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MSC Cruises Makes Service Charges For Crew Mandatory

Starting from March 31, 2019, the daily service charges will be mandatory on all MSC cruise ships, and passengers will no longer be able to make cancelation at the end of the cruise. Following this news the popular German website Schiffe und Kreuzfahrten has released a letter sent to the travel agents by MSC Cruises Manager Leonardo Massa saying:

“Dear agent,

Please note that for all departures from 31st March 2019, service charges will be mandatory and cannot be changed or canceled.

The payment of service fees serves to ensure the highest quality standards for our guests. MSC Cruises believes that there is no fair system guaranteeing that all crew members will be paid for their exceptional service, which is why the service charge is now mandatory.

The cost of the daily service is automatically charged to the cabin account, which must be paid at the end of the cruise, or in advance with the booking of the trip. Please make sure that your customers know that service quotas are mandatory and that individual tips for crew members are not mandatory and we advise against them.”

There is some confusion about the starting date for implementing this policy because some guests which booked cruises received an email from MSC Cruises stating that the mandatory service charges will take place on March 1, 2019. Here is the email shared by one guest who booked a cruise on MSC.

“The notification arrived today to inform that as from the 1st March service charges are no longer at your discretion but mandatory in line with most Cruise Lines. 

We have not been advised whether bookings already confirmed are exempt and await further updates. Our IT department is in the process of making the amendments online. We appreciate that this has come as a surprise to many already booked.”

Many passengers not satisfied by the new policy took to the social media and argued about the change and everyone has a different interpretation.  One passenger from the UK says “MSC have not clarified the position which has been confirmed in the other group MSC UK Passengers. They are removing the word mandatory from the website and have stated for UK Passengers the service charge will only be removed at the end of the cruise if there is poor service. This is the legally correct position and it also fits with what was on the website prior to this. This does not mean you can remove them just because you don't want to pay the service charge but only if you have justification and have experienced poor service. The contract anyone has with MSC is governed by UK law and as per the which link myself and a couple of others have posted.”

The arguments about the daily service charges are always a hot topic among the cruise passengers but also among the crew members who depend on tips. Many pax are divided to tip only in cash to crew who provide excellent service or to go only with the automatic daily service charges. There are also passengers known as “Cheapatones” among the crew members who remove the service charges at the end of the cruise and eat at the buffet last night of the voyage in order to avoid tipping the waiter and the assistant in the main dining room. They usually say that servers provided poor service and this was the main reason why they cancel the gratuities. From my personal experience, I have witnessed this kind of behavior and even when I always provided excellent and friendly service some passengers have canceled the gratuities. The fact is that all cruise lines train their employees to provide attentive and personalized service to ensure that guest requests are always promptly fulfilled. If a crew member fails to this task he/she can get written canceling and even warning and ultimately will be fired.

Back in 2016 after witnessing  passengers removing  their gratuities from front desk Carnival Cruise Line Senior Cruise Director John Heald,  post it the following message “I truly think we need to look closely at removing gratuities and to see if we can do something to stop it for anything but legitimate reasons such as poor service etc.”

In 2018 P&O Cruises announced it will scrap auto-gratuities or leveled on passengers starting from May 2019. P&O Cruises said fares would not rise as a result and crew will not be paid less as a result of the policy change. Virgin voyage which will launch its first cruise ship Scarlet Lady in 2020 also announced that there will be no service charges.