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The Dumbest Way To Try And Save Money

Written by: Kuki

To state it simply, one cannot predict when or where an event calamitous to your life, or that of a family member, can occur.

Yet, for  a much too large percentage of people planning a cruise, making the choice to save money in their cruise budget by not purchasing travel insurance is far too common.

The latest such case to reach the public eye is that of the Colucci family. The Colucci family was to cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship on June 1. On May  19 five year old Nicolas Colucci was found to have a large cancerous tumor growing in his liver, and required surgery as soon as possible, followed by chemotherapy treatment. They contacted NCL, not to cancel their cruise, but to request they be allowed to reschedule the trip. Their request was denied.

This is a heart wrenching story. No one amongst us can possibly not feel deeply for young Nicolas and his family. How could you not? No doubt everyone hopes Nicolas’ surgery went well, and prays his treatment has a positive outcome.

As this story became more public, in traditional as well as social media, the calls grew loud for NCL to change their mind, and allow the Colucci family to reschedule their cruise for a later date; understandable? Certainly!

Yet, I can’t help thinking— if the Colucci’s had purchased available travel insurance they wouldn’t even have to be dealing with  this; adding stress of their already horribly stressfull situation; having to deal with losing the family vacation they had bought and paid for.

There has certainly been a growing call for Norwegian to make an exception to their policies in this case, and on an emotional level, it’s easy to agree they should.

However, with the hundreds of ships sailing week in and week out, can anyone possibly think there aren’t multiple life (and trip) altering situations arising? They may be similarly heart wrenching diagnoses, deaths in the family, or domestic accidents, which force people to cancel and try and alter their cruise plans. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there was some such case on every sailing each week.  And each and every such incident is traumatic to those involved.

In these situations it seems so many look to the “deep pockets”( the cruise lines) to cover the financial loss of the situation.

The fact remains, if the people who face these crisis had purchased the available travel insurance, there would be no burden added to their troubled situation, and little or no financial impact added to that burden.

Sadly, the situation of poor Nicolas clearly demonstrates, that no matter what your age, and no matter the state of your health, crisis and tragedy can and do occur.  That it is possible for you to purchase insurance for a few hundred dollars which will relieve you of the (sometimes massive) financial costs of these occurrences is actually very positive, and doing so is very important!

It is important to note that it very rare to have regular health care insurance which covers out of country travel. And even more rare that it would cover illness or death of family members. So purchasing actual travel insurance is absolutely essential.

I recommend purchasing a travel insurance policy which covers much more than only crises which arise before you cruise. You need to be covered for unforeseen events if they occur during your trip. In the event you or a family member become ill, and need to be treated in a foreign port, or worse yet if the need arises to be evacuated from a ship at sea; the costs can be astronomical.

Don’t be left in a crisis situation, looking for someone else to accept responsibility  for something you could have so easily been responsible for prior to your travel.

And, to be blunt, if you can’t afford to purchase the travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

The case of Nicolas Colucci is indeed a dilemma of the heart; a 5 year old struck with a terrible disease.  But I do have to wonder; if there is a maximum age limit for sympathy, and empathy, and understanding.

On June 28 my mother passed away. I wasn’t booked on a cruise, But, if I had been scheduled to cruise on July 1, would the cruise line be expected to accept responsibility for my life’s circumstances, and rebook me at a later date?

If, god forbid, my home burnt to the ground, who would I look at to be responsible for rebuilding it if I chose not to have insurance?

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: July 29th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Brand Ambassadors

Written by: Kuki

Almost a decade ago Carnival created a new position; naming their Senior Cruise Director, John Heald, Brand Ambassador.

John is incredibly popular, and he and his team maintain a strong presence with his popular blog, as well as his Facebook page.

In the time since John’s appointment as Brand Ambassador, as the use of the Internet has grown exponentially, an army (hundreds, if not thousands) of brand ambassadors have been created, without any official appointments or relationships to the cruise lines.

