To Tip or Not or How Much or Why . . . ?

As I travel to various parts of this wonderful world — whether it’s speaking on cruise ships or just enjoying the beauty of the area — there are activities and customs that can be downright confusing to some. One of those customs has to do with leaving a tip for someone who’s provided a service to you. That service could be the person cleaning your hotel room, serving you a meal, driving you somewhere, making your special morning latte, toting your luggage at the train station. There are lots of services being done every day as people move about in their own city or in some place far away.


One quick story. It was my first business trip to Japan, and I was staying at the Hyatt Hotel near the Shinjuku Station. I’d been given directions on how to use the train from the airport to the train station, so I was all set for getting to the area. Once at the station, I got in a taxi and told him the Hyatt Hotel. We were off in a jiffy, and we made it to the hotel in about six minutes (I didn’t know how close by it was; I walked from then on). As we got to the hotel, a man ran out to the taxi, grabbed my luggage and ushered me into the hotel after I paid the taxi driver. Once inside, the bellman stood by my luggage as I checked in, showed them my passport, etc. With key in hand I head to the elevator as the bellman dutifully and politely followed me. We ride up together, neither of us saying anything, until we reach my floor. Off to the room where he waits for me to invite him in with MY luggage. He brings it in and turns around to leave. I said something and he turned around. I had some money in my hand to give to him and he shook his head “No.” He bowed politely and left.
After I put my clothes away I looked at the hotel check-in form and there it was in bold letters: NO TIPPING. That was certainly different from what I was used to the the USA!

Many customs can cause confusion as there doesn’t always seem be rhyme or reason why “Yes” here, “No” there, “Maybe” or “Sometimes” in other places. As these are customs and not laws, there is no definitive source for what is actually the right thing to do, but Wikipedia does have a nice reference article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratuity. You might not want to print the article although you could jot down a few notes based on the countries you’re planning on visiting.

Many people say that you shouldn’t have to tip if the service people are paid “a decent wage.” That sounds good, but that’s not always the case. For some workers, particularly in restaurants, hotels and other customer-focused service industries, their base pay is pathetic, perhaps three dollars an hour with the expectation that they’ll make it up in tips. Our son worked six years in a restaurant where a very significant part of his pay was the tips he received. His experience helped us to be even more generous when we tip; it will be 20% at a minimum in a restaurant unless the service is sub-par.

One of my recent cruise ship speaking experiences was a six-week voyage from New York City through the Panama Canal to Sydney, NSW, Australia — what an awesome experience. It was the last segment of a 3+ month world cruise that sailed round trip from Sydney, so it was mostly Aussies and Kiwis on board. Because the ship was home ported in Australia, it was a requirement that there be no tipping on board. When you bought a drink, your room card was charged the menu price, and the bill was closed out. There wasn’t even an option to add a tip. That was strange for us (so we did personally tip some of the staff), but it was life as usual for the Australians. I came across an article on Cruise Critic about tipping, particularly on cruises, and I thought it was interesting — here it is.

Travel is a wonderful thing; whatever you do, wherever you go — remember there are people working to make a living so that you’re able to enjoy your travels. Even a few dollars from you — such a small amount for you — can make a big difference for the service staff.


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out an infrequent newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2017 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. Ownership of images and content from linked sources remains with those sources or their attributions; no ownership by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC, is implied or claimed.




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The Lady at the Sushi Restaurant

September 19, 2016
I’m sitting in an airline lounge at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo, and I was reflecting on my recent stops here in Japan. I just disembarked from a 15-day trans-Pacific cruise that started in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and ten of those days were sea days. Our five days in port were in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, USA, and then our four ports in Japan — Otaru and Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido, and then Tokyo (proper) and Tokyo (Yokohama) where the cruise ended. I was one of the guest speakers on this cruise (you can visit my cruise speaking page by clicking here), and that is a pleasure that is still as exciting as the first time.

I’ve been to Japan many times, initially while I was working for a major Fortune 25 company, and then many times after taking the early retirement so I could travel and write and have fun! While I’ve been to many exciting places and seen so many wonderful sights in the 55 countries and over 125 cruise ports I’ve been to, it’s the people who are memorable and who make the trips so enjoyable.
There was the tour guide on our 21-day journey through six countries in Europe; we heard her speak the five languages (Dutch, German, Italian, French, English) fluently and with ease every place we went. And then on that tour we met many nice couples, including one with whom we’ve since cruised a couple times as well as vacationed together. There was the chap in the pub in Glasgow who told us about the “contest” with the Germans on who could make the strongest beer. (Who won? It wasn’t the Germans.) And there was a whole group of Australians that we had a great time with on a six-week cruise from New York to Sydney (they were finishing a 100+ day world cruise).
And there have been so many more.

