To­wards the tip­ping point at a rate of knots

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LISA ALLEN

BY the time an Amer­i­can cruise ship ar­rives here, whether for a whole sea­son or just a cou­ple of days in port, it has usu­ally been ‘‘Aus­si­fied’’ with Aus­tralian wines, lo­cal draught beers and, of course, Veg­emite and HP Sauce. And there’s of­ten bet­ter cof­fee on board.

The other big hur­dle for Amer­i­can-owned cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean is how to han­dle tip­ping. Amer­i­cans are big tip­pers, Aus­tralians are not. Royal Caribbean (Aus­tralia) boss Gavin Smith of­fers a pre-paid tip­ping sys­tem, mak­ing it eas­ier for Aus­tralian pas­sen­gers to con­trib­ute. ‘‘With al­ter­nate din­ing, the fact that you are at dif­fer­ent restau­rants, at dif­fer­ent times, means you rarely see the same waiter. [Our] pre-paid tip­ping sys­tem evolved from that,’’ Smith says.

How­ever, he con­cedes a small num­ber of Aus­tralian pas­sen­gers opt out of the pre-paid op­tion, pre­fer­ring to pay cash to re­ward staff at their own dis­cre­tion.

‘‘Hopefully, [the pre-paid sys­tem] pro­tects ser­vice, as it takes away from the em­bar­rass­ment of giv­ing cash at the end of the cruise.’’

The lux­ury Ital­ian-owned cruise com­pany Sil­versea has op­er­ated an all-in­clu­sive pol­icy on tip­ping since its in­au­gu­ral cruise in 1994 and this elim­i­nates the em­bar­rass­ment cre­ated when some guests want to tip the waiter $10 and oth­ers prof­fer more than $100 at the end of each meal.

‘‘I think peo­ple book with us be­cause they like the allinclu­sive value con­cept,’’ says Sil­versea’s Aus­tralian boss, Karen Chris­tensen. ‘‘They know what they are get­ting for their money and there are no hid­den sur­prises.

‘‘There is noth­ing nicer than to not be han­dling money or sign­ing tabs . . . there’s not this ques­tion of who should pay . . . it makes for a nice en­vi­ron­ment when you are mak­ing new friends.’’

Phil Asker, founder of The Cap­tain’s Choice Tour, a lux­ury tour op­er­a­tor pro­vid­ing cruise, coach and air itin­er­ar­ies, also op­er­ates an all-in­clu­sive pol­icy on gra­tu­ities. ‘‘The main thing is that the pas­sen­ger does not have to think about tip­ping,’’ Asker says.

This all-in­clu­sive pol­icy works in Asker’s favour be­cause the com­pany uses a lot of lo­cal guides. ‘‘Gen­er­ally, Aus­tralian groups can end up with the worst guides be­cause Aus­tralians are not big tip­pers. Guides want the Amer­i­can groups be­cause they tip. The best guides in the world want to make money, and they know they will make money out of an Amer­i­can.’’

So how much does The Cap­tain’s Choice tip? ‘‘We vary it. On meals, we will nor­mally tip 10 per cent. In the US, we nor­mally tip 20 per cent . . . [but] if we get lousy ser­vice we will let them know why [and] ob­vi­ously [give] a dif­fer­ent amount.’’

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