Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ready to Pack Up Again

I've had a severe lack of motivation lately. There is like NOTHING I feel like doing. Been dragging myself though the motions for a bunch of commitments I had over the past couple of days and now I feel like doing a big nothing.

Except, it dawned on me, that I'm ready to start packing again. I'm ready for another trip. I had jokingly said to a friend recently that all I really want to come home for is to do the laundry and swap out the clothes appropriate for the next trip.

I didn't realize, until yesterday, how true that really is.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ship Speed Results in Suit Against Carnival

Of all the absolute nonsense! A woman is suing Carnival cruise lines because the ship was moving too fast and made her sick.

I first read about it on USAToday Travel. There is also information about it on AOL Travel which states that Carnival won that the case should have been filed in Florida and is not waiting on a ruling about the statute of limitations is for an event that happened in August 2009.

So what happened? Did she get seasick? Well this happens sometimes when you are on the ocean. Getting sick because the ship was going too fast? Ridiculous.

Reminds me of the cruise we took with Blount Small Ship Adventures. We were on their Virgin Islands trip which started and finished in St. Thomas and visited the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

The Blount designed ships have a very shallow draft and they do not sail at night. We flew into St. Thomas an extra day early because, at the time, they had a special deal for an extra night on board while tied up at the dock. The next day we rented a car and had a wonderful full day on the island.

Next morning, still tied up at the dock, we are at breakfast and notice two passengers leaving the ship, pulling their luggage behind them. Curiosity got the best of most of us in the dining room and we wondered why they were leaving. Reason?

They couldn't handle the ship motion! Remember ... we were tied to the dock all night, in the harbor in Charlotte Amalie. What motion????

Friday, March 18, 2011

Next Year Hawaii?

The year 2011 is done. At least done from my vacation planning point of view. We've got something going on every month, whether it is a trip or a commitment that will keep us home. So I now turn my focus to 2012.

We have very good friends who live in San Francisco. We did our China trip with them. They LOVE Hawaii and have tried, for years, to get us to join them on a trip there. And for years I have had Hawaii's Official Tourism site bookmarked on my computer.

Actually, they love Hawaii so much that they often talk about moving there. I don't know which particular island they would want to settle down on, whether Oahu or Kauai or the Big Island. But every winter, when the temperatures drop in northern California, I get an email about how she's ready to move.

Anyway, my husband and I are discussing possibilities for next January or February. Do we take another cruise? Do we visit with friends who go to Bonita Springs, Fl every year? We did it this year and loved it.

Or is 2012 the year we finally make it to Hawaii?

Travel Insurance - Reading the Small Print

My husband and I always buy travel insurance. When our parents were alive there was always the possibility a medical emergency could result in our having to cancel a trip. Now that we, ourselves, are older we buy travel insurance for the same reason. Plus some of our trips, like to the Galapagos and Antarctica, have put us in places where medical evacuation, if necessary, would be very expensive.

But what if we were in Athens when the riots started? What if we were in Japan when the earthquake hit? Would our insurance have covered our trip delay, the additional expenses involved in finding a way home? I honestly don't know.

I'm going to have to find a copy of our travel insurance policy and read the small print.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The rioting in Athens and in Egypt. The earthquake in Japan. Suppose you were a tourist in those countries and ended up in the middle of those events. What would you do?

My TA send out a notice to her clients about the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

The following is a quote from the site:

"The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.

STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

STEP also allows Americans residing abroad to get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
"

My TA told me she registers every time she goes outside of the U.S. I will be registering my husband and myself from now on. We got lucky and missed the rioting in Athens and Egypt. But it could have happened while we were there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Followup On My Princess OBC Post

I recently wrote about being sure to use up all of your on board credits.

In the past, the on board accounts of couples in the same cabin, on the same credit card, had their accounts added together. So if one had credits on their account, the credits would be applied against the others' charges. Recent Princess passengers have reported checking their statements mid-cruise and finding just that. Until the end (see above referenced post).

According to the thread I am reading, one of the forum member's TA called Princess. The explanation is that the OBCs (on board credits) have always been assigned to one person and are non-transferable. Princess is now going to enforce this policy.

So it is important to know which passenger has the credits and how much. If it looks like there will be a credit at the end of the cruise, it is possible to transfer charges to the account with the credits but the credits, being non-transferable, cannot be moved to any other account.

If, at the end of the cruise, your charges have been charged to your credit card, leaving you with unused credits on another account, call Princess customer service post-cruise to request the unused credit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Groupon

I subscribe to Groupon and it really has become a rage where I live. Last week there was a Groupon offer for a restaurant where I know the owners.

