New Study Has Travel By Air Preferred, Thanks To Travel By Sea

A new study out this week says the idea of a cruise vacation is not as popular as it once was, targeting multiple factors for the hit. Regardless of the reason, the numbers show a cruise industry that has its job cut out for it.

Over half of all Americans are less likely to take a cruise now than over a year ago, says the new Harris Poll out this week. But those numbers are heavily skewed to those who have never been on a cruise before and were probably apprehensive about it anyway. Everyone is to a certain degree before their first sailing. Those who have sailed before were not having as many second thoughts.

The March Harris Poll asked 2,052 adults aged 18 and over in an online poll, how they felt about cruising. Those surveyed clearly thought less of cruising since events that included the grounding of Costa Concordia and a fire aboard Carnival Triumph. That trend continued in the May Harris poll, indicating that public perception of cruises continues to fall while airlines soar higher.”More than six in 10 Americans (62 percent) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking a cruise (up from 57 percent in February), and the majority (56 percent) agree that air travel is much safer (up from 50 percent in February),” says a TravelMole report.

But cruise lines have not stood by idly. Nearly all cruise lines have adopted a new, higher, more efficient focus on safety. The new Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights spells out what will happen in many otherwise cloudy areas.

Will they come back? Better than ever?

Apparently cruise lines think so, investing billions in ships, ports and jobs. Just this week, Costa Cruises announced the building of a new ship, their largest ever.

The 132,500-ton Costa Diadema promises a different experience, breaking up areas of the ship into several ocean-facing venues, each with a different theme. Also, Princess Cruises new generation ship Royal Princess arrived in Southampton for a smattering of inaugural events.

“I wouldn’t give much credibility to the latest Harris or TravelMole polls,” says cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy. “Their findings are highly subjective and run contrary to real life actions of cruise passengers, as ships continue to sail full. “

Maybe it’s a little of the “if you build it, they will come” thing or maybe it’s the faith cruise lines have in their unique travel experience that is becoming more diverse all the time.

“Considering less than 15% of the US population has cruised, I’d say 92% of their respondents have probably never cruised, 75% probably still live with their parents and 48% have never travelled more than 1000 miles from home. Based on current trends, their findings aren’t supported,” concluded Chiron.

Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

When we review travel apps that actually do something, they often tap crowd-sourced information that is as rich (or not) as the number of users who have contributed their opinions or reviews. GPS-based travel apps take existing technology and manipulate it in one way or another to bring every thing from finding a friend on the road to creating a virtual journal of our travels, step by step. In the world of cruise travel, the number of apps available is limited compared to other modes of transportation but they are often highly specific, producing information not available elsewhere.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has a newly updated travel app that can be a helpful planning tool in advance of sailing with information about destinations, ships and special offers. Once on board Norwegian’s newest ships, even more helpful features are available.

The free download for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 features photo galleries and videos; ship information including deck plans and on-board amenities; stateroom descriptions, images and floor plans; 360-degree virtual ship tours and more.

On board Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, passengers can log on, select an Internet package to buy then text and call others on the ship who are also connected, using time from their pre-paid plan. Free services include the ability to see previews of and book shore excursions, restaurants and other on-board products like spa services and shopping. Users can view their shipboard charge account as well as a list of daily activities at any time, also without using purchased Internet minutes.Sailing some other cruise line? Cruise Ship Mate ($1.99), can be even more helpful in the planning stages of cruise travel as it has the ability to see all itineraries of all major cruise lines. Included among features that do not need an Internet connection to use are deck plans, cruise ship information and a packing list. Connected, users get cruise ship deck cam links and a chat feature that enables passengers on a specific ship and sailing date to communicate in advance of and during sailing.

A unique feature on the Cruise Ship Mate app is a Cruise Ship Tracker. This one allows users to see the exact location of any ship at any time, using technology similar to that of CruiseCal, the long running subscriber-based website that pinpoints where ships are and which ships will be in port at the same time you are.

But maybe you are not really into apps but have some favorite travel websites that you would like to access quickly on your Apple iPhone or iPad?

iPhone 5 users can create quick links to their most-visited websites using the “add to home screen” option, like I did for the Gadling site. On your favorite site, in Safari, just tap the “Share” button at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Add to Home Screen,” tap the “Add” button then launch the website from your Home screen by tapping its icon.

