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About fshagan

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  1. We have booked several guarantees, where you can't choose your cabin. A guarantee balcony on the Epic was one of the hull balconies; it was huge but also totally enclosed except for the port hold opening in the hull. Another ocean view guarantee was forward and low so that our alarm clock on port days was the noise from docking. We don't mind this so much, so we'll do it again. But I think people who want to choose their cabins do so with an eye towards not being above a nightclub or the theater, not under the pool deck, etc.
  2. The average age where I work is less than half my age, about 30 years old. Many of them live in shared housing and don't own cars, but have been to Australia, Japan, Europe and southeast Asia. If they see a sale on flights to Vietnam, three or four of them will get together and take a long weekend. Five of them go to the Tommorrowland music festival in Belgium every year. About half have been on at least one cruise. They are much more into experiences than they are into possessions. They don't participate in either forums or Facebook groups. When I handed over the social media duties to the marketing people, they had to sign up for Facebook. They had long abandoned that platform. VV advertising is much more experience orientated, and they are trying to snatch up some of those travel dollars going to land vacations instead of houses, cars and expensive stereo equipment (what I spent my money on in my youth). They are mostly great people, too, hard working and driven ... but not for the stuff we bought. They want to experience things.
  3. We live in So Cal so we have done several Pacific Coastal cruises. Astoria is a dock, but I'm not sure about Monterey (our stops have been San Francisco instead of Monterey). Vancouver is an expensive airport to fly into from some places. We usually end up on Canada Air, but one or two of the major airlines (Delta? United?) fly into there from LAX. If you have limited luggage you can carry with you easily, and don't have mobility issues, there is a great train station right at the airport that takes you into Vancouver. Vancouver is one of my favorite cities to walk in, and always feels safe to us.
  4. Over the years I've noticed a decline in Cagney's. Unless I have the dining perk, I don't consider the specialty restaurants worth the upcharge. A few years back Cagneys started touting "certified Black Angus" or something instead of USDA graded beef (they said they were Prime before that). Their steaks are on a par with a lower cost steak house like Outback, in my view, and simply not worth the upcharge.
  5. She is stealing, and should lose her job. If she steals from the company, how can she be trusted in your cabin when you aren't there?
  6. US law absolutely governs the financial concerns of NCLH. They are a US corporation, submitting a corporate tax return to the IRS, and submitting all the required paperwork with the SEC including quarterly and year end financial reports. The flag flying on the back of the ship does govern the crew, but not the financial affairs of the corporation processing your credit card payments in Miami. The IRS defines what a tip/gratuity is. Unless the payment meets ALL four examples I gave above, it isn't a tip. It isn't a matter of defining what a service charge is; it's a matter of what a tip is. You can call it an eggplant if you want, but it's not a tip. NCL calls it a "service charge". The IRS says it's not a tip. What should we call it? I vote for "service charge".
  7. Well, we do cruise other lines. But for us, it's always about the value of the vacation vs. the price. If the value we put on the vacation is less than the price, we don't go.
  8. As long as I've been sailing NCL it has always been $15 per bottle. You do have to carry it on so they can assess the corkage fee when you board. Princess also has a liberal policy on how many bottles you can bring on. The first bottle is free of corkage if you drink it in your cabin, but all additional bottles are $15 corkage no matter where consumed. This is "per passenger" so you could bring on two bottles for two drinking age adults sharing a cabin. They don't state an upper limit for the additional bottles. As far as I know, all cruise lines limit bringing on wine to the embarkation port only. Disney is the exception to this, as they allow 2 bottles per stateroom to be brought on in each port.
  9. Not true. If we were talking about US tax law, it would NOT be a gratuity, but a "service charge". And that is exactly what NCL calls it, a daily service charge. It is a "service charge" because it is given to the company and the company decides on the distribution. That's the defining point here. NCL is really customer friendly because they allow you to adjust or eliminate it, but they don't have to do that. The third and fourth bullet point means that the NCL discretionary "daily service charge" is not a gratuity or tip, but a service charge: From the IRS at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/employer-reminder-reporting-tips-versus-service-charges-key-differences-between-categories-affect-employees-tax-reporting:
  10. I totally agree with your approach on this issue. NCL has said that they use the service charge to both compensate and support incentive programs for their employees. That's sufficient for me to believe it goes to the employee in some fashion. I don't care what percentage of their costs are wages, benefits, or whatever the "incentive programs" are. As long as I know the employees are not being exploited, I simply choose my vacations by price and itinerary.
