P&O Cruises announced last week that it is ending the mandatory daily service charges effective May 2019, according to the Express newspaper in London.

Cruise passengers seem to have welcomed the news, thinking that the change will make cruises cheaper for them.

The majority of cruise passengers in the British market seem to have resented the mandatory charges, stating that they always remove the charges and, allegedly, decide who and how much to tip.  Many correctly view the mandatory charges as an effort by the cruise line to require passengers subsidize the meager wages paid to crew members or, worse, to divert the tips as profits for the company.

Many crew members state that passengers who stand in line to remove the service charges rarely tip at the end of the cruise.

Several years ago I posted photographs of pages and pages of documents showing that passengers routinely remove automatic gratuities from their sail and sign accounts. A crew member sent me the photos of the removed gratuities. Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuties But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?

There appears to be a significant difference between British based cruise lines and U.S. based cruise lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean. These cruise line routinely gouge their customers with high auto-gratuities which many believe are pocketed by the companies to increase profits.

Cruise passengers may like the news of no more auto-tips on P&O Cruises because they can keep money in their pockets (and out of the pockets of the cruise lines), but what about the hard-working crew members?

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NCL Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Cruise Line (NCL) plans to increase the automatic gratuities charged to its cruise passengers, effective April 1, 2018. Travel Pulse states that NCL informed travel agents of the so-called “nominal adjustment” to its daily service charges today.

The new rates for standard cabins will increase from $13.99 to $14.50 per passenger per day. The new gratuities for suites will increase from $16.99 to $17.50 per person per day.

Just last year, NCL raised gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99 (except for the Norwegian Sky where NCL increased daily gratuities to $18.99 a day (an increase over 40%). NCL increased daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships (again, except for the Sky where it increased the daily charge to $21.99).

Regarding the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, the gratuities will increase from $18.99  to $19.99 for cabins and from $21.99 to $22.99 for suites, per person per day.  

It seems that there is no limit to the greed of cruise executives. 

Del Rio’s NCL has gouged its customers before, with extra charges, including increased room services charges, automatic gratuities and restaurant cover charges. He made this statement at an earning conference in 2015: "… we have looked across the fleet to identify areas where marginal changes … can be implemented to improve performance. A few examples include a 6.7% average increase in beverage prices, the introduction of a nominal room service fee and lower costs from renegotiated shore excursion agreements. To put into perspective how these small changes can add up quickly, every dollar increase in yield translates to approximately $15 million to the bottom line."

Of course, all the major cruise lines nickel-and-dime their customers. Royal Caribbean began charging for room service  last year and, in the past, increased its gratuities while attempting to create the appearance that the increases were for its hard-working crew members (Read: Loyal to Royal? Expect to Pay Higher Gratuities! And the Money’s Not for the Crew). Carnival Corp. did exactly the same thing while it also pocketed the increased gratuities (Read: Carnival Hikes Pre-Paid Gratuities But Will Passengers Secretly Remove Tips?)

Cruise CEO’s like Del Rio, who collected nearly $32 million in 2015 alone, have an unhealthy, unchecked pursuit of profits in an industry which has always overreached into the American public’s pockets. The cruise industry pays virtually no taxes, exploits their workers from around the world, and still nickle-and-dimes their tax-paying customers whenever they have a chance.

Of course, as crew members tell me, the increased gratuities go into the cruise line’s coffers, not into the pockets of the hard working crew members.

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Photo credit: Coolcaesar CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.