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Gratuity; [gruh-too-i-tee, -tyoo-]

  • Word Origin  noun, plural gratuities.

1. a gift of money, over and above payment due for service, as to a waiter or bellhop; tip.

2. something given without claim or demand.

dictionary.com

 

There are also some labor code issues in California, and I’m sure in other States:

 

Labor Code Section 351 prohibits employers and their agents from sharing in or keeping any portion of a gratuity left for or given to one or more employees by a patron. Furthermore it is illegal for employers to make wage deductions from gratuities, or from using gratuities as direct or indirect credits against an employee’s wages. The law further states that gratuities are the sole property of the employee or employees to whom they are given. "Gratuity" is defined in the Labor Code as a tip, gratuity, or money that has been paid or given to or left for an employee by a patron of a business over and above the actual amount due for services rendered or for goods, food, drink, articles sold or served to patrons.

 

I don’t know how Royal Caribbean Ltd is addressing the accounting of this mandatory fee to each and every person that boards their ships. But then again, they are not an American corporation. The corporation is in Liberia and based in Miami. I do not know the implications of that, nor care to.

 

Another thing. Now they are offering free gratuities on select cruises. isn't that an oxymoron? How can they give you something free, when it is a free choice to begin with? These are not gratuities.

 

This is not a gratuity, it is a fee. And if it is given out as a tiered amount to the service providers (asto position, time on the job, salary,ect.) and not an equal amount to everyone, is it not, a fee for salary?

 

 If you multiply the number of rooms and then the number of people in that room and times it by the mandatory “gratuity chargeâ€, we are paying the service staff's salary. This is a significant charge. Are we shown where that money goes? I would venture to guess that the trickle down effect to the actual service providers is miniscule.

 

But, back to the mis-labeling of an added fee as a gratuity. A mandatory fee, or as Royal Caribbean labels it, gratuity, if not given to reward above and beyond regular service, the service provider is not motivated to provide over the top service if they get the same pay regardless. The "not so good" people and paid exactly the same as the "outstanding" people.

 

But, now, Royal Caribbean encourages you to tip more if you see a great person. We pay a “gratuityâ€, then Royal Caribbean encourages us to double tip. Does that make any sense?

 

Also what about the port intensive stops when most of the ships cruisers are gone all day and the charge for the whole day of disembarkation and the whole day of disembarking? So may questions? These charges are each and every day times each and every person, doesn’t matter if you are there or not, or if you are able to use them or not.

 

I regress.

The charge for the cruise, unless you are in a high end Suite, can be 50% or less than the total cost of the cruise.

 

Royal Caribbean tries to make more on, not in rank order, the Drinks, Photos, Excursions, and now you can add to that list, Mandatory Gratuities. Some feel this is deceptive pricing and feel blind-sided when they get home to find out they paid double or more, than they actually thought. Doesn’t feel good.

 

I still feel that Royal Caribbean and all their cruise lines offer the best bang-for-our-buck, but these issues are troubling.

Why is Royal Caribbean getting involved in these practices that are causing a lot of cruisers (first timers and long devoted ones) grief? Only management can answer these questions.

 

In the mean time, we all are just wanting to have FUN and not have to think about these things. But when issues keep bubbling to the top, they need corporate attention. Or at least a much different approach.

 

Even the best of companies, in the best of times, need to differentate themselves from everyone else and get ahead of the pack. Royal Caribbean does that with cruise destinations and ports offered.

 

Go beyond what is expected. WOW us.

 

 

 

 

 

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I appreciate all the posts, and I mean all. We all don't need to agree on everything and if everyone would agree, something would be terribly wrong.   Keep in mind we all enjoy cruising and enjoy th

I cant believe I read the whole thing! You sure put up some long posts CelebrationFlCruiser. Im not complaining though, you raised some good points, im glad you took the time.   Tipping is a age ol

You cruise one to two times per month? That was my takeaway from this post!   Also, what do you do for a living and when can I start?

Thank you, Matt, for your thoughts. This seems to be what the cruise lines say that do this.

