Dave Frinton - CruisePlus Founder

I’d rather have memories than crown moulding

Welcome to “Ask Dave”!  A few years ago you might remember when I did short advertorials several times a week.

I'm delighted to be back! Check us out in your favorite newspapers or online as I explore spectacular destinations and travel suppliers objectively. There will be travel trips, great advice and a few special value deals.

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Articles & Advice

Join Dave as he explores spectacular destinations and delves into different travel suppliers. Keep an eye out for a few special value departure selections.

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Join Dave Frinton, Don Shafer & guest speakers to explore various suppliers, destinations and exotic getaways. With over 40 years in the travel industry, don't miss out on these tales from the seven seas.

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Packages & Deals

Join Dave as he explores spectacular destinations and delves into different travel suppliers. Keep an eye out for a few special value departure selections

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Travel Tips

Busy Cruise – Lazy Cruise

When I go to Alaska on a 7 day cruise, there are only 3 physical stops generally. We tend to go for walks, or maybe take the train out of Skagway, but bottom line is we’re rather relaxed. When we take a 10 day Europe sailing, we’re up early, we’ve generally got very full schedules as we’re hitting 8 ports and really only have 1 day to sit by the pool and relax. A 15 day Hawaii has 10 days at sea…talk about pool time!

The point is to evaluate your itinerary and your own energy level before you book your trip. Some people are so restless that the last thing they’d want are those days at sea – most of us seem to enjoy them.  

I have clients that will never get off the ship, and really couldn’t care where it goes, as long as it’s warm outside. They are happy to simply enjoy all the amenities aboard, tend to participate in the activities (of which there are  many choices), and/or just want to catch up with their reading and enjoy looking at the blue seas.  If you are one of the small group of passengers that don’t disembark in a port, watch for specials in the spa…and enjoy having the ship almost to yourself.  

Make your Departure – Book an Extra Day!

Travel is full of unexpected delays and cancellations…so along with insurances, we recommend you protect your vacation by planning an extra day or two int he city embarkation or tour departure.  This can be a great investment in your trip because you can dig in and get to know the area – but also ensures that you have much less stress about your trip overall.

If you don’t want to pay for a hotel, this can seem excessive – but check air prices as well – they often vary from day to day and can make up the difference of the cost of a hotel if that is a concern.

What You Need to Know About Shore Excursions

You want to be immersed, educated, and feel like you have left your destination armed with knowledge and memories… so how should you book your shore excursion? The answer to this is evolving. Before COVID, it was easy and usually very effective both in product and price, to purchase a shore excursion from an online company or as you exited the ship. This is still possible in some destinations. The change is this: the whole travel industry was brought to its knees by the pandemic, including shore excursion operators. Many of them closed their businesses and moved away, especially in seasonal destinations. So now what? The cruise lines recognized this issue and have snapped up a lot of the capacity in the destination and if you wait until arrival, you may not have anything available to you. If you are lucky and there is availability, it maybe with a company that has no track record. We are recommending that you make your plans early.

If you do choose to do a shore excursion other than through the cruise line, make sure that the company is reputable, that they are a registered company, have liability insurance, and a “back to ship” guarantee. Do note that if you are late returning, you have a chance when booked through the cruise line that they will wait for you, and none at all if not.  

All of this is to say – there’s a balance here that can only be achieved by adhering to your comfort level. Some of the tour operators you can book separately offer a more in-depth experience, are less costly andthose advantages add up. Cruise line shore excursions may cost more, but have more built-in assurances and offer exactly the experience that you want.

Required Travel Vaccinations

Allow yourself time to figure this part out. If your travel requires vaccinations, or they are recommended, handle this part of your trip early. It is your responsibility to know what is formally required and what is suggested for the countries you are entering, and these requirements can change anytime without notice. For example, when I take people to Tanzania, generally yellow fever shots are all that one must have.

If you go to a travel clinic they may offer you a multitude of options. You have to determine your comfort level and act accordingly. Many people would always rather be safe than sorry, decreasing the chance of illness. If you are allergic to a medication, see your doctor, and investigate whether or not there can be any exceptions made.  

Check if You Need an Entry Visa

It is always your responsibility to organize entry and exit visas for the destinations on your itinerary.  These requirements can change without notice– so make sure you and your travel agent have your eyes open. Travel companies often have a service to make it easier on you, but they, as do many companies who can do it for you, can charge significant fees.

