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Old 03-27-2010, 11:03 AM   #16
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It's a dirty little secret in the cruise industry. The crew members in tipped positions are essentially not paid by the cruise line. The cruise line pays a token salary (and provides room and board) to Dining Room Servers, Dining Room Assistant Servers, Dining Room Head Servers, and Stateroom Hosts/Hostesses.
You do realize that this is true for many tipped-based industries in the US too, right? Waiters often make less than minimum wage as long as the company can prove that the small hourly wage + tips enables the waiter to make (on average) more than minimum wage. Here in Texas, the wage for a waiter can be as little as around $2.50 per hour.

I don't think it is a "dirty" little secret. Perhaps a lot of people don't realize that many in the service industries who rely on tips really and truly could not survive without tips (and that is why those of us in, or formerly in, the industry are so rabid about the tipping issue), but I don't think there is anything dirty about it.

I can tell you that when I went from a waiter to a "desk job" it was tough because I was making less money than when I was a server. But the perks and the benefits were better, not to mention the work wasn't nearly as back breaking.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:18 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by acourtwdw View Post

If a dining server averages ten 4 top tables per 7 day cruise . . .
It seems like a lot of guests (40), until I realized this would be 20 guests per seating (early and late).

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Old 03-27-2010, 12:46 PM   #18
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The only problem with the calculation above is that it assumes a full section (which is 18, not 20), and that everyone tips at least the minimum (which per servers, doesn't happen). The "normal" seating is one 8 top, one 6 top, and one 4 top per serving team; 18 guests per seating. Yes, there are LOTS of variations based on guest requests, etc.

This info is a few years old, but it came from a trusted CM. Those in serving positions get $50 (not sure if that's per month or per check), room and board, "costumes," and health insurance while on the ship. They can extend the insurance for a very reasonable amount between contracts. In addition, they receive their transportation "all the way home" at the end of a contract as well as to begin the next contract. My server was very impressed that he was literally transported to his front door as it was far more costly than just the airfare to the nearest big city. They have to provide black shoes, off duty clothing, toiletries, personal laundry, and their initial transportation to Florida after hiring. Since the ship is not registered in the US and they are not US citizens, they are not subject to US withholding, wage and tax laws, etc. There is nothing held back for taxes; if their country collects taxes, that is their responsibility. They get a check every 2 weeks for their minimal salary and those tips which were charged. Yes, it can be a lot of money, especially for those who pay no taxes in their home countries, but it's also a lot of work. Many are supporting families back home. One CM told me that they actually collect about 3/4 of what they'd get if everyone tipped the recommended amount. Another said that it's not uncommon to have at least one table per sailing totally stiff them. However, as he pointed out, he was still getting 8 times as much as he could hope to earn at home, and he had no living expenses.

This applies only to "tipped" positions. People in non-tipped positions are paid an appropriate salary as well as room and board. Benefits are somewhat dependent on position; there is a way that officers can have family sail with them either in their living space or in guest cabins. Non-officers also get benefits of guests sailing at no charge in some situations.

Positive comments "buy" all sorts of things--4 hours extra shore leave, a "good" schedule on the next cruise (yes, they feel some schedules are better than others), notation in their employment record which influences promotions, etc. The same thing happens when a guest requests a server or assistant; a certain number of requests = extra shore time. I know this because a CM thanked me for requesting him and explained that he got time off while in port because of it! Bad comments (repeatedly) will result in a contract not being renewed.

There is a HUGE "promote from within" program. We see people who we initially met in low positions (one assistant server, one stateroom host) who are now high ranking officers! Granted, that didn't happen overnight, but it happened. There is an official training program--an assistant server can apply to the program and be trained to be a server. It involves OTJ training, but also a written test, etc. The move to head server is HUGE as it involves a lot of safety and allergy issues. Essentially every CM we've talked to has confirmed that if you want to work hard and do a good job, you can go far in DCL. Many are encouraging their friends to apply now as with the new ships, there is a large hiring/training program in effect.
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Old 03-27-2010, 01:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by ldalvarado View Post
You do realize that this is true for many tipped-based industries in the US too, right? Waiters often make less than minimum wage as long as the company can prove that the small hourly wage + tips enables the waiter to make (on average) more than minimum wage.
Yes, I realize that's the case with tipped positions in the U.S.

