Archive for the ‘Cruise’ Category

Should You Be Able To Buy Access?

This week, Carnival Cruise Lines announced a new program where you can buy access to fewer lines and priority access.  This program called Faster to the Fun, allows you to pay approximately $50 per cabin to get priority security, check-in, express boarding, first access to stateroom and Guest Services, express luggage, priority dining reservations, priority tender and debarkation choices.  I posted this on our Facebook wall and got quite a response.  The responses got me thinking.

Some of our friends said that is wasn’t fair to the higher levels of the priority clubs that get these perks already (though admittedly, they get many other perks plus some of these are new perks).  I would think that if the price was reasonable, some of those who wouldn’t normally get the access would say it should be offered for a fee but those who would get the access already would say it wasn’t fair to them.  But this goes much further.  Let’s only look at travel options.

Let’s look at airlines.  Some people spend a considerable amount more to purchase a first class ticket from the start.  Others have enough frequent flier miles to upgrade for a reduced amount to the same first class ticket.  Yet others are willing to pay a fee to get that same first class seat.  This has happened for a very long time.  The person who pays initially for the first class ticket knows what they want and are going to get it at any cost.  The frequent flyer flies that airline on a regular basis and as a perk they are offered upgrades and free flights to reward their loyalty.  But what about the person who is flying the lowest cost travel each time and purchases the upgrade.  Should they be allowed to do so?  And if you say no, should the airlines fly with empty first class seats?

To a much smaller degree, even the Early Bird check in for Southwest is an example of this.  Normally, you have to go online 24 hours prior to your flight to get your boarding number, but they offer a service where you don’t have to go online.  You pay $10 per person and they get your boarding number for you.  Yes, you don’t get the first numbers, but you do get in the first grouping.  When I’m on a cruise, I don’t want to rely on the internet access to be sure I get a good boarding number.

I do realize this is different since they are purchasing an actual location, not a service, but it is very similar.  Car rental companies are the same way.  You can rent frequently and earn perks with some of the companies, and you can also purchase memberships into their elite group, allowing you to bypass counters and go directly to your car.  Some of these programs will also give you discount codes.  By using a specific credit card, I have free access to an elite group that normally would require a set number of rentals to be accepted.  I get the same access, only because of the credit card that I am using.  In a way, the program is limited.  I will get a courtesy upgrade if one is available.  If I am renting from a smaller location, there may not be an upgrade available to a member who earned membership in that elite group if I get there first and get the upgrade.  Is this fair?

Next we will move on to the cruise lines.  If select levels of previous cruisers are automatically given some perks, is it fair that the same perks could be offered to those in a lower level for a fee?  Or should the perks offered for a fee only be available to everyone for a fee, with maybe a reduced fee for those in the upper loyalty levels?  I know some guests will book a certain way, just to earn credits quicker.  For example, I have clients that will book a junior suite on Royal Caribbean because that will earn them double credit to get to a higher loyalty level.  On Celebrity, booking a concierge room may not be that much more than a balcony stateroom, but will also give you more credits.

People want better access, better perks, better experiences and there are people that are willing to pay for this access.  If the access, perks and experiences are still just as good for the elite loyalty club members, is it acceptable that these companies offer some extras for a fee?  I wouldn’t want to see someone pay to get all of the access the higher levels get (pay to become a “loyal” customer), but I don’t have a problem with paying to get select perks.

 

All Cruises are Not Created Equal

I love to cruise!  In the past 10 years, I have been on 27 cruises across six different cruise lines.  This was on nine different ships, though I have also toured eight other ships.  What I have learned is that no two cruises are created equal.  I mean that from a standpoint of itineraries and cruise lines alike.

I have some friends who are very happy with one cruise line and won’t venture onto another ship or line.  I have others who used to feel that way and then tried another and were pleasantly surprised.  The important thing is to keep an open mind and work with a travel agent that knows cruises.

When I started expanding my business to cover many different cruise lines, I heard from other agent that you don’t need to experience a destination to be able to sell it.  I find that to be true, but with many limitations.  I don’t think you can sell a vacation product without experiencing it first.  I heard about a Hawaii expert who had never been to Hawaii.  She was a top seller.  I think you can learn a lot about a destination without going there with all the media available these days.  However, recommending a specific resort or vacation package without knowing anything about the companies you are dealing with is another thing.  I can’t just say “oh, it’s a XX brand resort, it must be good” and book my clients there.  Of course after a long time working with a destination and having clients return with reports about their stays, you do develop a great knowledge of a product.

I took many classes offered by various cruise lines.  I do feel that I have a good understanding of what each has to offer.  However, I realized that a cruise ship is much different than a destination.  Because a cruise ship moves from place to place, you need to learn about the itinerary destinations as well as learn about the cruise line and the ships in particular.

