Delighted that D.G. Kaye – Debby Gies is now a regular contributor to the blog with her new Travel Column. Debby is a non-fiction author who has received wonderful reviews for her inspirational memoirs. She also is a seasoned traveler and her book Have Bags Will Travel is packed with useful information and entertaining stories of her own adventures.
Last time Debby shared some important information on cruise lines, the various standards of cabins available, and the best place on the ship to be if the weather is a bit choppy.
You can read that post in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-travel-column-with-d-g-kaye/
Cruises – Part Two – Ship Tips
In my first post in this series I covered what to look for when considering booking a cruise. Today I’m going to cover some of the activities available while on a cruise, and some tips on how to save money when booking those activities.
Many cruise lines offer package deals you can purchase pre-cruise or while onboard such as beverage packages. Yes, it’s true that soda pop, tea, coffee, and some juices are free to drink while onboard, but beer and alcohol, bottled water, specialty drinks and coffees, smoothies, etc. are not part of free.
If you’ve re-booked a cruise on a previous sailing or if you luck into a promo offer at the time of your booking, often cruise liners will offer you bonus incentives at bonus pricing. With Celebrity, their promos change often and depending when you book you will be offered to choose 2 or 3 packages to add on to your cruise FREE. The choices can be anywhere from a drink package (including alcohol), your tips paid for the entire cruise, a $200 – $300 onboard credit (my fav!), or free wifi (rare but I managed to catch one). So do make sure to check on the special offers to get the best bang for your bucks while booking. You can always book a drink package of your choice once onboard, but typically, you’ll get a better deal when pre-booking your packages.
Note: I highly recommend if you aren’t offered a free drink package, to buy one at a reasonable price comparatively to paying for each drink you consume on the whole cruise. Without a prepaid all you can drink package the price of alcoholic beverages and any specialty drinks can add up to well over $1000 if you’re taking a 2 week cruise. For example, premium bottled water will run you close to $4 a bottle. On a hot pool day I have no trouble drinking at least 6-8 bottles a day. And that’s not counting a specialty coffee in the afternoon and a cocktail or two before dinner then wine with dinner. I would have no problem spending at least $80 a day just in beverages!
When purchasing drinks, sundries or any other service related product while onboard, you just use your ship card to make those purchases. The card is your method of payment for anything purchased onboard without having to carry money around. When purchasing service related products, you can expect to see a service charge added to your bill if your purchase isn’t included in a package.
You will also be expected to leave tips at the end of your cruise to your cabin steward and restaurant staff who have served you nightly in the dining room. These tips are pre- calculated on a daily basis and will vary from ship to ship but will typically run at approximately $12 a day per person. This is where choosing the ‘tipping package’ will save you a few hundred dollars, already paid for. Some passengers get angry over this tipping charge and if you find it a problem, you can always go to the front concierge desk and ask them to remove the charges from your room bill. But I will state that the staffers work hard and many long hours daily, so my take is that it’s relatively cheap to tip those amounts compared to if you were to tip every single time you were served food or ordered a drink. My husband and I always drop an extra $20 or more to our favorite or most helpful staff to show our appreciation but use your discretion.
Wifi is available on all ships and unless you were lucky enough to book a free bonus wifi package you will have to purchase separately. You will be able to choose how many days you’d like your wifi for as you may not want to take it for the whole cruise. But if you’re someone who relies on using your mobiles, tablets or laptops daily, I highly suggest you take the package deal offered for the whole cruise, it often works out cheaper.
Alternatively, if you find you’d prefer a technology-free vacation and only wish to check on your emails etc., you can take your device with you off the ship when you’re docked at port and log in at a variety of coffee shops or terminals at ports which offer free wifi. You will also have access to the ship’s internet room where you can use their computer’s free of charge.
There are often lineups to use those computers so use your discretion what is worth more to you.
Sightseeing and beach excursion packages are offered both pre-cruise and onboard for each port. Depending on where you’re cruising to will help you determine if you’re better off booking a planned tour or going off on your own to explore. If you’re new to cruising, it may be a good idea to book a tour with the ship. All tours offer a pick-up and drop-off right outside where your ship is docked. But if you’re a seasoned cruiser like me and are returning to ports you are familiar with you may choose to hire a taxi (plenty at the ports) and perhaps invite another couple to share the ride and go wherever you like for a lot less money.
