Thursday, May 31, 2012

Country Star Blake Shelton & Friend Cruise

This October the Norwegian Pearl will host Blake Shelton and Friends on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that will feature live entertainment each night. Shelton will perform two nights in the theater and live music will be performed in at least three venues on the ship each night. Travelpulse has the full story. Some of Blake's friends include Trace Atkins, Lee Bryce and Easton Corbin.


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cruise Cost vs Land Tour Cost

How does the value of a cruise vacation compare to a traditional land-based vacation? While I was sitting in front of the PC willing the cruise ticker to count down another day, I began thinking what would a vacation similar to the cruise cost if I was crazy enough to attempt. So I began making a very loose comparison. The 8-day Eastern Caribbean trip on the Carnival Valor visits St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau and the cruise fare for my family of four totaled $3,117 including taxes. This is a pretty good value considering all that is included for this price.

I could be absolutely insane and island hop by plane and follow the same itinerary as the Valor does but the string of flights alone would far surpass the cruise fare. Hopping from Miami (MIA) to St. Thomas (STT) to Antigua (ANU) to Tortola (TOV) then to Nassau (NAS) and finally back to Miami for four passengers totaled $4,864 based on a search of cheapflights.com on May 29, 2012. A more realistic comparison would be to spend a week at a Caribbean mid-range resort.



We still must get to Nassau from Miami and the best airfare on the ticket discounter site was $862 for four passengers round trip on American Airlines. A similar Google search found that The Wyndham Nassau Resort had a discounted balcony room available for the same 8 nights that the cruise covers. With taxes this room totals $1,191. Just considering air travel and lodging we have come to a total of $2,035 just to get to Nassau and to have a room. There is still dining and entertainment to consider.

It is difficult to get a restaurant breakfast for less than $10 per person once you include the tip, tax and a beverage. Lunch is conservative at $12 per person and dinner each night perhaps $15 per person for only six nights. Remember an 8-day cruise will have two cruise elegant nights and a slightly more special dinner. I am guessing a nice sit down restaurant could tally $25 per person with tip, tax and non-alcoholic beverage. All the basic meals together can easily run a tab of $1,264 for four people over and eight day stay.

Just covering the basics, my comparison shakes out like this:

  • Airfare                 $   862
  • Lodging                $1,191
  • 8 breakfast           $   320
  • 8 lunches              $   384
  • 6 dinners              $   360
  • 2 special dinners   $   200
  • Total                  $3,317


This covers only the basics and does not take into consideration the ability to snack at all hours without additional charges (unless purchasing a specialty desert or coffee) nor does it consider the cost the evening entertainment of a comedy club or a staged variety show each night.

In this conservative example, the cruise pricing was $200 less than staying a week at a modest resort but had the added benefit of visiting three additional islands. Staying at more luxurious resorts can run inflate the costs very fast, for example, a Memorial Day sale package for the least expensive room at Atlantis with the ‘value dining’ option (kids eat free promotion) and airport transfers totaled $3,651 not including airfare for my party of four. The value dining is limited to specific restaurants and dinner only includes one appetizer or soup, 1 entrée and 1 desert.

It should be also noted that the cruise fare did not start out at this low of rate. The booking was made through the ‘Early Saver’ program for $3,900 but by monitoring the pricing during recent sales the pricing was adjusted.

I may be slightly biased toward cruise vacations but this comparison was a very loose, conservative look at the costs involved with cruise versus land vacations and it shows that cruises truly good value for the fare. Oh come on countdown ticker, move faster. Cheers!


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Monday, May 28, 2012

Disney Wonder Begins Alaska Season

Today, Monday May 28, the Disney Wonder for the first time begins its summer Alaska sailings from Seattle. Last year Disney sailed from Vancouver BC but choose to make the change this year to save on tax expenditures. See the full story on q13fox.com.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Cruising During Hurricane Season

MSNBC reprinted an article by 'Condé Nast Traveler' writer Carolyn Spencer Brown about cruising during hurricane season which officially runs from June 1 through November 30. This year there is a prediction that the season will be a light year which is good news for cruisers. Many times the ships can navigate around the perimeter of the storms which usually requires ome itinerary changes.


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Nike Packable Golf Rain Suit

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Think The Cruise Line Map of Bargains is a Deal

Nearly every cruise that I have been on, the cruise line thoughtfully has prepared a map of the shopping with the best value. But is it really the best value? Nicole Glass wrote an in depth article about the cruise line's shopping map and the stores that they promote. Can it be true that the "Best Deals" are from stores that have paid an advertising fee to the cruise line? Check out Nicole's article above.