 

Royal Caribbean needs to be the industry leader, not follower. They, to stay ahead of the pack, should be offering things beyond the industry standard.

 

And when evaluating tips, rarely do those getting the tips report everything. This is an issue that has been as long as there have been servers.

 

So they track tips, and because some are not tipping as they think they should, everyone now is made to make up the difference? Punish everyone for the lack of some. Not a good policy.

 

Tips are just that, tips. They are not salary, and are not given by everyone, and not at the same %. Some do not decerve tips and some deserve a high % tip.

 

That is what makes them special and demand better than normal service. We, before the manditory tipping thing, would tip a lot. And we got, what we thought, was better, over the top, service.

 

When they become manditory (no choice and raised %) they are no longer tips.

 

I also bet, with the manditory tipping, the tipping dropped off to almost nothing (except those that don't realize that they are alreading tipping).

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Royal Caribbean is now offering special deals.........

 

They first add charges for: tips, beverages, and then......

 

They offer to take them away as incentives to book a cruise. What is this called?

 

They were not charges before and now they are making it an incentive to book, to take them away.

 

Then they raise the prices on a select number of cruises, then offer on-board credit. What does this sound like?

 

Royal Caribbean should be giving Royal, over the top, offers and service. WOW us,

 

We are still loyal Royal Caribbean cruisers, but this is getting annoying. This is a first rate, number 1 company. Why are they participating in this type of PR?

 

Create a charge and then offer it as a incentive to take it away or offer a FREE item that used to be free.

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Celebration I have to say that fundamentally, you are correct. Since when is a tip mandatory ? At that point, it is no longer a tip, it is an additional charge. I think we have lost sight of what a tip is supposed to be.

 

My guess is that the root of this is a combination of both what you and Matt have said. Some people are just cheap and will not tip, regardless of whether they get good service or bad service. Even though a tip is SUPPOSED to be optional, most service personnel have come to expect them (forming the basis of the problem...but that's another issue altogether).

 

Since the other cruise lines are going to mandatory gratuities...thereby appeasing their staff...RCCL is required to do the same or they will lose their good employees to the other lines.

 

So what to do ? Let's stop calling it gratuity for one thing. It's not a gratuity if it is a mandatory fee. As with all such things, I would prefer that they just include it in the cruise fee and not even tell me about it...but don't come begging for a MANDATORY tip. That is an oxymoron.

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I cant believe I read the whole thing! You sure put up some long posts CelebrationFlCruiser.

Im not complaining though, you raised some good points, im glad you took the time.

 

Tipping is a age old debate that isnt going away anytime soon. In general im always contemplating whether or not to tip, many times I dont think I should and many times I do.

Im not a fan of mandatory tipping, but I have to admit on a cruise ship I dont mind it, for a few reasons.

First of all, tipping gives me a bit of anxiety. I never know if I should and I feel bad if I dont. I really dont want to feel that way on vacation, I like knowing they are tipped when they do me a favor.

The last thing I want is a pocket full of ones and fives dishing them out whenever someone does something nice for me. If someone answers a question in detail or points me in the right direction I dont want to think they are fishing for a tip. With mandatory tipping I know they are not.

 

Truth is those people would never get tips otherwise, only the room attendants and servers would. Good service comes from many areas, not just servers. I like to know there taking care of too.

We can debate whether or not we are paying their wages, maybe we are. Iv always wondered what they get paid, I doubt much. Especially considering they spend months from home (low income countries) sending their family's home money. Tips are probably a large part of their income, but one way or another were going to have to pay their wages, whether its tips or higher fares. Atleast this way I dont have to worry about tipping them.

 

I also doubt this enables poor service to go unseen. Iv always been impressed with the job they do, im sure they weed out the bad ones eventually. Someone at Royal told me once that if a employee is faking happy or just putting on a smile and playing the role, they wont last, you have to genuinely enjoy your job and be naturally polite to survive. I can believe that, in my past couple cruises they have gone above and beyond, its gotta be genuine.