And then on this recent trip, there was a lady at the sushi restaurant in Hakodate. I don’t know her name; I don’t know where she lives, or if she’s married or single, or if she has any children or grandchildren — I really know nothing about her. Except. Except I do know that she made such an impression on me because she wanted me to feel comfortable where I was in a situation that could have been very UNcomfortable.
You see, I purposely went in to a sushi place that didn’t cater to tourists. Why? I eat with tourists all the time; I wanted to eat with locals. And when you’re in another country and you’re not fluent in their language, it can get tricky. I was given a place at “the bar” right next to her; sushi plates were coming by on a conveyor belt, but there was also a menu from which you could order. I wrote down a couple items (the hostess gave me a menu with English), and then I sat there waiting for them to arrive. The lady had instincts (as do most women) and I’m sure she knew that I didn’t know what to do.
She took a new tea glass and gently pushed it my way. Then she opened a nearby container, scooped two small helpings of green tea powder into the glass (ceramic actually), and then showed me how to operate the hot water faucet to make tea. She handed me the tea and smiled. ‘Arigato,’ I said as I smiled back at her. I now had some hot tea (and it was HOT!) and I had something to do while waiting for my food to arrive.
I ate the sushi that I’d ordered, but I wanted more. Nothing on that conveyor belt appealed to me, nor did anything else in the menu. But I did see something that I thought I’d like that was on a banner hanging from the ceiling. One problem — it was only in Japanese. At least in France or Italy I can write down the words even if I don’t know what they mean. But there is no way that I can write Kanji without unintentionally insulting someone or ordering 50 pounds of broiled sea cucumber! I took a piece of paper and a pen; looked over at her, and pointed to the banner. “Ah,” she said as she smiled again. She took the pen and paper and wrote down the item that I wanted. She handed the paper to the waiter, and my new plate was soon on its way to me. Once again I said ‘Arigato’; one of the ten words (okay, maybe seven or eight) in Japanese that I know.
She smiled; finished her lunch, and left.

Her kindness was special; special to me. I’ve always felt comfortable in Asia, even when I can’t speak, read, or understand the language. The locals are such warm and caring people who want visitors to feel welcomed in a land where many might feel intimidated or scared. But I don’t feel that way.

The lady at the sushi restaurant didn’t go out of her way to make me feel comfortable; she offered me the assistance and kindness that I’m sure she shares with everyone, and it’s that kindness that I see in everyone in Asia. I can’t wait for my next trip — eight weeks of Southeast Asia in early 2017!

Syonara!


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/

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All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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Otaru, Japan; in Sapporo’s Shadow

September 14, 2016 — Otaru, Japan
One of the [many] interesting benefits of being on a re-positioning cruise is that you will often stop in ports that most cruise ships never visit. The port of Otaru, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, is a lovely area that many people use just as a way to get to Sapporo — yes, they make the beer there! There’s nothing wrong with going to Sapporo, but Otaru deserves a visit all on its own. That’s what I did today, and here is my story.

It had been five days at sea since we’d left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (and that was our first port after four sea days out of Vancouver, B.C., Canada). We even crossed the International Date Line so the calendar looks as if we’ve been at sea for six, but it was only five nights and lots of changing our clocks and watches. The passengers were eager to step on solid ground, but we first had go through the mandatory immigration procedures as this was our first stop in Japan.


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I’d made my list of places I wanted to go and activities I wanted to do. This was my first time in Otaru so naturally I wanted to do some “tourist” things — visit the Otaru Canal; see the Music Box shops; visit the aquarium and museums; sample sushi at various places. The big question is, Will I have enough time to do it all and be back on the ship by 6:30 tonight?

Given that I did a lot of walking, went into a lot of shops and museums, I can’t list everything in this posting. If you want more detailed information on Otaru, contact me via the CONTACT page and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Below are some of the places and sights of Otaru on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island.

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Similar to the “Dollar stores” in parts of t world, Japan has its “100 Yen” stores, although the items actually 108 Yen. I found a pair of earbuds to replace the ones I brought with me — one of the wires must have come loose. But now I have a good set; perhaps I’ll stop in another store (Daiso is one of the big players) and pick up spares!



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It’s not the right time of year for cherry blossoms, but there were still some pretty flowers to enjoy.



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Music boxes are very popular in Otaru; the first picture is the Music Box Museum and the other two are one of the many music box stores in town along the famous Sakaimachi Shopping District Street.

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Steam powered clock in front of the Music Box Museum.



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Otaru Canal — an awesome place for a relaxing ride or just a place to stroll or sit and watch people.



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The Otaru Beer Hall on the Otaru Canal in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, is — of course — a German Beer Hall!!!



Yes; I have many more photos but I don’t want to bore you. I found Otaru to be a very vibrant city that was originally a fishing village in a protected bay. The people were friendly and we had great weather! If you have the chance to go on a cruise that has a stop in Otaru, I hope you’ll consider taking it.


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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Dutch Harbor — A Friendly Port

September 13, 2016 — onboard the Celebrity MILLENNIUM
Unless you’ve cruised through the Aleutian Islands or you’re a fan of the television show The Deadliest Catch, you’ve probably not heard of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. It is a small town with a permanent population of about 4,000 residents so it’s a big deal when a cruise ship holding 3,000 passengers arrives.