Take for example Disney Cruise Line.  I have been on all four ships in various itineraries.  I have been on the same itinerary with different ships.  I have my preferences of which ship(s) I like best and which itineraries I like best, but I also recognize that not everyone is like me.  I can ask the appropriate questions to the cruiser to get an idea of what they might like best.

If I only cruised on Disney though, I would have a harder time with different lines and how to recommend one to someone else.  For instance, if you like to hang out by the pool and participate in the pool games/deck activities, certainly you don’t want to be on an Alaskan Cruise and probably not a Canada/New England cruise.  If you aren’t big on touring on land, you may not be interested in a Mediterranean Cruise.

I also have found that by cruising on other lines, you learn more about the people who do the same.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “Disney?  Those ships are loaded with kids!”.  My response is always “there may be a lot of kids on board, but you don’t see them as much as you do on other ships”.  That is so true!  I found that many other ships have more limited adult only activities and less extensive of children’s programming so you end up seeing the children onboard much more often.  The time of year and itinerary also make a difference for this as well.  We are cruising on the Carnival Dream during the summer and I would have to say this is the most kids I have seen in a long time on a cruise ship.

I think the important thing to remember is that using a travel professional will help you make the right decision with a ship and itinerary that is right for you.  One who has experienced the lines first hand also helps.

I Want To Go On A Cruise!

Last night I went to bed and the snow started to fall.  Originally, they had predicted 3-5 inches of the white fluffy stuff, but had backed it off to 1-3 inches, starting around 1 or 2 in the afternoon.  Since it hadn’t really started until around 8 pm, I thought we probably wouldn’t get much if any.

I woke up this morning to a winter wonderland.  Here is the view from my kitchen window!

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Is Cruising Safe

Over the weekend we heard of the tragedy off the coast of Italy with the Costa Concordia.  Two hours into their 7 night cruise, the ship struck a large rock in the sea, and subsequently began sinking.  Of the 4100 passengers and crew members, 5 have died and 15 remain missing at this time.  Our hearts go out to the friends and families who lost loved ones and are waiting to hear about their loved ones still today.

This sort of occurrence brings many to question the safety of a cruise ship just like a plane crash does as well.  Then why does this question happen when we hear of these disasters?

Anything can be considered news.  It’s interesting when I travel to watch the local news.  Things that make the news in my small town are very different from news in the Wisconsin Capital, Madison, and we are only 20 minutes away.  Go to an even bigger city like Los Angeles and New York, you hear completely different things reported as the big news of the day.  In my town, whether to put a four way stop sign, traffic signal or roundabout makes front page news!  We hear about each accident that happens in our town, because it doesn’t happen often.  In Madison, we hear about the big accidents, the ones that shut down the Beltline during rush hour, as well as some of the other ones in town.  This doesn’t seem the case in the very large cities.

My point is, if the news reporters announced “breaking news” every time there was a fender bender in a large city, no one would listen to the news anymore, nor would there be any other news!  On the surface, just taking the news into account, you would then think that a small town has more accidents than a big city and we know that is not true.

Planes don’t crash often, cruise ships don’t sink often either.  Does this mean it can’t happen?  Of course not, but the odds are certainly in your favor.  We hear about every major plane crash and cruise ship accident, but not the minor ones.  Only the sensational ones.  While the world may not hear about a two seater plane crash in a remote area of Montana, they certainly will hear about an airliner crashing with hundreds onboard.

I wasn’t able to find statistics on the odds of being on a sinking cruise ship or dying on a cruise ship, but I did find the odds of falling off a cruise ship, which happens more often than the others.  The odds of you going overboard in a year are 1 in 2,309,000 according to the Book of Odds (US, 2007 – 2008).  This is considering all overboard cases, not just accidental cases.  I like those odds!

Enjoy your cruise vacation!  It is a great way to travel.  But be extra careful driving to the airport!

Group Cruising

In the time that I have been cruising, I have seen somewhat of a swing in the way people are booking their vacations.  Yes, people still travel as a single family unit most of the time, but I have seen a considerable increase in those traveling as a part of a larger group.  This could be a group of friends just selecting the same date, a family reunion or an organized group of family or friends with special events onboard.

The nice part about cruising as a group is that you can get together as a group or a partial group as often as you want or not at all!  There are things to do for all ages and levels of activity.

We have personally cruised with a group of more than 350 members and as small as four.  It’s nice to have friends and family along to share in the fun, but better than going to a single destination (like sharing a house or cabin on a lake or in the woods).  When you are sharing a home, or even staying at a hotel, many times you will all gather for every meal and activities can be more limited.  You don’t have as much of an opportunity to “have your own space”.