Like I said above, it tips were not mandatory only servers and RA's would get them. For me its the service from the little guy that leaves you feeling well taken care of. The last thing I want to do is dish out cash to everyone that I think should get it, this way I know they already did.

After all a vacation should be worry free.

 

Although I disagreed it doesnt mean I dont agree with much of what you said, just a different way of looking at it I guess. 

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While "service fee" or "service charge" may be more appropriate, tipping has been an expected custom since I began cruising in 1994.  I believe that charging to the stateroom account began to be done out of convenience--I for one preferred it over dealing with cash--and out of necessity as new cruisers start cruising without understanding or knowing the culture of cruising.  Of course, the ultra-premium lines include everything with your fare, but you're paying for that upfront.  In fact, I don't know of any of the major cruise lines that still expect passengers to tip in cash.  I've sailed NCL, Royal, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity and in all cases the gratuities were added to my onboard account.

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Did I miss an announcement from RCCL? On my last cruise in April (3 months ago) there were no "mandatory" tips. They "automatically" added the recommended gratuities to my folio at the end of each day, which I appreciate, so I do not have to administrate the cash in envelopes. However if this system does not suit me, I am able to go to the guest service desk and ask them to not add gratuities to my daily bill and refund any that had already been added to my bill. If I really wanted to be an @#% I am able to ask the service desk to credit me the gratuities paid for drinks and specialty venues that are "automatically" added as well.

 

For whatever reasons and traditions tips/gratuities have been accepted by governments and consumers around the world as an acceptable method of compensation for those who work in the service industry, thus lowering minimum wages paid THROUGH the employer. But make no mistake, that at your local restaurant or on your next cruise, we pay these service workers their salary with our gratuities. So service has to be REALLY bad for me not to compensate them at recommended levels, but at least I have that ability to demonstrate my displeasure. If they were to raise the minimum pay and raise the cost of my dinner or cruise in lieu of paying gratuities, then I would loose that option. Aditionally service levels and productivity of all workers would decline dramatically.

 

I say thank you RCCL for making it easier for me to tip the staff.

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Did I miss an announcement from RCCL? On my last cruise in April (3 months ago) there were no "mandatory" tips. They "automatically" added the recommended gratuities to my folio at the end of each day, which I appreciate, so I do not have to administrate the cash in envelopes.

Nope, that is what we are discussing.

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Not only has Royal Caribbean made everyone pay tips, they upped the percentage, to what they think everyone should give.

 

Has Royal Caribbean ever produced a study showing the habits of tipping on any Royal Caribbean ship?

 

Has Royal Caribbean ever stated how much of the manditory tipping actually goes to the staff?

 

And keep in mind, this manditory tipping is attached to every man, woman and child (no matter the ages). My children and now grand-children do not tip. But cruise on Royal Caribbean and now they do.

 

Every day (the day you leave port, the days you are off the ship, the days you don't use the service, and the day you return to port).

 

The tipping is tiered. The standard rooms are at one percentage and the suites are on another. Same service but if you are paying more for a room, you pay more tips.

 

You can not remove the amount of the tips that Royal Carribean has decided you should pay their workers. Royal Caribbean will not allow you to remove the charges, but they say you can change the amounts by favoring one worker over another. How does this work. Will they show us that more monies go to different workers?

 

The company line, we are doing it because other cruise lines are doing it, is not a good reason to do anything. My children always use that, Billy's doing it, so now I am doing it. Didn't work then, doesn't work now.

 

To admonish everyone and justifing it by saying, some of you are not tipping or tipping enough, shame on you. No, shame on everyone, we are now going to make you tip, and what we think you should tip, no matter what. That is bad parenting and, bad policy for a cruise line that should stand ahead of the pack.

 

This seems to be a major point of contention among the cruising population and seems to be discussed on every Royal Caribbean cruise we go on.

