Subject: Airfare with cruise?
Dear Art: We are booking a cruise for the first time...Alaska next June. While there are advantages to having the cruise line book the airfare, are we going to get the best airfares and shortest flights, or would we save enough doing on our own to make it worth dealing with the additional inconvenience of not doing it as part of the cruise package?
If you can get a lower fare than what the cruise line would charge, and the routing is to your liking, it would probably be best to book it on your own. This would outweigh the advantage of having the cruise line book it for you – i.e., they know the exact flights you're on. In this day and age of tighter security, the odds are they're going to ask you for your flight information anyway. You can probably still buy the cruise line's transfers between the airport and the ship if that makes it easier for you.
Subject: Oxygen and Cruising and Smoking?
Dear Art: I read your articles at CruiseMates.com, and I have a question about smoking on cruise ships. My wife and her friend use to sail on the Carnival's Paradise because it was a non-smoking ship. Unfortunately, the Paradise will cease its non-smoking policy at the end of September. Is there another ship that limits smoking so that she can sail again?
Now that Paradise will be changing its policy, there are no ships that have a 100% non-smoking policy. However, virtually all ships have some rules about where people may smoke. The off-limits areas usually include the showrooms and/or the dining rooms. Most bars and lounges usually have smoking and non-smoking sections. Almost all ships allow smoking in some areas outdoors, although there may be further restrictions on cigars and pipes. I hope you find a ship that suits your wife's needs.
Dear Art: There have been many posts this month about the prepaid tipping programs that cruise lines have introduced. Some cruisers like it and some hate it. What's the scoop?
Tipping is still one of the most controversial subjects in cruising. Cruise lines have historically suggested certain recommended amounts to tip primary service personnel such as wait staff and cabin attendants. Over the years, this has evolved to where guests now have the option of prepaying the tips so they don't have to deal with cash and envelopes at the end of the cruise. But guests should remember that prepaid amounts are not mandatory -- they have the option of increasing the amounts or decreasing/eliminating them if they do not feel certain personnel deserve a tip. The same goes for the times when a certain amount is automatically added to bar or spa bills. But to those cruisers who take an adamant stance that they never tip, I say lighten up and recognize that service personnel depend on tips for a significant portion of their income, and deserve your consideration. For more, see my full column on tipping.
Subject: Legal Age for Drinking and Gambling?
Dear Art: There were posts this month about the legal age for drinking and gambling aboard cruise ships. The questions were along the line of how to get around it. What's the scoop?
I was on a cruise recently and the posted minimum age was 21 for both drinking and gambling. But it was quite clear that many under-21s were trying to buy a drink or play in the casino. This puts the cruise staff at a disadvantage in that they have to check ages and, in the case of those who are under-age, turn them away. Adults should support this cruise line policy, whatever the line or the age limit. Too often it seems that they want the line to break the rules -- "just for them" -- but later on, if there's a problem, the cruise line is the one to blame. That hardly seems fair.