Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays

Happy holidays

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones, regardless of the holiday you celebrate!  I truly hope 2012 was a wonderful year for you and I wish you a fulfilling and joy-filled 2013!

 

Bill.

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Tipping, not chipping away (at your wallet)

Tipping is one of the most often asked questions related to cruise travel. I have addressed tipping policies in earlier blog entries. I came across this great article from Vacations to Go which I’m adding here.  Great insight on information you need to know around tipping and the major cruise lines:

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 I believe cruising is the easiest way to see the world, but there is one part of the cruise experience that can cause anxiety for otherwise carefree passengers — tipping. Here’s a look at how tipping is handled by each of the world’s major cruise lines.
On most cruise lines, but not all, gratuities are expected and encouraged. The traditional tipping procedure is to hand cash gratuities to the service staff on the last full day or evening of the cruise. For longer itineraries, tipping on a weekly basis may be the norm. The cruise lines that follow this tipping procedure are American Cruise Lines,BlountDisneyHurtigrutenLindbladPonantRoyal CaribbeanStar ClippersUniworldViking River Cruises and Voyages of Discovery.

Passengers on most of these lines are encouraged to tip their cabin steward and dining room waiter $3.50 to $5.00 per passenger, per day, and their assistant waiter/busboy should be tipped $2.00 to $3.00 per passenger, per day. On most ships, tip the maitre d’ or dining room captain about $5 to $10 (total) only if you ask for special favors or tableside service.

It is customary to tip bartenders and wine stewards 15%, and many cruise lines automatically add this gratuity to the bar or beverage bill. Gratuities for special services such as spa treatments are left to the discretion of the guest, but 15% is considered typical.

The growth of freestyle dining and alternative restaurants put pressure on this system. Because passengers on many ships now dine when and where they wish and do not return night-after-night to the same table, they may rightfully resist handing a week’s worth of tips to the waiter and assistant waiter they happen to end up with on the last night of the cruise.

That’s why many cruise lines opt to automatically charge tips, usually $10 to $12 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts and divide the total among all dining room personnel, cabin stewards and others who are involved in serving passengers. These lines include CarnivalCelebrityCostaCruise & Maritime VoyagesCunard,Fred. OlsenHolland AmericaMSCNorwegianOceaniaP&OPrincess and Windstar.

If a passenger feels that the amount automatically charged to his or her account should be adjusted higher or lower based on the service received, the cruise line will make that adjustment when the bill is settled at the end of the cruise. These amounts do not cover tips for bartenders and wine stewards, which are generally 15% added to the beverage bill at the time of service.

A few cruise lines specifically state that gratuities are included in the cruise fare and that tips are neither expected nor encouraged. AzamaraCrystalHebrideanOrion,Paul Gauguin CruisesRegentSeabournSeaDreamSilverseaSwan Hellenic and Voyages of Antiquity fall into this category. Even on these lines, some passengers still tip for outstanding service or special favors.

Does any tipping policy tend to encourage better service than the others? Even seasoned cruisers disagree on this one, but most people who email me on the subject are in favor of the traditional method of rewarding individuals directly or rolling all gratuities into the upfront price.

By knowing the cruise line’s tipping policy prior to boarding, the only thing that you will have to worry about at the end of your cruise is returning to reality.

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Happy Travels!

Bill.

Top 10 Topics: Activities on board

This concludes the series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.


dance show on boardActivities on board (topic 10 of 10)

 

There are numerous activities on board a cruise ship, and best of all, most of them are included in your cruise fare!  You should really carve out some time to enjoy some of the top-notch activities such as comedy shows, musical performances, talent shows and so on.

 

money saving ideaTips & Tricks: 

  •  Do some advance research on the Cruiseline’s web site on what types of shows and activities to expect.  Keep in mind most of them are “free” – or actually included in your cruise fare cost.
  • The best thing is to take 5-10 minutes each night during the cruise to look over the daily activities letter/pamphlet that is delivered to your room each evening.  This letter tells you all the activities and times for the following day.  Spend a few minutes with the others in your party to roughly plan what you want to do the following day.
    I say roughly, because remember, you are on vacation, so you do not have to have a minute-by-minute strict agenda, just relax, enjoy and try to catch the activities that interest you!  You can always split your party into like-minded sections to enjoy items of similar interest.
  • One final thing, remember most of the “free” contest prizes and giveaways require you to be present to win, so accommodate for that in your schedule if you enter any of these.

Top 10 Topics: Wi-fi and Internet

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.


wifi on boardWi-fi and Internet (topic 9 of 10)

I cannot stress enough the value to your body, mind and soul of an “unplugged” vacation.

However, many of us have to deal with reality and the kids/pets/family/others left onshore when we cruise, and the desire, no, NEED, to stay in touch.  So, a common question in cruise ship travel is “what are internet costs on a cruise ship?”  Or, “Can I get wifi/internet on a cruise?”  The quick answer is “it costs”, and “yes, for most cruise ships”.

First, realize that you are in the middle of the ocean, or far removed from most land towers, and oh yeah, on a ship!  So let’s set expectations:

  •  Do not expect the speed/bandwidth to be as good as it is on land
  • The quality and speed of service will vary from ship to ship and also depends on where you are (in the world).
  • Of course the costs will be more expensive than you pay on land.


money saving ideaTips & Tricks: 

  • Make your browser lean – adjust your browser settings to “low graphics” or “no graphics” if you can, this will enable faster browsing.
  • Have bookmarks or saved links of any sites you may need to get to.  This avoids wasted time and costs of searching online to find a link.
  • Make sure you have the passwords and logins you will need, e.g. to your webmail accounts.  Practice getting to your webmail while on land so it will be smooth and efficient while at sea.
  • Be aware of quiet or signal-dead zones on the ship – see your particular cruise line and ship for details on where these are located on the ship.  Conversely, some ships have designated hot spots that are best (or only) choices for connectivity.
  • Consider planning ahead and using internet cafes at ports of call, they will usually cost less than on board.

