The issue of when to tip and how much to tip causes a great deal of anxiety, especially on dive-boats when there is a mix of nationalities on board.
Although some dive operations try to establish a tipping convention and suggest that a certain percentage is “normal,” there is actually no established etiquette for tipping in the dive industry, just as there is no worldwide agreement on the culture of tipping.
Some people tip heavily, some tip a little, some do not tip at all.
Tanks or cylinders? Honestly, does it matter? [We use both at DIVER – occasionally, even bottles!]
No matter how attractive their lifestyle seems, dive-industry employees do work long hours and are not well-paid. So tips are much appreciated.
Most dive operations do not add an automatic service charge to the bill. Like many restaurants, dive-operators often prefer that you place your tip in a gratuities box so that it can be shared out among everyone, including backroom staff such as technicians and office workers, who you probably won’t have met but who contributed just as much to the experience you enjoyed as the “front of house” staff such as divemasters and instructors.
However, if your trip was enhanced considerably by the performance of one or more specific individuals, then you should not feel at all awkward at giving them a personal gratuity. It’s then up to them if they choose to add it to the general tip pool or otherwise.
Regarding how much to tip, the best advice I can give is this: don’t fret about doing the right thing or causing offence. Neither should you concern yourself about what others in your group are doing. Tips should be a personal decision.
I usually advise those who ask me to tip dive-industry employees the sort of percentage they’d pay for good service at a restaurant back home, adding more if they feel the service was extraordinary.