate an occasion (3 bdays and one wedding anniv in June, that cruise was in May) we got free bottle of wine, sometimes 2! Best of all, out of 4,000 passengers demanding service on board, the waiters already knew us.They were super attentive, and they just bring out all the desserts so we can choose. Now, because the room steward and other backroom persons are not part of the cash tips we gave out, we still maintained half of the service charges billed to our room, plus a little extra to the stewards. Read my detailed review of Breakaway to Bermuda: Breakaway cruise from NYC delivered!
When we used to cruise, we always gave our tips direct in cash. We insisted on having any tips that were included in our bill removed. Then we tipped all the relevant people as we went along. As attycarol says, you get well looked after if you do this.
Off topic - but the same principle - here in the UK a service charge is often added on to restaurant bills. But the staff don't always get it. We were in a London restaurant once, and our waiter was superb. When the bill came it had the service charge on it. I asked if he got it. Quick as a flash he said "No Sir, do you want me to take it off?" I said yes, and he went to get a revised bill. But I had noted how much the service charge was, and when he returned with the revised bill, the exact amount of the service charge - to the penny - was sitting on the table in cash, which I gave to him. He obviously realised that I was making a point by giving him the exact amount in cash, grinned at me and said "Thankyou so very much Sir!" We have been back a couple of times since. If he sees us he makes sure we are on one of his tables, and looks after us brilliantly. We always have the same scenario with the bill at the end, as he cannot just produce a bill with no service charge. So he brings it, we see how much the service charge is, then he takes it away for revision, knowing the cash will be waiting his return.
I have only used Norwegian and they include in the bill. Also on that line you tend to eat in different restaurants and at different tables with different servers each night so to me it is easier to just let the tip be on the bill. For drinks they add a tip and at times I will add a little more
I always pay the advanced tips. That way, I don't have to carry so much cash and don't have to worry about it. I do worry that they don't see all of it and I'm sure it's split between a lot of people, but I think there's also a lot of people involved that we don't even see in person. You see your steward and you see your server, but there are others helping them. I can't imagine that those two people are the only ones that deserve tips. I will usually give some extra cash to the steward or waiter if they really changed my experience for the better.