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October 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Thumbs Down: AquaCat

from the October, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After Undercurrent subscriber Henry C.Campbell (Tacoma, WA) attended the Dive Equipment Manufacturers Association conference in 2006, dive operator AquaCat Cruises sent him a flyer, offering a special discount on a Bahamas cruise with its Blackbeard’s Cruises division. The regular retail rate was $1,995 per person but because Campbell was a dive professional, he was offered a spot for $1,095. Then he found out about the $300 gratuity he was supposed to pay in advance.

An AquaCat agent contacted him after he had booked, stating prepaid tips for crew were mandatory. Campbell said no thanks and canceled. “They never said up front how much the tip was,” he says. “Then they e-mail later saying I have to pay the tip ahead of time. Why don’t they just say the trip is $1,385?”

AquaCat Cruises does not mandate pre-paid tips on regular- priced cruises, but does so for the discounted cruises offered to dive professionals, charging them 15 percent of the non-discounted trip price. “We have learned that people tend to base their crew gratuity on the price they pay rather than on the value of the trip,” says spokesperson Beth Olivera. “For this reason, we require all non-revenue or reduced-priced passengers to prepay the tip based on 15 percent of the trip value. In the liveaboard industry, crews rely heavily on gratuity for income and if tips are based on this lower amount, employees are the ones who suffer.” Olivera says this fact was listed on the flyer Campbell received.

AquaCat’s required tip came to 30 percent of the price, and that rubbed Campbell the wrong way, just as it did us. Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics. Why not just charge $1,385 and say gratuities are included? Or charge $1,195 and add a 15 percent service charge? Either way would be a lot more customer-friendly than demanding a tip – what one should give after they get good service – in advance.

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