When considering a group cruise, you should always take a look at the ages of those coming along to make sure that everyone will be happy with the ship and itinerary chosen.  You should also consider all booking together to see if there are perks you might receive from either the cruise line or a travel agent (or both!).  Working with a travel agent can make the process much easier by coordinating the needs and special requests of each person traveling, rather than burdening one person with all of that.  Don’t forget to ask your travel agent to help you with your pre and post cruise plans as well.  If you are coming in a day early or spending time after the cruise, they may be able to get you a group rate at an area hotel as well.  Group pricing may not be available in some cases, but having one person to make all the arrangements takes the pressure and stress off of your group.

Handling groups is one of our specialties.  It’s great for our guests regardless of whether or not one person is handling all the details.  I have had groups where one person made all of the arrangements and the payments.  Using a travel agent allowed this person to just gather the necessary information, but not have to do all the work involved in setting up the rooms and getting everyone set to go.  I’ve also worked with groups where one person set up the group, but the individual rooms handled their own information and payments.  They were each able to contact me and talk about their individual needs and requests without having to bother the person who organized the group.

Plan your group cruise today and receive a bonus from Travel On A Dream!  For group cruises booked between January 4, 2012 and January 20, 2012 for travel between April 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013, group leaders will receive double our onboard credit offer for their stateroom on the same sailing.  Please see our onboard credit amounts for details.  This can be combined with offers from the cruise lines as well.

Cruise date must happen between April 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013.  Changes to dates outside of this range will not receive the bonus offer.  The group must be set up no later than January 20, 2012.  At the time of sailing, there must be at least five cabins in the group booked through Travel On A Dream.  Referral credits can not be combined with the bonus offer.  This offer does not apply to existing groups promoted through Travel On A Dream such as the ToaD sailings.  Please contact us for more details at info@travelonadream.com or email your agent directly.

Cruising: How To Know What’s Going On

It’s just about time to get onboard your cruise to anywhere.  You have decided what you are doing in each of the ports of call, but what about what’s happening onboard?  What time is dinner?  What show will be on in the theater?  Where can I get my first drink for sailaway?

Once you get in your cabin, you will find some of the information you are looking for.  There will be a “TV Guide” either as a channel directory or even a list of what will be shown on TV (like movies or other programming offered by the cruise line).  You may find other notes with your dining times, shore excursion tickets, onboard credit notices, and other things you may have preregistered for.  But this is just the first day.  What about everything else happening onboard that you didn’t register for already?

Each cruise line has something that we call a daily planner.  These can be called a Navigator, Compass, Capers, Dailys, Patter, Currents or Daily Program (Programme if you are on Cunard).  Regardless of the name, these newsletters of sort are a list of what is available onboard for you.

They could be black and white, blue and white, just a few primary colors or full color.  They may have one, two or three columns.  Some have a tear off page or strip to carry with you.  Some are a list in time order, some are a grid, but all will provide you with a wide variety of information.

Tips, stories, officer highlights and entertainment highlights usually are found somewhere in the daily planner.  In addition, you may find information on the weather, emergency phone numbers or information, dining information and other instructions.  There can be ads for specials in the shops or bars for the day.

This is also where we would get information on the ports of call.  Each night before arrival to a port, we would get a port shopping guide, usually with a map and listing of preferred shops in the area.  Also usually listed on this guide is the ship’s port agent.  Should anything go wrong and you miss the ship, these are the people you want to get in contact with.

Each night you will receive a new planner for the next day.  I find these to be great bedtime reading!  Check out everything that is happening the next day, make some tentative plans.  I have been known to bring a highlighter with and highlight the activities I wish to participate in.  I have also brought post-it notes to make a list for myself so I don’t have to carry the planner around with me.  This was one thing we liked on our Celebrity Cruise.  There was a half-page tear off sheet that had the schedule part on it.  It was much smaller to fold up and put in your pocket than the full planner.

Some activities and specials, you will miss if you don’t check out the planner.  We have found that two for one drink specials usually aren’t advertised around the ship, but you can find out when they will happen on your planner.  We have found out about special activities this way as well.  On our holiday Disney Cruises, this is how we found out about the Gingerbread House Making.

The Ninth Day of ToaDmas

Explore a Modern World Wonder!

Named as one of the Wonders of the modern world, the Panama Canal was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.  It had an enormous impact of shipping between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, saving sailors from having to take the long and sometimes treacherous route around the tip of South America.

Now, 97 years since its opening, the canal continues to enjoy great success!  You, too, can experience for yourself this amazing wonder!

Celebrity Cruise Lines offers a fantastic voyage through the Panama Canal, onboard the beautiful Celebrity Century!

This is the only cruise that gives you a full vacation, while crossing the Continental Divide.  As you journey through the Canal, you’ll enjoy a new world of wonder and amazement on the other side.  This is definitely an enlightening and rewarding journey!

Celebrity Century

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