My own position with CruiseMates came into being due to the Internet. Almost by accident, I began with Cruise Critic, hosting live chats about cruising, and monitoring their forums. Then moving to join with Paul Motter and Anne Campbell, when they first started CruiseMates.

In the early days of both sites, the most common type of visitors was first time cruisers, looking for information, as well as a small mix of more experienced cruisers. The most common types of posts on the forums were questions ; simply searching for information, and people returning from cruises, who, for one reason or another, were displeased, and looking for a place to share their complaints.

Initially people were simply more willing to post their negative thoughts and experiences, than they were to speak on public forums about their positive experiences.

In the past decade the broadening commonality of people using the Internet has led to an explosion of user driven content; reviews, forum and social media posts, cruise related web sites (both commercial and personal), and personal Blogs.

The cruise lines were somewhat slow to join “the game”. But they now embrace it, and direct many resources to driving their presence, through their own web sites, blogs, and all of the various social media outlets available, to drive their message.

Brand loyalty is, of course, of considerable importance to any company. And, over years the cruise lines have generally been quite successful maintaining that brand loyalty. More recently, as cruise related websites, forums, social media sites, and blogs have grown in popularity, the cruise lines have most certainly noticed.

The difference between their own web sites and social media presence, and all of those privately owned and operated, is the cruise lines are less able to control the message.

Where, initially those with complaints about the cruise lines were more vocal about expressing their complaints,  today it is amazing how many more people are willing, and ready quite fervently spend their time writing very detailed reviews, and report their positive experiences, and their brand loyalty, through all the outlets I’ve mentioned earlier.

In fact, these brand loyalists may sometimes go to extremes to defend their choice of cruise lines, and to spend considerable energy deflecting complaints about their cruise line of choice.

So, where brand loyalty used to be limited to enthusiasts sharing their experiences by word of mouth, and by booking future cruises, with all the public outlets that exist today, rather than simply being brand loyalists they have all very much become fairly important public brand ambassadors. And, again, the cruise lines have taken notice, and will indeed even attempt to cater to those they see with growing voices.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Lobster, Lobster Everywhere!

Written by: Kuki

There was a time when “lobster night” in the dining room was considered by many to be THE night to dine in the dining room on a cruise ship.

To be honest, to me, they were just bottom-dwelling crustaceans, and pretty ugly looking things too.

But to many cruisers lobster night was the top of the food heap, that seemed to define cruise ship dining.

I recall, not that long ago, when, since you could order as many you as you want, there was almost a contest to see how many lobsters a person could eat during dinner on a ship. The practice was so common, I  once asked a ship’s Hotel Director, if they knew what their ship’s record was for the most lobsters ordered by one person. With little hesitation he told me, 17.

Then, rather suddenly, lobster became less prominent on cruise ship dining room menus. I presume this came about because of budgetary concerns, and no doubt, as cruise pricing pressures grew, pushing down the price of cruise tickets. The desire to dine on lobster certainly hasn’t diminished, only the availability. We still even see posts in our forums asking what night is lobster night on a particular ship. And, just a short while back, I remember on an NCL cruise, a part of their promotions was stating lobster would be available onboard in one of their restaurants every night.

North Atlantic lobsters, from both Maine and the coast of Nova Scotia (Canada), are generally thought of world wide as the best/tastiest lobster one can find. Over the years, and many cruises, I encountered many supposed ”crustaceans experts”, who swore they could tell the difference in taste between North Atlantic lobster and those from other areas. I personally presumed the only reason it tasted good was the drawn butter they were drench-dipping it in.

But now it’s time for the lobster lovers to rejoice… and call the cruise lines… and demand a “claws” in your cruise contract… this year there is an enormous excess  supply of North Atlantic Lobster. The reports I’ve read today, say the price of lobster has dropped 25%. As of today you can buy North Atlantic lobster for $4 lb., with fisheries very concerned it is going to drop further.

With beef prices rocketing higher, you can seemingly buy lobster for less than you can buy even average cuts of beef. Being a meat and potatoes guy, I’m beginning to get depressed.

