Tipping: Looking for a response from Road Scholar

I posted this question back in November under Afloat > Ocean Cruises. I'd hoped to get a factual/authoritative answer from someone with RS. So far it does not appear that any RS staff have taken note. So I am reposting it here:

  Tipping is a major consideration when planning an ocean cruise. Road Scholar states that customary tips are covered in the cost of its programs, but does that include the tips that are expected by waiters and room stewards on large cruise ships? This is important to know ahead of time for estimating the actual cost of the program. 

  • Good Afternoon All,

    We appreciate everyone taking time to share their concerns regarding our tipping policy– our team regularly monitors these boards, and conversations like this help us to understand where we can do better and communicate more clearly.

    With that in mind, we would like to take a few moments to clarify several points that have been discussed throughout this thread. First and foremost, we want to reassure you that gratuities are always included in our program costs as part of our value promise. The dollar amount of the gratuity may vary dependent on the destination, but our intention is to provide tips to group leaders, housekeeping, porters, drivers, and restaurant staff.

    With this in mind, please feel welcome to contact us if you encounter on-site program staff who indicate that they have not received a gratuity, as we would like to investigate the issue immediately.

    Elizabeth at Road Scholar
  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    Thank you Elizabeth for your response, but I still want to have an idea of what the RS budgeted tip AMOUNTS tend to be for the various jobs you listed in order know if, for me, the RS tip feels adequate or appropriate based on my experience and my tipping preferences.
    If I have an idea of what the RS tip amounts are, ONLY THEN can I actually determine if I feel a need to discreetly further tip or not. Does that make sense?
    I, and many others I'm sure, look forward to your response to this important issue.
  • In reply to wd70schu102914:

    Hello wd70schu, Program Staff gratuities are currently determined by their direct employer. Road Scholar is, however, creating standards for gratuities to assure they are as fair and equitable as possible for all Road Scholar Program Staff. Sincerely, Elizabeth at Road Scholar
  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    So, if our guides have done an exceptional job, we are free to give them an extra tip (like $10 or 20) but should not feel required to?
  • In reply to nahick070902:

    I guess it depends on how much the group leader's program-included tip actually is and if one feels that amount is adequate/fair enough given the group leader's job performance. Seems to me the program fee included tip amounts for group leader, housekeeping, luggage handling, etc should be known by participants so they can make an informed decision about extra tipping or not. Doesn't that seem reasonable?
  • In reply to wd70schu102914:

    Sorry but I disagree. Group leaders are professionals in their fields. They are paid a salary by their respective employers as most people are. If they feel they are underpaid , they need to take that up with their employer, usually a contractor for RS. Although RS says the tips are a “perk” RS gives participants, I have to throw the BS flag. Don’t think for a minute the participants aren’t paying the group leader’s salary (tip, if you prefer) out of your program cost. That’s ok. RS should be able to run their business as they choose to. It’s really not our business to be involved in minutae. Nor is RS accountable to us, the customer.

    RS may be classified a not-for-profit, but they need to generate revenue. They are a business. I don’t mean that in a negative way.

    When I worked for not-for-profits, I was paid a very good salary and didn’t expect nor accept tips when I led tours and field trips.

    In the final analysis, if you wish to give anyone associated with your program a gift, that’s up to you.
  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    I have done over 30 RS trips, but still see so much uncertainty about tipping!
    Why does your website not lay it out clearly?

    On my most recent trip #6858, the tour leader let the group know that:
    wait/restaurant staff was already tipped
    room maid service was not
    *** and his (tour guide) & bus driver tips 'would be appreciated'.
    He made it sound like he & the bus driver did not receive any tipping from RS.
  • In reply to charmaynebischel032721:

    Yes I’ve heard that on my trips too. Of course restaurant staff is covered because they add to to the bill for groups. But staff in inns told us they receive nothing. I’m not sure who gets covered by RS especially when all these other companies are involved. I think it is pretty much like just when you go on your own trip. Think about it, if out of a group of 40, a bus driver gets $5 from 30 people that’s quite a payment!
  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    Elizabeth, why have group leaders then told us that the bus drivers don’t get tips from RS? I’ve heard this on tours on Alaska and Amelia Island, Fla.

