Let’s talk Gratuities

The idea of paying someone for the service we expect is foreign to Australians. This practice is very common and expected in most parts of the world. Cruises are no exception; crew members expect a gratuity payment for their service. The reason for this expectation is they are paid a minimal monthly wage from the cruise line. Some crew work more than 10hours each day of your cruise to ensure that it is an extraordinary experience for you.

As someone who has worked on a cruise line I would not have survived, or even worked, without a gratuity income. My wage from the cruise line was $500 per month for working 6 days a week and up to 12hours a day. Don’t get me wrong it was a wonderful experience, but I would not work for 72 hours a week for a weekly pay of $125 (which is about $1.75 an hour.) How many of us would?

So why should we as Australians pay gratuities on a cruise?

Most cruise lines in Australia incorporate the gratuities within the fare. They do this for two main reasons:

  1. This is to ensure the crew members are financially rewarded for the amazing cruise experience they provide. If no one paid gratuities, the cruise line would find it difficult to entice the best crew members to work on ships visiting Australia. Crew members will take contracts on ships where they can receive an income based on the service they provide.
    Lack of quality crew members became an issue for the cruise lines prior to gratuities being incorporated in the cruise fare.
  2. To keep cruising an affordable holiday option for most Australians. Without this affordability the cruise market in Australia would reduce, and Australians would not have the choice of cruise line and ships that currently visit our waters. A thriving market has meant that the Australian cruising public are enjoying new ships visiting our waters, ships such as the Majestic Princess, Ovation of the Seas and the Viking Sun.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, Silverseas, Seabourn, Carnival Australia and P&O Australia are just a few cruise lines who include gratuities in your fare. Everyone is a winner! The crew are happy, which filters to a better experience for you, the guest. It also ensures you do not have to worry about tipping. Let’s be honest, it is not in our culture and we can find it daunting.

Princess Cruise Lines has the gratuities included in the fare if the cruise starts and ends in Australian ports.

When you ask your cabin steward to deliver breakfast to your cabin, or bring you a second helping of your favourite desert, think to yourself, would I do that for $1.75 an hour?

You may be able to find a low price for your cruise by purchasing through a non-Australian website; however you will be charged gratuities on board the ship. The standard gratuity is from US$13.00pp per day. You will need to factor this in when looking for that extra low price on a foreign cruise website. Are you really getting a good deal from these websites?

When you are comparing price, also check your vulnerability. Are you covered for insolvency when booking on a foreign website?  If they are not an AFTA or ATAS Australian Accredited Agent, how safe is your money?

Let’s talk Drink Packages!

At Cruise Offers we are often asked about drink packages aboard the ships. The questions are:

1. Which cruise lines have drinks packages?
2. And, are these drinks packages really worth the money?

When we talk drink packages we are talking here about the alcohol packages, because what is a cruise for, if not sitting back and enjoying a cocktail or two as the world sails by. Here we are going to discuss the four most common cruise lines in Australia; P&O, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Princess Cruise Lines.

Buy a Drinks Package – Yes or No? The approximate cost of the package for each cruise line is below. The price is per person for each day of your cruise. The package allows for unlimited (*Subject to the responsible service of alcohol) drinks for any drink of $14 or less including gratuities. This means you would need to drink at a minimum of 5 drinks per day for each day of the cruise. Most cruises include days ashore in port.

So you need to ask am I going to drink about 5 drinks each day including port days?

Below is a list of the cruise lines and their drinks packages:

P&O Australia – Included in the Value Plus Fare or for sale via Cruise Personaliser on cruises 7 nights or longer. The drinks package is approximately $69 per person per day.

Carnival Cruise Lines – No drinks packages available for purchase.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines – Purchased via Cruise Personaliser prior to cruise in Australian dollars or on board in US dollars. The costs is somewhere between $60AUD-$90AUD per person per day approximately.

Princess Cruise Lines – In the process of changing their process. They can be purchased via the Cruise Personaliser for $87AUD per person per day on cruises of 7 nights duration or longer.

