Why are cruise ship employees so nice?

I went on a cruise to Canada from New York and it was the first time I had ever been on a cruise. The thing that stood out the most from this five day experience was the ship’s crew. Every time I made I eye contact with one of them I’d get a “Hi, how are you doing” and then followed by “enjoying the cruise?” The waiters at dinner were especially nice and get extremely nervous when you are not satisfied. When my mom asked for unsalted butter and they did not have any I thought our waiter was going to have a break down. The only time I felt the employees weren’t being nice was when I would ask for more (prepaid) food. Though it is possible that I was just feeling guilty for asking for so much, but there was no way I could eat $700 worth of food in 5 days.

My theory is that since everyone gets automatically charged $50 for tip, the people taking the cruise won’t feel the need to leave more tip, which makes the staff work extra hard for extra tips.

What do you think?

Because it’s their job to make you feel comfortable and if they don’t, they’ll get fired?

When you’re talking about waiters in expensive restaurants, luxury cruises, etc…You’re not talking about your average joe who became a waiter because there was really nothing else he could do.

These people probably undertook extensive training and are extra-nice because that’s their job and they couldn’t keep it if they weren’t. A high scale place will hold its staff to high standard, because a lot of their patrons wouldn’t accept a service below these standards.

I had the same experience on a train ride across Australia. One of the crew (a rather cute Canadian) was so bubbly and cheerful that I seriously thought she was on drugs, and the Train Manager reminded me of the Cheerful Fairy. SHe was this close to making us play charades and if anyone hadn’t joined in I know she would have burst into tears

Because happy customers come back. It’s purely profit motivated.

Thank god for profit!

Yes, but the staff do not see these profits. I know it is in the best interest of almost every business on the earth to be polite, but that does not mean that they all are.

Some cruise lines, and some hotel chains for that matter, base raises and promotions entirely on customers’ comment cards. If you like your job and want to advance, you’ll spend every possible moment making customers want to submit good ones.

My experience has been that this is often the difference you get when you go up to a higher class of hotel–not only do they take care of the things you ask for, but they’re happy to do it. I’m sure you can make a hell of a lot more money at classier places, and that attitude is absolutely required to keep your job.

On the cruises I’ve been on, there’s been a very big divide between the upper class crew (Dutch) and the lower ones (Filipino). While everybody is polite, the Filipino crew is REALLY polite. They’re always going above and beyond the call of duty for you, remembering your name, saving your table at the bar, etc. That’s because they make about five hundred bucks a month and work all the time for it and so they hope and pray for your tips, and also I suspect because if there’s a complaint against one of them it would be Very Unpleasant.

Plus, if someone becomes dissatisfied with your service, it’s not like they can walk out the door. There’s an entire shipful of captive audience members just waiting to hear about it. I’m sure it can become very unpleasant for you very quickly.

[slight hijack]I had the same type of experience at Discovery Cove in Orlando. With the exception of one of the cooks, every employee had a pleasant facial expression. Everyone I spoke with was very knowledgable in their area and excited about sharing that knowledge. Every single employee in the park was nice, even the cook with the grumpy face. I have never been to a place like it.

Silly! So they can steal your underpants later. Here’s their business plan:

Step 1: Collect Underpants
Step 2: …
Step 3: PROFITS!!!

Of course they do.

  1. Complaints get them fired, which equals no salary.
  2. Returning customers means more tip money, which equals profit.
  3. Non-returning customers means bad bottome line for the company, which equals no jobs.

Therefore, happy customers means more money for everyone.

Read David Foster Wallace’s “Supposedly Fun Things I’ll Never do Again” and all will be revealed.

Including why I will never take a cruise.

This Houston Press article from 2003 convinced me cruises suck. The crew work horrible hours for shit pay and have to suck up to guests because one poor rating can send their income into the crapper.


  1. Positive feedback -> Potential increase in revenue and potential pay increase

There is a very simple reason why all the employees on cruise ships are so nice:

If the employee isn’t nice, the Captain of the cruise ship makes them walk the plank, for the enjoyment of everyone on board.

Arrrrrrrrr, matey.

Based on conversations I had with some of the staff during my cruise a couple of years back:

Most of the crew are from countries outside of the US. Off the top of my head, I had people from India, Bulgaria, and Brazil as the folks I dealt with most often on a day-to-day basis. Now although the pay for the staff sucks, they do get paid in US dollars, which works out to be a decent chunk of change, especially since they do not have to pay for boarding (and I think they ate free on the ship as well, but don’t quote me on that), so that they could save just about everything they earned. Add in the tips that they make, and it is an added incentive to be superhappy all the time.

I do recall a few, if not dour, then not beaming faces during the cruise, but I think they were mostly among the staff working the buffets, doing the cleanup and portioning.

Crew wages do seem low, but are they that bad compared to those of, say, flight attendants, or those who do similar service work elsewhere? Waiters at typical restaurants may earn sub-minimum wages, and have to support themselves on tips.

We took a cruise recently and I was very impressed with the level of service, so I added to the standard gratuity, besides leaving some extra cash for our cabin steward.