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Monday, November 22, 2010

A Traveler's Tipping Guide

The last thing you want to be concerned about after you have planned your perfect cruise is the sometimes complicated etiquette of tipping. How much to tip? Who do you tip? When do you tip? Some travelers may not even know that it is customary to leave tips at all if they are embarking on their first cruise.

While each country has different norms, cruise ship travelers are often made aware of their cruise boats policy beforehand. But what about the hotel you stay in before or after the cruise? Traveling should not be stressful and planning in advance leaves more time for what you really came to do - relax.

Hotels Editor Jeri Clausing for Travel Weekly explains that even she has had stress over tipping. While some hotels will make their policy known from the beginning, she concedes that it can be a difficult topic especially when traveling to countries where it is not expected or it is an insult to some who are above the tipping chain. She goes on to talk about the butler services making tipping an even more tricky subject that can only be cleared up by hotel policy. But Lisa Mirza Grotts, author of "A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette" has a simple answer for all those concerned with tipping "Whenever a service is performed of any kind, we need to tip."

Travelers are encouraged to consult with hotel policy if they have questions about tipping. But as you travel by ship, these questions are less important and your focus turns to appropriate tipping on cruise ships. Here are some guidelines on popular small ship cruises:

North America including Mexico cruise ship Safari Explorer leaves the issue of tipping entirely up to the traveler. It is a personal matter based on the discretion of the traveler, but typical gratuities for excellent service are 5-10% of the fare. Additionally, tips are shared equally by all yacht crew members.

The custom built Aqua cruise ship travels throughout the Amazon and staff is often asked about appropriate tipping etiquette for guides and crews. They always reply that the quality of the service should always determine the amount of any tip. Based on their experience, they recommend travelers leave $20-$30 per passenger, per day for the crew. This amount will be equally divided among all crew members. In addition, $7-$10 per passenger, per day should be given to tour guides. Again, these are suggestions and tips should reflect level of satisfaction with the service.

Litvinov, a luxury cruise ship that operates in Eastern Europe, and the River Royale boat that operates in Burgundy and Provence tell customers that gratuity is not included in their prices. However, it is customary for passengers to leave end-of-the-trip gratuities for the cruise director, tour managers, and crew, but amount is up to the discretion of the traveler and should reflect the travelers experience.

Discovery is a luxury-cruise boat that operates in Panama and staff appreciate travelers interest in tipping. While they encourage travelers to leave any amount they deem appropriate, their policy points to international guidelines of $100 - $130 per passenger for their 6-night cruise. Gratuities are divided evenly among all crew members and naturalist guides; there is even an envelope included to deposit the tip into.

Harmony G which operates in Greece and the Mediterranean offer another tip suggestion for passengers, acknowledging that it is customary to show appreciation for service to the crew. They concede that gratuities should be adjusted based on satisfaction but suggest an amount of 46-60 Euros per passenger.

Traveler's should not have anxiety before or during their vacations because of the complex and touchy issue of tipping. It is a common theme among all cruise ship operators that level of satisfaction be considered when leaving the tip. With a little planning in advance and knowledge of your cruise ships tipping guidelines, you can enjoy your cruise free from tipping stress.
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