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Monday, November 22, 2010

A Traveler's Tipping Guide

The last thing you want to be concerned about after you have planned your perfect cruise is the sometimes complicated etiquette of tipping. How much to tip? Who do you tip? When do you tip? Some travelers may not even know that it is customary to leave tips at all if they are embarking on their first cruise.

While each country has different norms, cruise ship travelers are often made aware of their cruise boats policy beforehand. But what about the hotel you stay in before or after the cruise? Traveling should not be stressful and planning in advance leaves more time for what you really came to do - relax.

Hotels Editor Jeri Clausing for Travel Weekly explains that even she has had stress over tipping. While some hotels will make their policy known from the beginning, she concedes that it can be a difficult topic especially when traveling to countries where it is not expected or it is an insult to some who are above the tipping chain. She goes on to talk about the butler services making tipping an even more tricky subject that can only be cleared up by hotel policy. But Lisa Mirza Grotts, author of "A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette" has a simple answer for all those concerned with tipping "Whenever a service is performed of any kind, we need to tip."

Travelers are encouraged to consult with hotel policy if they have questions about tipping. But as you travel by ship, these questions are less important and your focus turns to appropriate tipping on cruise ships. Here are some guidelines on popular small ship cruises:

North America including Mexico cruise ship Safari Explorer leaves the issue of tipping entirely up to the traveler. It is a personal matter based on the discretion of the traveler, but typical gratuities for excellent service are 5-10% of the fare. Additionally, tips are shared equally by all yacht crew members.

The custom built Aqua cruise ship travels throughout the Amazon and staff is often asked about appropriate tipping etiquette for guides and crews. They always reply that the quality of the service should always determine the amount of any tip. Based on their experience, they recommend travelers leave $20-$30 per passenger, per day for the crew. This amount will be equally divided among all crew members. In addition, $7-$10 per passenger, per day should be given to tour guides. Again, these are suggestions and tips should reflect level of satisfaction with the service.

Litvinov, a luxury cruise ship that operates in Eastern Europe, and the River Royale boat that operates in Burgundy and Provence tell customers that gratuity is not included in their prices. However, it is customary for passengers to leave end-of-the-trip gratuities for the cruise director, tour managers, and crew, but amount is up to the discretion of the traveler and should reflect the travelers experience.

Discovery is a luxury-cruise boat that operates in Panama and staff appreciate travelers interest in tipping. While they encourage travelers to leave any amount they deem appropriate, their policy points to international guidelines of $100 - $130 per passenger for their 6-night cruise. Gratuities are divided evenly among all crew members and naturalist guides; there is even an envelope included to deposit the tip into.

Harmony G which operates in Greece and the Mediterranean offer another tip suggestion for passengers, acknowledging that it is customary to show appreciation for service to the crew. They concede that gratuities should be adjusted based on satisfaction but suggest an amount of 46-60 Euros per passenger.

Traveler's should not have anxiety before or during their vacations because of the complex and touchy issue of tipping. It is a common theme among all cruise ship operators that level of satisfaction be considered when leaving the tip. With a little planning in advance and knowledge of your cruise ships tipping guidelines, you can enjoy your cruise free from tipping stress.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Galapagos Islands -- A Feast for the Eyes

The Galapagos Islands, literally translated to mean the Island of Grand Tortoises is simply fascinating. Located just 1000 kilometers offshore from Ecuador and situated directly on the equator; it enjoys only two seasons but is home to several hundred species of animals. There is simply no place in the world as diverse in wildlife as these isles, as noted in the famous On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Many animals that call the islands home today are thought to have floated there and then later evolved to be completely different species than their ancestors. There are hundreds of species of fish, several bird species, giant tortoises, and the famous flora and fauna plants. These islands are so closely weaved into the fiber of mankind that ninety-seven percent of the land service has been designated as a national park with even some of the surrounding sea being protected as a marine reserve.

So what can we share about these beautiful islands that you may not already know?

  • There are 19 large islands and dozens of smaller ones but the largest part of the islands is under the sea!
  • Tortoises can grow up to 6 feet long and as large as 700 lbs.
  • This island had been discovered more than a couple of times before Ecuador finally claimed it as theirs.
  • It is sometimes difficult to see the islands from short distances because of the mist that covers them sometimes due to the unusually cold water for that part of the ocean.
  • There were no human inhabitants on the island but now some 30,000 people have settled there.
  • All wildlife coexists in harmony; reptiles can even be found resting among seals.
 
Galapagos Islands is a nature lovers dream adventure and a feast for the eyes. Though not diverse in plant species as one would think, the land formations, cool weather, and animals found here make this a dream destination for travelers. Flightless cormorants and pink flamingos are only two examples of the vast differences one can experience from one animal to the next.








There is literally no other place on planet earth similar to the Galapagos Islands!
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Fun in Maui

Warm. Exotic. Remote. Unforgettable. All these describe beautiful Maui -- one group of Hawaii's breathtaking islands-- especially this time of year. It is plentiful in luxury accommodations and activities, which are as varied as the thousands of people that visit throughout the year. Whether you like to hike, shop, jog, sun bathe, ski, or just take in the beautiful scenery, Maui is a great place to vacation. It is definitely more than another beach vacation as there is so much more than beaches here. Travelers and natives can visit the historic Haleakala National Park which is home to the 10,023-foot-high dormant volcano, also known as Maui's biggest natural attraction. Visitors usually arrive before dawn to watch the sun rise over the volcano crater, but the park is enjoyable any time of day.

Outdoor lovers can participate in other activities such as snorkeling, whale-watching or...just laying out on one of Maui's 80 beaches! If relaxation is the purpose of your trip, many resorts offer wellness packages and activities designed to help you forget about your daily responsibilities at home, for a little R & R. There is always a mai tai, some music, or a masseuse somewhere just waiting to help you unwind.

Just like the daytime, the night offers no shortage of activities -- sunset cruises, dancing, museums, shows, or partying with the locals make for an unforgettable experience from sun up to sun down. You are certain to find multiple activities day or night that interest you and have you planning your next trip before you leave. You can book the perfect cruise for two or family vacation knowing there is something for everyone. Enjoy great food, a Broadway-type show, some boutique shopping or relax on a small ship cruise...it's up to you...

Jean
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