Most cruise lines add an automatic gratuity to each passengers bill. I don't mind tipping if the money actually goes towards the employee, but I absolutely abhor giving businesses extra cash under the pretense of "tips".

How can I find out if a given cruise line actually pays out 100% of my "automatic tip" to its employees? Should I just ask the crew members? I wouldn't want to ask the cruise company itself as I presume they would either lie or give me a non-answer.

  • It doesn't go towards the salary, it is the salary of many of the workers it seems – Berwyn Apr 1 '18 at 6:37
  • @Berwyn it's possible that the salary is fixed and doesn't depend on how many people paid in the first place. In this case I wouldn't want to leave a "tip". – JonathanReez Apr 1 '18 at 6:47
  • "The base wage is usually low -- sometimes as little as $2 a day -- but income from tips can represent as much as 95 percent of the take-home total.". I think the "tip" might be all they get – Berwyn Apr 1 '18 at 6:51
  • @jonathanreez for the sake of a full answer it would be great if you could get the official statement from a cruise company and post it here. – user16259 Apr 1 '18 at 17:10

Cruise lines are always quick to state that tips to to the employees, by which we assume that if we tip an extra $50 then the employee will get $50 extra. However this undercover investigation appears to show that this is not the case.

The undercover employee is promised $1010 per month (50s mark on the video) and that he would "probably get much more from tips". Later this is 'amended' to $710 per month. (1m30s).

His actual payment (for just over a month) is:

  • $60 basic wage
  • $600 tips
  • $176 to make the amount he was paid up to the contractual minimum the company offered.

To make this clear, all the tips given him by the customers were used not to increase the amount of money the employee received, but to reduce the amount of money the company had to give him.. A generous customer who gave him a $50 tip would simply have reduced the amount of money the company paid, and not increased the amount the employee received. If you had tipped less the employee would not have received any less. (If some generous customer had given him a $200 tip he might have received about $25 more, but you can bet that some form of tip sharing would have negated this possibility.)

TLDR: The employee does not benefit from the amount you tip

  • This may seem like a duplicate, answer but it is not. I want to make it clear to everyone that additional tips does NOT mean that the employee gets extra money. – DJClayworth Apr 1 '18 at 19:09
  • I can't believe you could copy my entire post, change the conclusion and post it as your own answer. I've never seen anything like that on TSE ever before – Berwyn Apr 2 '18 at 17:24
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    For the benefit of future readers, this answer is completely wrong. See below. The law firm that specializes in suing cruise lines specifically engineered this scenario to fool people. This is not how crew compensations actually culminates. – Johns-305 Nov 9 '18 at 15:34
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    @Johns-305 As I pointed out to you elsewhere, the law firm that you are talking about did not create this video. They merely took a widely published video and put it on YouTube. – DJClayworth Nov 9 '18 at 16:00
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    Someone wishing to disprove the claim about waiters could do so by providing lots of examples of waiters who had in fact had their wages increased because of tips. It's interesting that nobody has provided equivalent info in this case. If anybody were to do that I would certainly change this answer. – DJClayworth Nov 9 '18 at 18:14

YES. In fact, gratuities are used to supplement crew pay.

Here's a story form the Miami Herald, How do cruise gratuities work? Do I have to tip?, explaining how gratuities are adjustable and distributed to the crew. More below.

The "Undercover Investigation" referenced above is produced to fool people who are, for lack of a more gentle term, easily fooled, like the reporter.

  • The YouTube Channel is owned by a law firm specializing in action against maritime operators. A story about well paid, happy crew would not be good for business.
  • Given their knowledge of the industry, it would be trivially easy to construct this scenario so they are technically reporting the truth.
  • There is no perspective on the season, capacity or load factor for the ship which directly affects work and pay of the hotel staff. This is why the 'reduce company cost' argument is fallacious. Note though how they don't credit the company for honoring the contract minimum.
  • 5 Weeks? That's probably not even past the probationary period. Contracts are typically 6-9 months and often renewed after 2-3 months leave. To count visa, uniform & medical certificate costs against 5 weeks of wages is disingenuous at best. Visa & Medical are good for multiple years.
  • They conveniently only mention upfront costs but make no mention of living costs which are minimal. Crew buy sundries but their quarters and the crew mess are included. The crew bar is enviously cheap, like $1 last time I was at one.
  • 5 weeks is also probably not long enough to receive contract bonuses. I wouldn't shock me at all if 5 weeks was specifically chosen to result in lowest possible hourly rate.

They present the highly contrived situation of poor Paul paying $40 to work on the ship. If that was the case, literally no one would work on a ship.

Miami is headquarters for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises. With literally thousands of employees and crew available, even The Miami Herald has never even whispered about mishandling of gratuities. Believe me, an aspiring investigative reporter would love to break this story.

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    A detailed rebuttal of the video supporting the accepted answer is useful, but by itself it doesn't answer the question. Can you add a conclusion that does? – phoog May 30 '18 at 17:14
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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – Willeke May 30 '18 at 19:25
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    While the YouTube channel may be owned by a law firm, the video is from Channel 4 Dispatches, an undercover investigation programme from a UK national TV show. – DJClayworth Oct 31 '18 at 17:46
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    The question of the uniform and medical costs is irrelevant. So is everything you write about accomodation provided and the cheapness of the bar. Paul's pay slip in the video (4m40s) clearly show that the tips did not increase the amount he is paid, even before the one-off costs are deducted. The question is not about whether the wages are fair, but about whether the tips increase the amount the employees get. They don't. – DJClayworth Oct 31 '18 at 18:23
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    You aren't actually showing us any evidence to back up your claims. How about you show us the payslip of a real employee, indicating how gratuities increase the amount of compensation? – DJClayworth Nov 9 '18 at 15:54

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