Allow plenty of time to get your required visas – plan ahead as you may have to surrender your passport in the process. The good news is a lot of countries have easy online applications which are relatively easy to use!

U.S Credit Cards for Canadian Residents

If you do a fair amount of traveling, I strongly recommend you pick up a US dollar credit card and have a US $ bank account. The foreign exchange fees are generally 1-3% higher than if you purchase in the same currency and in much of the world, the US dollar is still the most accepted.  If you see a good opportunity to purchase US dollars, I recommend you do so, and keep them in an interest- bearing account.  

If you’re a good customer at a bank or credit union, make sure and ask for the preferred exchange rates, as this can save you a lot. I have found over the years that this has saved us money -  as so many places charge in US funds.

Some of the airline credit cards offer some real benefits but generally come with fairly steep annual card fees – so evaluate your likely spend, and if worth while check into the various card options, which include no fee.

What to Expect on Onboard Spending

When you do your online check-in, you will be asked for a credit card for onboard purchases and charges. Many cruise lines will pre-authorize your account for up to around $100 per person per day so they know will be able to cover any spending. Handling purchases this way makes the purchasing and settling processes much more efficient. You can decline using a credit card and provide “up front” US dollars – if you spend less, they would refund you – if you require more, they may ask you to replenish the account at any time. You can always change the credit card you initially provided when you first check-in, or soon after.

We do recommend that you check your onboard account for any irregularities. Be aware that sometimes credits to your account may not show up for a few days after the ship departs.  

Save Time by Checking Online!

Most travel companies require you to check in online.  Watch for communication and ensure that it is done at the appropriate date and time. Make sure and have passports in hand, air and hotel information, the full name and address of your emergency contact and the credit card you’d like to use, and any Visa and vaccination information if required.

Check Your Passport's Expiration - Six Month Validity

Always make sure that your passport is valid for 6 months after the day of your expected return. Please note that there are some exceptions to this requirement, but they could change at anytime, so this is our recommendation even if you are traveling to a country with that exception in place.

Why Travel Insurance is Important

This is a big one. More customers are booking travel insurance than ever before…many after having experienced exactly what a pain it was not to have it. Medical insurance is simply a MUST. 

Every agency has stories to share - here are a few of ours:

  • We had a customer have a heart attack while traveling – the end result was not pretty, as he lost his home
  • One of our hosted tours had two separate people have serious medical issues arise. Both had insurance but one had to fight for ages to get compensation, and initially, appropriate care. The other had purchased a good policy and was treated very well, and quickly, both on the financial and care fronts.
  • I recently was traveling with a friend who tripped and fell – resulting in a nasty head injury. I was able to be with her and activate her claim from the hospital as we were in the emergency department - she received treatment and was released after approximately 6 hours – with no bill. The hospital had already received instructions that the claim would be paid with no charge to the policy holder.

Cancellation and Interruption Insurance:

Only you can decide whether or not you are prepared to lose the cost of your trip, and perhaps have to pay an unexpectedly large amount if you have to return home unexpectedly. Consider this carefully, and ask us for a quote! 

The bottom line is – you can never predict when you are going to need insurance, and the policy you buy makes a difference. We can help!  

Items to Consider in Insurance:

It’s always a hot topic, so here are some items to consider:

  • If you think you have coverage – double-check.  Did the policy change when you hit a certain age?  
  • What are you covered for?
  • Do you have to pay upfront? (If so, make sure you arrange easy access to money in the case of an emergency)
  • Is your insurance company available 24 hours a day, and do they provide the services of an interpreter if necessary?
  • Did it used to cover you and a traveling companion…but now has changed? This is often a policy stipulation related to age, and can also be the result of changes to a policy.
  • Does it have a sufficient limit? We recommend that you do not travel with less than3 million in medical coverage, and for cancellation insurance you must cover the whole non-refundable portion of your trip.
  • Does your coverage include CFAR – a cancellation for any reason provision?
  • Always check exclusions in your policy and ensure that you are comfortable with them.
  • Always check for medical stability requirements

Ask us! No travel insurance is perfect for everyone, but the insurance that we sell (only available from travel agencies) is one of the very best in the business that Canadians can purchase.   

How to Get a Cruise and Air Upgrades?

