A Little Something Extra – Navigating the etiquette of tipping can be tricky.

Monday Mantra

A Few Tips … A Few Tips … A Few Tips …

A Little Something Extra

Navigating the etiquette of tipping can be tricky.

You can’t spend nearly 20 years married to a man whose entire career was in the restaurant business and not be left with a profound appreciation for tipping. Michael never cared if gratuities were included in a cruise fare or not. If a bartender knew what he drank, if a waiter delivered a favorite dish not on the menu, or if a butler showed him exactly how to tie the bow tie that he screwed up time and again, a $20 bill would suddenly appear in Michael’s closed fist and be slipped discreetly into the hospitality hero’s hand.

There’s a lot of controversy about tipping on cruise ships these days. Some feel that the gratuities applied to a guest’s daily onboard statement satisfy all tipping obligations while others believe extra service justifies additional reward. And since tipping is such a personal thing, they’re both right.

Aboard some ships, it is clearly stated that gratuities are included in the fare, yet it’s okay for the crew to accept additional compensation offered by appreciative guests. On others, gratuities aren’t automatically included, leaving guests to figure it all out on their own. And then there are the ships that suggest guests who wish to tip consider a contribution to The Crew Fund, a generic collection that is divided among all crewmembers — a nice idea considering that there are quite a few individuals behind the scenes — in places such as the laundry and the galley — who may never emerge but who certainly play a role in your vacation.

Sometimes the differing policies are enough to make your head spin, and that’s even before you consider the peripherals — the tour guides, the taxi drivers, and the restaurant staff you encounter while dining ashore (in countries where restaurant staff are actually paid enough to survive without having to depend on the generosity of strangers).

Personally? I’m not tipping extra just because someone makes my bed or delivers a drink. But if my cabin steward notices wrinkles in the dress hanging on the back of the bathroom door and takes it to be pressed, if my favorite bartender goes out in Bermuda to buy the falernum he needs to make the rum swizzles I keep talking about, or if a tour guide exudes such passion that he gives me goose bumps as we wander the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, you can bet I’ll show my appreciation.

And that waiter at the Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost van Dyke who ran the equivalent of half a city block across scorching sand to return the camera that I had carelessly hung around the back of my chair and left without? Well, that guy, I really should buy him a car.

— Judi Cuervo

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.