Each cruise line has their own set of rules and offers around drink packages, hopefully this has helped clear some of the confusion.

Top 10 Cruising Innovations for 2016

From the bionic bartenders to bumper cars at sea, cruise ship innovations have reached new heights. These are our favourites that will be making waves in 2016.

The SeaWalk on Regal Princess

At 60 feet long and hovering 128 feet above the ocean, the Princess SeaWalk offers an exciting experience for both kids and adults. Featuring a dramatic glass-bottomed walkway, the SeaWalk provides passengers with unparalleled views of the sea below.

The SeaWalk on Regal Princess

iFLY Skydiving on Ovation of the Seas

RipCord by iFLY is the first ever skydiving simulator at sea. Discover the thrill of skydiving in a completely safe and controlled environment without ever leaving the deck.

iFLY Skydiving on Ovation of the Seas

Robotic bartenders on Ovation of the Seas

These robots can muddle, stir, shake, and strain a drink to perfection. The cocktail combinations are endless with 30 different spirits and 20 different mixers. The robots can mix up to two cocktails a minute with laser precision and thirst-quenching results. Also available on Quantum of the Seas

Robotic bartenders on Ovation of the Seas

Chef’s Table on P&O’s Pacific Eden

An exclusive and private dining experience hosted by the ship’s Executive Chef. Includes a welcome reception with a glass of sparkling wine and canapés, a seven course degustation menu with matching wines, a tour of the ships galley, and professional photograph of the evening. Also available on Pacific Aria, Jewel, Dawn and Pearl

Chef’s Table on P&O’s Pacific Eden

Virtual Balcony on Ovation of the Seas

Ocean views are now available to every interior stateroom with the cutting-edge technology of virtual balconies. A Virtual Balcony is an 80-inch high-definition screen inside interior staterooms that spans nearly floor to ceiling. They offer digital real-time views of the ocean and destinations visible from the ship’s exterior. Also available on Voyager, Explorer, Quantum and Harmony of the Seas

Virtual Balcony on Ovation of the Seas

Wraparound Promenade on Norwegian Escape

An industry-first, quarter-mile wraparound oceanfront promenade featuring the Waterfront, a wine and dining experience connecting you with the ocean while enjoying some of Norwegian’s signature dining venues, Restaurants, bars and stunning views

Wraparound Promenade on Norwegian Escape

Qsine iPad menus on Celebrity Silhouette

iPad menus create a new dining experience that’s fun and interactive. Expect to find some twists on familiar favourites, including sushi lollipops, lobster escargot, popcorn fish and chips, and much more. Also available on Celebrity Eclipse, Millennium, Summit and Infinity

Qsine iPad menus on Celebrity Silhouette

North Star on Ovation of the Seas

A jewel-like observation capsule the offers guests the ability to see the world from a breathtaking 90 metres above sea-level. This innovation will provide unprecedented 360-degree breathtaking views never before seen at sea.

North Star on Ovation of the Seas

Bumper Cars on Ovation of of the Seas

An innovation for adults and children alike, the Royal Caribbean bumper cars are the first at sea. They are part of the largest indoor active space at sea, with 30 bumper cars, a roller rink, full-size basketball court, a circus school, floating DJ booth and a resident food truck. Also available on Harmony of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas

Bumper Cars on Ovation of of the Seas

10 Story Slide on Harmony of the Seas

At 10 stories high, Harmony of the Seas’ Ultimate Abyss is not only the tallest slide at sea but also an amazing engineering feat. The new mega ship will be arriving in Europe in May 2016.

10 Story Slide on Harmony of the Seas

And for 2017?

A two-level floating race track on new Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. Its next luxury ship will include the world’s first two-level floating race track. The ship will travel a China-based route that sails from Beijing and Shanghai. launching in 2017.

