Well this is sweet. I've heard from some old clients who'd lost track of me, some client/friends who wanted to let me know they've seen my blog and some potential new clients. Now I have to come up with some ideas to blog about to keep this going. I will certainly welcome any suggestions from all ya'll about topics you'd like me to cover.
In chatting with folks I've been asking for opinions about the " for your convenience" automatic charging of tips/gratuities to your onboard account. I'll agree that it is convenient but I really prefer to hand an envelope or wad of cash to my waiter, bus boy and room steward. If we do the automatic thing we still end up giving those folks a little extra. I understand why the cruise lines do the automatic thing and if a guest has opted to do one of the open dining plans (everyone calls it something different) then it's the 'fair' way to make sure that all your different servers get some tips. And, sadly, I understand that there are some folks who wouldn't tip if it wasn't done automatically.
You can opt out of the automatic option if you wish by going to the front desk and asking. They will attempt to change your mind if you have open seating and I'd do the same.
The cruise lines don't pay their servers and cabin attendants much and the servers and cabin stewards rely on tips so if you have a different waiter every night you'd either have to tip after each meal or go try to hunt them all down at the end of your cruise. Not going to happen.
This leads to my thoughts and questions about the open seating options now available. Norwegian Cruise Line started it all with their "Freestyle Cruising". Because some folks like the flexibility of choosing when, where and with whom they dine most of the other main stream lines added an open seating option in addition to their traditional early and late seatings. I really enjoy having the same wait staff for dinner every night. They get to know likes and dislikes and it just is more to my liking to go to the same table every evening and sit with the same group of folks.
Then the cruise lines started adding 'alternative dining' restaurants which, in most cases, have a surcharge that ranges from $10 - $30 per guest. I personally think that the food and choices in the regular restaurants has suffered in the hopes that we'll go to the alternatives. The food is still good but pretty ordinary. Some travelers go to the alternatives numerous times throughout their cruise because they love fine dining and upscale choices. One gentleman was quoted as saying for $25 extra he got a meal that would have pushed $100 in a shore side establishment. And with some of the fantastically low cruise prices these days you can end up with a pretty classy vacation and eat lobster and prime beef every night.
In general most of my long time travelers prefer the set dining time but the newer cruisers like the flexibility of open seating. By the way for you folks who've not cruised before breakfast and lunch are usually open seating in the main dining rooms or there are buffet restaurants for those meals as well. The buffet restaurants may also be open in the evenings so there are plenty of opportunities to get fed. My standard old joke is that there is one meal a day - from the time you get up till the time you go to bed someone is trying to feed you. Oh yes, there's also room service . I love my early morning coffee delivered to the room and we can get some food for Mark who likes breakfast practically the minute his feet hit the floor. Then we can go get food a few hours later and he's ready to eat again.
I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on the tipping and dining issues.