It shouldn’t really be a surprise, but as Baby Boomers & Gen Xers have watched their kids move out, they have become prolific cruisers, are seeking new experiences, have more free time and money, and now desire a more sophisticated cruise experience. Bottom line, they are wanting to up their cruise game.
Fortunately Europe is very safe for tourists. Violent crime is extremely rare there. However, you do have to take precautions to prevent being a victim of pickpockets. My husband and I were in Madrid a while back, and in an extremely crowded subway (Metro), as we pulled into the station, he felt a slight tug on his back pants pocket. He reached back and grabbed the hand of a woman, who immediately pulled free and jumped out just as the doors opened. Then she vanished. Fortunately, he had his wallet in a front zipped pocket. He was prepared and you need to be too.
When you receive a quote or purchase a ticket for a cruise, there normally up to 5 components to the price:
1) Room or Voyage fare (the cost or fare for the stateroom/cabin)
2) Non-commissionable fees (NCF)
3) Governmental taxes and fees
4) Gratuities (optional, but depends on the cruise line)
5) Travel insurance (optional)
The most confusing component is “non-commissionable fees.” What does “non-comm,” “non-commissionable,” or “NCF” fees mean? They are called “non-commissionable fees” (NFC) because the travel agent is not paid a commission on those fees. Several years ago, the Federal Trade Commission required cruise lines to list all “non-commissionable fees” in the price they advertise – in other words, they are supposed to tell you the entire price for the cruise (room/voyage fare + non-commissionable fees + governmental taxes and fees). The purpose of the FTC order was to make sure the customers understood the true cost of their cruise.
Unfortunately, “non-commissionable fees” is not a very consumer friendly term, and has been used by cruise lines to merely bump up their profits. These fees typically include port fees, but can include any other fee the cruise line wants to include, such as administrative fees, or fees related to services provided while in ports (piloting fees, stevedores, waste disposal, immigration fees, etc.). You won’t normally see the “non-commissionable fees” broken down or listed, and there are not any requirements or limitations on what a cruise line can or cannot include in the fee. In all honesty, NCFs can be whatever the cruise line wants. The only requirement is that it must be disclosed to the customer or included in the final price.
Some travel agencies merely list NCFs as “port fees,” but this is not correct, and it can lead to confusion and frustration. For instance, if your NCFs were labeled as “port fees” of $150 for your cruise, but unfortunately a hurricane prevented you from visiting any port, you would expect to get your $150 “port fees” back. Bad news, you won’t. NCFs are not “port fees” but may include port fees.
So make sure you read the fine print. Make sure you know what you are buying.
Jump to the front of the line at immigration & passport control
If you've ever flown into one of the world's busiest airports, you know how miserable the immigration, passport control, and customs process can be entering a foreign country. We've waited hours in line at London's Heathrow. During high tourist season, expect long waits in Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, Amsterdam and Milan of up to four hours.
Switching airlines at a connecting city can create problems for your baggage
Imagine checking in for your flight, checking your bags, and arriving at your destination only to learn that your baggage is spinning around on a baggage carousel at your connecting airport. Well it happens more often that you might think and it happens when you switch airlines at a connecting city.
We've traveled around the world with our pets. In fact our pets have flown more air miles than many people. But it is important to understand the right way to fly with your pets. Here are some of tips we've learned over time:
Check with your vet
Ask your vet if it OK to fly with your pets. Your pets may have illnesses, conditions, or be of an age which might making flying unsafe. Also certain types of dogs are prone to problems with flying. Check and make sure all of your vaccinations are current - some airlines will required documentation from your vet.
Avoid layovers or connecting flights
Air flights are taxing on pets due to increased stress, changes in pressure, fear of flying, lack of ready access to food & water, or the inability to relieve themselves. Direct flights, especially red-eye flights, help to minimize some of these problems. When we fly overseas, we spend the night in a pet friendly hotel if there is a connecting city to allow the dogs to adjust. If you do this, verify with the airline in advance that you won't be charged an additional pet fee.