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Chicago Tribune Travel Article

Chicago Tribune Travel reporter Rick Steves wrote a interesting article about cruising Europe you may find interesting at Chicago Tribune. This article her writes about getting out into Europe independently versus booking with the cruise line excursions.


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Monday, May 21, 2012

Computer Backup

You know, I have no idea what inspired me to set up a computer backup account a few months back but I am sure glad now that I did. All our vacations pictures for years are on the hard drive as well as some work projects etc. Well the hard-drive fried yesterday and I am home waiting for the 'nerd squad' to visit and try to salvage if possible. Whether the tech can save the hard drive or not, at least I know all those years of memories are safe as well as our work projects. I now have a new favorite service that, a few months ago I thought was a good idea, and now has proven to be awesome. Do you have your vacation memories saved on your hard drive and, do you back up your computer? Check out this link if you are thinking of protecting your photos:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CHOGS

Frequently, shortly after the sun rises, the battle for the pool side chairs begins. The placement of towels or books or other personal items to save chairs at times can be out of hand and honestly I do not think it should be the cruise line staff responsibility to monitor or enforce the courtesy (or lack thereof) that cruisers extend toward one another. These chair hogs, CHOGS, selfishly lock up a chair(s), at times for an hour or more, when they are not even planning on sitting by the pool.



If a sun worshiper is out using the chair first thing in the day, fine but to stake claim to the chair then go to the Main Dining Room (MDR)or buffet for breakfast and then come back an hour later is not OK. That is quite simply a lack of courtesy to your fellow cruisers and outright rude. If it is not being used, let it go! Can’t we all just work together on this?

Now it is totally understandable to need a “nature break” during the day, especially after enjoying the special beverages the wait staff pitch. The restroom break really shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes, right. If out at the pool since morning it is not courteous to disappear for an hour to go to the buffet or MDR for lunch. Sure, run to the buffet for lunch and BRING IT BACK to your chair is no problem but to disappear for an hour is just wrong. Give up the chair and get a new chair when you return. Funny thing is that if everyone complied with this courtesy, there wouldn’t be this perception that no chairs are ever available. Surely there may not be an open chair right away during peak times but find another and soon a pool-side chair may open up.

CHOGS lack common courtesy and feel they are more important that other pool-side sun seekers when they ‘mark’ their spot with towels and such then disappear for long periods of time. Maybe the cruise lines should place a container near the pool where other cruisers can place lost articles of CHOGS that have left their chair unattended for more than 20 minutes. Being in the pool is not considered leaving the chair unattended. It is when the CHOG takes lunch, a visit to the cabin for a nap, a SPA visit or a bingo game and then returns to expect their chair to be waiting for them. No more CHOGS!


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Friday, May 18, 2012

P&O Cruises May Soon Restrict Booking with Mobility Devices

P&O Cruises to Implement Mobility Device Policy Which Requires Booking of Specific Cabins. The new policy as it is currently written, to affect bookings from summer 2013 forward, requires that disabled individuals using motorized scooter book a wheelchair accessible cabin, a mini-suite or a suite. All the P&O ships are registered in Bermuda and therefore are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA – U.S.) or the Equality Act (U.K.) which protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Most cruise lines, at least those that operate out of the U.S., do not require an individual who utilizes a motorized scooter to book a larger cabin as long as the mobility device is not left in the corridor.


Many of the motorized scooter users do not need the mobility device too often on the ship but primarily for visiting the ports on the itinerary. Their motorized scooters are kept in their cabins in accordance with cruise line policies when not used. Even if the scooters were used all the time on board, at the end of the day the scooter occupies a corner in the cabin. If the traveler with the scooter is fine with the added obstacle in the cabin then why propose such a policy that essentially penalizes mobility device users?

P&O cites “legitimate and proven safety concerns” related to new European Union (EU) regulations as the grounds for this new policy. Certainly there are significant challenges to manage a ship evacuation when there are motorized mobility devices, but how often do these evacuations occur? Is that slight chance of an evacuations sufficient reason to restrain the cruise booking opportunities of the disabled traveler? The EU Rights of Passengers Travel by Sea states that the disabled traveler should have the same booking opportunities available to other passengers and the line shall provide embarkation/debarkations assistance. An exception is noted which allows the line to not follow these passenger rights due to “a circumstance in which there is a need to meet safety requirements as established by international, union or national law or in order to meet safety requirements established by the competent authorities”.

