/ Money, Travel & Leisure

When is a tip not a tip? When P&O adds it automatically

P&O is the latest cruise line to add automatic daily gratuities to passengers’ onboard accounts. My tip for P&O? If you want to avoid angry customers, make sure they know all the facts.

Last December, we asked for your opinions on cruise tipping after Fred Olsen decided to change its policy and start charging a set daily amount. Most of you were against it, like John:

‘On balance I think the whole thing is an embarrassment and an anachronism that has no place in modern cruising. The wages should be decent and the fare should be set accordingly.’

And Barbara praised P&O’s tipping:

‘I prefer the method on P&O who let you tip each waiter and cabin person individually according to the service given.’

Oh dear. Barbara is unlikely to be happy with P&O’s recent change of course. On most of its ships, passengers currently pay any gratuities directly to the cabin stewards and waiter (if they so wish). But from next spring, the cruise operator will add £3.10 per person, per day onto bills that will be paid for at the end of the trip. This is to cover service charges for various ship staff.

Just the tip of the iceberg

It may not sound much, but a couple on a 99 day world cruise will end up paying an extra £608 in service charges. P&O says it has introduced this system because it ‘creates clarity for everyone by removing any awkwardness and confusion’ over how much they should tip.

Ever more ships (particularly US-owned ones) now automatically add service charges like this to people’s accounts, and often much more – at around £7 per passenger, per day.

And when you factor in an extra obligatory service charge, often 15%, which is added to all chargeable drinks and spa entry – not to mention a dotted line on the drinks receipt inviting you to add a further tip – it’s no wonder we Brits get frustrated.

Only premium cruise lines such as Regent, and a few more mainstream companies like Saga and Thomson, include service charges in their overall price. They then allow passengers to tip individual staff for exceptional service. Isn’t this a better way to encourage future good service?

Cruise companies need to be transparent

It’s true that the daily service charge is virtually always discretionary – you can get the amount adjusted or opt out of it completely by asking at the ship reception, although staff may dissuade you from doing this.

But how well-informed will P&O customers be about this new system? Will it be made clear to you at the time of booking (whether online, by P&O sales staff or by travel agents) that there will be this extra charge to pay at the end of the trip?

If not, that will be a nasty surprise for passengers, especially those loyal customers who cherish the more traditional tipping ways.

And I wonder if all customers will be told that they have the option to opt out of paying the charge? Several Which? members have told us that on other cruise lines, they only found this out by chance when talking to other people onboard their ship.

So, what do you think is the best system for tipping on cruise ships?

  • Pay a lower price for your cruise, and pay a daily amount to be shared amongst crew.
  • Pay a higher price for your cruise, and have no tips to pay once onboard.
  • Pay a lower price for your cruise, and pay tips to staff individually at your discretion.
ian says:
11 May 2013

why should i spend my hard earned cash on tipping. It’s antiquated, nobody i know gets tipped for doing their job so why should i be expected to tip someone else. If i didn’t use their service along with many other folk then they would be out of a job ,thats commercial reality.

Imagine filling up for petrol to be told , yes sir and that “x” amount extra for a tip.

Come to think of it , i MUST FIND OUT HOW THE CONVIENIENT “fuel surcharge” is funded by P&O.
Now that smacks of ripoff. I wonder how much it actually costs to fuel a cruise liner and how they arrive at the present day figure of £100 per person surcharge for fuel. I bet it is never removed and it just happens to be a nice round figure of £100 which is roughly about £200,000 per trip for a liner with 2000 passengers.
Very nice earner indeed.

ian says:
11 May 2013

spelling mistakes above as so cheesed off at getting ripped off

Depends on what service quality you want.

Just been informed from P&O that there will be £5+ per day per person tip added to our bill to cover tips, has anyone been asked to tip on entering a restaurant before eating ? what a complete rip off why can’t they add this to the initial cost and make you aware. 4000 + passengers on Britannia £21k a week taken ( whose the mug)

Julie says:
21 October 2016

Don’t get me started on this…… ok the facts… you are paying ALOT of money these days for any holiday – especially cruises – and I TOTALLY understand that staff who work in the laundry or in the kitchen are not front line staff so are not receiving a tip direct – but I totally agree with the comment made – opting out details are not advertised in bold print – enough said !

I know you should try to do your homework prior to going on a holiday yourself to a degree; daily amounts ARE printed on P&O cruises stating five pounds and fifty pence is automatically taken daily, however a couple new to a cruise holiday may think ‘that’s not too bad’ only to realise when its too late that the amount stated is per person ! Most people are travelling as a couple so they should really state the higher amount of eleven pounds daily and write (five pounds and fifty pence for passengers travelling alone) but they don’t !

I am sorry, but would you go on holiday and each and every day/night tip eleven pounds for 2 weeks solid – I don’t think so !!

SO, you just need to take yourself to reception on the 1st day of your cruise and very nicely say ‘sorry we would like to tip ourselves thankyou’ and you will be given a form to complete which you need to return to reception the following day ! You are then free to tip as and when you want to whom you want for that extra special smile or friendly face that greets you and yes I know its not tipping the person in the kitchens, but it is what it is.

Yes we are happy to tip and do – but not eleven pounds each and every day !

p@o.s top man says: its all taken care of”in todays mail i recieved .what is taken care of mean exactly are they going to charge extra for cruises as i for one will not travel with p@o if the cruises are going to be pricey