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Elegant Night Aboard a Cruise Ship

Our very first cruise, I just wasn't down with the whole "let's get dressed up for dinner" idea.  I'll head to the buffet, you guys go ahead was my plan.

Then, I saw the menu (prime rib or lobster or BOTH!).  OK, I'll go.

I have to admit, around 5p it was kind of magical.  Here were all these people that I've seen hanging around the ship in bathing suits, shorts & T's, etc. now suddenly making the whole ship look like a movie set.  I really think that, above anything else, was what drew me to liking elegant night.

It's an opportunity to get some great, professional quality photographs that you probably otherwise wouldn't.

I will admit, it's a large part of the packing process.  We probably take a garment bag type suitcase for that one reason, to pack my suit(s) and my wife's dresses.  It's a pair of shoes we'll only wear once or twice on the cruise.  When you're trying to condense your "stuff", that's an obstacle.

Personally, I take one suit, two dress shirts and two ties (for a 7 night cruise).  My wife takes two dresses.  I have been as lax as only taking a shirt, two ties with some khakis.  It's really past the point on most cruise lines of what's acceptable.

We have some clients who have absolutely no interest what so ever in participating in cruise elegant nights.  I can certainly understand it.  It's what's great about cruising:  the choices, the freedoms, etc.

But for us, we're now down with it as a part of the whole cruising experience.

Our Sensational Media
7/25/2017 8:35:29 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

Media

The travel industry has a friend, and an enemy with the media.

On the one hand, the media extols the virtues or travel, accepts advertising from places to travel, allows consumers of travel to post their reviews.

On the other hand, the media is the first to sensationalize anything they percieve to be wrong with travel, and would love to "bring down" the big boys of travel.

We are a headline driven society.  We see the headlines, and really don't weigh the arguments presented in the article.  The headline "Over 4 Million U.S. Tourists Visit the Yucatan Penisula, Have a Great Time, Return Without Incident" never happens.  This particular headline "Tourists to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico suspect they were given tainted alcohol" did happen.

It's a wonderful scare tactic article filled with "a possible lead in the investigation", "they believe they were drugged or the alcohol may have been tainted", "Robbery?... Sexual Assault?... Extortion?"

It cites facts that "The national health authority in Mexico has seized more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010" kind of neglecting to fully mention that this is from the entire country of Mexico.  It's filled with "The bootleg liquor could be infused", a condescending reference to the State Department report that "suggests they are relatively safe".

I hate it when I read that something has happened to someone on their vacation.  It's a horrible, horrible tragedy.  You're going to relax, see new things, spend time with your family or loved ones and it becomes a benchmark in your timeline of life.  It's awful to even think about.

But I've become incredibly leery about the reporting of these awful incidents that basically assignthe blame to the institutions as the scapegoats.  4,000,000 US citizens travel to the Yucatan penisula every year.  That means over the last decade 40,000,000 people have traveled there.  What are the odds that something is going to happen to someone?

I looked all through the Journal Sentinel site.  I saw quite a few articles about fatal shootings, drug rings, murders.  All that occured within the last two weeks.  Didn't find any articles saying be careful when you visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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.

Pre cruise travel

We've been very fortunate full time RV'ing, owning a business with flexible hours and wintering close to an embarkation port that we've been driving to our cruises.  A lot of you do, too.

We're cruisiing in August from Miami on an 8 Day Southern Caribbean (bucket list ports, namely Aruba) and will be flying in and back.  We would always recommend flying in the night before and getting a shuttle or an Uber to the pier in the morning.  Sometimes, though, it just can’t be done.

Connie hates flying in on the day of the cruise, and in truth, there are a LOT of possible issues that can arise.  One of those happened to us yesterday when we got the dreaded “your flight has been changed” email.

Our rule of thumb is boots on the ground before noon on your day of embarkation and flights no earlier than 1p on your return.  The changed flights were within the cruise lines guidelines (which you should always consult), but gave us a little bit of nerves.

These flights were on Delta, and the airline you’re flying can have a LOT to do with your options.  One thing about airlines is they’re not really that accessible.  At least Delta has the callback feature where you don’t have to wait on hold for an hour, they’ll call you back.  Still, in all, it was at least a two hour process.

In this case, we had a lot of them (including flying in the day before), but we settled on an earlier departure and arriving in Fort Lauderdale around 11:45a.  Not ideal, but workable.

I’d still much rather drive to my cruise.

Scams
6/29/2017 12:54:46 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

scams

So I got wind of a scam today.  I was involved, but I really didn't get scammed.  Somehow, somebody found out about product I got from Amazon, whined to Amazon that there was something wrong with mine, and Amazon sent them a free one.  In my name.  To a mail forwarding service in Nevada in my name.

It got me thinking about Travel Agent scams.  Seems like every couple of months, we read about some TA that's been busted, or going to court, or sentenced for their travel scams.  We hate it.  It casts aspersions on the whole industry.

There are two really some easy ways to avoid being caught by one of these scams.

  1. Make sure you use a credit card.  That way, you can verify that your TA is running it through the supplier's (cruise line, wholesaler, etc.) system, not their own.  You can double check that through your bank statement.  It costs us 4% per transaction.  We're not absorbing that cost just to be a middle man.
  2. Demand to see confirmations from the supplier.  Yes, I'm sure they can be photoshopped or something else.  But if you're concerned about your TA, keep forcing them to the next level.

Now having said that, there are some times that we as TA's have to deal with a supplier that needs a group check from us, not 20 indvidual payments.  That's where the scammers have the upper hand.  You pay them expecting them to pay the supplier.  They don't.  That's where you, again, need something from the supplier.  In writing, on their letterhead or website.  Something to confirm that you have a reservation.

It's that old thing, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.  We all want to be trusting, but we all read the news and we know it's possible.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to answer an email from a Prince from Nigeria that wants an international flight.  it's not a scam.  He will send me a cashier's cheque once I set it up.  (We get at least one of these emails a week.)

Late Flights After a Cruise

We have clients who want to self assist, earliest flights possible and rush, rush, rush to leave their cruise vacation.  That's fine and we understand it.

When we travel, however, we are the extreme opposite.  We've been told we have to leave.  We've had guys holler down the runway to the guys at the end that we were the last ones and close the door.  We've been called by the porters that our luggage hadn't been picked up yet, and we have priority embarkation.  (Me:  "um, that's because we're still eating breakfast on the ship and we haven't left yet.")  You get the picture.

So we're flying out of Fort Lauderdale next month after a cruise in Miami on the Carnival Vista, and we have a later (5:55p) flight.  Years ago, in Tampa, we had a similar situation and if you've ever cruised from Tampa, you know that the airport (like in Lauderdale) is very close to the cruise port.  We couldn't check in for our flight.  We sat there until check in could begin.  It was a horrible few hours.

So here's our plan for now, years later, with all kinds of technology at our disposal.

We'll still be the last ones off the ship in Miami.  We'll take the Carnival transfers back to FLL, which should get us there around 11:30 or noon.  Too early to check in our luggage for our flight.  We've checked, and FLL has storage.  We'll store our bags there at the airport.  We're going to take an Uber to one of the many places we've enjoyed in the past at Lauderdale or maybe find someplace new.  We'll do that research well in advance.  Then, we'll Uber back to the airport, check in and wait on our flights.

How about you?

We Begin!
6/28/2017 11:41:53 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment

Been wanting for quite awhile to start a blog with travel ideas, tips, suggestions, experiences -- and we finally have the time!

Feel free to chime in, suggest, comment, or share.  

Thanks for stopping by!

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