A big THANK YOU to all of our subscribers who answered last week’s question about gratuities. In poring over the responses, we learned that most of you would like to see gratuities included in the cost of the cruise or a gratuities-neither-required-nor-expected policy.
No matter which way you voted, however, nearly all of you said that you wanted to see staff rewarded for creating great experiences on the rivers.
“I feel the staff treats us passengers exceptionally and deserves to be compensated accordingly,” one of you wrote. “We’re expected to tip a coffee shop employee for filling a paper cup with coffee; river cruise staff certainly do a lot more for us than that. They make our river cruise experience what is is.”
Before we dive deeper into your responses, however, a bit of housekeeping: A couple of you asked how you could view our newsletter in your browsers. We’ve since activated a link at the top of our newsletter. Click the link and view the newsletter in your preferred browser.
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Now back to our survey.
The majority you said that you preferred prepaid gratuities that are included in the cruise fare.
“It is always a concern if I am giving enough and who to give it to. With the gratuity being included in our fare that takes that concern away. It makes for a more relaxing cruise.”
“It means that the full cost of your cruise is clear right from the start. No agonizing over what is a reasonable tip and no resentment over feeling you must pay extra for service that you regard as only to be expected from a professional cruise line … “
“I like not having to figure out how much to give, or having to carry enough cash to cover the tips. However, I’ve never, ever felt that the crew did not deserve every penny they receive.”
“I prefer prepaid … no one is forgotten and for that extra special someone you can always give more.”
“My husband and I like it when the gratuities are prepaid. That ensures that the staff will receive a definite amount of money that they can count on. We know that many are away from their families and trying to give their loved ones a better life by sending money home on a regular basis. However, we always put additional money in envelopes to give to people on the cruise that we feel have provided excellent service. The staff on cruises work very hard, as a rule, and deserve to be recognized and compensated for going that extra mile. Oftentimes, it is the staff that makes the difference between a good cruise and a great cruise experience.”
“I prefer prepaid for convenience. I consider it part of the cost of the river cruise. If a staff member stands out exceptionally on a voyage solving some unexpected issue, I will offer an additional gratuity to that person. Also, since staff members on a river cruise perform multiple tasks they all deserve a gratuity. Your waiter could have cleaned your room yesterday.”
“I don’t like having to worry about carrying money or finding money to withdraw.”
“Prepaid, definitely, especially for tour guides and bus drivers.”
Some river cruise companies include gratuities for guides and drivers in addition to shipboard staff, so that guests needn’t worry about tipping during their tours. This is widely viewed as a positive. “It is awkward having to pay the local guide and bus driver in the local currency for every excursion,” wrote one respondent.
Slightly more than 38 percent of you voted for “No Gratuities,” but most of you said that you wanted to see staff rewarded. However, you added that you expected the company to provide the rewards.
“Employees should be paid a fair wage without the need for gratuities.”
“No gratuities would be great but only if the company pays their staff a decent wage. Otherwise I prefer prepaid.”
“Seems to me that ‘prepaid gratuities’ and ‘no gratuities’ are the same thing, except that ‘no gratuities’ sounds cheap. Pay the employees a fair wage, charge a fair price for the trip/dinner/service, and lose the hassle!”
“My answer of no gratuities is based on the assumption that the staff would be well paid. That said, we will continue to give an additional gratuity to those individuals that make our cruise extra special.”
Only about one in five of you said that you preferred discretionary gratuities, where cash is stuffed into envelopes and pooled among staff or handed over directly to the crew.
“Carrot and the stick produces better service.”
“Our experience has been that discretionary gratuities give the opportunity to reward those involved directly proportionally to their involvement, attitude, helpfulness and availability.”
“If all crew members get the same ‘gratuity,’ then there is zero incentive to give ‘above and beyond’ service to guests. We are generous tippers and we want to reward those who treat us beyond what is expected.”
“Let the passenger ultimately decide who has provided superior service in whatever job and then tip them accordingly.”
There were a few “hybrid” solutions:
“I typically put about 3/4 of the suggested tip into the ‘pool’ and use the remainder to tip extra to those who rendered personal service like waiters and cabin attendants. Failing to tip … deprives folks who cared for you of their livelihood.”
One of you had a solution for river cruise companies that currently do not include prepaid tips:
“Include an extra $200 or $400 or whatever is necessary in the price of the trip to cover all of this stuff and I will kiss you on both cheeks.”
Nearly 70 percent of our 377 respondents were from the United States, where tipping is customary.
Have an opinion about gratuities on river cruises? Leave your comment in the comments section below.