Cruise Ship Back In Baltimore After Fire, Repairs Continue

cruise ship
Chris Owen

When cruise ships come to town, civic leaders rejoice. The floating resorts bring with them jobs and tourism dollars that might be otherwise elusive. In May, Baltimore, Maryland, welcomed Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to town with gusto, as the state’s governor named May 13 Royal Caribbean Cruise Day. But the hoopla of that new cruise ship in town was short lived when just days later, the ship caught fire and was pulled out of service for repairs. Still, cruise lines are worth courting for cities and those cities are worth standing behind for cruise lines.

Returning to Baltimore this week, there was no brass band or gubernatorial declaration and the reason for the fire is still under investigation. Affecting three aft decks of the ship, some areas are still not ready for passengers, reports Travel Weekly. But local businesses and media are still excited to see the ship return, sailing from the Port of Baltimore on seven-night sailings to Bermuda and the Bahamas.


If any part of this story sounds familiar, there is good reason. Just last month we heard from governor O’Malley, then lobbying on behalf of Carnival Cruise Lines, looking for a waiver from new environmental rules to keep the cruise ships coming to the city. In 2011, Gadling was first to report cruise line crew members accused of smuggling drugs into the Port of Baltimore. Still, cruise travelers flock to Baltimore, often setting new records for passenger travel on a variety of year-round sailings.

Top Vacation Destinations For Cheating Spouses

holding hands
Bubble Fishh, Flickr

What do you think of when you hear the words “summer vacation”? Families going on camping trips, college students heading abroad and couples going on romantic getaways? Well what about cheating spouses sneaking off to vacation with their mistresses?

According to a poll by AshleyMadison.com, at least 50,000 people who are engaged in affairs said they were planning to take a vacation with their extra-marital partner this summer.

The founder of the dating website – which by the way, is designed for people who are already married – told ABC News that travel provides the perfect setting for cheaters. “There’s no better time to pursue a discreet affair than when you’re hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home. Our members have stated that the distance not only lessens their fear of getting caught, but also alleviates feelings of guilt.”Most of the dating site’s members said they would take short trips of 3-4 days to avoid raising suspicions of an affair. Another common anti-detection tactic was to add extra days to business trips or to pay for their trip using reward miles so there was no official record of their dalliance.

So where should you look if you’re trying to catch a cheating partner? Miami would be a good place to start with the city taking out second place on the list of top vacation spots. Meanwhile other cheaters sought the anonymity of big cities like New York and Los Angele, which took fourth and sixth place, respectively. More exotic destinations included Paradise Island in the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos, which both made the top five. So what was the number one destination for adulterers? Las Vegas. It seems as though a whole lot of people are hoping that what happens in Vegas stays there.

Summer Travel Bargains, Available Now During Brief Buying ‘Sweet Spot’

Moyan_Brenn/ Flickr

Summer travel season is right around the corner but exciting travel opportunities are often limited by price. There are plenty of places to go, but they are often priced out of reach. Still, with some research and timing, summer travel bargains are out there right now. Why? Sellers of travel want occupancy and booking levels to be at a certain target number right about now. If the numbers are not where they want them to be, they bring on the discounts to shore up summer season bookings. Here are some we found as standout bargains.

Disney World, Discounted
Summer is usually a popular time to visit Florida’s Walt Disney World and this year is no exception. Many families have to do vacations during the summer, when kids are out of school, most often driving prices up. Still, with hotel capacity running a bit ahead of reservations, deals are out there. Savings of 30 percent on select Disney hotels on Disney property, free dining with a hotel and ticket package, and more can be found at Disney’s Special Offers webpage.

Hike the Blue Mountains in Jamaica
Strawberry Hill is offering guests 25 percent off rates for stays through October 31 with its “Discover the Blue Mountains” package. The three-night stay includes two hikes on Gordon Town Trail and Settlement Trail, daily breakfast, a fruit and cheese welcome amenity, dinner with a bottle of wine, daily Blackwell Rum cocktail and a spa treatment. Don’t come home without a pound or two of that Blue Mountain coffee.Summer for Less at Nantucket Island Resorts- Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket Island Resorts is offering 30 percent off room rates at White Elephant Village, The Wauwinet and the White Elephant Hotel to guests who book five consecutive nights July 7-19. Rates start at $2,500 for five nights. Visit nantucketislandresorts.com/hotel-deals for more.

Pick A Cruise, Any Cruise
Practically every cruise line sailing has felt the sting of recent widely publicized events so prices have gone down. Some lines are advertising like never before, others have quietly just not raised pricing as they might have normally done at this time of the year, choosing instead to go for maximized occupancy. Best deals can be found in the Mediterranean where prices can be as low as $75 per person, per day. Short Caribbean and Bahamas sailings are also showing fall-like pricing for summer sailings. That never happens.

Cheap Not Good Enough? How About Free?
Ultra-luxe cruise line Crystal Cruises is allowing kids ages 17 and under to sail free when sharing a third berth stateroom with two adults. Families can choose from seven- to 15-day voyages in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, North Cape, Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands and across the Atlantic from May-December aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Book by June 28, 2013.

Take A Road Trip, You Will Not Be Alone
Compared to many summer travel options, a road trip is still a standout winner for budget-minded vacationers. A timely YP survey published in TravelPulse compared driving versus flying and found that Americans believe they have a greater flexibility in schedule (35 percent) and sight-seeing (33 percent) when driving vs. flying. They also liked having the ability to easily take more stuff with them (11 percent), avoiding crowds and security lines (9 percent), and the ability to more easily take pets (7 percent).

Perhaps something a bit more exotic? How about one of these James Bond-inspired destinations?