Looking for other helpful travel apps? Check this video for apps that tell us everything from what is going on at any given destination to where restrooms are located.

[Image credit – Chris Owen]

Free Cruise Giveaways To Enter Right Now

If the idea of a free cruise sounds appealing, right now might be a good time to pay attention. This month, during what cruise lines call “wave season,” travelers can pick up some of the best cruise vacation values available. To promote those exceptional seasonal values to new travelers, some of whom may have never been on a cruise before, cruise lines are teaming with everyone from television program producers to airline operators to give away free cruises.

“Wave Season” unofficially runs from January through March and features what cruise lines and travel agencies promise to be some of the best values of the year. Whether those values are something to get excited about or not, with snow on the ground and winter cold freezing travelers inside, many look to cruise vacations for relief.

Researching, looking, dreaming or buying, cruise travelers probably won’t do better than “free” when it comes to pricing. Let’s take a look at contests going on right now.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” is giving contestants and one lucky home viewer the chance to escape the winter blues with a Disney Cruise Vacation!

This week, during “Cruise In and Win Week,” airing January 7 – 11, a cruise vacation will be attached to one “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” question in each contestant’s game. Answered correctly, the contestant as well as one lucky winner at home wins the money attached to the question as well as a Disney Cruise Vacation for four aboard the Disney Fantasy.

One randomly selected grand prize winner will choose a cruise vacation on either the Disney Magic or the Disney Wonder, sailing from Galveston, Texas.

US Airways Cruises – Million Miles Dream Getaway Sweepstakes will give one grand prize winner 500,000 Dividend Miles and a seven-night Caribbean cruise for two.

To enter, just sign up to receive US Airways weekly cruise emails by January 31. Signing up for just about any travel service provider’s priority email newsletters or offers is a great idea anyway. Those subscribed often get first notice of special pricing, value sailings and more.

Don’t want your email inbox filling up with what might otherwise be seen as junk? Have a special email address just for this reason.

Five other prize winners will receive 100,000 Dividend Miles

The Smooth Jazz Cruise has sailed annually since 2004, bringing together fans of Jazz music and top jazz musicians. Promoter Entertainment Cruise Productions is giving away a free cruise valued at $5,600 on Holland America Line’s m/s Westerdam, January 13 – 20, 2013, or January 20 – 27, 2013, for The Smooth Jazz Cruise.

On board will be jazz great George Benson along with David Sandborn, Bob James, Alonzo Bodden, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and others.

Alaska Magazine has teamed up with adventure cruise line InnerSea Discoveries for a Cruise Alaska Sweepstakes.

Valued at over $11,000, the grand prize is seven nights on board 86-guest Safari Endeavour, departing from Juneau, Alaska. Included are all onboard meals, spirits, wine and microbrews, exclusive transfers and baggage handling, taxes and port fees, entry fees to national parks/preserves, all from-the-boat activities and equipment, sauna, hot tub, yoga classes and a complimentary massage.

Enter between now and January 31, 2013.

Looking for other sources of free cruises? Travel agencies often have free cruise contests as we see in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr User Peter Nijenhuis]

Cheap summer travel deals, there are a few still out there

Summer is peak season at popular vacation options from U.S. National Parks to theme parks and cruises. Its the time when many travelers are off school and have the time to go which normally drives up pricing. Experts in summertime travel say not to write off the possibility of a late summer vacation that won’t break the bank.

Save 50% Off Your Vacation by Taking a Mini-Vacation says Best Travel Deals Tips in their Last Minute Summer Travel Tips & Mini-Vacations.

“One way to save on your last minute vacation is to take a shorter vacation or a mini-vacation. It can cut the cost of your trip in half, especially if you do a road trip to a destination not more than a half-day drive from your home. Mini-vacations don’t require weeks of planning but still provide the same basic essentials of any trip: the chance to recharge your batteries, get your mind off of work and take a break from your regular routine. Also, when you’re traveling with the kids, look for a hotel that is reliable, kid-friendly and has all the amenities they need, like the Hilton Garden Inn. Between now and September 6th, with the HHonors ‘Great Getaway Promotion’ you get 20% off the Bed ‘N Breakfast rates plus get a delicious cooked-to-order breakfast for up to four adults staying in the same room. And kids 12 and under eat breakfast for free.”

