We are taking the Constellation on a European cruise this fall, leaving Sept 23 out of Barcelona. I like to charge what I can to my credit card but I've found out so far that I can't charge tips to my shipboard account. I have some other areas that I figure I need cash and plan to draw Euros at an ATM when I get there. I feel I need cash for:
The rest I plan to put on my credit card if I am able to charge shore excursions to my shipboard account as I have been able to do on other ships. I presume shipboard photos can be charged too. Any meals we have on our pre and post stays in Barcelona will probably be charged too.
Also, does anyone know how the shipboard account is handled? I presume that if it is handled in Europe, my card will be charged in Euros so for that and other credit card charges I should forget about my FF Flyer miles, where I'd pay a 3% fee in addition to conversion costs and use my MBNA card that only charges the 1% that Visa and MasterCard levy to the bank.
Everything that is charged to your sign & sail card is in US$. Check with Celebrity too, as you may be able to get a cash advance on your ATM or Credit Card that is assigned to your sign & sail in the Casino; example you want cash to "gamble" with. How you use $$ it is your business. Don' forget your advance fees though. When we cruised 9 ports in 6 different countries in Europe, of course the Euro was not effective. I pre-purchased $50 US in 6 countries currencies; Dutch Gilder, French Franc, Italian Lira, Spanish Paseta, Portuguese Escadaro (currency ?), and Belgium currency. The only country that I had to buy more $$ was Dutch for Amsterdam where we stayed and took tours on our own. Due to currency and languar concerns, we booked primarily ship's tours, so little or no additional monies were needed. I used credit cards where I could. Occassionally you will want to buy a small souvenir or refreshments, and they won't take the Credit Card. I always buy Post Cards, just in case my pictures don't come out and tip in US$ for tour guides, as they like that too. In addition to the European currencies, I carried $100 in $2 bills for tipping purposes only. I would just take about $10 worth with me each day, so I wasn't carrying a lot of cash. I always left the other currencies in our safe too. I found the AAA office to be the most convenient place to get my foreign currencie at a very reasonable rate. Get rid of coins in Europe unless you want souvenirs. You can't turn them back in once you get home. Of course you can buy currency on Board ship, but who wants to spend vacation in a "bank line"? I also found an American Express Office to be the most favorabel exchange rate and easiest to deal with when exchanging money abroad.
We never made it to Barcelona (Fuel Strike had the Port closed to ships!) If there are any questions you may have about your ports of call and things to do, please email me.
1. Take your tip money plus $150-$200 US in cash. Put it in the safe in hotels and on the ship.
2. Assign your ship card to whatever credit card is wonderful for you. The ship account will be charged and billed to the credit card in dollars. No conversions.
3. Take $150-$200 in Euro notes. If you're stopping someplace that's not yet on the Euro, don't worry too much about it. They'll probably take dollars or credit cards. If not, change a $20 or a few Euros at the bank (carry your passport!).
4. If you need more Euros, get them at any ATM using your bank ATM card (not a credit card!).
5. Off the ship, put everything you can (except ATM cash) on your credit card.
Assuming you pay your credit card bill in full within the grace period, this ought to be pretty much the cheapest and most convenient way to pull it off.
Thanks to both replies. I'm glad to hear the shipboard account is US$ so there is no conversion. For that I'll use my card that gets FF miles. For credit card purchases in Euros, I'll use my MBNA credit card - miles are not worth the extra 2% Citibank levels.
What about the money I need for onboard tips? The usual tipping is $3.50/day/pp for the room steward and waiter and $2/day/pp for the assistant waiter. That comes to almost $200. Do I tip them that amount in Euros? I don't want to bring a lot of US$ with me. I intend to get the Euros from an ATM when I arrive, like at the airport. I wish I could charge the tips to the shipboard account as I could on Princess and Crystal.
We will be in Spain, France, Italy and Malta - I think they are all on the Euro. I've heard that in many countries the US$ is preferred to the Euro by some folks, like Taxi drivers and such. Is this true?
Even in Europe I've always tipped in US $. It's just easier. You're not screwing around figuring out the exchange. As I said, bring the greenbacks with you and just throw them in the safe. I think most people do that. Keeping life simple is the key. You don't want to be spending your time dealing with administrivia.
BTW, yes you can, and in most cases must charge everything except tips to your ship account. This includes ship tours, booze, shopping on board, gambling, photos, spa stuff, art purchases, whatever. This obviously works out better for you, because since the charges are not transferred to your credit card until the end of the cruise, it may well increase your float time (no pun intended) if the cruise extends across the cycle date.
Frank is correct to tip in US$ and the $200 amount is a ballpark figure depending on your tipping preferences and the number of days you are on the ship. With a longer European cruise, you may skip a few nights in the dining room (room service/alternate dining). This was the only cruise where I did adjust my daily amount for the dining room staff as we didn't eat there at all on several days. Again, this is personal choice or we tipped at the Alternative resturant (Olympic on Millennium).
Just FYI, Malta is not in the Euro area (though Spain, France and Italy are). While that doesn't mean Maltese merchants won't take Euros or US Dollars for that matter, I think their official currency is the maltese lira. Incidentally, I'm on the Constellation's Oct. 4 sailing and I can't wait.
Thanks for that information. I wasn't aware that Malta wasn't on the Euro. Looks like you'll be catching the cruise right after ours. Wave to the disembarking passengers, one of them could be me. (G)