One of the biggest surprises for me on this week-long cruise around the Red Sea on Thomson Cruises’ Celebration has been the crew. I don’t think I’ve ever cruised with such a jolly, smiling crowd. They’re brilliant at remembering names (and there are 1,200 passengers on board), helpful, efficient and friendly. You can see that some of this comes from the top; the senior officers seem to have a great relationship with the crewmembers and Jun, the maître d’ in the main dining room, is just superb. But it’s clear that this is a ‘happy’ ship — and anybody who has experienced an ‘unhappy’ ship will know how important this is.
What’s puzzling (or perhaps, the biggest clue) is that Celebration is a no-tipping ship. There’s no service charge added to the bar bill and no gratuities added to your cruise account; they’re included in the cruise price and on this line, always have been. So most of the mainly Filipino and Indonesian crew know how much they’re going to earn, although the door to topping this up is not closed, as passengers are allowed to tip extra if they want to. But this has never been forced on us and never suggested.
Rather than make money from an enforced ‘service charge’, the bar staff earn commission on the number of drinks they sell, which gives them an incentive to keep the service swift and efficient. This is built into the drinks price but alcohol is hardly expensive on board – it’s about in line with British pub prices.
What should you conclude from this? Are ships where the crew doesn’t have to tout for tips happier environments? It’s certainly less stressful and awkward for the passengers, particularly the Brits who make up Thomson’s passengers. It seems to work for the crew. I suppose somewhere down the line, the passenger is still paying as tips are built into the cruise fare, but Thomson keeps its prices competitive.
Let us know: Would you prefer the tips on your cruise to be included? Comment here.
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