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Tipping on Cruise Ships

History and Background of Tipping

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Tipping on a cruise ship has to be one of the most discussed topics about cruising. When do you tip? How much do you tip? Whom do you tip? These questions baffle most travelers, but cruisers are particularly challenged since tips are handled differently than in hotels or restaurants. Let's take a look at tipping in general and tipping on cruise ships.

Background and History of Tipping
There are no laws about tipping; it is always discretionary and subject to local customs. Tipping practices vary world-wide, and can vary from zero to 20 percent (or more) of the original bill. Dr. Michael Lynn, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Management reported in the 2004 Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research that a nation's values can predict both the tip sizes and the number of tipped occupations. Values such as a high value on (1)acceptance of power or status, (2)uncertainty avoidance, and (3)focus on the individual rather than the group often lead to increased tipping. Leaving a tip is one way to increase the certainty of getting good service and to recognize personal attention.

Reading Dr. Lynn's research, it is not surprising to learn that in the United States, we tend to tip more occupations and tip higher amounts since we place a high value on status and believe that a tip will help insure better service. If the quality of service is directly linked to the size of the tip, people who are attracted to tipped occupations will likely have the ability and desire to deliver good service.

Other countries around the world tend to separate tipping from a flat fee service charge. When dining overseas, a charge for service is often automatically added to the bill, and people either tip nothing additional at all, or just leave a small amount of change. As people travel more and the world becomes smaller, tipping practices will change. When I was in Shanghai a few years ago, we had a British guest lecturer on the ship who had lived in Shanghai for many years. He practically begged us to not overtip and to not tip the Shanghai taxi drivers. He said that it was not a common practice in Shanghai, but if tourists started tipping, the locals would be expected to also. I once had a bellman in Japan who had lugged many heavy bags to our room. He was quite pleasant and very helpful, but when I offered him a tip, he refused. It was quite a shock--my first experience with someone who did not expect a payment for (what I perceived was) extra service.

A tip is no more than a gift of money. Some people think that the English term tip is an acronym for "to insure prompt (or proper) service". However, the English word tip was used long before acronyms became common in the 1920s. Jesse Sheidlower, Principal Editor in North America for the Oxford English Dictionary, told CNN Money that "tip" is a 17th century verb meaning "to give". Interestingly, its origin, according to Sheidlower, was in the language of thieves. By the 18th century, "tip" meant to give a gratuity to a servant or employee.

Although the origin of the term "tip" can be debated, most researchers believe that the practice started in restaurants and bars. People felt guilty eating and drinking in front of their server and did not want him to be hungry or thirsty. So, a small amount of money was left for him to have a drink or a bite to eat at the customer's expense.

Let's take a look at tipping on cruise ships.

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