Travel caution urged but experiences await, who to turn to?

There is a lot to be said about experience when it comes to traveling. If we have been some place a number of times, that previous experience can add a valuable filter to what we see in video and print reports when events occur around the globe. Government-issued travel alerts and warnings are surely important to consider. Catastrophic weather events, political unrest and the like are too. But while experts urge caution they also explain the actual situation on the ground may not be cause to cancel plans then travel elsewhere.

In Travel caution urged but experiences await, what to do? we talked with premiere land tour operator Abercrombie and Kent, asking the question “Is it safe to travel to Egypt?” who told us:

“The situation has improved dramatically in recent weeks. The U.S. State Department has softened its Travel Warning and both the French and the British have updated their cautions. Airports and financial institutions are functioning normally and popular tourist sites are open – and remarkably free of visitors. Beyond that, Egyptians are relishing their new-found freedom and a sense of optimism is palpable wherever you go…”

Today we take a closer look at areas where headline-grabbing events have led many to reconsider travel plans, some life-long dreams, that may indeed be safe for travel.

Asking again “Is it safe to travel to Egypt?”, we talk to Dwain Wall, Senior Vice President & General Manager of CruiseOne & Cruises Inc. Unlike big-ship cruises, river cruises sail on smaller ships to get up close and personal with countries almost everywhere. Throughout the Middle East and Europe from Egypt to France to Vietnam, river cruising is gaining in popularity. But some worry that same up-close-and-personal exposure many find attractive, puts them in harms way.

“Travelers no matter the destination must be fully aware of any issues in their destination prior to travel “says Wall, adding “This awareness allows for them to properly prepare and assure their safety.”

Beyond our personal knowledge, preparation for travel such as checking to see entry requirements for various countries or enrolling in the US Department of State’s registered traveler (STEP) program, we trust tour operators to keep us safe. If a situation should develop while we travel, being with someone or some company experienced in how things work in a given country under normal circumstances can help.

“The continent of Europe encompasses many countries with vast cultural differences. The most apparent is the many languages that are spoken that can itself make for difficulties which can be exasperated in an emergency or by security issues.”

Beyond traveling with a destination expert and adequate preparation on our part as travelers, backing our plans with some sort of travel protection is also advised.

“The best way to assure that travelers are protected is for them to purchase travel insurance with a reputable travel insurance company. These companies have an amazing array of services including cancel for any reason, and once on the trip should a traveler experience an issue, their emergency response teams have foreign language speakers at their disposal in addition to great resources both at their HQ and on the ground in many foreign countries that they can rely upon.”

Still, caution is urged. Even the best travel insurance can not prevent a tsunami from occurring or political unrest to take center stage in any number of countries. Often, travel insurance does not cover natural disasters or other Acts of God so knowing what is and is not covered is important. Beyond insurance and probably more importantly, a trust should be established with a travel service provider, one we can count on.

“Obviously, traveling to countries experiencing civil turmoil such as Egypt, Jordan, and other North Africa/Middle Eastern Countries should be carefully considered prior to purchase. The tour and cruise operators are informed and knowledgeable of the situation on the ground and have proven to be responsible in openly and honestly sharing the risk with consumers and offering options to the travelers if they are uncomfortable in continuing with their travel plans after booking.

That said, the travel community, those who make a living on travel or travel-related products, is starting to speak up about travel in general and if it is safe or not.

“At the same time, it is very important that U.S. travel leaders take the lead in supporting the return of Americans to these important destinations. The industry must support these destinations as tourism is often the number one economic driver and thus, the more jobs created by tourism, the better the security situation will be. It’s a global economy and these situations impact all of us both in the travel industry and outside of the industry.”

Top 10 Onboard Fitness Innovations for 2011

An evolving cruise industry is way more than a ride around the Caribbean, a 24/7 food fest, bingo and a generic 70’s Vegas-style show at night these days. Giant Oasis-class Royal Caribbean ships, the latest Dream-class from Carnival and an upcoming new Princess ship class have features that go far beyond what the tiny Love Boat of TV-fame had to offer. A focus on healthy living has gone from a basic, obligatory fitness center to ship-wide features, activities and programs both on and off the ship. Onboard gym innovations aimed to help keep guests fit at sea abound and travel agent network Cruise One has been keeping track of what the different lines have to offer.

“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.