Cruise vacations still available and they don’t have to make us fat

“Back in the day, cruise travelers came home with more than souvenirs – taking a cruise usually meant bringing home an extra 10 pounds,” said Dwain Wall, Senior Vice President and General Manger of CruiseOne, the nation’s leading cruise retailer. “Today’s travelers have asked for healthy and fun activities to choose from while onboard and the cruise lines have responded. The best part? Many of these offerings are included in the price of the cruise.”

Carnival Cruise Lines is having a “cash back” sale where they load up your on-board spending account with up to $150. They may not lower the price, in fact it may cost more to get this offer, but cash to spend on board a Carnival Cruise is always a welcome addition to any cruise vacation. Watch prices though, only certain price codes qualify. The promotion is available with virtually all of the line’s three- to nine-day cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico and Alaska departing between August and April from a variety of North American homeports. Terms & Conditions

Some other sources to check
There are a number of online sources that specialize in last-minute travel and are worthy of a click or two.
has portfolio of 16,000 plus Undercover hotels in 2,500 major cities
worldwide. By keeping the name of the hotel quiet until after one books, is able to dramatically drop the rates across every hotel providing even better last minute prices, in advance.

FunJet Vacations lets us save up to 60% on last-minute packaged deals like a 3-night stay in Cozumel, Mexico with airfare starting at $399 per person. Packaged tours, once looked down on by seasoned travelers, are making a comeback as travel agencies are finding a new value-oriented market for their services.

Consumer Reports, the people who have no horse in the race for your travel dollars, offer ten great tips for saving on travel. My personal favorite:

#5. Negotiate with hotels

“Average room rates have been falling in vacation spots such as Orlando, Fla., and the Caribbean. Bad news for hoteliers can be good news for you, so skip Web sites and toll-free lines and contact the property directly. Because many hotels are independently owned or managed, you might have more bargaining power. (Just don’t call in the morning, when guests are checking out.) Haggle for a lower room rate and ask for complimentary breakfast, gym access, or parking. Follow up by e-mail, so you have written confirmation.”

Who really does this? Have you? Share your experience with a comment below please. We would love to know how you did it for an upcoming post “Travel Mercenaries; get the best deal, take no hostages”

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Weather delay angers cruise passengers at Texas port

They may call today’s cruise ships “floating hotels” but there are some big differences between land-based vacations and a cruise ship heading out to sea.

Sometimes they can’t.

Such was the case last weekend and into Monday at the Port of Galveston where ships of all shapes and sizes were kept at sea when heavy fog made sailing dangerous. While the situation was obviously out of the control of cruise lines, guests that should have been on board ship sailing out to sea were less than understanding.

“This is my first cruise ever. I’ve been in hotels for the past three nights. I’ve had to buy my own food. Carnival has not treated us good. The refund is not acceptable. More needs to be done for everyone on that Ecstasy ship,” a passenger told Click2Houston.

Always choosing safety first, maritime authorities closed the port when fog made successful navigation impossible. While a weather delay often angers cruise passengers, there is only so much cruise lines can do.

The Royal Caribbean Blog notes that Voyager of the Seas return to Galveston was delayed by several hours and that passengers were able to board on Sunday evening but the ship wasn’t ready to leave until Monday.

Carnival Cruise Lines issued the following statement:

“The ship has been delayed due to severe fog and near zero visibility at the Port of Galveston. The ship was not able to enter the Port of Galveston from its previous cruise until yesterday afternoon, approximately one day later than scheduled because of the severe fog. It has been waiting for the fog to clear to depart on its next voyage. 

Because of its delayed arrival and subsequent delayed departure, Carnival Ecstasy will now sail on a modified three-day cruise that will return on Thursday, Feb. 24 (originally, the ship was scheduled to sail on a five-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso operating Saturday to Thursday).

Guests have the option of canceling and receiving a full refund, a 25 percent discount off a future two- to five-day voyage and a $45 per person meal allowance. Guests who opt to sail on the modified three-day cruise will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, a 50 percent discount on a future two- to five-day cruise, and $45 per person meal allowance in the form of a shipboard credit.

Carnival sincerely apologizes to its guests for this disruption in their vacation plans.”  

On the other hand, guests held on those ships waiting for the fog to clear enjoyed an extended vacation. Complementary phone calls and Internet usage made rebooking flights and rearranging travel plans much less of a burden.

Flickr image: USACEpublicaffairs