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Make paying for your vacation a win-win

Make sure you look into options to pay for your vacation that would benefit you.

Many retailers offer "points" or "perks" for gift cards.  Our local grocery store offers $0.10/gallon for every $50 dollars spent.  Buying a $500 gift card for a vacation supplier would mean $1.00/gallon off up to 30 gallons, so that would be a savings of up to $30 off for every $500 spent.

Many vacation suppliers, like Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and others offer credit cards that you can earn rewards for all purchases, then redeem them for offers from their resorts or vacations.

Review of the Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista is a terrific ship.  Continues to build on the things Carnival does well, and improve some of the new implentations that have proven to be very popular on other ships.

Our stateroom was 7214.  As you can see from the deck plans, it was one away from being the furthest forward on the port side.  Incredibly smooth ride.  Higher is better than lower, midship is the best, forward is better than aft.  Still my recommendation.

We liked the improvements to the layout, specifically the location of the Sports Bar, Havana Bar, Punchliner Comedy Club, Club O2, Pixels Photos, and the Casino.  The enlarging of the sushi bar, the iMax Theater, the enlarging of Guy's Pig and Anchor, the Havana "section" of rooms, and the layout of the Promenades on 4 & 5 were all very well done.  The preshow line for the Punchliner was in the hallway and not snaking through the Piano Bar.

While the Red Frog Pub and the Cucina Del Capitano are still hidden treasures of the ship, pasta lunch in the Cucina Del Capitano is a pain with the basketball court right above you.  Everybody raves about Guy's Burgers, for me, the Pig and Anchor is the true gem.

My wife was in a wheelchair, so we had a lot of interaction with the elevators.  We didn't like that the forward elevators went to either deck 3 and up, as high as 11, as high as 12, or one that went to 15.  Too much thinking and the three different controls didn't interact with each other.  Too much thinking and pressing every controller just to go up or down a few floors.  No question, we miss the atrium elevators with the glass looking over the atrium.

There were revolving doors at the Ocean Plaza that were motion operated that were fantastic for someone in a wheelchair, and also for those seated close to them.  When the motion operation didn't work, though (like starting on day 3), it was the biggest pain in the world to go out there with someone in a wheelchair.  Those things were heavy.

I wasn't crazy about the "hallway of hawkers" from the forward elevators to the pool on Lido.  Spa, Art Gallery, Steakhouse, Photos, Future Cruise all had a table through there.  I just wanted to go to eat or the pool.  I didn't want to be constantly solicited.

My wife and I were split on the atrium on deck 3.  We both agreed that the traffic pattern was better.  I just didn't like the set up, she was OK with it.

The Liquid theater we both agreed was less than desirable.  There wasn't much "pitch" to the rows, very flat.  If you were in the upper bowl, unless you sat at a high top along the back, you were looking through plexiglass.  While the middle seats were all modular letting the performers take advantage of a larger floor space, there was no place for your drinks.  None.  Even the permament seats in the lower bowl had a little, itty bitty piece of wood that wasn't level and was in the most inconvenient place to set a drink even if it wouldn't slide off.  Really disappointing.

There was almost always at least a half hour wait for the Carnival SkyRide.  You must wear closed toe shoes and it has a minimum height requirement of 54 inches and a weight limit of 300 pounds.

The Waterworks was out of this world.  The Serenity Deck was much improved, although as with other ships, tough to get to and navigate if you're in a wheelchair.

We'll be excited to return to the Carnival Vista and are looking forward to the new Carnival Horizon.

Review of the New Features on Carnival Cruise Line

Just got back from a cruise aboard the Carnival Vista doing an 8 night sailing from Miami (calling on Gran Turk, La Romana, Aruba and Curacao) and thought I'd review a few of things that are new on Carnival Cruise Line.

As the Vista is considered the "flagship" of the fleet since she's the newest, these features might be just on her, or they might be implemented fleet wide.

First, we liked that our room steward not only met us on the first day, but gave us a business card with her name and direct number.  Understand why, but we weren't crazy about them offering EITHER morning or evening room cleaning.  Yes, we could (and chose) both.