But it's more extreme on cruise ships. The servers work 7 days per week, for months on end, without a day off. Their tips come from their dinner tables, but they also work at breakfasts, lunches, snack bars, and late night buffets (without additional tips).

I doubt many servers in the U.S. would stand for a base of just $50-100 per month -- especially when it means being away from their family for 6-10 months.
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Old 03-27-2010, 01:57 PM   #20
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they do very well by their home standards. A server we always request and have gotten several times had her home paid for and supported her Mother and Daughter very well. Would I do it, never. A good server can make a lot of money. I sincerely hope the people that stiff the servers are over whelmed with financial woes. I have a relative that thinks a dollar is a decent tip. I always tip at least 20%. I had a nephew that worked in a Mexican eatery and had an family (12) from India come in once a week and always left a $2 tip.
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Old 03-27-2010, 02:09 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ldalvarado View Post
I don't think it is a "dirty" little secret. Perhaps a lot of people don't realize that many in the service industries who rely on tips really and truly could not survive without tips (and that is why those of us in, or formerly in, the industry are so rabid about the tipping issue), but I don't think there is anything dirty about it.
What's "dirty" is that the cruise lines, including DCL, are not upfront about it in their advertising. They'll advertise a price with an asterisk. The fine print then says something along the lines of:
* Government Taxes and Fees and excursions not included. Third, fourth and fifth Guest prices valid with two full fare Guests in the same stateroom. Rates in U.S. dollars.
There's no indication that an "all inclusive" cruise really does not include service in the dining room and from the stateroom host/hostess. Yet the fine print specifically mentions "Government Taxes and Fees and excursions." Why in the world does the fine print mention excursions but not tips? Excursions really are optional, but tips are only optional if crew members are to go unpaid for the hard work they do.

That's unfair to passengers (especially first-time passengers) and to the crew. Cruise lines need to be honest with passengers that, for all practical purposes, passengers pay those who serve them; the cruise line does not.

Yes, if a first-time passenger takes all the time to read the online FAQs, they'll read about tipping. Even then, it's not clear that the tips are the server's income, not just a generous bonus on top of a living wage. And how many people read all the FAQs?

For other passengers, the first time they learn about tipping is when they receive the cruise docs. Or, if they don't read the cruise docs thoroughly, they may not learn about tipping until they find the tip envelopes in their stateroom.

I'm not saying that the present compensation system is bad. It can be beneficial to cruise lines (lower cost structure), passengers (excellent service), and crew members (opportunity to earn good money by the standards of their home countries). But I wonder how often crew members go untipped because passengers feel they already paid for service in their cruise fare?
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Old 03-27-2010, 05:38 PM   #22
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The tipped positions are coveted compared to some of the other jobs onboard. One of our stateroom hosts had an engineering degree but went from his original position to housekeeping because he could make more money. Another who was working in maintenance did the same thing.
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:14 PM   #23
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We've enjoyed our cruises immensely and wanted to get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes.

The book, Cruise Confidential, is an entertaining read about the life onboard as a crew member. The book is about working on a Carnival ship but I'm sure there are many similarities.

http://www.amazon.com/Cruise-Confide...1&sr=8-1-spell

I had a much better appreciation for our servers after reading the book. The bottom line is that it's almost unheard of for an American to work these conditions.
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:26 PM   #24
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There is one US citizen working as a server. We had him for lunch one day. He sort of grumbled that he's the only one who has to pay taxes. He also said that his father is a chef on the ship and that he "left" college. We did a lot of reading between the lines.
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Old 03-29-2010, 01:24 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by acourtwdw View Post
Here is some quick math that I did:
If a dining server averages ten 4 top tables per 7 day cruise and those folks pay just the suggested tip of $112 per table, the server makes $1120 per cruise.
This works out to between $10 to $13 dollars per hour. Not a great amount of money for leaving your home and family for 6 to 10 months at a time. The work is hard and the hours very long. One or two negative comments by a guest could get you demoted to asst server or not rehired at all. These servers deserve everything they get and more.
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:43 AM   #26
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I asked someone on my first cruise.

