Thursday, April 28, 2011

Up to $2,000 Spending Credit with Crystal Cruises!!!!

When your desire for the finer things is only surpassed by your passion for travel, it seems fitting that you'd sail with Crystal Cruises. And whether you choose to explore the picturesque New England coastline, the soft sandy shores of the Caribbean or the legendary lands of the Mediterranean, your Virtuoso travel advisor has every detail covered.

Lighthouses & Lobsters
Crystal Symphony
11 Days • Departs September 13 – 24, 2011
New York overnight • Newport • Boston • Bar Harbor • Halifax • Québec City overnight • Montréal two overnights
Virtuoso fares from $4,495 per person
Includes Fall Fare Savings, Free Air plus a $1,000 per couple
"All-Inclusive. As You Wish." spending credit!
Distinguished Speaker Series theme – CNN Anchor Lou Waters
Enjoy two complimentary cocktail receptions, onboard Virtuoso host, prepaid shipboard gratuities and a shipboard credit in select categories

Pink Sands & White Beaches
Crystal Symphony
12 Days • Departs October 25 – November 6, 2011
New York • Hamilton • St. Maarten • Antigua • Aruba • Grand Cayman • Miami
Virtuoso fares from $4,530 per person
Includes Fall Fare Savings, Free Air plus a $1,000 per couple
"All-Inclusive. As You Wish." spending credit!
Digital Filmmaking theme
Enjoy two complimentary cocktail receptions, onboard Virtuoso host, prepaid shipboard gratuities and a shipboard credit in select categories

Capitals of Art & Architecture
Crystal Serenity
12 Days • Departs August 26 – September 7, 2011
Barcelona overnight • Cannes overnight • Florence • Rome • Sorrento overnight • Dubrovnik • Venice overnight
Virtuoso fares from $6,510 per person
Includes Fall Fare Savings, Free Air plus a $2,000 per couple
"All-Inclusive. As You Wish." spending credit!
Enjoy a complimentary cocktail reception, onboard Virtuoso host, prepaid shipboard gratuities and a shore event in Dubrovnik

Beyond the Bosporus
Crystal Serenity
12 Days • Departs September 7 – 19, 2011
Venice overnight • Katakolon • Navplion • Constanta • Odessa • Yalta • Trabzon • Istanbul overnight
Virtuoso fares from $7,485 per person
Includes Fall Fare Savings, Free Air plus a $2,000 per couple
"All-Inclusive. As You Wish." spending credit!
Enjoy a complimentary cocktail reception, onboard Virtuoso host, prepaid shipboard gratuities and a shore event in Odessa

Mediterranean Treasures
Crystal Serenity
12 Days • Departs October 1 – 13, 2011
Venice overnight • Dubrovnik • Sicily • Sorrento • Rome • Florence • Monte Carlo overnight • Barcelona
Virtuoso fares from $5,955 per person
Includes Fall Fare Savings, Free Air plus a $2,000 per couple
"All-Inclusive. As You Wish." spending credit!
Wine & Food Festival theme – Culinary experts Mark Bittman & André Soltner and wine expert Alexis Kahn
Enjoy a complimentary cocktail reception, onboard Virtuoso host, prepaid shipboard gratuities and a shore event in Dubrovnik

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DOT Requires Taxes, Fees Be Included in Advertised Prices

The Department of Transportation (DOT) officially, finally, unveiled a series of consumer protections rules aimed at increasing transparency and fairness in the airline industry. The rules were proposed last June and won't take effect for 120 days.

Here are the main components of the new rules:

•Airlines must refund bag fees paid for bags that are lost in transit. Note that the rule stipulates bags that are lost, not delayed. That the DOT decided to exclude delayed bags from this provision is probably the most disappointing aspect of the rules. Bag fees ostensibly cover the shipping cost of your luggage. In many retail situations, customers with delayed shipments are often compensated with refunds or vouchers, in what seems like an obvious "make it right" scenario. Not so here. Worse, the definition of "lost" is left ambiguous, and presumably to the airlines' discretion. It can take days and even weeks for an airline to qualify a bag as lost, meaning passengers will have to be patient if they want their $25 back. And as the DOT notes, "Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage." So this strikes me as a "why bother?"

