Talk Travel: Will I get better service if I prepay tips on a cruise?

Talk Travel: Will I get better service if I prepay tips on a cruise?

Q: We’re taking a cruise this summer, and the cruise line offers the option to prepay the recommended tips. How do you think this affects the service? If we don’t prepay, will we get better service because there’s still a chance to make us want to tip above the recommended amount? Or worse service because they think we’re cheap and won’t tip at all?

A: I don’t think it matters. So many people prepay tips that you won’t stand out. It’s basically the norm. Remember, there are people who aren’t included in this gratuity pot, such as shore excursion guides, kids’ club employees, the guy who delivers room service, etc. And even if you prepay, you always can give extra if you feel service was above and beyond.

Q: We are spending three nights in Las Vegas before a national parks vacation (staying in lodges in the parks, booked 13 months in advance). We’ve never been to Las Vegas, and there are so many places to choose from. We’re not gamblers, but want to soak in some of the atmosphere — the lights, good food, a show or two. Anyone have a favorite hotel to recommend — on or off the Strip? We also wonder if the north or south end of the strip is more convenient/interesting?

A: I stayed at the Venetian on the Strip last summer, and it was very nice. Luxurious room, not as crazy as some of the other Strip hotels. Got a good deal via Vegas.com. I know that downtown Las Vegas is getting a lot of buzz, but if you’ve never been there before, you’re probably better off staying right on the Strip. As for what end to stay on, there’s a tram that connects things, so not that important.

Q: We’re planning a car trip to Canada in late June. My passport expires in mid-July, a few weeks after we’ll return to the U.S. According to a State Department website, entry into Canada from the U.S. only requires that the passport be “Valid at time of entry.” Since we only average one international trip per year (usually in the summer), I’d prefer to wait to renew it until later in the year so the next one hopefully will carry me through an extra summer trip. Of course, who knows what will happen in 10 years. Am I correct in my assumptions, or is there some other reason I should renew it now rather than wait until later?

A: Most countries require you to have a passport that’s valid for anywhere from three to six months from the date of your arrival. As far as I can tell, Canada doesn’t, but it’s not worth the risk. I would renew your passport now.

Q: Some really bad press (and things) going on for United with all of the dog-handling issues they have had lately. Wondering if the airlines just ought to put animals on special flights in coach and treat them (gasp!) just like people.

A: Pet Airways already exists. I think airlines are just trying to make sense of all the comfort animals that passengers are trying to bring into the main cabin. A pets-only airline makes some sense. Who knows, it might be more comfortable than economy class.