The restaurant is a German deli that has a small dining area. The offer was a $12 Groupon coupon for $6. They sold OVER 1400 coupons!! Amazing.

Even more amazing is that people coming in with the coupon are generally spending anywhere from $30 to $50. Some of the coupon users were old customers but a lot were new who didn't know that the shop/restaurant existed and were thrilled to learn about it. So Groupon obviously is working for them.

Now, if Groupon only offered coupons for travel............

How to Turn Your Princess On Board Credit Into Cash

Got onboard credits in your Princess account? Way more than you'll be able to use during the cruise? And they are non-refundable credits? Here is how you can use those credits up, turning them into cash.

Use the casino's slot machines. No, you don't have to play the slots. You just have to use them to put charges onto your on board account. Here is how to do it ...

Insert your cruise card into the card slot in any slot machine.

Follow the instructions on the screen to set up your card for slot playing (ask any casino personnel if you need help), entering your birth date and a PIN

Once set up, follow the instructions and withdraw money from your onboard account. THERE IS NO FEE FOR THIS. The money will register in the slot machine as if you were going to play the machine. Then press the Cash Out on the screen. (You don't need to play the machine.) The credits will be recorded on your cruise card.

Take your cruise card to the cashier's window and get your cash. The amount you withdrew will be on your on board account statement and the OBCs will apply against it.

Voila! You have just turned your OBC into cash.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sailing Princess? Use Up Your Onboard Credits!

I was just reading the forum at Cruise Critic and a new and very popular topic is the way Princess is now handling onboard accounts.

In the past, passengers in the same cabin, on the same credit card, had their accounts combined at the end of the cruise, with the balance charged to the credit card. Not any more.

Now each account is handled separately with each onboard account being charged to the card. Not a problem, UNLESS, one account has a credit. In the past, if both accounts were on the same credit card, the credit would offset charges on the other account.

Not now. Now if one onboard account has a charge, it goes to the credit card. And the credits? They go POOF!

According to the forum, it is possible to go to the Passenger Service Desk and request that the two accounts be combined. Definitely check your onboard account statements during the cruise. It if looks like one account will end with a credit, make a point of using that account for shipboard charges. Or ask the PSD to move charges from one account to the other .... yes, they can do this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cruisers in Japan?

An earthquake and a 30 foot tsunami ... and perhaps more to come.

My TA was telling me she has clients who are supposed to be sailing to/from Japan over the next six weeks. She's busy helping them with their arrangements.

I was wondering if any cruise ships might be in or near port ... someplace where they might be affected by the tsunami. I checked out sailwx and it looks like the Ocean Princess might have been in port. The Queen Mary 2 and the Azamara Quest are also nearby.

But I've been checking the websites and the news and cruise forums and it looks like all of the cruise ships and passengers are safe.

Wish that could also be said for the people of Japan. :(

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to Stay Healthy When You Travel

I keep reading about things to do and things to avoid, in order to stay healthy when traveling. The latest thing is bed bugs, about which you cannot do much about except ask for another room....and then inspecting that one too.

I read about 'don't touch this' and 'don't touch that.' If I followed everything on some of the lists I would probably never leave home.

So from someone (and her husband) who have managed to stay healthy while traveling around the world, here are some things I do:

I carry loads of antiseptic wipes. I'll wipe the tray table in the airplane. I'll wipe a table at an airport restaurant. I'll wipe my hands if no soap, etc in a bathroom. (I do this when in my home town, too.) And, no, I don't wipe down every TV remote or arm rest I touch. I don't avoid airplane magazines because 'who knows who touched them before.'

I do avoid airplane blankets and pillows.

I do wash out glasses in hotel room sinks before we use them.

I NEVER walk barefoot anywhere, and that includes going through security.

And I wash my hands THOROUGHLY after using an airplane bathroom. Yik! And then I use the paper towel to open the door.

But why should my routine be any different when I travel than when I am at home? If I take a seat at the mall, I don't wipe down the armrests. When I'm shopping, I don't wipe down the merchandise before handling it.

I think some people who scour their immediate vicinity when they travel need to get a life.

Friday, March 4, 2011

No More Free Pretzels on Continental

Bought by United last year, Continental now matches United policy of no pretzels to passengers in economy class. Continental says this move will save it $2.5 million a year.

Continental's move leaves Delta as the only major U.S. carrier that still offers free snacks to economy passengers. Snacks are still being offered by the smaller airlines, namely AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest.

As for me, I don't eat them anyway....too much salt.