•Full-fare advertising or bust. Advertised fares will include all mandatory taxes and fees, meaning the price you see is the price you'll pay (prior to tacking on ancillary charges, such as bag fees). This rule applies to any ticket seller, whether it's the airline, an online travel agent, or a human travel agent. Travel agents will also have to disclose bag fee information both before and after the consumer purchases their ticket. The agency had proposed a dual-price system, where one fare included mandatory taxes and another included taxes plus some basic ancillary fees, but this model was deemed too cumbersome to be useful (rightly, I'd say) and was dispatched.

•Bag fee changes on airline homepages for three months. The DOT did follow through on its proposal to require carriers to, in its own words, "promptly and prominently disclose any increase in its fees for carry-on or checked baggage and any change in the checked baggage allowance for a passenger on the carrier’s homepage." The notice should be obvious and remain in place for three months, and the rule also applies to foreign carriers that advertise or sell air tickets in the U.S.

•Web page for all ancillary fees. Similarly, The DOT will require carriers to create "one central webpage on their website, linked from the carrier’s homepage, which lists all ancillary fees." That's all ancillary fees. Currently, most airlines have their fees scattered all over their websites, making it nearly impossible to track them all down in an efficient manner.

•Compensation for bumping gets a bump. The new rules increase the minimum denied boarding compensation limits to $650 for short flights and $1,300 for longer flights, or 200%/400% of the one-way fare, whichever is smaller. The rules will apply to "zero fare" tickets, such as award flights, which are currently exempt from compensation requirements. The DOT will also adjust for inflation every two years.

•Tarmac delay rules extended to international carriers. The DOT will impose a four-hour limit on tarmac delays for international flights, including those operated by foreign carriers. Food and water must be provided, as is the case with the existing three-hour rule for domestic flights. Interestingly, the DOT noted that "The extended tarmac delays experienced by passengers on international flights operated by foreign carriers at New York’s JFK Airport during the December 2010 blizzard was an important factor" in crafting this rule.

•Lots of smaller changes. The new rules also include a ban on post-purchase increase, except when directly tied to new or increased government taxes; require airlines to communicate delays of over 30 minutes at the boarding gate, on its website, and via its telephone system; and allow passengers to hold a reservation for 24 hours without payment and cancel said reservation without penalty.

In sum, these rules represent a meaningful win for passengers, and in most cases hold true to the original proposals put forth last year. Notably absent is any regulation on peanut service, which was a surprisingly controversial component of those proposals. And, as I mentioned above, the bag fee refund policy is disappointing. If an airline loses your bag, you have a lot more to worry about than a $25 fee. In my opinion, the DOT blew a chance to hold airlines accountable for the fee that causes the most pain among consumers.
But from a consumer standpoint, the agencies requirements surrounding fare and fee transparency are huge, and will fundamentally affect the way we shop for airline tickets. Simply being able to see an airline's entire menu of ancillary fees, and compare those fees to other carriers', is a major change. Knowing, when searching, that the price you see is the full price, will allow consumers to make more informed decisions and avoid that awful feeling of being baited and switched.
The fact that we've come to this point, where the government has to mandate honesty and transparency from the airline industry, is more than a little disappointing. Much credit to the DOT for stepping up and giving consumers a voice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Four Free Travel Apps!!

This app maps out the locations of food, shops and services in several airports. When you are looking for the closest airline club/lounge, restaurant, ATM, shops, etc. search the entire airport or a selected terminal/gate. I have used it to find the Delta Sky Club and Five Guys! This app is designed for the iPhone, but it works on the iPad too.

World Nomad Spanish or French or Name Your Language
If you are headed out of the country and don’t speak the language of the country you are visiting, this one has some great phrases (Basics, Directions, Food, etc) in tons of languages. This one is also designed for the iPhone, but again, it works on the iPad too.