Consider getting pet tracking device
When pets are in an unfamiliar place, they are more likely to bolt out of fear. Pet tracking devices can help you find your pets if they wander or take off. If you are checking your pet in the baggage compartment, some trackers can help you locate where you pet is if they are inadvertently missed placed by the airline. You'll find various types of trackers at the Dog Clinic. At a minimum these devices can give YOU a little more piece of mind that your pets are safe.
Check for international pet passport requirements
If you are traveling overseas with your pets, make sure to check for foreign regulations regarding bring pets into that country. Most countries will require that your pet be micro chipped. In addition, you will likely have to get a certificate from your vet. These international health certificates require original ink signatures from the issuing USDA Accredited Veterinarian and the endorsing APHIS Veterinary Medical Officer with the application of the APHIS embossed seal. These documents will be presented as you enter the country.
Get an approved pet carrier.
You'll probably be required by the airline to used an approved pet carrier. Check our the airline requirements below.
Know your airline's pet policies
AeroMexico | Air Canada | Air France | Air New Zealand | Air Tahiti Nui | Alitalia | All Nippon | American | Asiana | Austrian Air | Avianca | British Airways | Brussels | Cathay Pacific | Condor | Copa | Delta | Egyptair | Emirates | El Al | Eva Air | Iberia | Icelandair | Japan Airlines | Jet Airways | KLM Airlines | Lan Chile | Lot Polish | Lufthansa | Norwegian Air | Philippine Airlines | Qantas | Qatar | SAS | South African | Swiss | TAM | Thai Airways | Turkish Airlines | United | Virgin Australia | Virgin Atlantic
We have two small dogs and when we travel, we usually put them up in a dog resort where they are watched by professionally trained staff with a veterinarian on 24 hour call. It is pricey, but we feel that our "children" will be well cared for, so that we can relax and enjoy our vacation without worrying about them. But there have been times when we have taken the dogs with us, and then we face the challenge of finding a nice hotel that will accept dogs
Our favorite website to find hotels that accept dogs is 1ClickPetHotels.com.
There you select hotels by state and then from a list of major cities. The site displays the cost/fees to bring a pet as well as whether there is a maximum weight allowed. From the site you can click to a page about the hotel, see its rating & comments, plus there is a link to check availability and make a reservation.
1ClickPetHotels does not have not have foreign hotels listed. So we use DogFriendly.com to check for dog friendly hotels around the world,
as well as a second resource for US hotels. This site also displays the cost per dog/cat as well as any size limitations. BUT, it is also a good resource for other travel
issues related to pets including airline policies on pets, quarantine issues by country, and more. However, verify any information that is important to you because some of the information appears to be out-dated.
Gross Tonnage (GT) Is Not the Weight of a Ship
When you look at the statistics of various cruise ships, you'll notice that cruise lines normally display their ship's "Gross Tonnage" (GT), the year built, the number of crew, the number of passengers, and more.
What most people don't know is that GT does not equate to the weight of the ship. Rather GT is a measurement of the ship's internal volume of its enclosed spaces (above and below the water line), where 100 cubic feet of volume equals one ton.
Gross tonnage was initially used for cargo ships to determine the maximum amount of space for the storage of goods that could be stuffed inside a ship. While it doesn't seem particularly relevant to cruise ships, it is also used to determine which rules and
regulations apply to a ship, its crew staffing levels, safety rules, and port fees. Because of this, it is the standard that most commonly is used to define a ship.
For cruise ships, typically the larger the gross tonnage, the larger the ship is, the more passengers it can hold, and the more restaurants and entertainment facilities you'll find onboard.
The Royal Caribbean "Symphony of the Seas" is the largest cruise ship with a gross tonnage of 228,081, 18 decks, and the capacity to carry 6,680 passengers. While the Pioneering Spirit, a crane vessel, has the largest gross tonnage at 403,342.
So now you know!
Blog author. Former travel editor for Compete Magazine, awarded top 25 travel writing blog 2018 & 2019..