Taking a taxi to your own choice of destination – be it beaches or shopping, allows you the freedom to take your time and not be rushed to meet back at a bus. Just remember to be back at the designated time the cruise ship posts for sailing. You can go to a beach and pay a nominal fee to rent a beach chair and towel from a hotel or take your own towel and pack a few drinks and/or lunch to take with you and stay on a beach.
If you’re cruising to places other than a warm, winter getaway such as Europe, you will undoubtedly be spending much of your time touring. I would suggest once you’ve chosen your itinerary for that cruise to check out the ship’s offered excursion packages to see what tours they’re offering with all fees included – transportation, meals and entrance fees. It’s also a good idea to check out those tourist avenues online to see if it works out cheaper to book directly with them for entrance tickets and what a taxi would cost to get there.
Oh yes, one of my favorite events on any vacation, but especially fun when cruising to Caribbean islands. The best part of shopping in many of the Caribbean islands is the duty-free prices!
Besides shopping at the ports, there is plenty of shopping to be had right onboard the ship. All ships have various stores on their promenade levels offering anything from clothing to sundries to designer goods, tobacco and alcohol, and of course . . . jewelry! Many of these items are at duty-free prices. You will also find many ports offering duty-free shops of the same with a variety of jewelry stores with prices unmatched anywhere else. So if you’re interested in bringing home a sparkly souvenir from your vacation and want some good recommendations about which stores to shop, you’re ship will offer a channel on your cabin’s TV where they’ll inform you about best places to shop at each port as well as offer seminars onboard with a host who will educate you on the jewelry available at the upcoming port, what is popular on a particular island, and what to look for when purchasing.
I can tell you flat out that your biggest selection of jewelry with the best prices is in St. Martin. The whole Front St. is lined with one jewelry store after another! This can be overwhelming, causing tough decisions about what to buy when all that glitter flashes upon you (ladies) lol.
And words of advice: Never pay the asking price! Bargain, bargain, bargain! Trust me, shop owners hate to see you walk away empty handed so if you’re not thrilled about a price but feel you ‘must have that ring’, try walking out of a store. Once you’ve shown interest in an item believe me, they’ll chase you down the street trying to make you a happy customer.
Offering cash for an item will often bring down the price further. And don’t forget to get an appraisal receipt with your purchase. I promise you, you will be blown away once you bring that item home and take it for appraisal to your own jeweler. Often the savings can be 100% and more! Then once you’ve found that jewelry store you’re happy with, you’re best off to shop there the next time you cruise because you’re in their system and you will become a preferred customer.
I remember the first time my husband and I vacationed in St. Martin. He bought me a gold watch with a diamond face. Okay. This was almost 22 years ago when we paid a paltry $1400 U.S. for that watch (after a few hours of bargaining, leaving and returning to it) and the watch came in at $3500 value once I got home and got it appraised. The prices are amazing because they are wholesale and duty-free without middlemen and taxes. Most seasoned winter cruisers don’t buy jewelry anywhere else until they reach St. Martin because despite jewelry available at many ports, nobody has the selection or prices as St. Martin does. But I will tell you a close second is in St. Thomas.
Note: If you do purchase jewelry and don’t plan on declaring it at customs (stories for another time), ask the salesperson to mail you the receipt and appraisal. Just sayin’!
Here’s a great little video to give you an idea what it’s like shopping in St. Martin
Depending on the cruise line you book with, when you book your cruise you’ll be asked which dinner seating you prefer. Because of the large number of passengers, the main dining room offers 2 seatings to choose from – usually 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm, and in the last few years began offering ‘select’ seating where you can go at anytime during the dinner hours but are forewarned the busiest times are between 6:30 and 7:30, so you may have to wait in line for a while. If you’re on top of things and choose select, you can reserve your chosen time earlier in the day.
Buffet option is also available for all meals, which is a nice option for those nights you don’t feeling like dressing up for dinner and don’t wish to eat a full 3 course meal. There are also specialty restaurants onboard you can reserve to eat at for an additional nominal fee.
Tip: Because meals are included, I rarely eat off the ship. On port days I’ll have my breakfast before disembarking and usually return by early afternoon and then I’ll grab some lunch at the buffet or at the BBQ grill. Just think! The money you save by eating onboard, you can spend on something else.
