Highway across the Serengeti? Cruise lines' tipping policies.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 429th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

Bartender on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas.

In editing Lew Toulmin’s article for this month’s “The Cruising World” column, I found a statement that contradicted one I made in my September ’11 column. He wrote, “… no new giant megaships are on the horizon.” I had claimed that four more would be launched by 2015.

I am changing my definition of what a “mega cruise ship” is and am throwing my hat in with Lew’s. To be considered a megaship, the main criterion is it’s too big to traverse the Panama Canal (the original canal, that is; a new set of larger locks is under construction alongside the original and scheduled to become operational in 2014-2015). Also, a megaship would carry something like 5,000 or more passengers, not a “mere” 4,100 or more at maximum capacity.

I also was way off in stating, “… excluding river cruisers and expedition ships, there are 45 cruise ships sailing the seas and oceans.” I thank Maureen Patrick of Margate, Florida, for bringing that error to my attention. We’re still researching what the total number is, but, depending on the definition of a seagoing cruise ship, it’s at least a hundred more than what I claimed. A huge industry!

 

Previously, plans were announced to build a two-lane road across part of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania (June ’11, pg. 69), then the government said that, instead, an alternate route south of the park would be used for the trade highway (Aug. ’11, pg. 2).

Well, in a speech to residents of the Mara region on Sept. 18, Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said, “We will tarmac the road up to the gates on both sides (of the park).” He assured the rural communities near the park that the development of the road, named Makutano Juu-Mto wa Mbu, would encourage investment in the area. He also claimed that the construction will not damage the park.

It’s a good bet that one undeveloped section of a paved highway would eventually get paved.

Apparently, Global mining firms are interested in investing in the area between Lake Victoria and the Serengeti only if it can be linked by highway with the rest of the country. Pinda urged leaders in the Mara area to look at economic opportunities other than mining, perhaps finding investment to improve the Musoma airport, construct more tourist lodges or develop the livestock sector.

Also in September, the East African Court of Justice ruled that it would hear a case of a Kenya-based conservationist group that filed an injunction against construction of the road through the Serengeti. The Tanzanian government had challenged the case as being out of the court’s jurisdiction because countries have a sovereign right to develop infrastructure.

The court ruled that the case would not impinge on the right of Tanzania to develop infrastructure but only would determine if this particular construction project was appropriate for a park that shares a border with Kenya and is governed under a joint treaty.

 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress on Sept. 13 that, at some point, the US Transportation Security Administration will no longer require passengers to remove their shoes at security checkpoints in airports, but she left the date unspecified. Nevertheless, rumors spread that the policy had changed. It has not.

The goal is to have shoe-scanning machines installed in airports by 2015, but no decision has been made about even which type of machine to use.

She did say that in the next few months, a change would be made in the screening procedures for children. Those age 12 and under will no longer have to remove their shoes and will be screened in ways other than the “pat-down.” It may involve marching them through metal detectors multiple times or swabbing their hands for explosives.

Also, in a pilot program scheduled to begin at year’s end at selected US airports, the few members of the “known traveler” program (frequent flyers who have provided personal information to the federal government and met the qualifications) will be allowed to keep their shoes on and their laptops in their carry-ons. They still will have to go through the metal detectors and have their bags x-rayed.

 

Seeing that Crystal Cruises is going “all inclusive” as of spring 2012 — meaning that alcohol on board its two ships will be complimentary and that passengers will prepay gratuities to housekeeping, dining and bar staff — I asked ITN staff to research the tipping policies of most major cruise lines.

This was done in August, and, as it turned out, when the cruise lines were loosely grouped into four categories, the tipping policies within each were, in most cases, similar.

• The first category, with various types and sizes of seagoing ships, is luxury cruise lines, including Azamara Club Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Paul Gauguin, Peter Deilmann Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silverseas Cruises and Windstar Cruises.

Most of these lines have “no tipping, fully inclusive in price” policies. (The fare they advertise includes gratuities.) These lines allow you to give personal tips but remind you that it’s not necessary. With most, no gratuity is expected in the bars.

