Reader JA writes: We have always opted to pay extra for a balcony and enjoy it very much. But lately my wife and I have been thinking that if we opted for the less expensive outside cabin, we could afford more cruises. My question is: Do the windows open on most outside cabins?
Art says: My parents used to book an inside room on a pricier ship, on the theory that they weren't going to spend much time in the room. And some f riends of mine stay in the largest room on a lower-priced ship so they will have the extra space and perks. I t's all up to individual preferences. Personally , I love the balconies even if I do not spend a lot of time out there. They allow extra light and you can let the air in if you want (not for a long time; it really messes up the air conditioning). So it is indeed a trade-off. As for opening windows on ships, that's virtually all gone if not totally gone. I haven't been on a ship in the last three years where I could open the window.
Reader JM writes: You didn't clarify what happens if you tip direct. Does the employee have to put that into the pot, or does the person receiving the tip keep it? It's not the first time we have heard about the service on HAL being worse in the past year than in previous years.
Reader BF writes: I think you got it wrong about tipping. On my last two cruises, I was told that if you give it to the waiter or cabin steward, he has to turn the tip in so it will be divided among the staff. I think this is wrong; tipping should be for good service, not to help the cruise lines pay for the help's wages.
Art says: Tipping is always a debatable subject and I enjoy the give and take. I would normally respond to the first writer that tips given directly to the person stay with that person. But, based on the second letter, this may not be the case. So I am going to do some research directly with the lines and get back to you. Also, if you have any personal experience with this, let me know -- not what you've heard, but what you know has happened with tips given directly to crew members. I'd appreciate the information; use my e-address listed above.
Reader HKM writes: I have booked a November cruise aboard the Diamond Princess. This is my first cruise and I would like to know if I am allowed to carry my juices and any waters on board. I realize I will have to purchase water at some point during the seven days, but the spendthrift in me would like to save a couple of pennies.
Art says: I do not think a cruise line would stop someone from carrying on some juice and water unless that person is hauling on cases of it, carried on one's shoulder or on a dolly. But I would ask: Is the schlepping really worth it? I know these items are getting more expensive on board, but compared to the overall price of a cruise, it's still a small percentage.Subject: Cruise line air fares
Reader RS writes: Do not ever use the air offered by cruise lines!
If you ever write an article about using the cruise line's airfare, offer some of my woes. I will never do this again. We have been on 20 cruises, so I'm not stupid when it comes to cruising. But I think I made a BIG mistake this time.
Art says: After that first sentence, RS went on to describe a horrible routing he received when booking air tickets through the cruise line. This was one of several e-mails I received this month on the same subject.
For me, there are two main reasons when you should consider using a cruise line's air program. The f irst, of course, is if the fare is significantly lower than you could get on your own. The s econd is if you're traveling during times of the year or to/from a city where inclement weather may come into play. In this case, if you are booked through the cruise line, they know where you are and will be likelier to help. If you handle your own air booking, you truly are on your own. If you miss the ship, the cruise line will not help.
The downside to using the cruse line's air is routing and seat assignment. You may not like either. And you will not receive the air info until it may be too late to make changes, including upgrades using your frequent flier miles.
One "innovation" I deplore is when a cruise line offers "improved" routing for a surcharge. If it's available, they should use it from the outset, not make it another profit center.
OK, I'm off the soapbox for this month. If you have any comments on these or other issues, please let me know. Send a note to my e-mail address listed above.
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