Assuming disability consumer groups are unsuccessful in efforts to convince P&O to drop the scooter policy; its implementation will run much deeper than to only affect the scooter users. This new policy will cause greater demand for the accessible cabins likely reducing the cruising opportunities to those disabled individuals who truly need the accessible cabin. This will be interesting to follow.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Carnival Breaks Ground on New Cruise Terminal

Carnival Corp breaks ground on new cruise center in the Dominican Republic. Amber Cove, a $65M project will be able to accomodate two cruise ships up to 8,000 passengers daily and will have some local goods retail shops on the facility. CCL projects approximately 250,000 passengers in the first year in operation.


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Sunday, May 13, 2012

AARP has a Cruise Sweepstakes

AARP  has a sweepstakes for a Caribbean Cruise.  Entry deadline is 5/23/12.  If you are over 50, check out AARP.>


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Friday, May 11, 2012

Cruising With Mobility Devices

Cruisng with Mobility Devices can be challenging at times but the cruise vacation experience is worth a few small headaches along the way. Know before you go.

In the United States and its territories public accomodations for individuals with disabilities are mandated by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Other countries have varying levels of accessibility, none to the extent our ADA regulations provide.

The ship itself has a great deal of accessibilty top to bottom on the public decks but the cabins are small. More...


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Asst Cruise Director Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Possession

Assistant Cruise Director pleads guilty this past week to possession of child pornography. The thought of an individual holding such a visible position on a cruise ship to have such a dark side triggers suspicious views upon the scores of great, law abiding cruise line staffs. Especially that of the Cruise Director staff whose function is to engage the passengers and promote fun times. We have heard the phase in so many other areas of safety and security, “see something, say something”, and this certainly applies to situations as this. Kudos to the crew members of the NCL Star who said something to NCL security when the Asst. Cruise Director (ACD) shared nude and semi-nude pictures of a 16 year old recent passenger.

The ACD met the girl from Minnesota on a late January cruise and toward the end of the cruise the two had a sexual relationship. The teen would later send nude and semi-nude email pictures of herself to the ACD over the subsequent weeks. When the ACD shared some of the pictures with other crew members, NCL security was contacted who then contacted the authorities in Tampa who arrested the ACD in March. The complete story can be found at Tampa Bay Times.

So just how could this happen? More...

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Your Kids Vacation Too You Know!

Cruise vacations can be fun for chilren. One thing to keep in mind is that the cruise is your children's vacation also. Sure mom and dad need to have some rest and relaxation on their vacation but the level of fun and excitement for the little ones can help increase their parents fun too. Afterall, it is not much fun having to discipline the young ones when we are on vacation.

Some children are shy and reserved while others have already honed their socialization skills. Magically, in most cases these two groups blend well so much that by the end of the cruise vacation your children may have new friends that they find hard to say good bye on that last day. A friend they shared a craft with or a friend they got silly and danced with or one that they found all the items on a scavenger hunt with. Memories that will last them, well, until the next cruise vacation.

more...

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mobile's Gamble on Cruising Fails

The City of Mobile Alabama cruise terminal has no cruise line calling her home and the city resorts to booking the facility for weddings and proms to help pay the annual costs of the building. The cruise terminal was built in 2004 and Carnival Cruises originally based the Holiday and later the Elation at Mobile. This past year the Elation was redeployed to New Orelans leaving the city with a cruise terminal and no ship calling her home. Gone are all the weekly parking fees which provided the operating revenue to pay for the facility and an additional $1M in revenue to the city.

This is a case that if you build it, they will not come, at least in the numbers that you need to sustain operations. Carnival relocated the Elation primarily due to the lack of revenues from the cruises out of Mobile. While Mobile may be a convenient destination for regionally local cruise passengers, it is likely the city failed to market Mobile as a cruise destination more broadly across the U.S. and Canada. To see the rest of the story, check out The Daily Comet.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Year Round Sailings from San Francisco

Princess Cruises announces year-round sailings from San Francisco to itineraries in Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexico.

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Carnival Breeze Sweepstakes

Carnival Cruises announced today a sweepstakes on their Facebook page. Answer a couple of Mexican food favorites questions to enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Breeze. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What makes a cruise vacation so appealing?

What makes a cruise vacation so appealing?
There are probably as many opinions on this subject as there are persons who have taken cruises. Could it be the rest and relaxation a cruise can provide or could it be the excitement of visits to new places? There are others who enjoy the spontaneity of just jumping in to the social scene and of course others live for the partying that can occur. When you think about it, the fact that all these reasons to enjoy a cruise vacation can peacefully coexist in these floating cities is in itself quite fascinating. Really, there are so many reasons that cruise vacations are popular. read more

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And now for something Completely Different

Classic riverboat cruises return to the Mississippi River for the first time since 2008 aboard the recently launched American Queen. The itineraries sail the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers bringing a bit of nostalgia back to river travel. Check out the full story from AP at ABC News