At least for this season, the cruise lines can probably serve you lobster for less cost than they can serve you a decent hamburger. But I have to admit, I didn’t research the cost of the butter.

Always available lobster bisque with whole lobsters in each bowl, and lobster-burgers for you crustacean lovers; leaving me having to dine in the extra cost ship’s alternate restaurants to find myself a good all-beef hotdog!

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -
 

 

 

Posted: June 24th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Golf Camp Cruising

Written by: Kuki

Years ago you could hit golf balls off of the stern of the ship into the sea. That’s no longer available.

But, coming in 2015 golfers will be able to cruise while getting golf instruction from Jim Maclean, one of the world’s most acclaimed teachers in the game.

Golfers (like me) are obsessive and compulsive about golf.

Admittedly non-golfers have a hard time understanding the devotees dedication to the game, even when it’s obvious that ” their golfers” don’t really have the ability to master the game.

But we golfers are always ready to do almost anything to improve “our game”.  We always seem ready to spend a small fortune on the newest, latest and greatest, equipment that promises to add distance to our shots, and improve our chances of hitting the ball even a little bit closer to our actual target.

The truly dedicated (read addicted) among us will occasionally travel to golf schools, or camps,  in an attempt to fine tune elements of our game. We’re happy to immerse ourselves for a period of time, from a few hours, to a few days, to get tips and training exercises, to reduce our scores even slightly.

Why? Because the game is such, that all of us, from young golfers looking for perfection, to old “duffers” like me, draw pleasure from those times (in my case those odd times) when we hit that ball “right on the screws”, and get to watch it go where you intended it to go, and act like you intended it to act.

Like almost all activities in life, one’s goal is to “hit the sweet spot”, and the more often you do, the more pleasure you derive. The drive to achieve that  feeling is what drives golfers.

Now, thanks to a partnerships between theme cruise specialists, Landry & Kling, and Jim Maclean Golf Schools, there is an opportunity to attend golf camp at sea aboard the luxurious Celebrity Equinox, sailing June 28 – July 4, 2015 - cruising from Rome to Barcelona.

This trip can help the golfer “hit the sweet spot” of both cruising on a superb ship, enjoying travel in Europe, while receiving superb, professional, and in depth instruction from Jim Maclean,- recognized for decades as one of the top golf instructors in the world - and his top instructors, drawn from his 11 highly rated golf schools world wide.

“My customized ‘Golf School At Sea’ will offer total game improvement focusing on full swing, short game, and course management; all while sailing to some of the most alluring ports in Europe,” McLean said. “This will be the voyage of a lifetime!”

During the cruise, 144 golfers will have access to 10 hours of onboard instruction with Jim McLean and his instruction staff, and improve their skills ashore on championship golf courses. Instructors will utilize the Jim McLean teaching method and state-of-the-art golf instruction technology.

For information on full pricing, booking info, details, itineraries , and amenities included  in this Maclean Golf School @ Sea  cruise check out: http://mcleanatsea.com/ OR visit http://www.landrykling.com/ 

Since 1982, Landry & Kling Inc. has provided cruise solutions and custom planning for ship buy-outs, incentive cruises, all kinds of cruise meetings, theme cruises and dockside ship charters for global events.

I have had the pleasure of sailing several golf themed cruises in Europe, and I highly recommend the experience. They are also wonderful if there are non-golfers in the group, as the tours available on this itinerary are fantastic. So a cruise like this can easily make the golfer a happy camper, and still satisfy any of the non-golfers in the crowd.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

Posted: June 17th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Dynamic Dining Issues

Written by: Kuki

Just a few weeks ago, in this space, I wrote about Royal Caribbean’s announcement of the “Dynamic Dining” programs which were going to be introduced on their upcoming new ships, Quantum and Anthem of the Seas.

In that blog I theorized “Dynamic Dining” would be the next step toward the eventual disappearance of the ”traditional”  large cruise ship dining rooms on the majority of mass market cruise ships. I rather enthusiastically endorse the growing idea of having more dining variety choices on ships. However, the systems are going to have be worked through in order to assure efficiency.