You may have noticed that this part of the travel landscape is evolving. Both airlines and cruise lines are beginning to employ a bidding process for upgrades close to departure, and we expect to see this more and more. This makes an upgrade by chance less likely, so if you book a lower seat or stateroom than you wish to have…be more prepared to keep it. If you care about where you sit or sleep and would like to bid – pay attention to the emails you receive from the travel companies and your travel agency and see if this process is one for you.

Of course, on the cruise side, free upgrades may still be offered when there is availability in higher stateroom categories. It is just less likely now with this process in place, and now that the trend seems to be firmly in place that the higher categories are booking first.

On the air side, take a look at availability on the flight. The less space available, the higher the bids will likely be, as the current trend is that there is more demand for business, first and premium economy than we have seen before.  

Watch for Penalty Dates on Deposits or Payments

Please pay attention to the dates on your travel documents! Penalty dates vary widely depending on many factors, including travel company. Penalties usually change at the time of final payment and may have a sliding structure based on the cancellation date. In some cases, a deposit may become non-refundable prior to the final payment date.  

Note that it is our policy to take final payment prior to the travel company's official date, and provide you a window where the payment will be taken. This is to allow us time to contact you, if there are any issues with your method of payment. Some travel companies automatically cancel bookings if payment is not received on time, so we have altered the date to protect your booking.  

When is the Best Time to Book?

If you asked me this question, I’d have 10 different answers, depending on your wants and needs. This world is all about supply and demand, and the travel business is no different. What I can say with a 90% certainty ist hat popular itineraries to sought-after destinations and longer duration trips normally book up early, and pricing reflects this. While we always talk about decreasing prices, much of the time prices increase closer to departure.

There’s always the comfort of knowing you have the exact accommodations you want, and being at the front of the line has its benefits. Not to mention that departure dates for tours and cruises do sell out – if they are popular, they may well be gone if you wait. On the tour side, there has also been a move for smaller group travel – so those dates are going to sell out more quickly.  

If you have a group of travellers, especially if you have specific requests for your group, book early. If your group is only going to travel if you all travel – ensure that you have good travel protection in place with Cancel For Any Reason coverage!

Price Changes after Final Payment

Yes, they do happen! Most travel companies will lower pricing after final payment and have a policy in effect that you cannot change your pricing after that time if they still have space to sell. This is because travel has an expiry date, just like milk does. If not everything is sold by the time of departure, lost revenue cannot be recovered, and any revenue is better than none. Refunds and price changes are not offered because if they were the travel company would be out of business. Each departure must make a certain amount of money for the business case to work. 

The good news is – you may not have wanted or been able to get that lower fare anyway, as it is usually for a small portion of inventory only. As I write this, in the wake of the pandemic, we are seeing a mix of very high demand on some travel departures – where no price drops are happening and price increases are taking place the closer we get to departure – to some instances where there are price drops that are very restrictive.

If you want to travel, we still recommend to you book when what you want is available, for a price you are ok with. If you wait – you may get nothing. If you don’t care if you travel – waiting it out may work for you. Just be aware that in almost 100% of cases, any price changes after final payment will not apply to your booking.

What Happened if There's Price Drops Before Final Payment?

Sometimes they happen and your fare is eligible to be changed. It is very difficult for anyone to keep up with these changes as notifications are typically absent, and the new promotion might be very short-lived. Most price reductions are subject to terms and conditions that state “new bookings only”, but if you see a reduction that you are eligible for-  or if we do– we will advise or change pricing on your behalf if they are a true reduction on the same trip.

Please note that price reductions can change the amount of CruisePlus Rewards your booking is eligible for, and that non-refundable deposit fares are usually ineligible for any price drops at any time!

Booking with a Government Licensed Agency

Book where you feel you get value, expertise, and are protected. In Canada, consumer protection is more of a built-in concept than it is for online purchases in general – and that applies to the travel agency side as well.

When you book with a licensed agency in BC or Ontario for instance, you are protected by consumer protection practices.

Why Using a Travel Advisor is Better than Booking Online?

Air bookings have been made easy to do online – but you still may be missing pieces of the puzzle, especially on complicated international itineraries. Sometimes having a legal connection time still doesn’t offer the right amount of time to connect, for instance. On the tour and cruise side- unless you are doing a trip of only a few days length, most savvy travellers don’t book online.

Too many have made mistakes and had the joy (not!) of fixing them, or missing really good opportunities and value that a Travel Advisor knows not to miss. If your time is valuable to you – book with a Travel Advisor.  You will get value and expertise, all in one place!

