Yachting’s Tipping Culture

27 August 2019 By Lauren Beck

Crew tips can add a nice cushion to your bank account. But tips are not guaranteed — sure, there are guidelines and recommendations, but at the end of the charter, it’s up to guest discretion. (And here’s hoping your charter broker gave them a thorough explanation of how it works.)

Over the years, we have covered many tipping topics ranging from controversies over splitting the tips, tip minimums, or even capping tips. But how much do new crew understand about the tipping culture in yachting? Managing expectations is key to a happy crew life, so we asked a few crew agents to see what it is they share with new crew.

“I hate when crew are only chasing the money and think a busy charter should get them big tips,” says Sue Price, director of operations (U.S.) at Viking Crew. “A tip is not a guarantee, so rather worry about doing a good job and get good references then tips, bonuses, raises, etc. will come.” Of course, as Price points out, you do hear of a handful of crew making a fortune in tips, but she cautions that it does not universally apply to all charter boats. “I tell all the newbies that for their first job, they need to find the right boat for them, which can give them longevity as that is what every captain asks for,” she says. “So whether it is private or charter, they need to go with the best crew and owner fit for them.” She also explains to crew that there is no set tip amount and when it comes to sharing tips, most boats will share equally, but some don’t.

As Rupert Connor of Luxury Yacht Group explains, they provide their charter captains with tipping guidelines, but there’s no standard. If asked, he says, their standard advice would be: “Tipping is a positive bonus to the industry, but never accept a job based upon the promise or potential of tips.” A general rule, Connor says, tips between five and 15 percent of the charter value are received on charter — “but nothing is guaranteed.” Connor also points out that, “Tips are generally split evenly between all crew. If you are working on a charter boat, ask the captain how he splits the tips.” His last bit of advice — “Save tip money in a ‘rainy day’ fund.”

Hill Robinson echoes some of Connor’s same advice. “If they ask, we advise that tips/gratuities range from five to fifteen percent of the base charter fee, depending on the yacht and the location,” says Donna Murray, global recruitment manager at Hill Robinson. She also points out that these numbers can be found in the MYBA tipping policy guidelines, which also advises against soliciting tips from guests. “There are a number of factors that come into consideration when guests come to tip at the end of a charter, including their overall experience and the attitude of the crew on board,” Murray says. “Other contributing factors may include the culture and customs of the charter guests.”

Sharon Rose, crew recruitment manager at bluewater, says they don’t really offer much advice on tipping. “We usually say that tips aren’t always obligatory and mostly they are found on charter vessels,” she says. “The captain will normally get the tips at the end of the charter and he will divide it out evenly to all crew. All crew work as hard as each other even if their role is not as visible to guests as others.”

It is customary for the tips to be given to the captain for distribution to the crew. “This is to avoid any unfairness on board, including those that work behind the scenes just as hard,” Murray says. “If the captain is in control of the tip distribution, everyone is then equally rewarded for their efforts.” She also advises crew not to accept individual tips.

“We split all the tips equally,” says Capt. Ron Woods of M/Y Mia Elise. “I have fifteen crew and everyone gets the same amount.” He has protocols in place to make sure that there’s no room for doubt that tips are evenly split — his chief officer and/or the chief stewardess are present when tips are divided. “That way, there isn’t any chance anyone feels like they may have gotten less than another crewmember,” he says.

On his boat, you only get one chance. “If a crew member doesn’t pull their weight on the charter, they will still get their share of the tips but will not be on board for another trip,” he says. “Fortunately, I have an amazing crew and we rarely have issues with that happening.”

“I also say the one thing yachting has is money and with hard work and longevity, you can achieve more money regardless of tips,” says Price. The bottom line — or your bottom line, perhaps — is that tips are not guaranteed, and attitude affects everything.