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If the fee was not being passed on to the crew, there'd be a revolt as there are plenty of other cruise lines, resorts, and hotels to work for out there. In addition, most crew members have the desire to promote, which can't occur unless they provide exceptional service and get good reviews from both passengers and supervisors. My last room steward for one was looking to simply shift room assignments--hers were split across the Centrum--and this decision was based on her evaluations according to her.

 

I've never felt required to tip additionally nor encouraged to do so. However, when I've had free drink vouchers, I've always tipped in cash as a courtesy. I also tipped at the coffe bar on the Jewel as I had exceptional service and the server would start preparing my coffee, which was very particular, before I even reached the coffee bar. I appreciated him going above and beyond, so I recognized it.

 

Suites are bigger and receive additional amenities, so have a higher fee associated with them makes sense to me. Ultimately, if one disagree with the fee, he/she can vote with his or her feet by picking a cruise line that doesn't charge the fee--good luck finding one unless you're going upmarket--stop cruising, or write to Royal Caribbean.

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Q: How is the automatic daily gratuity shared between members of the staff and crew?

 

A:

The automatic gratuity is $12.95 USD, or $15.95 USD for suite guests, applied to each guest's SeaPass® account on a daily basis. Here's how it is shared between your onboard service team:

Dining & Culinary Services: $7.75 USD

Stateroom Attendant: $3.85 USD OR Suite Attendant: $6.10 USD

Other Housekeeping Services: $1.35 USD OR Housekeeping and Suite Services: $2.10 USD

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I do agree that the staff are getting their gratuities. I have asked them and they say that they do so I will just have to believe that the grats are getting to those for whom they are intended.

 

I recognize that this is a losing battle. They are charging a MANDATORY gratuity...tip...call it whatever you want to. But you MUST pay it. They will NOT remove it from your bill unless there are extraordinary circumstances and even then they will only remove whatever part of it is warranted. I know this to be true...experience with a friend with whom I was sailing last year.

 

So...as Doc suggests, you either pay it and shut up or vote with your feet and go elsewhere. I choose to pay it and shut up....which I will do now. End of conversation on this topic for me.

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I get it DocLC, moderator, staff member, "Ultimately, if one disagree with the fee, he/she can vote with his or her feet by picking a cruise line that doesn't charge the fee--good luck finding one unless you're going upmarket--stop cruising, or write to Royal Caribbean."

 

That's great. Quit complaining or leave.

 

I have always chosen the ships we cruise on by cruise lines, ports, and what they charge. I may choose at one point to go to another line for one reason or another. But not because, I bring up a point of contention and then told to go elsewhere. Not a good response.

 

By the way, Royal Caribbean is not an American company and is bound by maritime law. This is totally different from what we are used to.

 

If they don't like something about a worker, they just let them off at the next port. They are not bound by workers compensation, or normal workplace statutes. And they have not produced any studies, documentation or anything to substantiate this new fee.

 

I am a loyal Royal Caribbean, regular cruiser. I was at the top of the tier system of Royal Caribbean until the shake-up and added tiers. I then like many were dropped to a lower level. We continue to support Royal Caribbean and if I think they have a program or policy that I think is unfair or not favorable I will speak up.

 

Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I don't like the whole thing. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater (or however that goes) or Don't shoot the messenger.

 

I am still a Royal Caribbean supporter and advocate. I just want them to do better and I know they can. They are a top, if not the top, cruising company. They need to be leading the pack. These things are items that we  should not be, or have to be dealt with.

 

Just be a Great company and keep offering Great service. Stop with this kind of stuff that breeds issues.

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I get it DocLC, moderator, staff member, "Ultimately, if one disagree with the fee, he/she can vote with his or her feet by picking a cruise line that doesn't charge the fee--good luck finding one unless you're going upmarket--stop cruising, or write to Royal Caribbean."

 

That's great. Quit complaining or leave.

 

 

That's not at all what I'm suggesting; I'm not suggesting quite complaining or leave.  I was stating the state of the cruise industry and the only three options I see available to cruisers who are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.  It wasn't meant to be inferred to you personally.  I was stating my take on the issue, much as you have, and never suggested, in my opinion, that you should go elsewhere.  I specifically wrote he/she as I was speaking in generalities.  Had this been directed towards you, I would have specifically said so and use "you" instead of the third person.