Norwegian Cruise Lines  Racetrack

Carnival Spirit Arrives in Australia

When the Carnival Spirit cruise ship sails into Sydney Heads today, winding up a 16-night voyage from Hawaii, its contingent of Australian passengers will be visible. Many will be on the vessel’s top decks, drinks raised, leading a welcome-to- Australia party. “The Aussies are ready,” says the senior vice-president of guest operations for Carnival, Mark Tamis. “They’re going to bring the ship in for us.”. Carnival, the world’s biggest cruise company, has spent $US7 million ($6.9 million) stripping the vessel of American apparel to fit with the needs of Australian passengers, including installing Australian power points and switching the on-board currency to our dollar. The changes extend to the drinks menu. VB, New and Carlton Draught is on tap, bottles of Pure Blonde and Crownies are in fridges. The “sav blanc” is from Marlborough, the “cab sav” from McLaren Vale. Advertisement Fat Jimmy’s, a barbecue on the ship’s highest deck, is tipped to be the hot spot on board this summer. Here, passengers can order slow-cooked pulled pork, smoky chicken breast or Black Angus beef sausages, with salads, jacket potatoes and onion rings. A few steps up – literally and gastronomically – is the Spirit’s Nouveau Steakhouse, the only restaurant on board that attracts a surcharge ($35 for four courses). The steakhouse is worth every cent: prime cuts are wheeled to your table prior to cooking, seafood options include lobster tail and ahi tuna tartare, and service is excellent. Another change is the launch of theme nights. Beyond the usual fancy dress parties that are held on cruises, Spirit staff start the fun at dinner. Meals and drinks match the theme, and waiters break into choreographed dance moves. Then the party moves to the pool deck, with live music, themed cocktails, games and giveaways. Breakfast aboard Carnival Spirit. Interestingly, when Carnival asked its Australian Facebook fans to vote on favourite themes, locals expressed the same preferences as American passengers: Mexican fiesta and Caribbean beach party. Pack your sombrero and practise your reggae moves; these party styles are set to be held on every cruise. Spirit’s most advertised attraction, Green Thunder, is billed as the world’s steepest waterslide at sea. It lives up to the hype. The almost vertical drop induces shock and awe in equal measure.

Best spots on board

Head for the ship’s Serenity adults-only retreat before everyone else works out where it is. Just before sunset is another ideal time to curl up on a cabana or have a spa at Serenity. Plus, Serenity’s outdoor bar is open later than most (until 3am or 4am, if people are still buying). At breakfast, fresh omelets are also available at La Playa Grille buffet’s back counter – where the queue is shorter. For lunch, be pampered by waiters in the Empire Restaurant (12-1.30pm). At dinner, choose “any time” seating or help yourself at La Playa Grille. The Green Thunder waterslide is busy between 11am-3pm, or try it on port days, when most people are on land.

For all of the latest deals visit cruise offers

Countdown to the Pacific Dawn

1 week of fun & relaxation, here I come!

I am counting down the days to my cruise on the Pacific Dawn this weekend!

My tickets are in my travel wallet, my shore excursions are booked and my skin is ready for a tan (spf 30+ will be involved).

Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill is on my list of things to experience, hello juicy steak.  After a night burning up the dance floor in the Dome you will most likely find me chilling out in Oasis.

When back from my wonderful week I will give you an update on the ship and all the great facilities and activities.

Bon Voyage!


Cruise Offers
Cruise Specialist

Celebrity Millennium to cruise in Australia and Asia in 2012

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has just announced the 2012 deployment of Celebrity Millennium, which will operate a series of Asian itineraries, visiting Australia on her way to Singapore during the previously announced down under deployment of Celebrity Solstice.

The 2158-passenger Millennium, which has previously spent several seasons cruising in Australia, will offer repositioning cruises from Hawaii to Sydney and from Sydney to Singapore, with the vessel fresh from an “extensive refurbishment” scheduled for April 2012 which will see the addition of 107 new AquaClass staterooms.

The Hawaii-Sydney sector will coincide with the November 2012 solar eclipse, while the vessel’s newly announced Asian season includes eight 14-night cruises from Singapore and Hong Kong, with ports of call including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Halong Bay.

Millennium’s new 2012/13 Asia itineraries will open for sale on Saturday 09 April.