Beware: Regardless of whether you have a drink package or not, this will never include taking anything out from the mini bar in your cabin. You will pay dearly even for a bottle of water. What I like to do when I check in my room is have the cabin steward empty the fridge, mark everything down of its contents, and place it in a bag in the cupboard to make space for my own drinks I get at any one of the many bars onboard and then store in the mini bar.
This video will give you an idea about some of the food and dining options on a Celebrity cruise
Every ship offers daily and nightly activities. Each night an itinerary of the next day’s events is left in your cabin. Events involve games, contests, specials of the day, nightly theater productions, musical entertainment, wine tasting, theme parties, glass blowing, art auctions, movies, casino tournaments, water sport activities, seminars, library events – you name it, something for everyone.
Note: Not all ships are geared to catering to children. I can say that I’ve hardly seen any kids on a Celebrity cruise. But there are other cruise lines that cater to children offering mini classes, activities, babysitting and kid’s menus. From the feedback I’ve gathered, the Disney ships are magnificent for children.
All ships have spas on board. Some of the best masseuses work on ships. You will find a variety of different massages, hair salon, nail salon, yoga classes and a gym for your convenience.
Tip: The massages aren’t cheap but I always manage to sneak 1 or 2 in for a better price. I always use part of my free onboard credit to put towards a massage. And when the ship is in port and most people are off the ship for the day, the ship will offer a discount on massages and that’s when I book in my second massage.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed my ship tips for today. Next time in Part 3, the conclusion of my cruise series, I’m going to make sure you travel safe with my handy ‘to do’ checklist before traveling. Happy Sailing!
©D.G. Kaye 2018
Another fantastic tutorial on how to best enjoy and get the best value for money during your cruise vacation. I certainly did not know a fraction of this and will take it on board….(sorry).
About D.G. Kaye
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Debby has written a book about her travel adventures – Have Bags Will Travel
About the book
D.G. Kaye is back, and as she reflects on some of her more memorable vacations and travel snags, she finds herself constantly struggling to keep one step ahead of the ever-changing guidelines of the airlines–with her overweight luggage in tow. Her stories alert us to some of the pitfalls of being an obsessive shopper, especially when it comes time for D.G. to bring her treasures home, and remind us of the simpler days when traveling was a breeze.
In her quest to keep from tipping the scales, D.G. strives to devise new tricks to fit everything in her suitcases on each trip. Why is she consistently a target for Canada customs on her return journeys?
D.G.’s witty tales take us from airports, to travel escapades with best friends, to reflections on how time can change the places we hold dear in our hearts. Her memories will entertain and have you reminiscing about some of your own most treasured journeys–and perhaps make you contemplate revamping your packing strategies.
A recent review for Have Bags Will Travel
“Have Bags, Will Travel” is a delightful read on the experiences of travel, fashion, the art of packing suitcases with the emphasis on having a good time. Author, D.G. Kaye details her days on board planes to many popular destinations and her vivacious antics with friends. She also relates her solo travels to exotic destinations with steep cliffs and too much baggage. I particularly enjoyed the details of the by-gone, romantic days aboard Wardair, and the exquisite details of vintage Las Vegas.
A consummate shopper, D.G. Kaye relates her rather humorous run-ins with customs officials. How does it feel to be singled out routinely by airline officials? A read through this humorous pages will give you the insight to these first-hand conflicts.
I would say this might be required reading for shoe connoisseurs and fashion mavens especially if they have a plane ticket in hand. Germ avoidance theory is also discussed, and it may never be possible to look at airplane bathrooms the same.
D.G. Kaye brings back the memories of best friends and blazing trips through the desert. Many readers will identify with the struggles of this stylish lady attempting to blend in to avoid a custom’s mishap. A short and super fun read, “Have Bags, Will Travel” is perfect for your next airplane ride.
Other books by D.G. Kaye
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO
More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye
Connect to Debby Gies
About me: http://www.wiseintro.co/dgkaye7
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@pokercubster (yes there’s a story)
Thank you for dropping in today and please help spread the news of Debby’s travel column and we look forward to your questions and comments. Thanks Sally and Debby