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The announcement of the first increase in gratuities aboard cruise ships in a while has reopened the running debate about the way such payments are extracted from guests.
A plethora of policies operate among the lines, adding to the confusion.

Norwegian Cruise Lines announced an increase in its gratuities this week – a rise of $US.95 to $12.95 per passenger per day.
Cruise Passenger readers responded with a series of complaints – mainly about the lack of transparency.

Some cruise lines like P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, Scenic Tours and Avalon Waterways include the cost of gratuities when cruisers book and pay for their holidays. So there is no more to pay, unless you want to.

Others like Royal Caribbean itemise the gratuities on your bill.  Guests have the option of whether they wish to pay the fee or not.
Still other lines add on an additional gratuity fee for spa treatments, bars and excursions. Guests are unaware, and sometimes leave even more cash.

Lines like Silversea include gratuities in the fare but say services received shore side or in the spa are at the guest’s own discretion.
Other lines like Ponant recommend a figure to their guests, but again, payment is discretionary.

A spokesperson from Ponant said: “It is not compulsory to provide gratuities, however we suggest an amount of 10 to 12 euros per day, per person, the total amount of which to be distributed among the crew.
“Envelopes are placed in cabins for this purpose at the end of the cruise. Gratuities are at guests’ discretion, with the recommended amount suggested, however if guests wish to recognise exceptional service from an individual staff member, they are welcome to do so of course.
“Guests can pay the gratuities by charging to their onboard account. Or directly by cash in the envelope delivered in each cabin the day before the disembarkation day.”

One Cruise Passenger reader Lucy Jones recently went on a cruise and was more than happy with the gratuity charge. But was unimpressed with the additional gratuity charges added on.
“I thought the $12 per person per day gratuity charge on my last cruise was reasonable, but I did get annoyed at the additional 18% gratuity that was added on to just about everything else on board. Even the shore excursions! I resent paying 18% extra just for the privilege of booking a tour.”

Other readers like Judith Roberts want more transparency when paying the gratuities.
“On Holland America in 2014 I don’t think we had a choice – $11 or $12 per person per day just added to the account. Not to say that the service wasn’t good – the crew were fabulous, but it would be nice to make the tipping decision for yourself.”

Readers like Helen Pask said the gratuity fees are already too high.
“I will not pay gratuities. I prefer to tip my cabin boy myself. NCL’s gratuities are double that charged by P&O. It is a rip-off. You charge gratuities and then add a tip to all drinks. If you paid your staff a decent salary, there would be no need for tips.”
Norwegian Cruise Lines did not respond to Cruise Passenger’s questions.

Tell us what you think. Should cruise lines be more transparent about how they charge gratuities?

Read all ship reviews by Cruise Passenger readers here

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