 

For clarity, I'm only listed as a "staff member/moderator" so that I can help Matt address the spam that has popped up on the boards of late.  I have no allegiance to Royal Caribbean or any other cruise line.  I'm a cruising fan like all of us here on the boards.

 

What I was trying to say is that this is the way the industry--not just Royal Caribbean--has moved.  While we may not like it, there are really only three options in my opinion:  move to an ultra luxury cruise line, write Royal Caribbean directly to stop the practice, or stop cruising.  Perhaps I'm a defeatist, but I don't see how this is going to change anytime soon.  Would I like the fee to be included in the price?  Of course, but that's not going to happen until all lines do the same things as consumers don't understand the comparison when Carnival comes in at, say, $1000 and Royal comes in at $1300 because the gratuities are included.  If everyone compared apples to apples and oranges to oranges, this might work, but they don't.  Similar to the baggage fees on airlines.  And when JetBlue announced they were going to start charging for baggage, which they never did before, the stock price benefited as it was dollar signs in the eyes of the investors as it meant more revenue for the cruise line.

 

I have many of the same criticisms as you.  I was became Platinum when Platinum actually meant something and provided real benefits.  I've rarely ever benefited from C&A discounts.  In addition, I didn't sail Royal for nearly a decade because the price often exceeded that of the competition after having my son as other lines offered more competitive pricing on the third passenger and because I didn't like the charge that was added for Johnny Rockets or for late night room service.  However, I've come to terms with this, although I do think Johnny Rockets should be complimentary as other lines have branded burger options without an additional fee.  And I do agree, all of the cruise lines need to be more transparent when it comes to how this fee is being applied.

 

Please don't assume that I'm suggesting that you shouldn't state your opinion; that's why these message boards exist.  However, we also have to accept that we can all have differences of opinion, which is likely given are diverse backgrounds and experiences.  In fact, I think this should be fostered.

 

P.S.  I'd be happy to stop replying to your posts if that's what you'd prefer.

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I appreciate all the posts, and I mean all. We all don't need to agree on everything and if everyone would agree, something would be terribly wrong.

 

Keep in mind we all enjoy cruising and enjoy the BEST in service, and with the BEST cruise line.

 

Although, we cruise mostly on Royal Caribbean, we do cruise on other lines. They all have their issues but on the whole, I think the Royal Caribbean product is the best for us.

 

I do think that Royal Caribbean can do better and should strive for that. And, not be bogged down with these things that create a not so good memory. These are vacations for most/ FUN times and one bad memory or experience can leave a lasting, long-term impression.

 

Studies have shown that it takes a lot of positive things to happen to overcome one negative thing.

 

There are too many other companies that go to the same ports with similar Itineraries and offer a similar product.

 

Royal Caribbean, stand out, be the BEST that we know you can be. Make us all proud and want to be loyal, returning customers.

 

And if you disagree with this or anything, please feel free, to post about it.

 

Thank you, to all that have taken the time and effort to post here.

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Well said, CelebrationFLCruiser. :D

 

We tend to be most critical of those things that we love and a single bad experience can definitely override any positive experiences.  After having only sailed on Royal where I proposed, we tried Carnival for our honeymoon and it was a terrible let down in 1996.  As a result, we didn't sail with them for the next 17 years.  Then we finally tried them again--the pain had faded away--and we were pleasantly surprised.  Enough so that we booked their flagship six months later.  I'll even admit that I'm tempted to try the Carnival Vista when it comes out.

 

At the same time, we're also the most protective of those things we adore.  Very much like family. 

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With all due respect to anyone who may disagree,, I think anyone who's unhappy about "mandatory gratuities" is the person they instituted the policy FOR. He/she is probably the one who wouldn't be tipping, or why complain about them adding it automatically ?? I, for one, have no problem with it.