This app appears to have been EVERYWHERE and packed EVERTHING. The lists/suggestions are extensive and if something has been left out, you can add it. It may take a while to make the initial list, but once it is done, you have it. Headed to the beach? Skiing? Europe? Click, pack and check it off the list. I like this one! For 99 cents, you can skip the ads.

Global Tipping
Choose the country and you get a short and sweet lesson on tipping practices. The differences will amaze you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Best Destinations for Family Entertainment

Among people who plan to travel in 2011, 83 percent will be traveling with family, and 90 percent of those traveling with family will keep their trips domestic, according to a recent survey. What follows is the top 10 destinations where these travelers have the best-rated options for entertainment, dining, and accommodation.  The 10 destinations were determined based on the number of recommendations of users who traveled with family. For each destination, we’ve included the top-rated attraction based also on user reviews—resulting in numerous instances of lesser-known attractions outranking the destination’s most famous ones—and provided an overview of the other popular activities for families.

Sandusky, Ohio

Anaheim, California
Top-rated attraction: Flightdeck Air Combat Center, a flight simulation center for kids and adults from age 13 up.
By comparison, Anaheim was once a sleepy southern California town of orange groves, but it began transforming into a Fantasia for families when the Disneyland Resort opened in 1955.
Now, Disney is the city’s primary employer and Anaheim is synonymous with Mickey-themed entertainment including Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure and more, but it’s not the only game in town. There’s also Adventure City, a small amusement park for smaller kids, K1 Speed Indoor Karting, Hobby City Doll and Toy Museum, and the Old West –themed Knott’s Berry Farm Park including Camp Snoopy park for the younger ones, as well as Soak City Water Park by Knott’s. For more adult-friendly shopping dining and entertainment there’s Downtown Disney, Block at Orange, Westfield MainPlace mall, and Anaheim GardenWalk, which includes a bowling center. Family-oriented dinner shows include Medieval Times and Pirates Dinner Adventure, and the local sporting options include the Anaheim Ducks, formerly the Mighty Ducks NHL team, and the LA Angels of Anaheim.

Wisconsin Dells,Wisconsin
Top-rated attraction: Bigfoot Zipline, a 2-hour ride for nearly all ages of gliding on cables above oaks and northwoods pines.
Set in the dells of the Wisconsin River, this little town has been a summer fun destination for 150 years, and is now claims the title of Water Park Capital of the World. Families can go kayaking, rock climbing, jetboating and jetskiing, and take one of the popular amphibious Duck tours. Wisconsin Dells is home to the country’s largest outdoor water park, Noah’s Ark, and the largest indoor water park, Wilderness Territory. Less active activities include Rick Wilcox Magic Theater and Wizard Quest virtual game. Adult diversions include golf, Ho-Chunk Casino. For a throwback semi-indoor/ semi-outdoor night, try the popular Big Sky Drive- in movie theater.

Wildwood Crest, New Jersey
Top attraction: The beach and boardwalk
Located in the southern part of the Jersey Shore, the peaceful beach community (and dry town) Wildwood Crest is the more family-friendly alternative to the adjacent parts of the Wildwoods (Wildwood and North Wildwood, which come closer to living up to the “wild”). Visiting families stay in any of numerous midcentury modern or “doo wop” motels or in vacation or seasonal rentals. Ocean, beach, and bay activities include boating, jet skiing, fishing, crabbing, whale and dolphin watching, and in the evenings, movies on the beach. The boardwalk is not far, with amusements, rides, and games for children and adults. Area water parks are Ocean Oasis, Raging Waters, and Splash Zone.

Orlando, Florida
Top-rated attraction: Discovery Cove, an amusement park where visitors can swim with dolphins and observe fish while snorkeling.
Orlando is one of the two vacation towns that Disney built—it’s the site of the granddaddy of them all, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Animal Kingdom, and the Typhoon Lagoon water park. Other top attractions are Universal Studios, SeaWorld, the Sammy Duvall Watersports Centre, Gatorland, and the iFly skydiving simulation. Popular local evening outings include the comedic magic with unlimited food and beverage at the Outta Control Dinner Show and Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. This is only a small sample—plenty more family-oriented attractions await in Orlando.