  11. Thanks for your comment. That wasn't my reading from the tax site, but I could certainly be wrong. However, tips are often paid on the paycheck to the employee. In the US, all tips must be declared to the employer, who puts that amount on the paycheck. Then, the payroll and income taxes are calculated on the total, and the tip income backed out to the extent that the employee took a "tip out" in cash. Tips are still tips, even though they are included on the paycheck for bookkeeping (and in the US, tax withholding). I haven't seen a crew member's paycheck, but if they have the notation "tips" for the line that makes up a gratuity portion of the check like US firms do, then it could still be tax exempt tips. BTW - my understanding is that Germany and some eastern Euro countries also do not tax tip income (Romania comes to mind, but it's been a while since I did any research).
  12. Here's an interesting "well, actually" for you. In the US, the cruise line does not pay any federal corporate income tax, so the majority of the line's business is not taxed at all, at least for US bookings. Foreign flagged vessels do not pay our income tax. If the cruise line WERE subject to income tax on its shipboard operations, I believe the daily service charge would be taxed under US law because the employer collects it and then distributes it. NCL is taxed by other governments, so it might hold true that tax considerations are at the top of the list for state and non-US country taxes (they pay tax on UK operations, for instance). I think it's for the benefit of the employees, actually. Some countries do not tax tip income. This isn't a "tax dodge" but a tax policy intended to help their citizens. For instance, the Philippines has a very progressive income tax, but excludes tip income. That helps the cabin steward support his whole family on his NCL income with an inflow of foreign dollars.
  13. We think that, but several industries show us that the first quoted price is more important. Very few airlines include a checked bag now because a cheaper initial fare draws customers even if the fare with checked bags ends up more. People commit to the fare, and then accept a certain number of add on charges before they break their commitment and start the search over. Disney and Virgin quote prices per cabin based on two cruisers in the cabin, and not the despicable "per person, double occupancy" pricing most others use, and include taxes and fees for the entire cruise (Disney does add a daily service charge, but Virgin does not). But when consumers first start looking at prices they compare the initial price. I have had people tell me that Disney was three times the price for a 7 day western Caribbean cruise, but it was really "only" 1.5 times the price because of the deceptive way the cheaper line advertises it's fare. Disney and Virgin can do this because their brand loyalty is so high and they don't have trouble filling cabins. But if things go south for them, look for them to implement "per person, double occupancy" and adding the taxes and fees at the end of the process just like the others. To it's credit, NCL has tried some all-inclusive fares in a pretty extensive test in the UK. They are going back to NOT including the daily service charge in the fare now. And because a cruise is a purely voluntary purchase, I suspect their test has shown what to us is counter-intuitive: consumers prefer the add-on fees rather than a higher price and no fees.
  14. In the US, state laws regulate this, so your state might differ. Nationally, the IRS differentiates between a "tip" and a "service charge" with different tax treatments. Automatic gratuities are considered income for the business and must be reported as such, and then the payout to the employees are considered regular wages and not tip income (meaning the business pays higher taxes on those amounts because of unemployment compensation, etc.) So if the line is an amount you fill in, rather than having automatically applied, and is not called a service charge, it is usually a tip that goes to the employee. If it doesn't, the business is cheating on their taxes. It's been a few years since I was a tax guy, so some of this may have changed, or I might be off in some detail, but that's close, anyway. So, the business is paying income tax on the service charge amount, whereas a tip you give as cash to an individual is not counted as income for the business. But, none of that applies to NCL. They don't pay any corporate income tax on any income related to on-board revenue, including your cruise fare, DSC, or onboard purchases.
  15. Looks like the often requested "include all the gratuities in one price" option didn't work out for NCL. Booking passengers seem to prefer to pay the DSC separately just as they prefer to pay the airlines baggage fees instead of choosing an airline that doesn't have them.
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