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Norwegian Gratuities On the Rise


If you’re booked to take a Norwegian cruise on a ship that leaves after Saturday, prepare for a little inflation.

Starting Sunday on all sailings, Norwegian’s daily gratuity charges are going up to $12.95 per person ($14.95 if you’re cruising in a suite) and applies even if your cruise is already booked. The increase is less than a buck a day (95 cents) and it’s this cruise line’s first such increase since 2009.

Where does that leave Norwegian in an industry where gratuities are sometimes one of life’s little surprises, except for seasoned cruisers?

Celebrity charges $12 a day, and $15.50 in suites. Carnival also charges $12 and breaks it down for you: $3.90 for stateroom crew, $6.10 for dining room crew and $2 for crew members in the galley, guest services, entertainment. Princess, from the Carnival family, charges $11.50 as does Cunard, another Carnival sibling. Disney does it a little differently, suggesting amounts and breaking them down by length of cruise but in the end — whether it’s three days, four days or seven days — the suggested daily gratuity is $12.

So Norwegian appears to be the first of the mainstream lines to bump it up. There is one break for Norwegian passengers already booked: It stays at $12 if you pre-pay your tips.

Gratuities are always discretionary, but who wants to be the person arguing with the guest services people about why they shouldn’t pay what is already charged to your room?

Today at portsandbows.com: Princess plans for Europe 2016

Carnival Magic
7 nights
April 12, 2015
Galveston (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

Why Cruise Samplers Are Good

Short cruises can be two, three, maybe four days long? Why bother, you ask?

It’s a question we’re often asked…probably in part because we generally go on cruises of a week or longer. Having said that, we did once take a three-day cruise to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Sky, just because we wanted a break from “working” cruises. And guess what we did on those three days?

We worked.

There are other, and several reasons, for the appeal of a short cruise.

For anyone who’s “anti-cruise”, it’s a good way to test the waters…no pun intended. Among the things that non-cruisers fear are seasickness, boredom, crowds, confinement. Three or four days is enough time to dispel the myths, or not.

Time off work. Taking a few days can work for people unable to take time off that’s measured in weeks. The cruise world recognizes that. Most lines now have short cruises, Carnival Breezewhile still offering all the amenities on board and even in port, not to mention plenty of relaxation time. The most popular destinations are Mexico, the Caribbean and, yes, the Bahamas. A short cruise can also be combined with a couple of days on land before or after cruising…if you can squeeze a couple more days out of the boss.

If cost is a factor (and isn’t it always?), three-or-four-day cruises are sometimes available for less than $200 per person. In addition to accommodation, that covers food and entertainment. A port or two may be in the mix, giving cruisers the opportunity to explore on their own or take a shore excursion. For $200, how can you lose?

There’s another reason, too.

Maybe you’ll become like the rest of us. The length doesn’t matter.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news in Canada

Emerald Princess
7 nights
November 30, 2014
Houston (return): Roatan, Belize, Cozumel
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Analysis of a Good Deal in Cruising

Every day, five days a week for the past few years, we have researched and provided you with what we call our “Daily Deal (see below).”

But what’s a deal?

Whether you’re going on a cruise, buying a house or shopping for bananas, there are bargains…and there are bargains. But with cruises, what’s the deal?

We look for deals for ourselves, just like you do. We’re no experts but we once came across some strategies from “Business Travel Tips” when it comes to deciphering the sales pitch:

1. Assume you’ll get a room for at least 25% off the “rack rate” and if you get one for 75% off, that’s definitely a good deal.

2. Cruise lines always advertise their lowest prices, probably an inside stateroom and a shortest cruises.

3. If you get a cruise for somewhere between $75 and $100 a day, it’s likely a good deal, but it’s not an “all-in” price. You WILL spend money on the ship — in the casino, Eclipsebuying shore excursions, gratuities, paying for drinks — soda as well as booze. Our rule of thumb is double the cost and you’ll be close.

4. Don’t dismiss on-board credits — they are valuable. It’s money in your pocket, or at least on your account, which is paid by your pocket.

5. Upgrades are a bonus if you don’t mind being in your room, watching the water go by and not spending.

6. If you’re comfortable with making your own shore excursions, you can make great financial deals, always remembering that the ship that won’t wait for you.

7. Watch for re-positioning cruises, because it’s not for everybody and there are often empty staterooms.

8. As boring as it is, read the fine print — you must know exactly what you’re getting.

And now, today’s deal…

Norwegian Sun
7 nights
September 8, 2014
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $39

Today at portsandbows.com: The battle brewing in Venice

Worried About Port Safety? Read This…

Because so many cruises go to tropical ports, that often includes going to places where poverty is more plentiful than prosperity, especially in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Safety is always a concern. Cruise passengers can be targets for theft…whether you're in a poor country or not. 

Time for 10 tips:

1. Don't wear jewelry when leaving the ship. This comes from people who did, and who had a necklace snatched from the neck in broad daylight.

2. Take only ID that's necessary. Cruise lines often announce that you must take your ship card and "photo ID" when going ashore. Rarely, if ever, have we been asked for photo ID when getting back on a ship. Having said that, if you're told you need photo ID, take it.

3. Take one credit card. Why would you need two?

4.  Write down all the information on the back of your credit card and leave it on the ship.

5. Survey your surroundings, and don't travel alone.

6. Substitute a cheap ring for your wedding ring. This assumes that your wedding ring is not cheap, and that you want to deliver the visual message that you're married.

7. Carry only a small amount of cash. You have a credit card  remember?

8. If you're carrying anything valuable, take a photo of it and leave it behind. Again, the voices of experience.

9. Don't carry a purse or wallet unless it's absolutely necessary.

10. Be cautious about anyone who wants to "help" you. Usually, there is an ulterior motive, sometimes as innocent as making a few bucks by showing you around, but sometimes worse.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: New competitor for international flights

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
September 8, 2014
New York (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $659
Cost per day: $94

It's About 'Gratuities' on Cruise Ships…

The problem with tipping is tipping. When does it start and when does it end. On cruise ships, sometimes you never know. On almost all cruises, you pay "gratuities" up front. End of story? Not necessarily.

On almost all cruises, there's the suggestion that you can tip room stewards, servers, bartenders, spa specialists…something a little extra if you think it's deserved. It's always nice to get permission to do that, but we've also been on cruises where it's more than a hint. Envelopes for you to leave for each of the people who served you — empty until you put something in them.

Princess Cruises just had a taste of how passengers feel about surprise tips, although it wasn't called that.

On the Regal Princess, reportedly without notice, a surcharge of $3 was added to all room service deliveries. A few earfuls later, the cruise line canceled the surcharge, telling one unhappy passenger it was a trial on the Regal Princess.

What do some of the other lines do?

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian add a fee if you order room service between midnight and 5 a.m., and Norwegian charges for pizza delivery.

Holland America's room service is complimentary, 24 hours.

So is Carnival's.

Passengers expect tipping to be covered once they pay gratuities up front. Gratuities are gratuities, right.

Unless you want to give something extra…

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
October 5, 2014
Galveston (return): RoatanBelizeCozumel
Inside: $453
Cost per day: $64

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