Exceptions — Crystal Cruises (until spring 2012) and Peter Deilmann Cruises suggest giving $5 per person per day (pppd) to your steward and to your waiter and $3 pppd to the busboy; Compagnie du Ponant does the same, suggesting €10 pppd. (Those three lines still have the old-style tipping policy.) Oceania Cruises and Windstar Cruises will add on, respectively, $12.50 and $11 pppd at the end of the cruise; the amount can be adjusted on board. Crystal Cruises and Windstar Cruises add a 15% service charge on bar tabs.

• The next category comprises mostly big-ship lines, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Saga Cruises (a division of Saga Holidays) and Thomson Cruises.

With most of these, set gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account at the end of the cruise to be dispersed from a pool to employees. (The advertised cruise fares may not reflect the gratuities that will be collected — in the same manner that advertised airfares may not reflect all of the extra fees that will be collected.) All these lines allow you to adjust the tipping amount on board; contact the purser to change how much you wish to give overall or to certain individuals. Additional tips to particular staff members are discretionary and can be paid in cash or added to your shipboard account. With most, bars on board add a 15% service charge.

Exceptions — P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean International (with the old-style tipping policy) make tipping suggestions only and does not automatically collect gratuities. Saga Cruises and Thomson Cruises have “no tipping, fully inclusive in price” policies.

• Next are soft-adventure cruise lines and cruise companies, including Abercrombie & Kent, American Safari Cruises, Celebrity Xpedition (under Royal Caribbean Cruises), Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Oceanwide Expeditions, Orion Expedition Cruises, Star Clippers, Voyages of Discovery and Zegrahm Expeditions.

Most of these have suggested tipping amounts to be paid at the end of the cruise with cash or through your onboard account. You will either pay into a pool and it will be doled out to staff (and you can add extra for certain individuals) or you will tip individual staff members one on one. With most, tips to bartenders are at your discretion.

Exceptions — Abercrombie & Kent, Celebrity Xpedition, Hurtigruten, Voyages of Discovery and Zegrahm Expeditions have “no tipping, fully inclusive in price” policies.

• Last are river cruise and barge companies, including AMAWaterways, Avalon Waterways, European Waterways, French Country Waterways, Grand Circle Travel, Tauck World Discovery, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Value World Tours, Victoria Cruises and Viking River Cruises.

As with the soft-adventure lines, gratuity amounts are suggested and paid one on one or into a pool. With most, tips to bartenders are at your discretion.

Exception — Tauck World Discovery has a “no tipping, fully inclusive in price” policy.

 

For a week’s stay in Accra, Ghana, in August ’11, Quincy Crider of Bland, Missouri, took along $1,500 in US currency, mostly 50s and 20s. When his plane reached Accra, one of three international flights landing at about the same time, no currency-exchange window was open at the airport.

The Barclays bank in Accra would not exchange his dollars for Ghanaian cedis, as he had no Barclays account. He was staying in the Pink Hostel, but he found that the large Palomar Hotel would exchange his bills… well, some of them.

The hotel’s bank accepted only the new bills, those printed as of 2003/2004, and rejected older bills that had the smaller portraits on the front and fewer anticounterfeiting features. Quincy told ITN that although he cashed only about $300 worth, about half the bills he presented were “no good.” (He continued on to Amsterdam, where this was not a problem.)

Quincy wants to know where else travelers have had older US bills rejected. Write to Rejected Currency, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com.

 

Leslie High-Smith of San Marcos, Texas, sent in the names and addresses of two travelers and wrote, “I love ITN and have been a subscriber for over 20 years. I donate to our local library every year, specifying the travel books I want them to purchase, and an ITN subscription is at the top of the list. The first year, the librarian told me that several patrons commented on how much they enjoyed ITN. I think my friends will love it as much as I do. Please, send them each a sample copy.”

Paula Prindle of Orient, Ohio, wrote us a nice note: “My favorite Christmas gift ever was a Lifetime Subscription to ITN. It is actually one of the few that stick in my mind.”

A nice stocking stuffer — someone you know would enjoy even a three-year ITN subscription! With a gift subscription, a gift card is sent in your name. For special requests (having the gift card or an extra copy of ITN sent to you to wrap, for instance), call 800/486-4968. — DT