P&O defends new tipping policy after claims that crew will lose out

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The travel pages of The Guardian hardly ever register the slightest interest in cruising, despite the fact that it earns thousands of pounds each week from cruise lines and specialist travel agents.
But the newspaper must think its readers have some interest in the subject because it has launched an attack on Britain’s biggest cruise line, claiming its new tipping policy will result in crew members losing out financially.
P&O introduced auto-gratuities in April. Instead of stuffing cash into brown envelopes to be handed to waiters and stewards on the last night of the cruise, passengers now have £3.10 per person per day added to their on-board accounts.
As gratuities go, that’s very much at the low end of the scale compared to other operators.
But The Guardian reports that crew members will receive their tips only if they achieve satisfactory scores on passenger satisfaction questionnaires; stewards must achieve a 92 per cent rating, another unspecified rank must hit 96 per cent.
Crew at the bottom of the pay scale, who are mostly from the Philippines, India and eastern Europe, receive only 75p an hour – £250 a month – basic pay. They work shifts of 11 hours or more a day, seven days a week, for contracts lasting for seven or eight months and rely on tips to top up their earnings.
According to documents seen by The Guardian, this is “a significantly increased basic salary”.
David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, the parent company of P&O Cruises, said crew were “much happier” and claimed the new arrangement was a win-win for passengers, crew and P&O. He said many crew took home more than £1,000 a month, but tougher times meant that “sadly, our customers were reluctant to pay the recommended level of tipping. We have handled it fairly and decently and made sure their pay is being protected,” he said.
Some regular passengers were horrified to learn the crew were paid less than the minimum wage, and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, said: “It’s high time the disgraceful practice of allowing the shipping industry to pay poverty wages to workers who don’t live in the UK was stopped. Exploitative rates of pay for those working on British ships have no place in a modern society.”
Responding to these accusations, Dingle appears to have dug himself into a hole. “Yes, the minimum wage is more than we pay, but this is a global industry, our businesses have to remain competitive, he told the Guardian. “You’ve got staff from eastern Europe in restaurants in Britain – why? Because it’s great money.”
“Let’s not forget the level of take-home pay for our staff, the vast majority of whom come from India. Look at hotels in Goa. The earning ability is greater on our ships. We have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street. It clearly is of value to these people.”
All of which appeared to be rubbing salt in the wound. Why did he fail to point out that crew are provided with accommodation and food throughout their contracts, and benefit from generous welfare packages?
And what of the bonuses paid to Carnival and P&O executives. I asked the company if they would disclose the arrangements for Dingle and P&O managing director Carol Marlow, and whether payment was dependant on achieving performance targets.
The reply was not very enlightening: “Like any major plc, short-term rewards and long-term incentives are given for positive individual and corporate performances.”
No, you’re not missing anything, that’s the response in full.
Gratuities have long been part and parcel of cruising, but they are a contentious issue at the best of times. They allow cruise lines to advertise low introductory prices, but they can be confusing and lead to embarrassment.
One reader asked me what would happen to the money he paid in tips if another P&O passenger gave a crew member a low rating.
With some lines adding as much as $15 a day, maybe it’s time to follow the example of Thomson, Saga, Voyages of Discovery, and others, who have done away with tips altogether.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:49+00:00 1 May 2012|Cruise news|5 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

5 Comments

  1. Hoggathon 6 May 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Mr Dingle and Ms Marlow should consider paying Carnival UK and P&O senior staff a small basic salary, together with bonuses based on Passenger Satisfaction Questionnaires.

  2. Suite Dreamer 8 May 2012 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    If my cabin steward or my waiter has not qualified for their bonus as a result of the evaluation by a a passenger other than myself, what happens to the gratuity that has been charged to my on-board account? Does P&O keep it for themselves, or does it get shared out among the other crew who have scored satisfactorily? Or will it be repaid to those passengers who did not rate the crewmember highly enough? Or will it be returned to me? I think I can guess the answer

  3. Alan Davies 30 November 2013 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    We went on our first cruise with QE2 we were allowed to opt out of automatic tipping. We also have used MSC and Royal Caribean , again allowed to opt out of direct tips. So this our first sailing with P & O, and if not allowed to opt out it will possibly be our last. We are already booked on a cruise next May with MSC and no problems with tipping then.
    Regards A.J davies

  4. John Honeywell 1 December 2013 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    According to their FAQ, P&O Cruises will allow you to opt out of direct tips:
    QUOTE: There is the option of adjusting this amount while you’re on board (by contacting Reception)
    See: https://ask.pocruises.com/help/PO/life-on-board/change_tipping

  5. CURTIS 14 October 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I UNDERSTAND THAT OUT OF THEIR SHAMEFULL SALARIES THEY MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN UNIFORMS. if THIS IS SO THEN IT IS QUITE UNBELIVEABLE

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