Manage your gratuities carefully – Cruise tip

Any cruise virgin should be told BEFORE going on a cruise that many cruise lines automatically slap you with gratuity charges.

Different cruise lines have their own “tipping guidelines” that they use to charge you. Most charge on a per person/per day basis. With all of the people that expect to be tipped, this can get really pricey — especially for large families.

Cruisers should know that a quick trip to the Purser’s Desk can have those gratuities removed from your bill, and you’ll be free to tip deserving persons accordingly.

Carnival to remove automatic tips from Australian cruises

In many countries around the world, tipping isn’t practiced to the extent it is in the US. Here, anything less than 15% for a restaurant server is considered an insult. We tip hotel housekeepers, valets, even the people who make our coffee. We’re used to the system of tipping to supplement a worker’s wages, but in other countries, the average tip is much lower.

American cruise lines are having some trouble reconciling the American way of tipping with attitudes and customs around gratuities in other countries. It seems that Carnival‘s Australian branch, P&O Cruises Australia, had received complaints from passengers in response to the automatic tipping policy the cruise line previously had in place, so they’ve announced that they will be removing the automatic gratuity charge added to all accounts.

Other US-based cruise lines that operate in certain countries may follow suit in reevaluating their policies to accommodate foreign customs in tipping. Royal Caribbean, which does not currently add the automatic charge, said it is working on changes to its own policy because the British who cruise on its line out of Southampton don’t tip.

[via USA Today]

Tips for tippers: it isn’t what you expect

Tipping’s a tough nut to crack. Should you tip a housekeeper? Back in the day, the rule was leaving some cash only if your stay was 30 days or longer. Since then, however, it seems to have changed. And, what’s appropriate for a valet? Bellman? Skycap? Travel means tipping, and there are plenty of points at which you can expect to do this. If you go to the same hotel or use the same car service frequently, you may want to adjust your tipping habits, as well.

If these questions make you feel ignorant, you’re not alone. Michael Lynn, a prof at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, has conducted to nationwide tipping surveys and has found that a third of the respondents don’t know to leave 15 percent to 20 percent of the tab at a restaurant. Throw hotels and drivers into the mix, and it’s unsurprising that the rules aren’t understood as clearly as they could be.

So, USA Today and I are helping you know what to tip and when. A recent article by Gary Stoller provides some good ideas, and I’ve tossed in a few of my own.

Valet: This one was news to me. Don’t drop cash to the guy who opens the car door or brings the car to the valet lot. Instead, pay the guy who brings it back, generally $2 to $5. I’ve been overtipping on this one for a long time.

Bellmen: These guys carry bags, so they’re earning their tips. Give ’em $1 to $2 a bag, more if you pack for a weekend like you’re moving in for a month. Heavy bag, as well, warrant an extra tip.

Maids: Once upon a time, maids were only tipped if you were staying for the long term. I guess this has changed, and you’re supposed to leave $1 to $5 daily. But, if you’ve been tipping valets for both drop-off and pickup, this should be break-even for you.

Concierges: Don’t tip for the basics. If you’re asking for directions, recommendations or simple answers, those are free. Did the concierge score hard-to-find tickets? A table at an impossible restaurant? Pony up: $10 to $50. Nonetheless, it’s your call. Vivian Deuschl, a vice president at the Ritz-Carlton chain, says that you should expect fantastic service, “There is no obligation to tip.”

Skycap: Pay for help when you check your bags curbside: $2 to $3 a bag is fine. If you have a lot of bags, throw in a little extra, a good rule to apply for the driver who takes you to and from the airport, too.

And, here are a few others …

Service matters: Tips are provided for the service you receive. If you receive unacceptable service, don’t offer a tip. But, if service is so bad that you aren’t tipping, it’s probably a good idea to call a manager and give your side of the story. First, it will keep you from getting shafted by other hotel employees when the word spreads. Also, it will alert the management to a problem with the staff. Be thorough, and don’t whine.

“No tipping” is sacrosanct: Some resorts have no-tipping policies. They always make it very clear up front. Also, they will tell you if there are any exceptions. Curtain Bluff, in Antigua, doesn’t allow tips and makes alternatives clear (there’s a charity on the island). The spa is a “tipping zone,” however, and the front desk will let you know. If you try to tip in a no-tip hotel, the employee will probably let you know, but it’s best not to create the awkward situation at all.

Special requests: Think beyond restaurant reservations and event tickets. If the concierge does the impossible for you, shell out for it. I’m thinking of several super-luxury favors I’ve heard (sorry, can’t reveal them) from industry insiders. If you’re rolling in the big leagues, don’t bother carrying singles; you’ll need Benjies.

Be realistic: Tip what you can afford. You don’t need to toss around boatloads of cash that you don’t have. It may feel good to be a big tipper, but the high you get now will hurt like hell later. Remember that you’ll need to live with the financial situation that you create while on vacation.

Don’t tip from guilt: You don’t have to solve the financial crisis on your own. The recession has led to a travel industry slump, which means hotel employees won’t be making as much. Think of it this way: these guys aren’t buying more of what you make just to help you out. So, don’t think you need to return the favor.

Know your environment: There is a lot of mileage between Eden Rock and the Holiday Inn: don’t expect the same tipping strategy to work at both locations.

[Photo by AMagill via Flickr]

Galley Gossip: A question about tipping flight attendants

As a chronic over tipper in restaurants I’ve always been a bit confused when on a plane. While very occasionally an attendant will accept a tip, most often they move off before you can even try. Sometimes they outright won’t accept a tip. I’ve been in union jobs where the union disallows tipping in order to get a higher wage. Is this the case? I tip at the very least a dollar a drink at a bar, and I figure an attendant deserves even more than that. What gives?

Cliff F.

Before I can address Cliff’s question about tipping flight attendants, I have to say that I want you, Cliff, on one of my flights! Please let me know when you’re traveling again and I’ll trade onto the trip. Why? Because you sound nice. Because good passengers make good trips. Trust me, I’m not saying this because you’re a big tipper, but because you understand the plight of the working class. As for your question about tipping on flights, flight attendants, at least the ones at my airline, are not supposed to accept tips. Why aren’t we allowed to accept tips? I’m not sure – exactly. But my guess is it has something to do with the higher wage flight attendants make opposed to other service industry workers, like Cliff mentioned. Even though I do not accept tips (it’s my job to serve you that drink!), that tip, the one I did not accept, is greatly appreciated. So thank you, Cliff, for thinking of me. And I’ll be looking for you on my next flight.

Heather Poole

Remember to tip the tour guide; he or she has a lousy job

Almost every time I’ve taken a trip that has a tour guide, I’ve had a great time. For the most part, they are knowledgeable, engaging, and have a knack for creating a sense of wonder at various sights. The last tour guide who entertained us was this past summer in Seattle when we took The Ducks, a tour in one of those vehicles that can travel on land and on the water. Our guide started out dressed like a pirate and then changed hats and personas at different points along the 90-minute sweep through sections of the city.

Okay, sure this may sound like the silliest tour in the world, but it was a blast. The guide knew a ton of stuff about Seattle that I may have missed otherwise. Plus, if you’re with a group of fun people who are into having a good time, like we were, the world seems brighter. I’m always interested in seeing where other travelers are from, as well.

During the tour, I wondered how much a Duck tour guide might make. According to an article on the worst jobs, probably not much. Tour guides are on the list as the least well-paid. That’s one of the reason’s why their job is lousy–and one reason why it’s important to remember to give a tip at the end of a tour. Now, I wish we had given more.