Do All Agencies Offer the Same Price or Value?

Most of the time, yes…but there are instances where a high-producing or strategic agency has some extra incentives from the supplier, and are either allowed to sell for less, or to offer better overall value. Any agency that promises the “Lowest Guaranteed Price” is doing so based on what the best generic rate available to all agencies is, which means there may still be better offers out there.

Our agency is “right-sized” to receive many special offers – so most of the time we can offer you a exceptional pricing. BUT – if we told you we can’t be beat, we’d be lying. So our ask is this – establish a relationship with our agency and our team of great Travel Advisors!

Value is established by our offers and the expertise of our exceptional team, and you will be very happy with your travels.  

Understanding Tipping and Gratuities on a Cruise

Most of the cruise lines do charge you a per person per day gratuity charge (from say $12 - $20 US per day). This covers your room stewards, dining room and other serving staff. The people sharing these tips work extremely hard at their jobs – often with very few days off.

Gratuities are counted on to achieve a living wage. Some cruise lines, while they will charge it directly to your onboard account, will allow you to adjust the gratuity total –evendown to zero. If you thought the service was sub-par, you have the option to adjust it, but I urge you not to – the money does go to the people who deserve it.  

Understanding Why Travel Agents Charge Fees

Most agencies have had fees for many years, but after COVID-19 there has been an increase of fees = both in terms of for what, and in terms of cost - in our industry. This is due to many factors, including 2 years of very little or no income for many agencies – and the fact that we do not otherwise receive any monies unless you travel.

Thankfully, most travellers have recognized the service, extra value, and expertise of agencies, and have been very amenable. Refer to our Schedule A for details of any fees dealing with our agency.  

Working with Your Travel Advisor

All travel agencies are experiencing huge demand. Travel is back, with a vengeance.  That said, there was an exodus of people from this hardest-hit industry, and we are existing with less staff. Please help us by telling us if your request is urgent, can wait awhile, or if you are currently just looking so that we can try to help everyone to the best of our ability. 

If you have already booked elsewhere and it is not eligible to be moved to CruisePlus, please respect our time.

Hold Request for a Stateroom, a Packaged Vacation or Tour

If you are seriously considering a booking, there is generally no risk to put a booking on hold for a time!

It is a good practice to do this to secure space, and secure pricing, especially if you are traveling with others.  As we get back to a more normal environment, pricing is likely to increase closer to departure date because space is limited.

Be Aware of Sneaky Advertising

There are advertising practices that are legal but might make it hard to discern their value.  For instance – if you see 80% off of a fare – 80% off what? Perhaps a fare that is in a brochure that no one has ever paid? Is it a relevant discount from the current existing fare?

And…watch for additional taxes and fees. You will notice that we advertise with them included and note on our documents what is not included in terms of any additional fees and taxes that are payable in a destination, as we try to be as transparent as we can about your costs.  Watch for overall value!

Booking Incentives

At times, there will be offers that are too good to miss. Travel agencies and travel suppliers may be looking to get a great number of bookings in place in a short time, and then raise rates. At other times, there will be great incentives for certain itineraries or dates due to low demand. Keep an eye out for these – as we will, on your behalf. We see different rates and combinations than you may have access to and our team will assess the value of each, based on your feedback. For instance, a beverage package is not much value if you don’t drink, so there maybe something else better for you.  

Wave Season - January & February travel suppliers promote their brands and offer amazing travel incentives. Sign up for our emails to receive the latest promotions directly to your inbox! 

A special note – if you are a traveller that does take advantage of perks, you may find better value in a brand that includes more in their normal fares.  You can often book a low fare, but pay a lot during your travel, or pay a higher up - front fare and experience better value overall.

Should I Book Directly with a Cruise Line or Tour Operator?

The smartest of travellers do not do this! We understand why it happens- it’s easy to assume that going direct will provide you with the best price, and that somehow agencies fill the role of the “middle man”, but in fact…the opposite is true.

The agency business is so large that travel companies offer equal or better value to travel agencies, vs. booking direct, and you have the advantage of dealing with someone who works for you, not the travel company. Not only are professional Travel Advisors well-trained… they know what options are a fit for you and have your best interests at heart, so if we feel you are heading down a path that you won’t enjoy…we’ll tell you, not try to sell to you!

There will be something more fitting for you, and we will know what that is!