Everyone’s got their hand out.

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I’m going on a cruise pretty soon. No, I’m not telling you when. You’ll find out soon enough, because there will be copious pictures. I like cruises; I haven’t been on one in ten years, but they are a great way to experience the world and have fun. Thankfully, unlike some other vacations, most everything is paid for before you go. You really don’t need any money once you board the ship, unless you want to drink or gamble. If that’s your thing, knock yourself out, but I don’t do much of either. For what people charge for drinks, I can buy a bottle of good hooch and get way more wasted much cheaper. Gambling to me is more of a spectator sport. We play the nickel or dime slots, but nothing involving throwing tons of money down the tubes. I like to watch the craps players, though. Those people run through some cash. However, most of it is going down the little slot in the edge of the craps table, not into their pockets.

So if you don’t drink, don’t gamble, and don’t buy lots of crap like shirts and shot glasses in port, you don’t need much money. You don’t even have to carry cash for tips any more. They add those automatically to your onboard account. In one sense, that good, because you don’t have to have envelopes full of cash waiting around to the end of the trip, and you don’t accidentally put them through the little slot at the edge of the craps table. On the other hand – since they are doing it for you, you don’t have much choice in the matter.

See – we never tipped the Maitre’ D in the past. Seriously, what does he do? I never saw him, but I’m supposed to tip him almost as much as the waiter? No thanks. Same with the head waiter… why should he get as much as the guy doing the real work coming to the table? The room steward always got the best tip, if only because it’s a nice idea not to let these people get disgruntled, as they are in charge of getting your bags off the boat at the end of the trip. Unless you want your suitcase floating in the bay instead of resting on the pallet on the dock, tip the room steward.

I’m okay with those guys. They do a lot of hard work and put up with snooty assholes that don’t understand manual labor. I worked in restaurants, I at least know what the waiter is feeling, and living with my kid, I know the pain of the room steward.

Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones with their hands out. The whole country is tip crazy. There are tip jars everywhere, everyone thinks they deserve extra pay just for doing their job. I wish we would abolish the whole practice, except maybe for waitresses. Why should I supplement someone’s crappy payroll budget by paying for the employees directly? Pay your people a decent wage and get rid of the tip jar.

So – you don’t really need money on ship any more. But watch out if you get off the boat. Sooner or later you will, and you’ll probably go on one of those ship-arranged shore excursions. So, you pay some slightly inflated fee for a guy to drive you around the island on a bus and point out monuments or beaches or something, and at the end out comes the hand. Wait, I just paid 69.95 for adults, and 59.95 for kids for you to drive me around and point out the old sugar mills and Spanish forts for an hour or two. Why do you deserve a tip? That’s why I paid the 69.95 and 59.95 respectively. The bus holds 20 tourists. At 70 bucks a pop you’re making plenty to avoid the necessity for tips. You want a tip, then do something special, not just your job. Go inside the rum distillery and bring out a few samples, take us on a side trail overlooking the nude beach and loan us your binoculars, help us sneak some shells back through customs (yes, in some places you can’t remove washed up shells and coral – it’s ridiculous. I have a piece in my bathroom from some island; I was scared to death I was going to wind up in jail with the other smugglers – them with their coke and cash and weed, and me with my coral).

Hey, if you’re the scuba instructor and you fire a spear gun at the shark sneaking up behind me, you get a tip. But if I go down to the reef, breathe through the hose and come back up, that’s what’s SUPPOSED to happen. If you take us to “stingray city” and hand out free morphine before you pull the bard out of my thigh, again, you get a tip. But if we feed the things and leave, you earned your $99.99 plus tax, what else is there to do?

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