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There are plenty of good points here. My only issue with the automatic gratuities is that it may tend to reduce the incentive for the crew to provide the above and beyond service that RCI is famous for. I felt some of the crew were not top notch on Navigator last year, but I don't have proof that automatic gratuities were directly correlated to my experience that week. In all fairness, most of the crew provided excellent service. Overall I favor the automatic gratuities for several reasons:

- Convenience for me. No bag of cash to carry on board. It's also more convenient for RCI and the crew.

- If I want to give an additional tip, I still can do that. And that might have a bigger impact on a crew member now with automatic gratuities because it's less common and makes me stand out.

- We are going to pay the crew's salary one way or another. Whether it's cruise fare or gratuity, you and I are paying them. I'm sure RCI knows what level of compensation it takes to attract competent crew members, and crew members take all that into account when thinking about their compensation and which cruise line to work for. Automatic gratuities mean more predictable income for them.

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Steve,

 

I agree that it's a complicated issue. I've had horrible service under the old system and exceptional service under the autogratuity system. There also seems to be a consensus among cruisers that service has diminished under the autogratuity system; however, I wonder if this is true or simply an illusory correlation. That is, perhaps the two are unrelated. Staffing cuts and lower cruise pricing could be the cause of service changes, not the auto gratuities themselves.

 

I like to think that the auto system provides a guarantee to the workers as they don't have to question whether they will or will not be tipped. In addition, providing exceptional service is in their best interest for promotions and even just better assignments while onboard.

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I have friends who have sailed on Carnival and have indeed asked and had the gratuities removed from their charge folio.  Probably a little known "loophole" that folks don't even think to investigate.  Probably similar across the industry.  Maybe not.  Never hurts to try while you are on board.

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We were hit with the pre-paid gratuities because we had to take my time dining.  In the end we thought this was fine as we can then choose what time to eat and don't have to worry about tips.   The total we were charged, is double what we would normally give at the end, but my hubby tips in the Casino along the way also.   Now I log in tonight to select times for some more nights dining and we have been changed to 8.30 seating, which I just can not do, due to my medication schedule, it is too late.  So do I get a refund and get to choose how much I tip?? I doubt it.  Quick email to my booking agent to swap it back first and reason as to why.  Its my time dining or early seating only.  Only a minor hiccup I suppose. but hope it is the last :)

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The curiosity was killing me after my cruise last year, so I researched and found the salaries of various crew members. Obviously you have to take something like that with a grain of salt. God only knows how accurate it was. But I'm here to tell you, I was shocked to see how low some of them were. I realize that what someone in Chicago or Spokane might consider a good living might be very different than someone whose home is in the Phillipines, or Cambodia, or Morocco, etc. But I had to go pretty far up the food chain before I started seeing salaries similar to what I'd consider comparable to myself and the people I know. And those are positions that probably take decades on board to ascend to. At first it looked ok, and then I realized they were displaying monthly salaries, not weekly lol. Then on top of that is the fact that they take off months between sailings for home time.

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There also seems to be a consensus among cruisers that service has diminished under the autogratuity system; however, I wonder if this is true or simply an illusory correlation. That is, perhaps the two are unrelated. Staffing cuts and lower cruise pricing could be the cause of service changes, not the auto gratuities themselves.

 

I agree with you, it's indeed hard to tell though I lean to imagined just as sugar causing hyperactivity has been proven to be a placebo effect (a proper meal will do the same for energy levels). I don't doubt that for some employees the auto gratuities lead to diminished output. However, far more often than not I think bad or poor service can be linked to any number of other causes such as bad training, bad day/personal drama going on, work problems etc.

 

 

I think the best way to try and determine the impact of auto gratuities is to amass some simple data be it here or in a dedicated thread. Stuff like ship, sailing date/ days and good fair or bad service rating in a few main categories such as housekeeping, food staff, bar staff and administrative. Perhaps aim for a week cool off period to let excitement or rage subside for as objective an opinion as possible.

 

 

As I generally believe the facts when laid bare, I see this as a golden oportunity to do some sciencing of our own. Any interest in this anyone?

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