Two signs this week that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines are catching up with rival companies . . . and the 21st Century. They are to scrap the brown envelope system for staff gratuities, and are introducing wi-fi access for computer users.
Passengers will find £4 per day added to their on-board accounts to provide tips for cabin stewards and waiters – in response, says the company, to customer suggestions.
Some cruise lines, such as Saga, Thomson and Voyages of Discovery include gratuities in the fare; most now use the system which Fred Olsen is adopting, with the option for passengers to request that the automatic tips be removed from the account. Costa’s terms and conditions do not allow passengers to vary the amounts, however.
Royal Caribbean and Disney operate the brown envelope system, but give passengers the option of having an automatic amount added to their bill instead. P&O work a hybrid system with passengers opting for anytime dining paying an automatic gratuity and those on club dining tipping their waiters direct.
While the gratuity change will affect all of Fred Olsen’s passengers, the introduction of wi-fi may go unnoticed by many. When I boarded Balmoral at Dover recently I asked the the security scanner operator if he wanted me to remove the laptop from my hand luggage. “Yes,” was the rep
Unlike many companies, Fred Olsen does not sell time packages for internet access via its shipboard computers, and it can be disconcerting to watch the charges tick up at the rate of 20p per minute while not much happens on screen.
With wi-fi, passengers can pay £5 for 25 minutes or £10 for 50 minutes. Coverage is not available throughout the ship or in cabins, as it is on many modern vessels. On Black Watch it will be limited to the library; on Braemar it will be in the Library and the Braemar Lounge, and on Balmoral it extends to the Library, Braemar Lounge and the Card Room. Wi-fi routers will be installed on Boudicca during January’s refit.