Our first time to Europe. Would any European cruising veterans be able to tell us what Celebrity charges as an exchange fee when exchaning dollors for euros on the ship?
We will be on the Millennium, sailing out of Venice, 10/21/2007.
Are there better options than doing the exchange on the Milli?
Hi BOB & SUE. I should have paid more attention when we were on a Celebrity cruise in Europe last month. We didn't use the onboard bank, but I imagine the exchange rates aren't very favorable. We exchanged our $ at home prior to leaving, and used ATMs abroad when more Euro were needed.
Contact your bank before you go, as they will give you international phone numbers and instructions as to how to use your PIN (which may be restricted to 4 digits in some countries).
I just returned northern europe(returning on August 12th). I did not purchase Euros on the ship but at the end, was going to exchange my Euros to Dollars. I had a discussion with the ship's bank clerk at the desk, who, after I told her what I bought the Euros for, said that I was better off exchanging my euros at the airport than on the ship. I don't recall the conversion rate but I seem to recall I would have lost at least $0.15 USD per euro from what I purchased.
I agree with LisaP in checking with your bank on usage and pin numbers. I found out too late that I needed 5 pin numbers but only had 4. So I changed money at one of the foreign exchange shops (which did not take a commission -- beware, some do) in one of the cities I visited and it was certainly better than the rate I paid at the airport.
Of all the ports, St. Petersburg was my (and my group's) favorite in large part because we had a wonderful private tour guide for the two days we were there. We hit St. Catherine's, Peterhof, Church of the Spilt Blood and the Hermitage. Two days in St. Peterburg--not enough! I also arranged through our tour guide (Anastasia World - licensed), to have traditional russian lunches on the tour days, and to see the ballet at night. Never had Borcht but loved it. Our tour guide was very informative and went at our pace (our group's ages ranged from age 9 to age 70+). Amazing city. Anastasia provided a tidbit--Putin is from St. Petersburg so a lot of money is being spent to restore the city. The city itself has canals flowing through it, lined by restored or soon to be restored palaces of the counts, tsars and other royalties of long ago.
Tallinn was very interesting with the Old town just across the street from the new city. Easily accessible via shuttle and easily walkable. Old town was quaint, and like stepping into a time portal with its old turrets and city walls --if you just focus on the architecture.
Liked Helsinki--did the shuttle bus to city square and walked around the flea market before heading into the historic district. We did the ship tour with Stockholm and Copenhagen (first couple of cities) which was nice since we were so jetlagged, and slept on the bus until we got to the various sights. However, they all paled by comparison to St. Petersburg.
I made some calls today about using our credit cards in Europe - we'll be in Rome and Greece on the Galaxy Greek Islands cruise out of Rome on Oct 6, 2007.
Got varying answers and not 100 per cent confident the reps had the full answer.
AMEX - 2 per cent "conversion fee" and the exchange rate of the day - never did nail down what they use to determine the exchange rate. Today one euro would exchange for 1.36 USD with the 2 percent conversion fee on top of that - about $1.39 which is ok. No gouge if the numbers are right www. x-rates.com shows the euro to dollar rate at 1.3675 today.
My USAA Platinum Master Card - 1 percent fee on purchases and 3 percent on ATM cash advances.
My local bank's VISA debit card - no conversion fee and some unspecified exchange rate.
I didn't learn from any of the three what they use to set the exchange rate of the day - but I did learn - I think - what the add on "conversion fees" will be. Tilts in favor of my bank's VISA debit card.
We have already purchased some physical euros but the dollar has gone "up" vs the euro so that "hedge" wasn't necessary and in fact at the moment has gone in the wrong direction. Will just take my chances on the rate of the moment when we're on the cruise and won't try to out maneuver the dollar to euro ratio.
Has anyone found difficulty in using a debit card in Europe vs a straight credit card? Do their terminals make that distinction as many do here in the US?
Wonder if "cash back" is offered - a way to get around ATM fees in this country if you're at the Post Office, Walmart and many other places that offer cash back.
I have always used my Wachovia atm card extensively throughout Europe. The easiest thing to do is to put meals and larger purchases on credit card. It does the calculation for you and my credit card company doesn't charge a conversion fee. Since you won't be tipping in Venice, just use the credit card for the meal and tip a couple of euros. My advice, if you take money out of an atm, get more than you think that you will need. Extra transactions equate to extra transaction fees. You will be able to use Euros at all of the stops on your itinerary. The only exceptions would be in Kusadasi, Turkey, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. They use the Turkish New Lira and the Croatian Kuna. You get a better exchange rate using their local currency. Right now, you get 1.3 Lira for $1 and you get 5.3 Kuna for $1. The US currency is slipping a little in Croatia. November of last year and June of this year, I got 7 Kuna for a dollar. Oh well, you will still have a blast!!
What a great topic. After more than 35 years of international travel we are still trying to solve the "mystery" of currency exchange. But let me try to keep it simple. You are dealing with several factors including "exhange rates," "fees," and "commissions." In the end its all a lot of BS intended to confuse the consumer and the only thing that matters is what rate you pay (inclusive of all fees and commissions). Some places give you great rates but charge high commissions, other places (such as most cruise ships) charge no fees or commissions but give you lousy exchange rates. US Banks generally are terrible and not a good place to exchange money. As a generaly rule, you will get the best rates with ATMs and Credit Cards. Yes, American Express charges 2%, but they use an excellent wholesale rate of exchange. Most other cards charge in the 1 -3% range but they generally use good exchange rates. Travelers checks have become all but useless in many places, however cruise ships will cash them for no fee. In Europe, there are so many conterfeit travelers checks that you generally need a passport (or photocopy of your main passport page) to cash the things, and you will often pay higher fees and get worse exhange rates. In the end we have found our ATM cards are great, but we use banks that do not assess any extra fees. ATM machines are very common throughout most of the world and they are very convenient and work 24/7 as opposed to money changing shops and banks which have business hours. To use your ATM you should have a 4 digit PIN and know that PIN in numbers (not letters). Its also a good idea to notify your issueing bank (and credit card companies) before you travel and give them your itinerary. This can avoid gettting your card(s) cut-off when the issuer notices strange usage patterns.