Travel Tips

Cruising currency

Most cruise lines suggest tipping $10 to $12 per day per passenger (not per couple) and many automatically add the gratuities to the final bill. So figure this into your trip budget. If you have exemplary service (and you will!) from individual crew members — such as your room steward — and would like to tip extra, the ship’s front desk will provide you with envelopes for cash tips.

Getting foreign currency overseas

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)

ATMs are a good source of cash overseas; however, they may or may not be conveniently located in the larger cities and may be rare in smaller towns. And, your itinerary may not always allow you sufficient time to locate one.

When available, ATMs dispense local currency for internationally accepted ATM cards and/or credit cards, and have a service fee of approximately 3%. If you are planning to use ATMs, you should confirm with your bank prior to departure that your ATM/credit card and Personal Identification Number (PIN) will work abroad.

Credit cards

Euro card, MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards are accepted in all countries in major shops, restaurants and hotels as well as to settle your shipboard account. Before you depart, we recommend that you alert your credit card companies that you plan to use your card(s) on your trip as they will often refuse to honor credit cards if they notice irregular and/or overseas activity.

Please note: Credit cards with chip-based technology (or “chip and pin,” which require both a smart chip and entry of a PIN) have become increasingly common internationally. Unlike American cards with magnetic strips, these cards can be used at dispensing machines, such as train and transit ticket vending systems, and at restaurants where transactions are processed tableside with a handheld device. Please contact your credit card provider for further information.


Insurance at a glance

You know you need travel insurance, but what kind? "Trip cancellation" is the most important and common type of travel insurance. This generally covers non-refundable payments or deposits if a trip is canceled or interrupted due to unforeseen circumstances. Other types include:

  • Trip Delay: Provides reimbursement for expenses incurred when a trip is delayed.
  • Accident/Sickness Medical Expenses: Covers costs incurred due to injury or illness that occur while on a trip.
  • Medical Evacuation/Emergency Transportation: Covers transportation when a medical emergency while traveling requires transportation to a hospital or other medical facility.
  • Supplier Default: Covers deposits or payments lost due to the financial default of a travel supplier.
  • Baggage/Personal Effects Loss or Delay: Covers losses due to items lost, damaged or delayed during a trip.

Passports: Book or card?

If you're applying for a passport for the first time, you may be wondering about the difference between a passport card and a traditional passport book. The short answer is that you can use your passport card when traveling by land or sea to and from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

You cannot use the passport card for air travel, nor can you use it for travel to other international destinations.

If you plan to travel by air, apply for a passport book instead.

Packing 101

Every piece of clothing you pack should complement every other item or have at least two uses. For example, sandals may double as slippers, a scarf as a shoulder wrap, a sundress as a swimsuit cover. Pack skirts or pants that can be dressed up or down as day or evening attire.

Packing tips for river cruises

You want to be prepared—here are a few helpful hints.

What to bring

We suggest bringing comfortable, casual clothing. Ties and jackets are not required; there are no formal nights although some guests choose dressier clothing for the Captain’s Dinner. Consider dressing respectfully when visiting places of worship and other religious sites where you may be denied entry if wearing clothing considered to be inappropriate or too revealing. Your Tour Escort can assist you with any questions. Also, please consider baggage weight restrictions on the intra-China flights when packing.

Here is a short list of items you might want to bring with you:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Dressier shoes
  • Collapsible umbrella/lightweight rain gear
  • Lightweight jacket/warm sweater/sweatshirt
  • Sunglasses, sun hat or visor
  • Toiletries (including medical remedies)
  • Warm coat, gloves and water-resistant footwear (as needed for cooler months)

Pack in your carry-on baggage

We suggest you bring copies of your key travel documents (passport information page, airline tickets, credit card numbers and insurance information) and carry them separately in case you lose your originals. You might also want to consider packing the following items:

  • All needed medications, including prescriptions, in their original, labeled containers
  • Eyeglasses, contacts, contact lens solution
  • Important papers and travel documents
  • Camera gear, film, extra memory cards (digital cameras), extra batteries
  • Valuables

Optional items

Here is a list of optional items to consider bringing with you:

  • Electric converter/adapter for North American appliances (220V)
  • Travel alarm clock, travel flashlight, binoculars, anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer
  • Small calculator for foreign exchange calculations
  • Travel journal/notepad and/or reading material
  • Small, basic sewing kit/extra buttons; pack scissors in checked bags
  • Address list or pre-addressed labels for sending postcards

Note: Most hotels and Reception onboard have hair dryers available for guest use. Also, laundry service (no dry cleaning) is available onboard for a fee.


Who needs insurance?

Anyone who wants to protect their travel investment. Think about the unthinkable — If an illness, accident or sudden change in plans forces you to cancel or interrupt travel plans, you face losing money you've invested in nonrefundable prepayments, and medical expenses that aren't covered by your health insurance. Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you for forfeited, nonrefundable, unused payments or deposits if you have to cancel your interrupt your trip due to a variety of situations.