5 James Bond Inspired Summer Travel Destinations

When Cruise Ships Get In Trouble

cruise ships

When cruise ships get in trouble anywhere close to the United States, government forces from a variety of agencies spring into action. To make sure those efforts are seamlessly coordinated, they practice, drill and practice again as they did in a complex exercise held this week. At stake could be the lives of thousands traveling via cruise ship.

We’ve seen the media accounts of ships without power for one reason or another, drifting for days at sea. It’s a rare occurrence but when it happens, agencies from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Salvation Army all have a role to play. In Operation Black Swan this week, emergency response teams from the cruise industry along with key Bahamas government agencies joined to test the system in place to handle emergencies.

The three-day exercise was designed to better understand the role each agency plays during a maritime mass rescue event. Testing emergency procedures looked deep into the entire process of a would-be catastrophe at sea starting with the actual abandon ship process and the way ships account for passengers and crew. Stretching search and rescue capabilities as if in an actual emergency along with landing site management and medical surge procedures, the results were good.

Coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard runs the show, but other agencies play a critical role in handling an emergency.
“The efforts of the local Red Cross and the Salvation Army at the landing site are to be commended. They were able to provide the passengers and support team refreshments at the site. The efforts of the medical teams from the Rand Memorial and the U.S. FAST Team who came to provide assistance to the injured persons are to also be commendable. I am also pleased with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard air assets, which medically evacuated persons for care and attention,” said Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell in a statement.

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Just how complicated is the business of rescuing a cruise ship?

The Black Swan exercise included involvement from Royal Caribbean‘s Monarch of the Seas and Norwegian cruise line’s Norwegian Sky, both utilized for an evacuation drill of passengers and tendering to port. Carnival Cruise Line was there providing family guest care facilities and Norwegian provided landing site forward teams.

Coast Guard Cutters Joshua Appleby, Tarpon and Diamondback were fully staffed and on the scene along with crewmembers from the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) and Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) who also participated in the exercise.

While a full blown catastrophe at sea is rare, medical evacuations by the U.S. Coast Guard are not all that uncommon, as we see in this video:



[Photo credit - U.S. Coast Guard]

Cheap Spring Break Ideas For Broke People

spring breakSpring break may be full of fun, sun and adventure for students and families who plan ahead, budget wisely or just have travel as a priority when it comes to spending. Some make wise, thoughtful decisions on where to go, while others head out on the open road with no plans at all. Spring break can be a time of renewing, head-clearing goodness that resets brainpower, allowing a return to school or work refreshed and ready to go forward.

Unless you’re broke.

Without some money, a lot of Spring break ideas never happen. Here then, at the last minute, are some cheap spring break ideas for broke people.

Obviously, A Road Trip Works
Other than walking or going nowhere, Spring break via automobile is about as cheap as it gets so road trip options are for sure on the table. But instead of planning a trip half-way across the country, burning up time to get to the beach, national park, fabulous city or some other “main event,” why not look right in your own back yard?

I was surprised at the number of attractions, mostly free, that I found within 50 miles of our home, and we live in Orlando, the attraction capital of the world. You won’t have to search Gadling very far to find a plethora of posts with a travel-like-a-local flavor. Most commonly we use that information to get the most out of destinations not visited before. Turn that app around and see what may be hiding just down the street. The results may surprise you.Smartcations
Best understood as bundling applied to vacations, smartcations have travel service providers collaborating to put air, hotel, rental cars and more together. The result: lower overall cost than by booking each element separately. Nothing really new there; airlines have been suggesting, “would you like a hotel with that?” at online check-out for years.

What is new and applicable for broke people is widening the search to include deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. For our purposes here, those with limited travel funds often find that going the smartcations route can enable otherwise abandoned travel plans to happen. Better yet, some allow us to play the pied-piper role, encouraging others (broke) like us to take advantage of the offer.

Smartcation options are available for destinations around the world, including tropical islands.

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Vacation Home Rentals
What was once the lifestyle of the nearly-rich and famous travel option, renting someone else’s fabulous vacation home while they are away at one of their other fabulous homes has come down considerably in price, across the board. Thank you Mr. Recent Recession.

In Florida, for example, bank-owned foreclosure homes are often rented for not much more that they cost in taxes. Banks figure something is better than nothing, which has opened up a whole new market of budget accommodations.

Especially attractive to larger groups of close friends in a “lets set up our own hostel” sort of way, vacation home properties number in the tens of thousands. Most come completely furnished and ready to use and may include the security of a gated community, preset services like cable TV and/or a pool. Homeaway is a good source to start with but renting vacation homes has become such a popular option that their Tripadvisor category numbers over 275,000 properties.

Vacation homes are available all over the United States, Canada and even safe places to visit in Mexico.

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A Short Cruise With A Lot Of People
Three- or four-day cruise vacations (AKA Party Cruises), bought at the last minute (convenient for you since this is the last minute) can be a good option for those with limited travel funds. Sailing from Florida to the Bahamas, the domain of three-day cruises, prices might run about $200 per person, based on double occupancy (two people per stateroom), tax included.

But third and/or fourth people sharing the same room come in at a discounted rate. Add it all up and divide the total price by the number of people and that $200 per person charge could drop to nearly half that.

Mom, Dad and the kids? Beware of short cruises, especially the three-day booze cruises that run over a weekend. This might not be the wholesome family entertainment you had in mind. On the other hand, there’s no time like the present for teaching valuable life skills like how to avoid obnoxious drunks, even at an early age.

But which cruise to choose? Again looking for the best value, consider a tour operator that specializes in just this sort of travel, but includes more in the price. StudentCity is a huge student tour operator, specializing in Spring Break trips for high school and college students.

“Come party with us in the best tropical destinations and at the hottest nightclubs on the map, with world-class DJs and talent,” says StudentCity of this video:




[Photo credit - Flickr user Tostie14]