Employee treatment, stiffing on tipping and getting a little special something.

I had a comment on my last entry that asked three questions; what's treatment of third world employees like, how many passengers stiff on tipping and how DO you get those extra little considerations?

Well, wow.. That’s three really big questions. I could go on and on and on about employee treatment, because I have only ever seen Princess treat their employees with incredible respect and fairness and it bothers me a bit to read these so called "news reports" or comments from disgruntled crew that are essentially lies.

You will always hear stories about the "below deck sweatshops" and employees that work 18 hours a day, eat a bowl of gruel and then sleep on a mat in a room with 20 other crew all sharing a bathroom. It's just not true. Maybe years ago and maybe still on some third world country cruise line. But today’s legitimate cruise lines, the big ones like Carnival, Holland America, NCL, RCI and Princess... it just doesn't happen.

Yes, it’s true that regular crew share cabins. Usually they share 2 per cabin, sometimes up to 4 per cabin in a two bunk bed design room depending on the age (design) of the ship and the cruise line. Yes, they share a bathroom but only with one other cabin. Basically imagine two crew cabins with a bathroom in between so each cabin has a door into the bathroom. It is no worse than sharing the bathroom in your house when you have a house guest in my opinion. And now keep in mind that this is only SOME crew. Most crew shares a cabin with only one other person. I won't go into what positions get what for perks or do what right now as I was going to blog on about that later.

It is also true that some crew get paid very small wages. HOWEVER! They are positions that get paid out of the gratuity pool, and the gratuity pool pays them very well. In fact most people who are part of the gratuity pool ( as an officer I am not part of it) get paid MORE than I do, and I get paid pretty well.

NOW WAIT! Before you start going on and on about how it's unfair and the company should pay a fair wage and the passengers should not be expected to pay gratuity and etc.. There is an entire economic WORLD involved here. Yes, sure, the cruise line could raise the wages of fifteen thousand crew and then pass that cost onto the cruise ticket and then nobody could afford to cruise... there are many little and big things to consider BEFORE you start calling the cruise lines evil for paying some crew low wages and cutting them a BIG share of the gratuity pool. I am NOT an expert on the finances of the cruise lines, but I know it's not an evil practice. There is no Mr. Burns sitting at a desk rubbing his hands together and counting gold coins and muttering "excellent" every time a passenger pays a gratuity. Maybe they could pay a bit higher wages, maybe they are trying to save cost on a passenger ticket.. maybe allot of things. But it's not bad practice. Those crew in the gratuity pool are HAPPY to be in it, they make good money. I wish I WAS IN IT!! I have four children! A room steward normally makes more than me! Yes, they work long, long hours and they work very hard, and they are trying hard to earn your gratuity. They DO earn it. But I believe the gratuity system works and keeps costs down and the crew makes more money on that system than they would if the cruise lines raised wages and eliminated passenger gratuity. If you asked any crew member would he rather a higher salary or gratuity pool system? There is no doubt what they would choose.

Now keep in mind, if you DO ask your room steward that question... you might get a sob story answer. It's actually against company policy for this to happen, and it is very rare, but crew have been known to make their lives and wages sound relatively...um.."pathetic" in order to inspire higher gratuity. I am not saying this will happen to you, and on Princess it hardly ever happens, but it could. If you just stick to either the recommended tipping guidelines or just leave the automatic tipping (in operation on all Princess ships and other major cruise lines like NCL) in place you can sleep easy knowing you did the fair thing when it came to tipping your people.

How often do passengers stiff crew on gratuity? Not as often as you might think. I would guess about 10% or around that. They usually have themselves "removed" from the auto gratuity system and tell the people at the desk "we would rather tip in person with cash".

By the way, should you just get bad service and not want to pay because of that, then tell that to the desk as well and fill out a comment card. We read them. It’s important we know.

How DO you get those extra perks? Well, there is allot of things you can do but the main thing in my opinion is to befriend the Maitre'd. Find out in advance who he is, where he is from. Take him a bottle of your city or towns local wine as a gift and see what happens in return. The best place to get excellent service is the dining rooms onboard these ships, and if the Maitre'd likes you your service will be absolutely outstanding. If he does not like you because you screamed at him over your seating times or something else very silly, you will be lucky to see a hot steak on your table ;0). Actually,the service will be good even if you do yell at the Maitre'd, but trust me, make friends with him and it will be memorable. Of course being related to the Captain will also get you stellar service, but greasing the Maitre'd will work for the rest of us.

Just one thing more on treatment of crew and I will end this afternoons blog. Go online (I have a Princess link on this page) and take a look at a good high resolution picture of the Grand Princess, or Golden Princess, Or Diamond Princess. See on the very front of the ship, on the bow, there is a pool and two Jacuzzi’s? Passengers ask us all the time how to get to these exclusive rest zones, how to get all the way up front to swim or soak under the sky. The answer is, as a passenger you can't. Those facilities are for crew only. All crew.

Nice eh?? :0)
9 Responses
  1. Brian Says:

    SBM - great reads so far. I enjoyed the Lon story quite a bit. Did he ever find his boyfriend?

    Thanks for the insight into the industry - you've been bookmarked and I'm hoping to continue to enjoy your perspective.


  2. Tracey from Vancouver Says:

    Love your blog and love cruising and Princess. Keep it up, this is fascinating reading.

    Curious question - What's your favourite part of the world to cruise?


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the great info. Looking forward to more.


  4. Thanks for the great information. Looking forward to more.


  5. Mariner from Seattle Says:

    Great blog you have going here. Keep up the good work. I just returned from my first cruise, on the Saphire Princess. I loved the little gal who kept our room so clean and orderly. She was from the Phillipines, spoke english very well, and had the most wonderful smile on her face no matter what time of day or night. I was really inpressed with her and the rest of the crew/staff.
    It seemed that there were quite a few young people from Romania working on the ship. All so mannerly, spoke english well and as am american, it was fun visiting with them and learning about their lives.


  6. Maria Says:

    Great blog! I have really enjoyed reading your insights on the cruise industry - we always make it a point to talk with crew memebers on our cruises about where they are from, how is shiplife, etc. I cannot wait for your next installment!

    Have you ever sailed Sea Princess? We are going in July and we hear it's a beautiful ship.


  7. Anonymous Says:

    the idea of removing ourselves from the gratuity list is actually a better idea because i want to know that my money ends up with the people who have looked after me on my cruise. we are not cheap in fact pay just as much except want to know where my money is going.
    i find your comments very offensive and think that you are the reason why people get off the list, to avoid there money going to crew like you


  8. Anonymous Says:

    Just back from our first cuise and your blog answers many of our questions about what goes on behind the scenes.

    We let the automatic tipping system do its job, but had a couple of experiences that were so outstanding, they deserved recognition above and beyond. My question - when we gave our waiter an envelope on the last night, would she know that it was in addition to the automatic gratuity, or would she think we were giving a sub-par tip? Does the crew see a list of who pays what through the automatic system?


  9. hiya, great reading by the way, I have just been accepted by a recruitment agency to do beauty therapy and body massage. I have to do a 3-5 week acadamey training stint and then will be given a job on a liner. I am wondering should i give up my flat car etc to enhance my saving potential? Also how long will i wait before actually getting onboard a ship? any idea on how much i will earn? I have done a lot of research but you appear to have exgtensive knowledge. Oh one last question? do I have to be unemployed and homeless after completing a 6 month contract or can the contract run over, if not then what about after a couple of weeks break?


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