You asked for it, so here's an easy way to find out if a cruise line automatically adds gratuities onto passengers' bills, and if so, by how much.
At last check, we received just under 100 passionate comments on our blog post concerning whether tips should be added automatically or not.
What brought up the issue? After hearing many passenger complaints, P&O; Cruises Australia has banished the practice of automatically adding a gratuity onto the bill.
Here are some snippets of reader comments:
"The old system—'in which passengers decided who and how much to tip'—was unfair to the workers who work behind the scenes. All of the workers on cruises receive the bulk of their income from tips and not from salaries. In the old system only workers who get a lot of face time with passengers e.g. waiters, bartenders, room service, etc. get all the tips, while workers in 'the back' get nothing. I hate to be forced to tip...but it is the fairest way to share the tips with all cruise workers." Posted By Rudy
"Sorry, but it's not my problem to pay/tip/motivate those behind the scenes. This is a cruise line staffing issue. They need to pay decent wages. I ALWAYS visit the pursers desk and ask them to remove the auto tip and explain that I prefer to tip directly those who have personally had a positive effect on my cruise experience. They've always taken it off my bill." Posted By Cruise Veteran
"I like the auto tip because I don't have to worry about dividing everything up the night before and having cash available." Posted By toobusy2
"If the passenger line adds on the tip automatically, it is no longer a 'tip' but rather a 'fee'." Posted by Linda.
Several readers requested that we list the tipping policies for cruise lines, and, well, somebody beat us to it. Cruise Critic offers a comprehensive roundup of the tipping policies for Big-Ship Lines, River and Barge Lines, and more. And the site lists not only the per-passenger amounts added to your bill, but whether those amounts are tacked on per child passenger as well as adults, and what alternative tipping options are offered, if any.
Tipping policies have been known to change, however, so if you're thinking of boarding a cruise in the near future and don't want to be surprised, call the cruise line and ask what's up.