If you’ve cruised a mass-market line, you know the deal. That cruise fare may look cheap, and likely is, but tipping service staff is part of the bargain above and beyond the fare. Affectionally known as a daily service charge in some circles, it is now customary for many mass market lines to automatically add anywhere from $12 to $15 per day (an average, perhaps more if you have booked suite acommodations), per person to your on board account to cover tips for housekeeping and dining staff. It is also customary for the cruise line to adjust these charges off your bill if you prefer to tip in cash or have experienced some kind of service failure during your cruise vacation that you feel warrants a reduction in gratuities.
According to this Cruise Critic thread, the option to remove the service charge onboard your ship is no longer in place at NCL. Apparently, you must now email a form to a special guest relations address after the cruise and they will process a refund for you. This must be done within 30 days of your cruise, and you must include a reason why you are adjusting the service charge/gratuity.
I support this. First, if you have a legitimate gripe, you are likely to be motivated to follow through with this process and provide the reason why which can lead to corrective action. If you are just cheaping out of tips which far too many people probably do, I think it is less likely that you will take the time to do this….and fortunately less likely that the hard working staff on board gets stiffed.
Personally, I make it a habit of pre-paying the daily service charge/gratuity nowadays when the fare does not include it. I have a better idea of my costs upfront, and I look at the daily charge as a minimum. If I encounter staff during my cruise that go above and beyond in service, they get extra cash handed directly to them at the end of the cruise. I know many people that tip their service staff in cash as a matter of principle, and I support that. This change in policy by NCL will still allow you to do that I assume, but you will have to take a few minutes to follow up with NCL after your cruise.
-MJ, September 15, 2015