Top 10 Topics: Phone calls

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.


tin cup phonePhone calls (topic 8 of 10)

Cruises are all-inclusive to an extent, since the cost includes your lodging, entertainment, meals and other fun activities. However, one area where you have to beware is when it comes to communicating with the outside world.

It is very expensive  to make phone calls from a cruise ship. Rates and policies change all the time so it’s pointless to list them here, but here are some general guidelines.

  • Personal cell phone: To use your cell phone while on board, contact your cell phone carrier (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) BEFORE you leave on your cruise.  Most likely then will have to enable your phone for international calling. You can expect to pay about $2.50 per minute for voice calls, $0.50 for texts.
  • Calling cards: You may want to use calling cards from a port of call. This may be a good option, but again do your homework in advance.  Your calling card may not work from outside the US.
  • Soft Phones:  This refers to a phone program on a computer device from which you can place calls.  This may be a great alternative, but remember you will have to pay the wi-fi/internet costs for being on the internet.
  • Ship Phone: Using the cruise line’s phone: used to be extremely expensive, but may be comparable to your cell phone costs, so compare the two, then decide.


money saving idea Tips & Tricks: 

  • Disable your phone’s data and cellular roaming capabilities before you board – especially if you have a smart phone!  Many apps will utilize data or cellular capabilities in the background and you do not want a nasty surprise when you get back home and see your next phone bill!  Check your phone manual or call your carrier if you’re unsure how to do this.  If all else fails, totally power OFF your phone during your cruise.
  • If you’re worried about family members back on shore, have them send you texts occasionally to give you peace of mind that all is well.  Texts are much cheaper and that way you can call only if you need to.
  • Purchase an internet package from the Cruiseline and utilize emails instead of phone calls for communicating.

Top 10 Topics: Cabin Choices

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.


ship cabin suiteCabin Choices (topic 7 of 10)

Hands-down the best way to way to pick a suitable cabin is to work with your travel agent.  We have detailed deck plans and can do over very best to get you the best cabin and cabin location within your budget.  Wouldn’t you hate to end up in a cabin right next to the elevators, or right below a dance floor?


Tips & Tricks: 

Always get the best cabin your budget will allow, you will not regret it!  Most people don’t realize that you can often get an upgraded cabin for just a few dollars more per day!

Always choose an outside cabin with a port, window or balcony.  The views are worth it!

Top 10 Topics: Art Auctions

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.



art auctionArt Auctions 
(topic 6 of 10)

There are many fine pieces of art for sale and they do a great job of creating an exciting atmosphere.  Just be careful on your bidding, know what you’re buying.


Tips & Tricks: 

Keep in mind which art does not include the framing, as this will add considerably to your overall cost!  As I mentioned, be careful what you are bidding on, as it is very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of an auction and throw caution to the wind.
Finally, be realistic, art may look great on the auction floor, but may not fit your home’s style or decor.

Top 10 Topics: Shore Trips

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.


leaving ship Shore Trips (topic 5 of 10)

There are numerous exciting things to do at every port of call, and you absolutely should do as many as your budget allows.  This way you maximize your vacation by having adventures and experiences in exciting places, as well as learn more about the local culture.


Tips & Tricks: 

Most people book their shore trips while onboard the ship.  I strongly encourage you work with your travel agent  (shameless plug: like me!) to do some research and decide on options in advance.  You will save money over the cruiseline’s shore trips, and perhaps more importantly, have less people on your tour/trip – which means smaller, more intimate tours and shorter lines!

Top 10 Topics: Shopping at ports of call

This continues a series of articles I created to provide some useful and money-saving tips and tricks for you!  If you wish to get my complete white paper with the entire “Top 10” content, just email me at blabbon@cruiseshipcenters.com.  I will sign you up for my Expedia CruiseShipCenters mailing list and send you the white paper.

shopping Shopping at ports of call (topic 4 of 10)

This goes without saying but expect “tourist trap” prices at the numerous shops & stalls, especially right in or near the port where you dock.


 

 

Tips & Tricks: 

Caveat emptor! Be careful what you buy, as there are no returns or guarantees for the most part.  You can always haggle prices as well, but you may find certain ports will have a sort of local price-fixing in place where the vendors won’t budge on their prices.  Also, make sure you know the legal ramifications prior to shopping.  For example, in the Caribbean, the store owners may tell you that you are allowed to bring back a certain number of cuban cigars into the USA – not true – cuban cigars are illegal!!  You will have to fill out a customs declarations form and go through customs when you return to the US.

money saving idea If you can get away to where the locals shop & dine, you can usually get better prices.  Safety should be your first priority though, so make sure you know who you are going with (see no. 5 – Shore Trips section).

Another great tip – many times the cruiselines may have clearance-type sales on the last evening of the cruise.  So you may want to wait till then to buy something you’ve got your eye on.  Best thing is to ask at guest services and they can tell you what sales are planned in advance. 

One final shopping tip – don’t always assume that the shore prices at ports of call will be less expensive than on the ship.  Sometimes the duty-free prices on the ship may be cheaper than the shops at the ports of call.