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News just in – well, earlier today – is that on cruises from May next year (2019) P&O will no longer be levying the discretionary service charge.

The situation at the moment is that a ‘discretionary service charge’ of £7 a day per adult is added to everybody’s on-board account. It is possible to remove this, by completing a form which is available from guest services. Anecdotally, this has been common practice amongst passengers. From next May the charge will no longer be made.

Of course, it’s the case that passenger-facing crew (cabin attendants, waiters, etc) make most of their money from these discretionary service charges (from now on let’s call them what they always used to be called, i.e. ‘tips’), and presumably P&O has to guarantee some sort of income to the crew. The belief is that because these charges were discretionary, many passengers – or even most passengers – have been removing them and this has affected the crews’ incomes. Presumably, therefore, the cost of the discretion…, sorry, the tips, will be included in the cost of the cruise from May onwards. This, in turn, will tend to increase the price of the cruises, and some people on the P&O Passenger Facebook group are saying that this is already happening. Others, however, are pointing out that the price of cruise holidays does fluctuate anyway, in both directions. And as cruising becomes more popular, prices may well increase. I don’t know what the result will be, but the cynic in me suggests that if the prices are increased to cover the tips, then in fact the increase will actually be rather greater.

One group of passengers will have done well, of course – those who have already booked cruises for dates after May 2019, and who will therefore have already a firm price. They won’t have to pay the tips, nor will the price of their already-booked cruise increase.


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