And though it’s probably too early to predict - and too early to criticize RCI’s yet, since these ships are not even sailing yet – there are some issues already being reported and discussed on our message boards (by people already booked on these ships). These reports are stating that, though months away from their sailing dates, many people are unable to find space available in the restaurants onboard is already limited to the less desirable dining times.  On some sailings, in the cost included restaurants, there are already no dining times available until after 9 P.M., and in some cases even later. Not only are these dining times not attractive to a vast majority of cruisers, but they are apparently also concerned because of the apparent conflicts they will create with the entertainment schedules.

RCI has yet to make public if more popular dining times are not available for reservations because they are keeping open a large percentage of those times for booking once onboard. Though they have released statements that they will work with “groups” to assure they are dining together… which also is going to require some tricky balancing with smaller dining venues, even if there are more of them.

But, it does at least appear for now, that if you’re booked on the Quantum or Anthem of the Seas, you had best book your dining reservations as soon as you are eligible to do so, or you may be faced with some very limited choices. And those who don’t even think about making their dining reservations in advance, may be faced with a true dynamic dining dilemma – being left with no choices.

As the system is introduced and further developed, RCI may come through with some quick stepping, quick thinking remedies to these perceived issued.  They had better, because if not, the “dine in whatever restaurant you want, with whom you want, when you want, with an abundance of choices” philosophy will quickly fall flat and those tremors can quickly have a significant impact on it’s customer base.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: June 9th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Who’s A Cruise Expert

Written by: Kuki

It amazes me how so many people can tell you exactly how many cruises they’ve been on.

While they may not be able to tell you the birth-dates of their children, they can tell you how many cruises, which ships, and what type of cabin they had on each – sometimes, even recite the various cabin numbers.

I’m not one of those. I can’t tell you the birth-dates of my children, nor can I tell you exactly how many cruises I’ve been on. Somewhere over 60 I think. Does that make me an expert? No, I don’t think so. It only makes me lucky.

Over 60 is a lot of times to repeat any activity. Yet, if I said I’d done over 60 driving vacations, or been camping over 60 times, no one would care.

I love cruisers. Overall, when you’re on a ship, the people are friendly, looking to have a good time, and have a relaxed attitude. But, the one area where we’re weird is when at the first opportunity in the conversation we’re inclined to tell the people we’re talking to how many cruises we’ve been on.

In “days gone by” if you had been on many cruises it may have meant you were wealthy; because cruises used to be quite expensive, and generally only the wealthy cruised.

But, in today’s world, where cruising is inexpensive enough that it’s available to “the masses”, people who cruise often are just regarded as cruise enthusiasts; old – with lots of time to cruise; or unemployed – with lots of time to cruise (well, ok maybe not the unemployed, because it does take money).

It is getting much harder to find first time cruisers on board, that you can impress by telling them how many cruises you’ve been on, and that you are basically now an expert on the subject of cruising.

In fact, on the contemporary cruise lines, you’re just as likely to meet people who have been on more cruises than you, as you are meeting first timers.

Why, I remember meeting some people who’ve told me it was their 19th cruise on the same ship. Say what? (Now that’s a hard one for me to understand).

These days the truly devoted “cruise trackers” keep count of how many days at sea they’ve sailed. They feel it’s “unfair” to include the short cruises to boost your ”cruise expert cred”, so they found a way to do an end around by counting days. It actually impresses me that they can count and remember all those days at sea, when I can’t manage to count the days left until the weekend.

But really… if we’re going to go that far, shouldn’t we also be noting a differential between days at sea, and days in port. Do we deduct for those odd overnights in a port of call?

So, who’s opinions should you trust? Who should be recognized as a cruise expert?

Several years ago, Gene Sloan, who writes the Cruise Log for USA Today, referred to an article I wrote for CruiseMates. He referred to me as an “industry watcher”. I kind of liked the tag. But, I guess that means I’m no expert. And I admit, I am no expert.