  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    I'm posting this in this thread as well as the other one on tipping, because this now really bugs me. It shocks me that housekeeping and/or drivers aren't being tipped appropriately. This makes me rethink my commitment to RS.

    Leaders are professionals, and often have other options for jobs. See my comments below about the practice of people pressuring others to collect tips for the group leaders. But not tipping housekeeping? It never occurred to me that RS was not making sure that they are taken care of. I know that low-level service workers really need the tips. And the same is true of tour bus drivers. RS needs to clarify this and make sure we know that "tips are included" includes the hotel service workers and drivers as well as the restaurant staff.

    And then there is the issue of the group leaders....

    The last two RS trips that I have been on (I am about to embark on my fifth trip) others in the group have tried to collect for a group tip. As others have stated, this makes many of us uncomfortable, and also makes us seem mean and stingy when we insist that the policy is that tipping is not needed.

    Perhaps the solution is to clearly state -- with all trip info packs -- that people should NOT be asking others to contribute to a pooled tip. Or even better, that leaders are prohibited from accepting tips. Some restaurants are going to no-tipping in an effort to both emphasize that they pay their staff professional wages and to make the cost of meals crystal clear. I consider RS leaders as professionals that are paid as such. If that is not the case, then we should know that.

    Obviously, if an individual wants to purchase a gift for someone that has gone above and beyond, then that is up to him/her/them. But I think it is the responsibility of RS to discourage, nay prohibit the taking up of a collective tip. Put it in the trip info and make sure everyone knows.
  • We would like to reiterate, Road Scholar programs include customary gratuities you would normally pay yourself. The only gratuities not included in the price of your program are for independently purchased food, drink, and free time activities. Road Scholar staff are not permitted to request tips or organize collections for tips for themselves or other staff. If our tipping policy has been misinterpreted by staff, please make a note of the circumstances on your program evaluation. If someone has gone above and beyond and an individual wishes to offer a gratuities for outstanding service, it should be done privately, and on an individual basis.
  • Just returned from a cruise around the Galapagos through RS. We, too, had the similar experience in wondering about tipping which we thought was included. Our guide was very good and the crew on the boat also. However, Rolf Wittner organization, who owns Tip Top catamarans, includes an informative leaflet in each cabin. In it the matter of tipping is addressed with various suggestions including a possible 10% of the tour cost. Our tour was about $7,000 each and we didn't plan on adding another $1400 to the cost of the tour (part of which did not include the cruise). I think that the boat company should have separate information for those with RS. A small tip yes - but 10%?
  • In reply to lsbarnes45100521:

    Could it be that these leaflets are generic and intended for their other (non-RS) customers? What did your group leader say about this?
  • In reply to lsbarnes45100521:

    Hello lsbarnes45100521,

    Thank you for your comments about your recent experience aboard the Tip Top. The information brochures left in your cabin are there for other clients and do not apply to Road Scholar. We have asked the ship management to refrain from leaving pamphlets requesting tips on Road Scholar sailings, as we do indeed provide tips on all Afloat programs. It is not necessary to leave even a 10% gratuity, because tips are included.

    Sincerely, Your Friends at Road Scholar
  • In reply to Road Scholar:

    I am going on an excursion soon. There is NO information about tipping in the Information Packet- nor do I see such in the customary places one might look on your web site. It was after quite a search through your cranky web site that I came across this rather unhelpful discussion.
    I would suggest to place in the Information Packet:
    1) discussion of tipping: who RS covers, what we might encounter that is not covered;
    2) general tipping info for the area traveled would be helpful and appreciated, but I can research that on my own;
    3) Will we have need to exchange money? And a recommended location to do so.
    I look forward to your timely reply, so we can appropriately prepare. Thank you.