Air travel issues promote travel by rail and ship

Air travel issuesAs security concerns, luggage problems, fuel surcharges, crowded airports and high prices for air travel continue, some travelers are choosing other ways to get where they want to go. Rather than stay home or cancel travel plans, many travelers are looking at train or bus transportation or cruise vacations at a port they can drive to rather than flying.

Amtrak reports business is good. February marked 16 consecutive months of ridership growth and was the best February on record with 1,099,010 passengers.

“The ridership increase shows the continued popularity of rail travel and the need for continued investment in passenger rail service” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Instead of booking a flight, standing in security lines at the airport, running to catch a connecting flight, then getting to the hotel at their destination, a growing number of travelers are choosing a cruise vacation.

The all-inclusive nature of a cruise combined with easy access by car, rail or bus to local home-ports spread around the U.S. is allowing travelers to skip the airport, hotel and/or rental car altogether.”Even as economies around the world are experiencing financial woes, industry statistics indicate just under 11 million people enjoyed a vacation at sea last year. It could be because one price covers just about everything compared to land vacations where travelers are faced with added expenses such as hotel rooms, valet parking, transportation, buying tickets for entertainment and restaurant expenses.” says Rebecca Kelley from Huliq.com.

She has a point. Once paid, the price of a cruise booking represents is an average of between 70 and 85% of the total vacation cost, that price when vacation is over and you are back home paying the bills.

Variables
such as cash to spend in the ship’s casino or ashore, on-board services like spa treatments, shore excursions, alcoholic beverages or gift shop purchases make up the difference. But with $0 for airfare, $0 for hotels and $0 for food, those three items alone can add up fast and make a cruise vacation a bargain. If not a bargain, at least you know how much the total price will be before vacation, not after when the credit card bills come tumbling in.

On the ease-of-travel scale, air travel issues have travelers scrambling for flights when increasingly more frequent schedule disruptions occur, while cruise passengers who can drive to the port could care less. Even with the high price of gas, driving is often the most economical way to go. Still, it is hard to drive from New York to London so flying may be inevitable. One way, anyway. Many travelers are flying to or from Europe from the U.S. then sailing back.

Called either TransAtlantic sailings like those done on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 or Repositioning Cruises that many lines do, a ship sails one-way to or from Europe. Queen Mary 2 does it all the time, others make the crossing seasonally and often include ports of call along the way.

If you have the time to take 6 to 14 days on a ship instead of 6 or 14 hours (with disruptions) in the air, sailing can be a great way to go.

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Buying a cruise? Look at value, not price

cruise value priceCruise vacations can be a good travel value because the fare paid includes much of what travelers might pay separately for with other vacation options. In recent years though, mainstream cruise lines have come under criticism for offering desirable options guests can buy on top of the cruise fare paid. The basic experience has not changed but upgrade options like special dining venues, might make it seem so. Some lines have gone a different direction, including more in the price.

Regent Seven Seas cruises
, used to charge for shore excursions, as most cruise lines do. Not long ago, they did away with that, making most shore excursions part of the deal for the premium line.

“We realized that the largest spend anyone had on board was shore excursions. So, we decided to give them away.” Regent’s President Mark Conroy told Sun-Sentinel.com.

Results have been good for the line that costs an average of $600 per person, per day. Guest feedback is that they like the more all-inclusive nature of Regent sailings as opposed to other lines.

“Our ticket price is probably more expensive than others, but the vacation in the end doesn’t cost much more … because so much is included.” Conroy added, noting that 2010 will be the company’s best year on record.

Another premium line, Seabourn, shares the more all-inclusive philosophy with complementary fine wines poured at lunch and dinner and open bars throughout their small yacht-sized fleet of six ships. Seabourn also promotes that tipping is neither required or expected, another area that can add up on other lines.

More than ever, finding the cruise line that is a good fit for you involves considering the entire experience. While the discount fares being offered by major lines may sound attractive, the end cost may actually be greater than a premium line that includes much more in the price.