But I have been able to keep track of the fact I’ve been working on writing this blog for 3 days – and there’s 3 days left until the weekend. Of course that depends on which days you count.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

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Posted: June 4th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Cruising’s Intoxicating Moments

Written by: Kuki

While every type of business depends on repeat business, I believe there are few with a loyal customer base as cruising. On virtually every sailing of every ship, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who’ve cruised before; at least several times; often many times.’

Fact is, it is very infrequent occurrence that passengers disembark a ship feeling as though they didn’t get great value for the money they spent. Aside from the feeling of good value, there is an intoxicating factor.

How often does one step into a hotel room, and feel they are “home”? Oddly perhaps, it rarely takes long for a cruise ship passenger to enter their cabin, and not have that feeling of “being home” swell. The feeling is not easily defined, nor is it easily explained in words, or scientifically proven. It’s at least partially explainable because when you arrive, and unpack your belongings, you’re making it “your space”, because, though you are traveling, you know this is your home base for the duration of the cruise.

Cruises are made of a number of “moments”. And so often many of those moments become life long memories which bring a smile to your face each time they cross your mind.

The moment might be a dinner service that goes so smoothly you think you’re dining in your favorite restaurant; or a moment during the meal where you share a taste of a delicious plate of food with your loved one, while sharing a warm, loving and knowing smile. The moment may be during a comedy show, where, while as you are laughing hysterically, you glance over to see your friend, or mate enjoying the time as much as you are.

When you are relaxing on your private balcony, or standing out on an open deck, stairing out for miles into a calm and endless sea, on a star filled night, suddenly it dawns on you… that is the feeling everyone could feel if there could ever be world peace.

These moments and memories can be different for everyone. It can be everything from your falling asleep during a Broadway-style show, to zip-lining above a rain forest in a port of call, to your team wining a trivia contest on board, to the wonderful night’s sleep you got as the ship rocked back and forth as it cut through the water.

While cruising may not be right for everyone. The majority of people who try it, do have a desire to do it again. And it’s most likely the urge will come later, when the memories of those moments pop into your head, and bring a smile to your face; and you again feel intoxicated by the joy of it.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: May 27th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: none

Restaurant Row

Written by: Kuki

Right off the bat, let’s make it clear, this piece is not talking about how you’re going to have to row to help power the ship, while you’re dining.

In pretty much every city in the world, there are “restaurant rows”; streets, or blocks of an area, where one can virtually go door to door to many different restaurants.

Last night we went out for dinner with friends, at a restaurant on one of these restaurant rows in our city.  It might seem counterintuitive that it’s a good idea to have so many competitors, in the same business, located right next to each other. But, back just a few years, when I was in that business, my philosophy was - “people beget people”; drawing more people to the area, perhaps creating a larger base of potential customers.

Traditionally cruise ships have offered more limited dining options. Less than a decade ago the standard for cruise ships was to offer a main dining room, a buffet restaurant for casual dining, and perhaps one, maybe two, alternate restaurants which were more “upscale”, and for which they charged customers an extra fee.

This past November I wrote about the more recent movement to offering more dining choices,  and how successfully this transition is being accepted by cruisers. cruisemates.com/blog/201311124

This was a path first ventured into by Norwegian Cruise Line, and extended even further once Epic, Getaway, and Breakaway began sailing. With those ships, the traditional cruise ship dining room has begun to disappear.

Now, with Royal Caribbean’s recent announcement that their newest ship. Quantum of the Seas, under construction (and due to sail next fall) will have no main dining room (as we’ve been used to), it appears the path set by Norwegian’s moves is going from path to a likely road map that more cruise lines will follow.

I don’t think any of us should be surprised to see, as more new builds come out of shipyards, and more older ships undergo significant upgrading, that dining rooms will slowly fade away. More and more, we’ll see land-like restaurant rows appear on ships.

