Why You Should Tip Your Cruise Ship Servers?

Nov 19, 2019

Recently, one of my coworkers said that she is going on a cruise vacation. I stopped her and said, “make sure to tip the waiters and housekeeping people.” And while the culture in the States is standard 10% tip, and sometimes people still don't tip the waiters who work for less than $ 3 / hour, it is often confusing for people about tipping cruise ship staff as they don’t get a bill at the end of the service since the cruise is all-inclusive. And while as a medical professional today I look back on my initial start of working as a waitress on a cruise ship, I am still at awe about the first “paycheck” I received on a cruise ship without considering gratuity. With that being said after I explained all to my coworker who was under the impression that crew members get paid a lot of money by the cruise company I decided to shed some light on the reality of the matter. 

Most of the staff that works as waiting or housekeeping staff on board of cruise ships come from third world countries that do not provide people much of job opportunities or financial ability to support their families when they need to. There is, of course, a small percentage that does these jobs simply to travel the world and quickly realize cause of the amount of work how little they actually see of the destinations the ship ports.

Most cruise companies require tipping personnel to pay for their own flights to the destination and back home. Dependent on how to board the ship one-way ticket can be anywhere between $700-1200. They have to make sure to make that additional $ 1400-2400 per contract which can be anywhere between 6-8months. With this being said, they are a part of their contract. On average people who are waiting for staff, have 2 sittings in the main dining room that can be used anywhere from 12-18 people in one section. These people depend exclusively on these guests served in the main dining room or specialty restaurants. Some might be lucky to get room service, but others get placed in the buffet that does not bear any ability for it. 

Furthermore, waiting staff works 7 days a week without any break during dinner time. Every few days staff might get an additional few hours off. When we round waiting staff on cruise ships work anywhere between 10-14hours / day making it 70-98hours / week.

Even with all this being said, most of the times you will see waiting staff smile, remember what kind of tea you prefer and have it ready even as you sit down, tells you interesting stories and jumps on the table to dance and make this cruise the most memorable one you have every had. Deep inside that staff member is exhausted, missing family, hoping to get good rotation to see some daylight and wondering if he or she will find time to do the laundry this week.

All this for only $ 50 / monthly paycheck from the cruise company, just for free, not pay that flight ticket, uniforms, expensive internet, and phone bill but also other necessities. Yes, the cruise company covers the food and boarding, but everything else is on the member. 

Now how does waiting staff make it on $ 50 / month? Well they don't, they rely solely on the tips from those 2 sittings and room service. Looking back I realize how grateful I was that I had this sweet bubbly and extroverted personality who can make anyone laugh because it helped me get both free at the end of the cruise and envelope from the same people in my hand. However, most of those guests knew about the paycheck I was getting because they were curious and I was honest. I have heard about it from other waiting staff. This has given me the ability to pay that. But not all that is open and some because of it is a struggle. 

So next time you as a guest wonder should I tip or leave gratuity to the waiting or housekeeping staff the answer is ABSOLUTELY! That all-inclusive 3day cruise you booked for $150 is that inexpensive because they do not include staff time, the gratuity does. While some cruise companies have moved towards the automatic gratuity charge, others still maintain the freedom of guests to decide the amount. So on average just think, if you were to eat out 3 times a day and once it’s in a fancy restaurant 10% standard tip would be $15/day per person and if that person went beyond your expectations which most staff on cruise ships are well skilled in that $30/day per person. Now I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot. However, when you do the math of how much that staff works per day and the expenses of having to buy their uniforms, flight tickets, visas, and so much more it evens to normal waiting pay. Now, if you think an amazing 3-day cruise for $150 and all-inclusive, but can’t afford to pay the staff what they deserve yet enjoy their bending over and backward most of them with definitely some major back pain issues then stay home and save up some money until you can. I am sure when you go to work you expect fair pay based on your hard work just as I do, just as CREW MEMBERS do and DESERVE.