ABOVE: Captain Michel Fortier and Second
Captain Sandrine Duwell enjoy a laugh on the Sun Deck.
The MS Maribelle has a crew of about 35, of which
slightly fewer than 30 are charged with the care and feeding of up to 154
guests. This is a fairly low crew-to-passenger ratio, but it's more than
adequate for a vessel that lacks the multiple dining rooms and bars, spa, beauty
parlor, casino, production shows, etc. that you'd find on oceangoing resort
During our week aboard the MS Maribelle, my son and I
were impressed by the friendliness, warmth, and dedication of the crew--from the
French-speaking captain and his second-in-command, who took turns doing
everything from steering the ship to operating the gangway hoist, to the
lowest-ranking members of the hotel staff.
Christian Hillebrand, the German hotel manager, projected
a calm authority despite crises that included two medical emergencies. ("I know
300 doctors in France," he confided after a cardiac patient was whisked away to
a hospital by an ambulance in Vienne.) Despite being the boss, Chris helped the
service staff with baggage loading and unloading. He also found time to give a
lecture on shopping and wines, and to co-lead a nighttime walking tour of
Marc Sullivan, the British cruise manager, who displayed
an unflappable patience in organizing activities, coordinating shore excursions,
and answering questions for 116 passengers. Marc's port briefings, lectures, and
French lessons were enhanced by a dry wit and the experience he'd gained through
years of living in France.
In its "Departure Information and Itinerary" booklet, Viking
suggests gratuities of US $10 or €
10 per day for
the shipboard staff and crew. Tips are placed in an envelope and dropped into a
locked box at the reception counter, to be distributed among the staff at the
end of the cruise.
You're also welcome to give extra
tips to any crew members who provided exceptional or special service, and I'd
suggest giving something extra to your housekeeper and any waiters or bar staff
who served you frequently during the cruise. The ship's crew work long hours
seven days a week, and they earn most of their annual income during a short six-
or seven-month season.
If you're spending several thousand
dollars on a cruise, why not round up the pooled tip to €
100 or so per person
and give something extra to those who especially deserve it? Being generous will
make you feel good, and it could mean a new pair of shoes for a waiter's child
or a nicer Christmas for your stewardess's family.