There was something comfortable about the traditional dining room system, where your assigned table and service team were waiting for your arrival each evening. With the changes coming, just like on land, you’re going to have to do some meal planning; choosing restaurants, making reservations, or taking your chances on walking in the door, and perhaps  waiting for a table at the more popular restaurants.

And, of course, as you’re walking to your restaurant of choice one evening, you’re likely to see some others that seem a more popular choice, because they are packed with people.  Then, you’re going to want to try and get in to that one for your next meal.

The choices available will be very impressive. But, giving thought to, and making reservations in advance will definitely become a more important part of your pre-cruise check list.

- A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: May 20th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 1

Don’t Allow Your Brain To Go On Vacation

Written by: Kuki

In 2011; 66-year-old Oscar Antonio Mendoza, a passenger from the Celebrity Solstice, died from injuries incurred as a result of a mugging, while he was strolling near the port in Naples, Italy.

This man died because a criminal spotted the Rolex watch he was wearing, and attempted to take it from him. Yes, the port area of Naples does have a reputation for being rife with criminal activity, but many of the major tourist sites in Europe are also well known habitats for professional thieves and pickpockets.

However crime is not restricted to “well known” areas of Europe, or anywhere else in the world.  Crimes can occur even in “the best areas”, and to “the best people”. It is not however human nature to allow fear to deter people from leading their normal lives. If it were, no one would leave their homes.

Generally we try to reduce the risks of the things we’re afraid of by managing our lives as well as we can; we call that using “common sense”.

So, let’s look for some recommendations for “common sense behaviour” while you’re cruising.

-Don’t look like a target –

When preparing to step off the ship in a port of call remember the story of poor Mr. Mendoza. Leave all of your jewellery in the safe in your cabin. Even faux jewellery, if it looks like it could be expensive, could draw unwanted attention toward you. While you may want to dress up on the ship, it’s abbetter idea to dress down during a port visit.

Ladies; wandering down a street you’re not familiar with, even if it’s busy street, with a Coach, Louis Viton, or similar, bag hanging from your shoulders is a bit like walking around with a spotlight pointing at you.

Backpacks may seem useful, easy to carry, and can certainly serve their purpose. Just be sure to keep nothing of value in them; not digital cameras, cell phones, your cruise card ID, or worse yet, any cash or credit cards. The straps on your backpack can be cut, and the bag gone before you can even turn around. Some people will say the safest way to carry a backpack is reversed, with the bag in front of you, clutched towards your chest. In my view doing so points out to potential criminals that there’s something in that bag that you value. Wearing the back pack reversed is certainly safer than wearing it normally. But for a shore excursion, or if you’re touring on your own, I recommend a simple looking beach bag, or shoulder bag. It won’t draw any unwanted attention in your direction. In fact, your goal should be to look just like everyone else.

-Don’t carry a lot of cash –

Even if you feel you are carrying your cash in a safe spot, like a zippered pocket, if you make a purchase, you’re going to have to take the cash out of its “safe place” to pay. When you do that, there may be someone nearby watching the transaction, and watching as you place your cash back in its (no longer) safe place. Carry a small amount of cash, and only one credit card, along with your identification. Place these items in a front pocket, along with a number of coins. This makes it much more difficult for even the best pick pockets.

-Be aware of your surroundings –

Don’t allow fear of what might happen to dictate your activities; to end your sense of adventure and exploration. Just do what you  do with your brain turned on. You can rely on your brain to direct you and keep you safe in most circumstances, if you keep it working, and pay attention to what is going on around you, and what the people around you are doing.

-A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising -

Posted: May 14th, 2014 under Paul Motter.
Comments: 5

Tips For Currency Conversion

Written by: Kuki

The spring/summer cruise season has begun. Ships are or have been repositioning to where many will be sailing itineraries not usual to those they sailed during the winter months.

If you’re going to be amongst the millions preparing to cruise you’ve no doubt given some thought to your spending on that cruise, and with that, thoughts of currencies accepted in the countries you’re going to visit.