We liked the Carnival Hub interactive app.  It could do a little more (like be a little more interactive with the deck plans and your current location), but if you're familiar with the Carnival product, it's a welcome addition to having to carry around the torn off page of the Carnival Capers.  The Hub is free, but must be connected to Carnival's on ship wi-fi.  (On our iPhones, don't go to full airplane mode.  Turn off cellular data, and leave on bluetooth and wi-fi.)  We didn't use it, but if you're traveling with another couple, kids who have a smart phone, the $5 one time charge to text back and forth was very popular.

We did like the prepaid internet plan.  We prepaid (and saved 15%) for the Value plan which more than satisfied our needs.  I wore it out posting pics to Instagram.  The internet is still slow (to do our business research, anyway), but 24/7 email was a big improvement for us over the old timed minutes plans.  For only $4.63 more a day, I might try the premium plan next time to see HOW much faster (they claim up to 3x) the internet connection is.

They've finally arrived at a place we feel they should have been to a few years ago with regards to pictures.  All digital.  You can view them on your cabin TV, the Carnival Hub I referenced earlier, and at the Pixels store on the ship.  Amusement parks have been doing this for years, but I'm glad CCL is catching up to the times.  It wasn't exactly seamless.  You give your room number to the photographer.  Not sure on the first couple of days everyone knew their room number because we got a LOT of pictures in our feed that wasn't us.  Apparently the system has some sort of facial recognition for those photos that get misplaced.

Not sure if it's something they're doing, but we saw the photographer on the first night at dinner, declined pictures and never saw her again.  That's fine with us.

Another GREAT feature Carnival is offering is signing up for a time and a CCL photographer takes you around the ship for photos.  Liked this idea.  No obligation to buy, but all of your pics are put in a really nice booklet.  Really beats the roll out backdrops.

Finally, the pools.  We've always whined about parents who don't discipline, or are no where to be found, their kids in the pool.  Very noticeable to us was a crew member with a white "Team Member" shirt watching at all the pools.  They weren't afraid to be seen or say something.  It was noticeable on the first day.  I could see the eyes of the kids watching to see if the team member was paying attention.  Made the pools a much calmer place for us old kids.

Suppliers and Pricing
7/21/2017 11:35:34 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

Carnival, Disney, Pricing, Suppliers

We get the question all the time:  "When is the best pricing?"  I'd like to spend a little time explaining why, in our opinion, suppliers do what they do.

Everybody thinks suppliers drop their prices down to pretty much "giving it away" at the last second.  That's a myth.  Suppliers have already made their money by the time the last few seats, rooms, etc. are available.  There might be a price drop at the last minute, but that price has gradually risen over the time that it's been on the market.  Lowering it at the last minute might give you the same price as a month or two earlier.

Take a look at the school calendars to figure out the best pricing for cruises, all inclusive and Walt Disney World.  When the kids are all in, the pricing is the lowest.  The first two weeks in December.  The first two weeks in January.  The first two weeks in May.  The 2nd and third weeks in September (although Hurricane season can impact this a little, too).  All times that suppliers will offer incentives to fill their rooms.

Why don't suppliers offer incentives or lower pricing during peak times?  Simple.  They don't have to.  It's supply and demand.  While you might lament that supplier X is charging a lot of money, they're doing so because people are paying it and they don't NEED to reduce their price.

Some suppliers will honor a future lower price to those who book early.  With Carnival Cruise Lines, it's a wonderful deal.  For them, not necessarily you.  With their "Early Saver" rate, they'll guarantee you the lowest price but charge you a penalty if you cancel.  Guess who sets the price?  In the 8 years since the program has come out, I'll bet the ratio is 4 or 5 to 1 the penalties our clients have paid for cancelling vs. those who have cashed in on the lower price guarantee.  So, for every 1 client that they're losing a minimal amount of money, there's 4 to 5 that they're making money because of the non refundable deposit for cancellations or changes.

Disney Travel will honor any specials that come out to those who have booked early, but they have a sticky little sentence in the disclaimer "*The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited."  We've had clients very disappointed that they booked early hoping for price reductions or incentives in the future.  When (and if) those reductions or incentives come out, the resort is sold out.  So, instead of being happy that they can at least get into the resort on the days and at the resort they want, they're disappointed that Disney isn't giving them a price break.

Our best advice is always book early.  The price might come down, but the availability will always shrink.

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