For all prices and itineraries visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au

Art Festival Cruise on the Sun Princess to New Zealand

Fifty two painters, led by artists Greg Allen, Amanda Hyatt and John Lovett have now returned to Australia after a wonderful two weeks aboard the “Sun Princess” as it cruised to New Zealand.

The tour commenced in Sydney and in the two day trans Tasman crossing the painters settled down to work under the expert tuition and guidance of their selected artist.

Each day at sea began with a painting demo in the Shooting Stars Nightclub which the group had reserved especially for them on their days at sea. After their respective workshops, individual painters were free to continue their painting or, as many did, explore the ship or participate in many of the activities on board.

Day three and the “Sun Princess” had arrived at the Bay of Islands in the north island of New Zealand This was our first land based painting day. A quick trip by ferry to Russell and the three workshops then commenced with each artist selecting a location along the beautiful seashore of this historic town. After lunch the group then enjoyed a brief visit to Waitangi Treaty House before rejoining the ship once again. After all this painting and sightseeing, everyone had worked up quite an appetite for dinner which was admirably attended to in the Regency or Marquis dining rooms.

For the next seven days, the painting group visited towns and cities along the eastern seaboard, including Auckland – a wonderful painting location was selected by the artists at Devonport across the harbour affording magnificent views of the City of Sails, as Auckland is known – Tauranga and a visit to Wai O Tapu thermal wonderland at Rotorua and the art deco town of Napier. The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, completed our last city on the north island before we crossed the strait, which separates the north and south islands.

Our first port of call in the south island was idyllic Christchurch, where the groups set up their painting easels alongside the beautiful Avon River and its historic bridges. In the afternoon a couple of the groups continued their painting in Cathedral Square, the scene of much devastation with the terrible earthquake only a short few days after our visit. Our last port of call in the south island was Dunedin with its Scottish heritage. The day culminated in a visit to historic Olverston House which was widely acclaimed by all

After all of the excitement of painting and visiting in such wonderful surroundings many of the group certainly would have liked more painting time on land. However, these thoughts soon disappeared as the ship sailed through Fiordland in the south west corner of New Zealand. This magnificent scenery was made all the more brilliant under a bright blue sky.

During the next couple of days the group settled once more into their final on board painting workshops, buoyed by the critiques of their paintings by the artists and the wonderful displays of their favourite works of art, for all to see.

A highlight of this time was the group painting by Greg, Amanda and John as they painted a large three sheet painting of the “Sun Princess” as it toured Milford Sound. One of our group kindly donated this to the ship and this was gratefully accepted by the Captain – we hope that this work of art will be on display for all future travellers on the “Sun Princess” to see.

This was first painting workshop / cruise conducted in this part of the world by The International Artist Magazine and Travelrite International and was judged by all as being a great success – a great way to combine their love of painting under the watchful eye of internationally acclaimed artists whilst enjoying the sightseeing of our wonderful neighbouring country.

The 2012 Art Festival Cruise to Queensland is now on sale visit the following link for details.


P&O Cruises launch 2012-13 program including depatures from Melbourne

Departures from Melbourne and more short breaks are features of P&O Cruises massive new 2012-13 program.

On sale from March 31, the new program is P&O Cruises’ biggest ever and features a record 126 voyages between June 2012 and April 2013, with great value fares from $749* per person for a seven-night cruise from Brisbane and $1199* per person for a 10-night cruise from Sydney.

The program offers 24 cruises of less than a week, including more of the themed cruises that have proven such a hit with passengers, such as food and wine getaways and comedy cruises.

Highlights include a three-night Australia Day long weekend cruise from Sydney in January 2013 onboard Pacific Pearl, plus a new four-night Christmas shopping cruise from Sydney to Melbourne in early December on Pacific Sun, with fares on the shopping cruise priced from $649* per person.

The new program also features two new Australian ports of call, with Pacific Sun visiting Port Lincoln and pristine Kangaroo Island in South Australia on a coastal cruise. Fares start from $899 per person quad share for a nine-night cruise from Fremantle to Sydney departing on October 23, 2012.
Meanwhile, P&O Cruises has added Melbourne to its line-up of homeports, with the cruise line returning to the Victorian capital to offer seven summer cruises from late 2012, in addition to regular voyages from Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle and Auckland.