Gadling has reported on fitness and health at sea before with a focus on Carnival Cruise Lines new Carnival Magic to debut this May (and Gadling will be on board) with an exclusive Sports Zone that will will feature a SkyCourse, the first ropes course at sea and the first ever outdoor fitness area in the cruise industry. We talked about how Royal Caribbean is making fitness at sea a quiet priority, offering guests more healthy, active lifestyle options than ever before too.

According to CruiseOne, the “Top 10 Onboard Fitness Innovations for 2011” include many other lines as well.

Celebrity Cruises – Learn to Love the Gym
Guests who are uneasy about entering the gym can look for guidance with Celebrity Cruises’ “Help! I Don’t belong in a Gym” training sessions. Trainers will happily guide beginners through weight training and teach them how to use the various exercise equipment available onboard.

Crystal Cruises – Walk on Water (WOW)
Guests can take advantage of the line’s exclusive Walk-on-Water (WOW) program featuring the WALKVEST® Training System, a weighted vest that adds resistance to workouts, which can be utilized on the ships’ 360-degree promenade. The WALKVEST can be used with customized music-driven audiotapes, a day-by-day guided walking program, and educational instructions on how to walk safely and effectively on deck.

Seabourn – Walk in Water
Seabourn Sojourn offers a Kneipp Walk pool, a shallow, circular pool separated into regions of very warm and chilled water. When guests walk around the pool, the combination of changing pressures, temperatures and motion improves capillary circulation, aiding in the cleansing of toxins, increasing hormonal balance and reducing stress.


Carnival Cruise Lines – Cycling at Sea
Several Carnival ships feature “virtual bicycles” in which guests “tour” a variety of routes, including mountain pathways and snow-covered trails. Guests can choose a different course each day and depending on their fitness level, the routes chosen may be bicycling through highways, cross-country or even participating in the Tour de France.

Disney Cruise Line – Sports go Virtual
Parents and kids alike will enjoy Disney Dream’s Goofy’s Sports Deck, where Digital sports simulators are available, providing a variety of state-of-the-art virtual sports-gaming experiences that include soccer, golf, tennis and basketball. Thanks to realistic graphics and sounds, guests are invited to kick, swing, throw and compete in some of their favorite active sports while out at sea without the use of an actual ball.

MSC Cruises – Aurea SPA with Breathtaking Views
MSC Cruises’ unique signature Aurea SPA offers a variety of aerobic classes including step, Pilates, Latin dance, passive gymnastics, personal training and yoga. Guests will love the view in the sun-kissed exercise room onboard all MSC ships, which is suspended above the water.

Norwegian Cruise Line – Epic Fitness Firsts
Norwegian Epic itself has many firsts that take sports and fitness to a new level, including the first rappelling wall at sea and the only U.S. rated climbing wall afloat. The fitness center features an unprecedented 37 treadmills and 18 cross trainers; extensive weight equipment and free weight areas; stretching areas and four distinct aerobic studios. For those who enjoy group settings, Norwegian Epic has diverse fitness classes such as TRX and kettlebell training; yoga; Pilates; Activio® group cycling; Gravity® reformer; and body sculpting boot camp classes.

Oceania Cruises – Tip-Top Toes
Oceania offers specialized wellness services including Yamuna® Foot Fitness classes offering simple techniques that improve the alignment and flexibility of hard-working feet. Through the class, guests can re-educate healthy foot function, by restoring balance, strength and proper gait.

Princess Cruises – Core.Balance.Strength
Lotus Spa on Princess Cruises now offers guests an exclusive fitness program focusing on three vital components of balanced health called Core.Balance.Strength., which is designed to help guests maximize their wellness potential by focusing on these three fitness components, each with a series of corresponding classes.

Royal Caribbean International – Jogging through Innovation
Guests of Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest and most innovative ships, can jog their morning mile in the middle of the ocean, with breathtaking 360-degree views from the Sport Deck’s running track. The track winds through various areas of the ship, unlike many other onboard jogging offerings.

Whatever it is you do in your active, real life, be it hiking, cycling, walking, running or any number of assorted gym machines, there is something special about doing it on vacation in different surroundings. On a cruise you may get the opportunity to try you passion at multiple destinations, adding even greater depth to your experience. I go to the gym every morning and spend a lot of time on a treadmill. I do that on a cruise too but in front of me is not a bank of televisions or the other people I see at the gym each day. Instead I see any one of hundreds of cruise ports or the open sea, a totally different experience.

“Today’s travelers have asked for healthy and fun activities to choose from while onboard and the cruise lines have responded adds” CruiseOne’s Wall “The best part? Many of these offerings are included in the price of the cruise.”