Sandusky, Ohio
Top-rated attraction: Cedar Point Amusement Park and Resort
The big draw of this Lake Erie coastal destination is one of America’s oldest amusement parks, Cedar Point, which has a whopping 17 roller coasters, rated from 2 (mild thrill) to 5 (aggressive thrill). Cedar Point’s water park Soak City also ranks high among Sandusky visitors. Some of Sandusky’s other family attractions include the Kalahari Waterpark Resort, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, the Merry-Go-Round Museum, and the Sandusky Maritime Museum.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Top attraction: The Carolina Opry, live theater performances
The coastal city of Myrtle Beach has the titular beach, but there are plenty more family entertainment options, such as horseback riding, the Soar and Explore Zipline and Ropes Course, and Mt Atlanticus mini-golf, and Ripley’s Aquarium. For parents, there are golfing and casino cruises, and evening entertainment for all at the Carolina Opry, Alabama Theater and Le Grande Cirque.

Hershey, Pennsylvania
Top-rated attraction: Cullari Vineyards and Winery
No surprise here—the attractions of the company town of Hershey, Pennsylvania are Hershey-themed or affiliated: Hersheypark amusement park, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Hershey Gardens, Hershey Trolley Works, and The Hershey Story museum, and the ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park. As for the non-Hershey attractions: there’s the two-wheeled tours of Segway of Hershey, Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park for small tykes, Antique Automobile Club of America Museum.

Ocean City, Maryland
Top-rated attraction: Old Pro mini golf in four indoor and outdoor themed locations.
Ocean City is Maryland’s popular 10-mile-long, narrow barrier island beach community featuring three miles of boardwalk. Family attractions include of course the free beaches and the boardwalk, as well as Trimper’s Rides and Frontier Town amusement parks, the Ocean City Life-Saving Station and Wheels of Yesterday museums, and the Carousel Ice Skating Rink. The destination’s unique draw for outdoors-loving families is Assateague Island, where overnight beach campers can wake up to glimpse the island’s free-roaming wild ponies. Fishing for billfish, tuna, and wahoo is another popular local draw—and for the more advanced, OCMD is known as the “White Marlin Capital of the World.”

Carlsbad, California
Top-rated attraction: Carlsbad Lagoon for wakeboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, pedal boating, and tubing.
The Southern California coastal city of Carlsbad has an old-fashioned downtown (Carlsbad Village) as well as protected wildlife habitats. Popular local attractions include Legoland California (for kids 12 and under) and Sea Life Aquarium, the state beach, three lagoons for bird-watching, about a dozen golf courses, Carlsbad Skatepark and Carlsbad Raceway. For days when the weather’s not cooperating with vacation plans, there’s the Gemological Institute of America Museum, the Museum of Making Music, and a designer outlet mall.

Panama City, Florida
Top-rated attraction: Yoga for You, offering private classes on the beach.
Located in the Florida Panhandle, subtropical Panama City features that no-brainer combination for family summer fun: beach and amusements. The beaches are popular for activities like jetskiing, parasailing, boat tours, scuba diving, and snorkeling in the warm Gulf waters or just loafing on the white sand. The area’s plentiful parks include Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, Super Speed Fun Park, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Cobra Adventure Park, Gulfworld Marine Park. Panama City has more family activities like mini golf, Rock’it Lanes and Bowlarama bowling, and movies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Staying at a hotel on a private island means you don't have to share the terrain with hundreds of other hotel guests or local residents. While amenities such as spa treatments and beach views are par for the course, each of these secluded islands lets you relax in style. Can you hear the tropics calling?

Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island

French Polynesia
Located on a small island just off the coast of Bora Bora, you'll find a private dive center as well as a beach. Stay in a bungalow; some are over water and others are built into the hillside. Enjoy access to super-luxe amenities like a cigar cave, a wine cellar, two on-site bars, a spa, and an infinity pool. Cuisine inspired by many regions is served in the fine-dining restaurant Latitude 16°, including dishes prepared in a Tahitian oven. At Manu Tuki restaurant, tuck into lighter snacks, such as BBQ and Polynesian or French specialties. Tahitian plants are incorporated into treatments at the spa.

Kamalame Cay in Andros Island, the Bahamas

The Bahamas
Kamalame Cay takes up 96 acres on this island, providing lots of privacy for guests. Nineteen rooms are housed in a combination of colorful cottages, bungalows, peaked-roof beach houses, and plantation- style villas (one has a 1,000-square-foot game room with a billiards table). Bahamian-style cuisine with a modern twist is served in the Great House. For a more casual affair, the Tiki Bar hosts local bands and prepares fresh fish on an open grill. Adventurous travelers can forego relaxing on the designated three miles of beach area in favor of kayaking through mangroves, deep-sea fishing for King Mackerel, or scuba diving -- all of which can be arranged by the hotel.

Aerial of Guana Island, British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands
Formerly a sugarcane plantation owned by Quakers, this unspoiled 850-acre private island now has seven resort-owned beaches. Guana Island Club's 15 rooms are housed within stone cottages, or you can reserve the entire Beach House for more privacy. Expect a summer-camp vibe, with ping-pong tables, croquet, beach barbecues, and "Old Movie Nights." You can also enjoy snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, 12 miles of hiking trails, or massage treatments and yoga classes offered through the spa. All meals are served in The Club and incorporate locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Young Island Resort

The Grenadines
Johnny Depp slept in one of Young Island Resort's 30 cottages while filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl -- proof of the island's celeb status. Spa Kalina, in Cottage #15, offers treatments incorporating a product line from Barbados, such as a guava-seed foot. Caribbean-flair dishes (including a five-course menu) are served nightly under a palapa hut or among gardens of tropical flowers and plants. Swim out to Coconut Bar -- owned by the resort and just a few yards from shore -- for a cocktail.

Cayo Espanto in Ambergis Caye, Belize

Belize is the new hot spot in Central America -- yet Cayo Espanto, on a four-acre island in the popular Ambergris Caye area, remains largely undiscovered. Reserve one of seven chic villas, each with turquoise decorative accents, an open-air design for Caribbean Sea views, and direct access to the beach and water. The world's second-largest barrier-reef system is just a short swim away. Staff can help arrange an excursion, whether it's a relaxing deserted-island beach picnic, a jungle tour, or intense scuba-diving or fly-fishing voyages.

Beach House in Manafuru Island, Maldives

The Maldives
With so many amenities to choose from, you won't even think about stepping off Manafuru Island (unless it's for deep-sea fishing or snorkeling). Villa options include the Water Villa, built above the ocean with glass-paneled flooring. At Moden Spa, the signature Maldivian massage uses local white sea-salt sand and Maldivian coconut oil. The resort also has yoga classes, an art gallery, and a tea lounge. Eight bars and restaurants serve everything from regional-themed menus to wines plucked from the undersea wine cellar.

Parrot Cay island, Turks & Caicos

The Turks & Caicos
Life on this 1,000-acre island is pretty sweet -- take your pick of holistic options at COMO Shambhala Retreat; enjoy bone fishing, windsurfing, or hiking; or simply lounge on the mile-long beach. At Parrot Cay Resort, grilled conch and spiced banana fritters are specialty dishes at Lotus restaurant, as are Asian- inspired options like Balinese-spiced mahi mahi. Every Saturday is a barbecue where BBQ Kurubuta baby back ribs slathered in chipotle sauce are the main attraction. Terrace, the other restaurant, is ripe for romantic occasions with an Italian-themed dinner menu and its blueberry hotcakes for breakfast. Lodging runs the gamut from an affordable garden-view room to a duo of four-bedroom maisons (which are owned by Donna Karan).