Things to leave at home when traveling abroad.

Before closing your packed suitcase for that trip abroad, take a good look at what’s inside it. Ask yourself if you have packed anything that you would hate to lose. If so, you will still have time to pack something less valuable, instead. Here are examples of items that are better left at home:

  • Items of high value such as expensive jewelry.
  • Anything of sentimental value.
  • Things that cannot be replaced.
The last item to inspect before your departure is your wallet. Inside most wallets are a large number of important documents that are not needed on a trip abroad. Before leaving for an international trip, clean out your wallet. Remove any cards or other documents you don’t need to take with you. You'll be very glad you did this, if your wallet gets lost during the trip.

Some examples of wallet items best left at home:
  • Social security card.
  • ID cards you won't need on the trip.
  • Voter’s registration card.
  • Library card.
  • Photographs or other mementos that cannot be replaced.
  • Most of us carry several credit cards, gasoline cards, and department store charge cards in our wallets. For safety's sake, the U.S. State Department recommends you travel with just one credit card, leaving the rest at home. They also advise you to have contact information with you, in case you need to report the card stolen.


Tipping etiquette

When it comes to your vacation, it's the littlest details, such as tipping etiquette, that can become the most confusing. Whom should you tip? How much? Do you need to tip at all? Never fear! This simple guide to tipping will take the guesswork out of tipping etiquette and help you focus on more important things - like enjoying your vacation.

TIPPING AT AIRPORTS AND TRAIN STATIONS

Upon arriving at or leaving from the airport or train station, tip the standard porter rate of $1 per bag; more if your luggage is very heavy. Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate for doormen. However, you may want to tip more for special services, such as carrying your bags.

HOTEL TIPPING ETIQUETTE

When you arrive at your hotel after a long flight, first things first: Tip the taxi or limo driver. Ten to 15 percent of your total fare is usually expected. If you drive your own car, give the valet parking attendant $1 to $2. If you take a shuttle van or bus, tip the driver $2 per person.

The bellman, who will be more than happy to assist you with your bags and the door, should receive $1 to $2 per bag. Tip when he shows you to your room and again if he assists you upon checkout. Tip more if he provides any additional service. The concierge, who can get you anything from dinner reservations to hard-to-come-by theatre tickets, deserves $5 to $10 for such feats. You may tip at the time of service or at the end of the trip. To ensure good service throughout your stay, add a $20 tip to the bill.

Add 15 percent of the bill to a room service charge, unless a gratuity is already added, then add no additional tip or simply $1. If you requested something delivered to your room such as a hairdryer or iron, tip $1 per item received. Typically, the maid deserves a $2 tip each day, as well.

TOUR TIPPING ETIQUETTE

If you're taking a tour and a tip is not automatically included, tip a local guide $1 per person for a half-day tour, $2 for full-day tour. Tip a private guide more.

If you are on a multi-day tour with a tour manager - someone who travels with the group for several days and is essentially in charge - tour operators suggest anywhere from $3-8 per person per day. Don't forget the bus driver either - $2 per person per day.

CRUISE TIPPING ETIQUETTE

When on a cruise, tip according to your comfort level and only on the last evening of your cruise. As a general rule, dining room waiters receive $3.50 per person/per day whereas the dining room assistant waiter should receive $2.00 per person/per day, the dining room maitre'd $3.50 per person/per day and the dining room manager $1.50 per person/per day.

The room steward, for all his efforts, receives $3.50 per person/per day. Other personnel, such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is rendered.

RESTAURANT TIPPING ETIQUETTE

Although excellent service calls for 20 percent of the total bill, most U.S. restaurants accept 15 percent as the standard tip. In restaurants where you sit at the bar or the waiter is a small part of the meal (cafes or pubs), 10 percent is also acceptable. The bar tenders, themselves, generally receive between 15 and 20% when you sit at the bar. If the food or service is unsatisfactory, speak to the manager - don't walk out without tipping. And pay attention to lunch and dinner bills in Europe and Asia, as some restaurants tack on an additional 15 percent (usually listed on the menu or check as a "service charge") and do not expect tips.

At fancy restaurants, tip the maitre d' between $5 and $10 if he gets you a table - more when the restaurant is full and you have no reservations. Tip $1 when you check your coat, and another $.50 to $1 for restroom attendants. For personal service from the wine steward, opt for 10 percent of the wine bill.

This tipping etiquette will hopefully give you a general idea of the standard tipping rate for different stops along your journey. You are always welcome to tip more when the service is excellent, and when you do, you are sure to see the red carpet treatment all the way. Enjoy your vacation, and don't forget to tip!


"Bill of rights" for cruise passengers

The Cruise Lines International Association's 10-point document provides, among other things, the right to a full refund for cruises canceled because of mechanical failures on a ship. Read the complete list.

Ship luggage before you go

When you're going on a trip lasting a couple of weeks, shipping some luggage ahead of time could save time and money at the airport. Click here for tips.