Jenny Lourey, Senior Vice President of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, said the new program offered more cruise itineraries than ever before, with destinations ranging from Asia to Tasmania, as well as the Pacific islands.
“Not only do we offer great places to visit, our ships are a destination in themselves. No matter where you’re cruising, the fun begins the moment you step onboard a P&O Cruises’ ship,” Ms Lourey said.

“Whatever your age, our ships offer a great range of features to make your holiday memorable – from spectacular aerial circus acts and great kids’ clubs through to delicious meals at Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill Restaurant and relaxing treatments in the spa.”

The new program also offers travellers front-row seats for the total solar eclipse in November 2012, with Pacific Jewel and Pacific Dawn sailing to the Pacific islands and northern Queensland to ensure the ships offer the best vantage points for the eclipse. Fares start from $799 per person quad share for a seven-night cruise onboard Pacific Dawn departing November 10, 2012.

Meanwhile, Brisbane will see 36 cruise holidays on offer onboard Pacific Dawn and Pacific Sun, including 25 of the popular seven-night cruises to the Pacific Islands or exploring the Queensland coastline. Cruises start from $749 per person quad share for a seven-night Queensland cruise onboard Pacific Sun departing July 8, 2012.
Fremantle will welcome home Pacific Sun for a third season of cruising in 2012, offering a mix of short breaks, Western Australian cruises and longer voyages to Asia between August and October 2012.

Twelve-night cruises to Indonesia calling at Bali and Komodo Island are priced from $1099 per person quad share.

Pacific Pearl will return to Auckland for another season of cruising from New Zealand, sailing five cruises of between three and 15 nights between April and May 2013. Fares start from $1299 per person quad share for a 10-night cruise to the Pacific Islands departing May 8, 2013.

Australian travellers will also have the chance to celebrate the birth of cruise holidays, with two special voyages planned in August 2012 to mark 175 years since the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company signed its first contract to deliver mail by sea and 80 years since P&O Cruises’ first Australian cruise.

Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel will meet in Sydney Harbour on August 22 and set sail in tandem on special heritage cruises, featuring tailored entertainment including a 175th Anniversary Gala dinner, a heritage art display and fascinating guest speakers. Fares on the nine-night Pacific Jewel cruise start from $1199 per person quad share.

For more information, Cruiseoffers on 1800 616 434 or visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au

* Fares are quad share. Subject to availability, conditions apply

Queen Elizabeth Maiden Voyage

Sandra and I have just returned to the new Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, after attending the naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, UK.

The new Queen Elizabeth was named by HRH Queen Elizabeth in an impressive ceremony late on a sunny Monday afternoon. Almost 2000 guests from all over the world cheered as the Queen released a bottle of champagne which hit the ship with a loud bang and set of fireworks and a celebratory display of streamers. During the ceremony we were entertained by the massed bands of the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang, had everybody on their feet as she sang Amazing Grace. It was a great British event!

Queen Elizabeth is sister ship to Cunard’s Queen Victoria with gross tonnage of 90,000 tons, passenger capacity of 2068 and 1005 crew. The decoration is more subdued that Queen Victoria with a concentration on mellow timber colours. The aft sun deck and pool area has been enlarged, a Midships bar has been added on Deck 3, and the popular Cafe Carinthia has been extended. The Queen’s Room remains the central focus of the ship. The Queen checked out a gold bust of herself and a specially commissioned portrait in the Queen’ Room this afternoon Queen Elizabeth sets sail tomorrow on her maiden cruise to the Canary Islands. She will land in Australian ports in February 2011 during her first world cruise. She will deliver a wonderfully elegant travel experience to everybody who loves the Cunard style of cruising.

Filed by Travelrite International’s Neville Walliss from Queen Elizabeth in port at Southampton, Monday 11 October 2010.

Travelrite have a range of specials Queen Elizabeth escorted cruises sailing from Australia. Visit  http://www.travelrite.com.au/escorted_cruises.shtml for details.