Saturday, January 22, 2011

Internet Access on Princess Ships

If you are fortunate to be a Platinum member (having sailed Princess 5 times) you are eligible to receive a free Internet package that is based upon the number of days of the cruise you are currently on.

If you need to buy an Internet package, consider the option of buying it before boarding the ship. Internet packages purchased the first day on board ship come with promos like free bonus minutes. However, if purchased before boarding, the bonus is even better.

The place to check out Internet packages is under Communications on the Princess website. The 250 minute package at $103.95 ($3.95 for set up...everyone pays this) comes with 60 bonus minutes. This is a lot better than any of the sign-up bonuses offered on board.

When I arrived on board ship, I took my laptop to the Internet center and worked with the Internet manager. I signed a slip that had already been prepared with my name on it. I had to log on and register for the 250 minute package. The Internet manager than went into my account using his computer and manually added the additional minutes. Everything worked fine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Should you travel with a credit card, a debit card or cash.

When traveling, there are several ways to pay your way as you go. You can use a credit card, a debit card or cash.

When we travel internationally, I like to get cash from an ATM. Most credit cards charge a fee (exception is Capitol One) when used to pay for a transaction in a foreign currency. With my credit union charging only 1 percent on ATM withdrawals, it makes sense for us to pay as much as possible in cash.

But there are limits to how much I can withdraw using an ATM. I ran into a problem during our last trip when I tried to withdraw 400 Euros. Over my daily limit. We had some tours to pay for shortly after our arrival and needed the cash. Fortunately, my husband was able to withdraw the balance we needed using his ATM card.

But what happens when you might still need more cash on a daily basis? A friend on our recent trip, without realizing it, provided me with the solution. She had a pre-paid MasterCard that was loaded with Euros, purchased from Travelex.

As I began to read about the Cash Passport products offered by Travelex something really caught my attention: chip and pin cards. It is possible to buy a Travelex chip and PIN Cash Passport at certain locations within the US.

With the potential problem of using a U.S. magnetic strip credit/debit/ATM card in Europe, as I previously wrote about on this blog, this pre-paid card might just be the solution. Of course there are fees associated with it. And there are not many places where it is offered in the U.S.

However, the Travelex website states that it will be possible to buy the Chip and PIN Cash Passports online early in 2011. This might prove a great solution for U.S. travelers until U.S. banks get their act together and start offering these cards to their clients.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cruise Vessel Security Act of 2010 (H.R. 3360)

Have you heard about this new law? I hadn't until I read about it in my January issue of International Travel News.

This law takes effect January 2012 and applies to cruise vessels carrying 250 or more passengers, with overnight accommodations and arriving at or leaving a U.S. port.

Some of the requirements:
Guardrails at least 42 inches high on open decks. Peepholes to be installed in passenger and crew cabin doors. There are also requirements for deck video security cameras.

The ship's medical facility must maintain equipment, medications and have qualified personnel for dealing with sexual assaults.

A logbook must be maintained for recording all reports of crimes including theft plus reports of missing persons and deaths.

The ship must provide in each stateroom a printed guide to security, including how to report a crime and information on U.S. embassy or consulate locations in each of the ship's ports of call.

For more detailed information, click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How to get additional pages for your passport

There are actually two ways to do way when renewing a passport and the other by adding pages to an older passport.

The best way to have pages added to your passport is when you are renewing it. This is also the least expensive way as there is no additional fee.

When submitting the renewal form DS-82, include with your old passport and payment, a note requesting that additional pages be added to your new passport. There is no charge for this.

If you need more visa pages for an older but unexpired passport, you will be required to submit form DS-4085, your old passport and, as of 2011, a check for $82.

Further details are available at this Department of State website.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Should Branson, Missouri Be On My List?

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hiltons of Branson. All opinions are 100% mine.

I have to admit I didn’t have Branson, Missouri on my travel list. But New Year’s Eve we spent with two couples that we have traveled with.  When one of the couples, who are from out of town, found out we hadn’t yet been to Branson, they was amazed and said it is a trip we should absolutely make. Since we’ve traveled with this couple, and enjoy the same types of experiences, I had to seriously think about the strong recommendation that we look into spending a few days in Branson.

It was easy to do a search and find lots of information about Branson. I can’t believe all the shopping available. I think I would have to make some time for that. And I also read about the fishing. So I guess that would work out as I could go shopping and my could husband head for the lakes.  That would be really easy for him if we stayed at the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing located on Lake Taneycomo. Although I think that staying at the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel would put us a bit closer to downtown and the shops and the restaurants.

Then, of course, we would have to make a decision about which shows to see. With everything from comedy to country, Rock ‘n’ Roll to revival, this would not be an easy decision. I wonder if just a few days would be enough?

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Venice Recommended Restaurant - Tiziano

I was going through my pictures recently and turned up a photo of a restaurant way of remembering which places I want to recommend.

It is Tiziano snack bar, on our way from our hotel to the Rialto Bridge. We stopped for lunch because of the crowd inside and we weren't disappointed. The sandwiches were good and the price was right.

However, I would not recommend it for dinner. While there were a lot of local people inside having a spritz, they weren't eating dinner. We, and what looked like other tourists, had dinner there and we were a bit disappointed.

Should we head to the Southwest?

A couple of years back we did a car trip to the Northwest. We left home mid-May and drove straight through on the interstate to Nebraska. Once we reached there, we slowed down quite a bit and, whenever possible, we took the two lane highway instead of the fast 4 lane interstate. We moseyed through Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. Over all, we put over 10K miles on the car and had an absolutely fantastic trip.

So now we are thinking about doing a similar trip through the Southwest. And part of the planning includes looking at possible places for car servicing when needed. At minimum I would want to have an oil change on our Acura TL. I would check out places in major cities, like Houston auto repair, just in case I needed something a bit more serious like new tires or a brake job.

On our Northwest trip, we had the car serviced in Portland. Planning ahead to take care of our car was an important part of making sure we had a safe trip.

Monday, January 3, 2011

American Airlines and Delta No Longer on Some Travel Sites

Don't expect to get the best airfare simply by checking Orbitz and some other travel sites.

American Airlines stopped sharing its fares with Orbitz on December 11 and Delta stopped allowing,, and from showing its fares as of December 17.

(You can read more about this on USATravel. )

For me this won't make much difference. Yes, I use Orbitz and Kayak and other travel sites. But in the end, I also check the airline's web site. I usually find it easier to choose the specific flight times that I want and, sometimes, I even find a better fare.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Venice Vaporetto Fares November 2010

Took this picture which in Venice in November. Thought it might be helpful to anyone planning a trip. We bought a 36 hour pass on Saturday morning. That gave us all day Saturday for Murano and Burano and then we used it on the Grand Canal on Sunday.