As the Celebrity MILLENNIUM pulled into port a few days ago, we felt appreciated by the locals as they dispatched all four of their school buses to ferry us from the dock to the town’s main meeting place, the Safeway grocery store! I think it’s also the place with the largest parking lot as many municipal services were there on display: Fire, Police, Paramedics. I was one of many who decided to walk the two miles since we’d just had four consecutive sea days — it was nice to be on solid ground. On the way to town I passed the airport, and it’s one of those that stops the road traffic if a plane is crossing the road while taking off or landing.
dutchharborairport-2-compresseddutchharborairport-1-compressedI made it to Safeway, bought some postcards, jotted a few notes, put the mailing labels on them, and mailed them at the nearby Post Office.
A real highlight in town is the Aleutian Islands World War II Museum. aleutianww2museum-01-compressed It’s not a very large building, but it has a small movie room and an upper floor with additional exhibits. They opened early for us and it was nice to see that there is no entrance fee for veterans — that’s a classy move.aleutianww2museum-05-compressedaleutianww2museum-06-compressed
I continued my walk across the Captain’s Bay Bridge to the actual island of Unalaska; the ship is docked at Amaknak Island. One of the main sites here is the Russian Orthodox Church, aka, Church of the Holy Ascension. The church was not open for tours but we were able to stroll around the grounds and take photos.
russianorthodoxchurch-1-compressedrussianorthodoxchurch-2-compressedThe ship tied up in a commercial docking area in the Iliuliuk Bay, and there is a small river on Unalaska Island that feeds out of the bay into Unalaska Lake. Huge salmon were spawning in that river, and it was an incredible sight to see. In addition to the photos below, I’ve also posted some videos on my YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/Stuart1947Gustafson)
iliuliukriver-compressedisaaluxbridge-2-compressedspawningsalmon-2-compressedspawningsalmon-4-compressedAccording to the meticulously detailed map provided by the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Convention & Visitors’ Bureau (Click Here for their website), I had already walked five miles and I hadn’t had lunch. I’m not one of those cruisers who runs back to the ship for the “free meal,” but I was getting hungry. As I walked back toward the ship (another three miles), I stopped in at the Norvegian Rat Saloon (Yes, it is spelled with a v and not a w).norvegianratsaloon-1-compressedThe big lunch crowd (mostly from the ship) — pictured below — had already had their Crab Fest and had departed, so it was much quieter. norvegianratsaloon-4-compressednorvegianratsaloon-5-compressed My server Teressa (not to be confused with her sister Teresa; true statement) wore a friendly smile and was very pleasant. I had a delicious Aleutian Sandwich with pastrami and all the fixings; the homemade chips were sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for a nice added touch. And yes, the Alaskan Amber tasted mighty good!
I was going to walk the remaining two miles back to the ship, but the mist outside was getting pretty thick, so I decided that I’d rather stay dry. So I walked over to the “center of everything” — yes, the Safeway — and rode a school bus back to the ship.
For completeness, I did go to the Museum of the Aleutians, which is supposed to be very good. But I don’t like it when a place does not post their admission prices in a visible place. The only way to find out how much it costs go inside is to stand in line and then be told by the clerk — I didn’t go in.

Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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Heading to Unalaska!

September 4, 2016 — in the Pacific Ocean
Celebrity-MillenniumYes; you read that correctly. I’m currently cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM heading out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to our first port of call in Alaska. The port is called Dutch Harbor, home of the TV show The Deadliest Catch, and it’s on the island of Unalaska — look it up; that’s it name!

It’s not surprising that the weather is “not ideal” for cruising as the weather has been cool and damp. We left Vancouver two days ago on the 2nd, and we are having four straight Sea Days before we get Dutch Harbor. We are holding steady on a 285 degree heading; I thought we would head more northerly, but in looking at a chart, Unalaska is almost due West from Vancouver! Dutch Harbor is a small port with a few museums, and I hope to walk around and visit all of them (there are no organized ship tours).

I gave my first talk yesterday and it was on “Journaling Your Trip.” I received many suggestions (no surprise) on how other travelers do their organizing of their trip information. Some of the suggestions were excellent, such as adding sketches into your journal (even if you’re not an artist). I liked that idea. This afternoon I begin my “Music of the Masters” series of talks with an overview of classical music and an introduction to the five masters I’ll present later in the cruise. Speaking of music, the evening entertainment has been excellent. We had a great pianist last night; the night before was a brief introduction of a vocalist and a magician — I watched closely and I still don’t understand how the cut rope becomes whole again! Perhaps that’s why they call it magic!

For those not fond of Formal Nights — they’re gone! We now have what’s called Evening Chic — tuxes and ties are no longer required for the men. Let’s see how it turns out. I brought my ties, so I’ll probably wear one.

There’s not much to talk about on Sea Days; I’ll be back after we’ve been to Dutch Harbor on the 7th.

Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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