On itineraries through the Bahamas and the Caribbean currency concerns are somewhat simplified because U.S. dollars are widely accepted. However, it’s still going to be necessary to know the rates of conversion to the local currency, to know just how much you are paying for any item purchased.

The same is true through much of Europe, if you’re sailing a European or Mediterranean true, where rather than the U.S. dollar the Euro is the widely accepted currency. But, there as well as in countries which use their own currency, there’s a real need to understand the rates of conversion.

Prior to leaving for a cruise I used to research and  write out a “cheat sheet” listing the current exchange rates of all of the countries I’d be visiting which used their own local currency, and I’d carry that with me. Then, I’d attempt to do quick mental calculations in an attempt to calculate exactly what I was paying.

Today smartphone technology makes that unnecessary. There are many choices of apps for your smartphones to choose from (many of them free) that give you the exchange rates and do the calculations for you. And, of course an added benefit is the exchange rates you get are current.  One such app I like is http://www.xe.com/apps/iphone/ .

Wherever in the world you’re traveling that uses currencies different from your country of residence, you are faced with these issues. But, in the majority of cases you’re also most likely to find a need to use a combination of actual currencies, a credit card, and ATM/debt card. And this is when things can get tricky, and cost you money, if you don’t at least have a plan for dealing with those transactions.

In my view, it matters not where you are traveling – even if you’re only in port for a few hours – you are going to have a need for at least some of the local “hard currency”.  The answer for that is somewhat simple, with a bit of advance planning; ATMs.

My best advice is to go to your bank and set up a separate “travel account”, with limited funds (not linked to your other accounts) and get an ATM/Debt card specific to that account.  While setting up this account, ask about the cost of transaction fees. Most banks will offer free transactions if you use machines on their network, but you may want to do a bit of bank shopping to find the best deal.

If, for some reason that travel account card gets compromised, the only funds at risk will be those in the account.

Then, as you travel only use bank ATMs. ATM machines are very commonly available; some that are not a part of your banks network may charge a transaction fee, but if you use bank ATMs as opposed to ATMs located in retail merchants, hotels, etc. you’re going to save money. And under no circumstances (other than dire emergency) do you want to use commercial currency converters. If you do, you’re basically assured of paying the highest fees; even if their posted exchange rates might appear to be attractive, they will get you on the service charges.

You aren’t going to want to get extremely large amounts of hard currency wherever you visit. This just leads to another transaction fee when trying to convert that currency a second time.

Paying for a purchase with local currency, also leads to you receiving your change in local currency. If you can, limit the amount of currency you have after leaving a port of call to small amounts, one nice thing you can do with “left overs” is  give it to some of your favorite staff onboard, as they are likely to be able to use it, as their ship is very likely to return to the ports of call on that itinerary.

Earlier in this piece I recommended using a credit card wherever possible. There are some pitfalls possible, but a credit card still has many consumer protections for you as well. One thing - you do want to make certain is you get a card that offers no foreign transaction fees! If your  present preferred credit card does not offer free foreign transactions, get one that does.

Here’s a site that may be helpful in the search for such a credit card http://www.cardhub.com/credit-cards/foreign-transaction-fee/#searchid=2r0:11c1:v082101.

Of course, one should always verify the amenities and services a credit card offers, with the issuing bank. You also want to choose a card with no annual fee, as the savings of the free foreign fees may be lost on the annual charge for the card. Though I’m not one to advocate using a lot of credit, you may not be able to afford, as long as you’re prepared to pay off the complete balance when due, it’s not a bad idea to have a separate credit card specifically for travel, as I recommended for an ATM card.

It’s also wise to see if the credit card you’re going to use has the computer chip, with PIN number as opposed to those with just the magnetic strips. It once again offers more protection, and in many countries ATMs accept those more readily than they do those with magnetic strips.

Whichever credit card you intend to use during your travels be sure to advise the distributing bank of your travel plans, as otherwise they could flag and disallow charges you attempt to make because they are uncommon to your  standard spending.

- A View From The Kuki of Cruising -

Posted: May 6th, 2014 under Kuki.
Comments: 2