I was told they make the minimum wage for their country and then tips, if they are room stewards, servers, bartenders, or youth counselors - any position who receives

They can sign six month or nine month contracts; many sign six month contracts, so they can go to school half a year.

Or the ones that do it for a living sign a nine month contract and then travel to visit their friends from the cruise ship in different countries.
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Old 03-29-2010, 09:16 AM   #27
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I asked someone on my first cruise.

I was told they make the minimum wage for their country and then tips, if they are room stewards, servers, bartenders, or youth counselors - any position who receives

They can sign six month or nine month contracts; many sign six month contracts, so they can go to school half a year.

Or the ones that do it for a living sign a nine month contract and then travel to visit their friends from the cruise ship in different countries.
Youth counselors do not receive tips and are paid more than service positions.

The majority of the contracts are for 4-6 months and they are usually off for 2 months. So I don't know how they can go to school for 6 months at home if the majority receive 2 months off. Some are able to extend their leave, but then they run the risk of not being offered a contract for the time they are available.

But now that there's so much training going on for the new ship, the contracts are being modified with some being shorter and less time off between them. But that all depends on the postion.
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Old 03-29-2010, 09:44 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by FairyGrandmother View Post
This works out to between $10 to $13 dollars per hour. Not a great amount of money for leaving your home and family for 6 to 10 months at a time. The work is hard and the hours very long. One or two negative comments by a guest could get you demoted to asst server or not rehired at all. These servers deserve everything they get and more.
That may not be much money to you or me, but obviously the people who take these positions disagree. In their opinion, they are doing very well. That's all that matters.
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Old 03-29-2010, 11:44 AM   #29
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THere is some interesting information posted above; it differs from anything I've heard on DCL.

The normal DCL contract was 6 months; the CM would work 6 on, 2 off. A few CMs had negotiated 4 on 2 off in order to have more time with families "back home." Since they are now training people for the new ships, the standard contract has dropped to 4 months on, 2 off. Some of the CMs are quite unhappy with this, but are willing to deal with it for a year.

I've never heard of or met anyone who is doing 6 months on the ship and attending school for 6 months. This would be very difficult as the school schedule would have to perfectly correspond with the contract. In addition, DCL only pays their transportation back to Port Canaveral if they have signed a contract to return before they leave the ship. If they have not, then THEY are responsible for their return transportation (if they take a longer break between contracts than the standard vacation). That can be quite costly!

As to the "per hour" calculations; did you consider that CMs typically work 12 hour days, sometimes longer?

Obviously, those who do it consider it to be a good job. Whether that is good compared to their home countries, good as a means to a goal, or good for life varies. There are still CMs on board who opened the Magic! Not many, but they are around.
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:22 PM   #30
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I doubt many servers in the U.S. would stand for a base of just $50-100 per month -- especially when it means being away from their family for 6-10 months.
Lets compare apples to apples. For many servers, the salary ALONE per month is more than the average a worker in their homeland makes. Throw in tips, and they are rich by their homeland standards. Our server on one cruise figured that after 7 years on the ship, at age 30, he could retire in his native Indonesia on what he had earned and saved.
According to the U.S. Census bureau, in 2009 the average American made $27,590.16 a YEAR. Would you take a job that paid $27,590.16 a MONTH plus tips? That's over $165,540 a year working long hours for 6 months a year, BEFORE tips. I sure would consider it.
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