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November 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Etiquette of Tipping on Dive Trips: Part II

are Americans just good tippers or total suckers?

from the November, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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In August, we wrote how our subscribers, a worldly group of divers, tip on their dive travels, how much, and to whom. Many report being uncertain and even frustrated about how to handle this sensitive matter. And the farther they travel from the U.S or Canada, the more frustrating it gets.

If you're diving in Florida or Hawaii, you might think differently about tipping than if you're in, say, Indonesia. No American in that crew is going to work for Indonesian wages, so there is a pay disparity. If you're not from a tip-happy country like the U.S. or Canada, you may not think about it at all. But for North Americans, the wage difference makes it hard to know how much of a tip is too much.

$500 Tips per Person on Indonesian Liveaboards?

Consider the luxurious and highly regarded Dewi Nusantara in Indonesia, which carries 18 guests and is served by 22 crew. There are 18 bunks, the least expensive currently being $6,855 for an 11-night trip, but assuming they were all filled at that price by Americans, who will probably go along with the recommended tip of 10 percent of the trip price (although, see the boat owner's comments farther below about tipping), then the tipping pool will have about $12,330 in it. That would be about $560 per crewmember, if everyone gets an equal slice. On that amount, crew members could be kings of their villages.

Do you think that's what happens? Or would you think the person who cleans the cabins or loads the tanks gets maybe $100 (typical pay for these people in Indonesia is less than $250 a month), while the dive guides get $2,000? Is it possible that only $10,000 is shared on the boat and the rest goes elsewhere? You can ask, but can you ever be certain of the response? And when you consider that white-collar jobs may average from $500 to $1,200 a month in Indonesia, one must wonder whether these workers are getting $560 tips for every 11-day cruise.

A liveaboard in Europe is a different matter. My wife and I recently went on a Danube River cruise, where the recommended tip for the employee tip pool was $19 a day, per person (two percent of the total cost, for an average of $82 per crew member). They also suggested tipping those who provided excellent service, to whom I added the maid and our meal server. I ended up tipping $233 on a $6,500 bill, or four percent. Afterward, we hiked five days in Italy with Backroads, an American company, which cost $3,900 per person. The suggested tip was $190 per hiker (less than five percent) to be divided among three guides. Both amounts were considered adequate for each leg of my Europe trip, where every worker is paid a fair wage, and a tip is to thank some for good service, not to supplement their income. When have you seen a suggested tip of two percent on a dive boat -- or in an American restaurant?...

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