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fshagan

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  1. Sort of. US residents pay income tax on all their earnings. NCLH uses payroll deductions just like any shore based company to collect the taxes. The crew have to file income taxes just like any US resident does. You may be thinking of Payroll taxes, the tax that supports Social Security and Medicare with about 7.5% of the employees wages taxed and a matching amount collected from the employer. The crew doesn't pay those taxes, and the company doesn't do the matching. So NCLH and all other cruise lines skip paying those payroll taxes too.
  2. They use foreign flags because such vessels are exempt from any federal income tax on shipboard operations. All of the profits each foreign flagged ship earns are tax free as far as US taxes go. It doesn't matter if the income is from fares, alcohol, food or if the expenses are as wages or gratuities. They pay no tax to the IRS.
  3. The NCL FAQ at https://www.ncl.com/cruise-faq/what-about-gratuities says in part: I take that to mean that the staff member is allowed to keep the cash gratuities, but others differ because they insist on being wrong.
  4. Most wait persons share their tips with the host or hostess, bartender and the busser. So yes, if you leave a tip for a waiter, it is shared by the waiter with the other workers.
  5. While I didn't do a scientific survey, for the year and a half or so that NCL included gratuities I didn't notice a decline in tipping threads. It would be interesting to see if there was less whining about it from the UK during that time. The NCL forum on CC seems to have more arguments and nitpickers than other forums.
  6. They probably don't have the ability to issue a one week waiver in their system. If that's not available, it's not available. Manual overrides almost never work, especially with something that is so time sensitive as a cruise. TBH, as much as I like NCL, I would book with one of the other two lines that can promise, in writing, that you have the extra week to cancel penalty free. Remember that "he said" contracts are almost never enforceable without way more effort than you'll want to take, and resolution usually comes after the vacation is long over. So you absolutely must have it in writing. The risk is not just financial, but also missing the vacation. I can't think of any differences between the lines that would make missing the vacation - even if you are fully restored financially - worth the risk of losing what may be the last chance to vacation with your older son.
  7. NCL has a couple of rates that are cheaper without the extras; the GTY bookings where you also don't get to choose your cabin (I think these are the BX categories) and sometimes a sail away rate that is cheaper and does let you select your cabin. I don't see that sail away rate on all cruises. If not being under a pool deck or above a nightclub is worth $600 more, take the fare with the extras included. Many people make the choice on cabin selection alone. From that point, the forced service charge on the feebies that charge one seems reasonable to most people who would utilize that perk (drinkers paying the $20 a day service charge for unlimited drinks make out nicely if they drink more than 2 - 3 drinks a day). I always wonder why people complain about a lower price. If you like the lower price and the options it gives you, go for it.
  8. Yep. Meanwhile, when we visited the UK last year, we did research and found they do indeed have a "tipping culture", albeit at a lower percentage than I'm used to in restaurants. At least in London. We routinely tip 20% here in California even though all servers are paid at least $10.50 an hour (about the same as the mythical "living wage" in the UK). And tour guides in Scotland definitely keep their hand out at the end of the tour.
  9. I thought that would probably happen. As much as everyone thinks they prefer an airline with no baggage fees, or an all-inclusive cruise fare, the truth is that we do not act that way. I think there's a "first lowest price" selection process going on, where we quickly look at two or three offerings and start the process to compare them. Those two or three are going to be the ones that present us with the most value, which for most people includes the lowest price. After we dig in, if we find an extra charge that is ALSO on the other two, we continue to book. The more inclusive fare has a higher initial price, so it is not even in the final selection of two or three offerings, even though it may be the same or less cost.
  10. NCL says you can give cash tips to the staff if you like: Source: https://www.ncl.com/faq#!#what-about-gratuities
  11. Just wanted to say I always enjoy your posts and appreciate the experience you have in these matters.
  12. The CDC inspected the Breakaway in February, and the ship has corrected the problems. You can find the report on the CDC website. There were 20+ violations with some of them being processes not followed for sick employees (paperwork issues) to serious health violations like the scotch flight board having cracked varnish on the bottom that might let bacteria into it (the hand washing of it with a bleach solution wasn't documented properly or something). Fruit flies were found in one restaurant, and the pH monitor on the spas was malfunctioning, giving a different reading than the manual tests. Food was left in a warming case overnight to be discarded in the morning. That sort of thing. The CDC didn't comment on cleanliness in the public areas like we do. I guess we equate dirty public areas to lack of attention to detail, and we fear that lack of attention to detail will extend to the areas we can't see.
  13. My understanding is that the employees are under the tax rules of their respective nation, so Filipinos pay taxes on wages and gratuities based on Philippine law. I have heard, but haven't verified, that American workers on foreign flagged cruise ships do not pay into Social Security saving about 7.5% they would pay for their share (and of course the company isn't paying the matching percentage either). It sounds to me like the articles are complaining that the companies are paying their workers what they are willing to work for, and not making them rely on tips for their wages. That will always benefit some workers and hurt those that are customer service superstars who get higher tips. That's what some people want. My personal pet peeve isn't the extra $210 I have to remember to add to the cruise price for a 7 day cruise, it's the deceptive "per person, double occupancy" price that is advertised. The cabin price should be displayed, not a per person price. No one pays that price without a sale; solos pay a supplement.
  14. Only my Disney travel agent does this kind of thing (for Disney vacations). I have never had a cruise travel agent ever do anything for me. I use them only if the deal is better with something like OBC. I have found that the pricing on one well known big box warehouse store's travel agency is almost always higher that what I get direct. We just booked a cruise through NCL after checking that TA. They didn't even list the sail away rate I found on line. Another large TA we've used didn't offer benefits that overcame their modest booking fee ($25). Every now and then I get a price lower on that TA. But service after the sale? Never had it happen. Every one of my small independent TAs has been a huge disappointment.
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