Re tips arbitrarily included

Regarding tips being placed on passengers’ credit card bills on cruises, we have encountered this twice recently.

The first time was on an eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard the Azur of Festival Cruises (888/983-8767), Oct. 29-Nov. 8, ’03. We were informed in advance that a charge of $9.50 per day per passenger for tips would appear on our bill. However, we were informed when we got on board that they had canceled this charge, and we tipped the cabin steward, waiter and busboy at our discretion.

Later, on a 3-day/2-night cruise from Port Canaveral to Grand Bahama, Dec. 2-4, ’03, on the Mirage 1 of Ocean Club Cruises (866/732-2582), we were informed after boarding that $7 per night per passenger would appear on our bill and that this did not include the cabin steward. I felt this was reasonable and did not request a change (the cruise was a huge discount bargain of $99 per person including taxes and port charges!).

What needs to be pointed out is that this trend to arbitrarily include tips on credit cards is optional. When your bill appears, you can go to reception or the purser, as the case may be, and reduce this amount as you desire, even to nothing if you want.

Don’t get me started on tipping. I HATE IT! Not because I begrudge cruise employees, guides, et al., a reward for good service but because it is so inconsistent. All surveys show that passengers and tour members vary widely in what they believe is a correct amount. Perhaps the move toward arbitrarily including tips on credit card statements is a method designed to equalize this inconsistency.

Cape Canaveral, FL