Memorial Day Travel Events Bring Discounts

Memorial DayAs Memorial Day approaches, travelers are taking advantage of some special offers and events exclusive to the three-day weekend that officially begins on Friday, May 24. Discounts, special offers and events this year are available at a number of locations around the United States as America remembers the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Additionally, those in uniform have a variety of special discounts and offers.

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a promotion that provides active and former military personnel with discounts of up to $600 per stateroom and shipboard credits of up to $100 per stateroom on a range of three- to 12-day sailings. Sister-line Princess cruises continues their Special Military Program, giving those who served up to $250 onboard credit on any sailing.

May is also National Military Appreciation Month and Florida’s Fantasy of Flight museum is offering complimentary admission to all active-duty, retired and reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces when accompanied by a full-priced paid adult, senior or child general admission throughout the month of May.

Not a military member? There are still some Memorial Day promotions for you too.Disney is pulling an all-nighter with the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. The parks open from 6 a.m. May 24 to 6 a.m. May 25, to kick off the summer season. The parks will also have extra entertainment, live bands and characters in their pajamas.

On the West Coast, California’s Mammoth Mountain ski area has a Memorial Day $99 package to ski or ride, mountain bike and golf all in one day. The Ski-Bike-Golf Challenge allows unlimited skiing, snowboarding, and access to the bike park along with nine holes of golf at the resort’s Sierra Star course.

Also in California, the West Coast Thunder Bike Run in Riverside, the largest single-day motorcycle event west of the Mississippi, hosts nearly 7,000 motorcycle enthusiasts. Proceeds from the ride registration and concert tickets benefit the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee and the event also includes a Military Appreciation Fair on Sunday, May 26.

Nothing at all planned yet for Memorial Day weekend? Now might be the time to do that.

According to Travelocity’s Memorial Day booking data, domestic airfare is down 2 percent year-over-year with the average cost at $341, six dollars less than it was in 2012. That might not sound like much but recent years have all seen increases in the price of airfare.

Even Amtrak is getting in the Memorial Day spirit, saving northeast regional rail travelers 25 percent when they book by May 10, 2013, for Memorial Day travel.

[Photo credit – Flickr member Fritz Liess]

Carnival To Spend Millons On Safety Program

safetyDigging deep into Carnival Corporation pockets to address the safety concerns of cruise travelers worldwide, Carnival Cruise Lines is looking to put the past behind them. Today announcing a multi-million comprehensive safety program, the cruise line that just can’t seem to get ahead of the game is taking a different approach: changing it.

This time last month in the article “Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing,” Gadling reported that Carnival was in the process of shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong.

“This review is very comprehensive; it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill. “But you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Today, the fruits of those efforts were revealed, with Cahill noting, “by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations.”Called the Operating Reliability and Guest Comfort program, the focus is deep, promising to tackle three major areas of concerns to travelers:

safetyEnhance emergency power capabilities- Each ship will have a new, emergency generator that will provide 100 percent of stateroom and public toilets, fresh water and elevators in the event of a loss of main power.

Improve the level of operating redundancies– All ships already have two separate, redundant engine rooms. But new modifications will include a reconfiguration of certain engine-related electrical components.

safetyIntroduce new fire safety technology– Fleet-wide, Carnival will invest in the newest and most technically advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems, upgrading the existing water mist systems.

On the guest comfort front, Carnival will expand the availability of hotel services for the comfort of its guests if a shipboard event involves the loss of main power.

Looking beyond Carnival Cruise Lines, the program will be applied to all 101 ships in the Carnival Corporation Fleet, which also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Line and Seabourn.

“The overall program of enhancements across the fleet, including Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships, is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million,” said Carnival Corporation spokesperson Lanie Morgenstern in an email.

Included in the announcement was a new video featuring Cahill and Carnival Corporation chairman, Mickey Arison. Accused by the Boston Globe of paying more attention to his Miami Heat than the heat passengers on the Carnival Triumph endured without air-conditioning, Arison goes on the record, describing where safety fits into Carnival’s plans.




[Photo Credit – Carnival Corporation]

Beyond The Floating Hotel, Travelers Find Value Ashore

floating hotel

If I say “cruise,” odds are good that the first thought that comes to mind is that of a big floating hotel that ambles from island to island in the Caribbean. That’s not totally wrong either; a lot of cruise ships do just that. But looking at a cruise ship as a mode of transportation, like a commercial airliner that flies from airport A to airport B, should bring different thoughts. Thinking of cruise ports as a gateway to new worlds we may never have experienced before, it’s a whole different ballgame.

So often cruise itineraries focus on what lies at the port itself, and for good reason. Many cruise ships do not stay in port long enough for travelers to go very far and get back before the ship leaves. But some cruise lines are staying longer, often well into the night – if not overnight – allowing more time to explore. That gives the notion of a cruise ship being a “floating hotel” an entirely different, much more positive meaning.

A good example of a port of call that is far more than what one might see just walking off the ship for a few hours is the UK’s Port of Tyne.

Located in Northeast England, the Port of Tyne is home to miles of coastline dotted with castles, cathedrals, stately homes and gardens, plus one of Europe’s most culturally exciting cities. Interspersed along the way are historic regions that spawned the English language, are home to dual UNESCO world heritage sites and that make the Port of Tyne a world-class destination. But it is not the port itself that draws travelers but Newcastle, the city that came back to life in the 1990s after a rebirth of the downtown Quayside area.

An interesting contrast of historic landmark buildings alongside new, modern structures, Newcastle sits on the north bank of the river Tyne. Known today as home of Newcastle Brown Ale (which is actually no longer brewed there) and the Great North Run, the world’s most popular half marathon, Newcastle offers a wide variety of attractions.

Structures dating back to 124 A.D. sit not far from modern engineering marvels like the world’s only tilting bridge.

%Gallery-184993%So which cruise lines sail this sort of an itinerary – one that allows travelers to linger longer in port? Azamara Club Cruises, Seabourn, Crystal Cruises and others with smaller ocean-going ships do. River cruise lines like Viking River Cruises, AMA Waterways and others have a shore-side focus as well.

But larger ships also offer overnights from time to time, although it is not their main focus.

Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, will overnight in Venice, Italy, on a Mediterranean sailing, as will Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. Still, big ships full of features need people onboard using them – playing in their casinos and shopping in their stores – to make a profit.

Expect to pay more on small ship lines that have a destination focus to make up for you not being on the ship, spending. Still, that premium price might well be worth it if compared to a land travel option that requires airfare, hotel accommodations and meals, any or all of which might be discounted or included with a small ship cruise.

Planning on traveling the world in a cost and time-efficient way? Including travel by ship in your travel toolbox can help.



[Photo credit – Port of Tyne]

Two Queens Hook Up In California

two queensNot even close to what the headline could be misconstrued as, two queens from Cunard Line, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary met for a historic Cunard Royal Rendezvous. What’s significant is that one is now a hotel while the other is a cruise ship. Thousands of travelers from all over the world were on hand for the event and fireworks ensued.

Fans of Cunard Line (called Cunarders) and maritime history buffs lined the shores of Long Beach Harbor for the event as the Goodyear blimp hovered overhead and the two ships exchanged a traditional whistle salute.

The Players
Queen Mary entered service as a passenger vessel in 1936 as the grandest, fastest ocean liner in the world. Sailing through WWII as a troopship, Mart transported as many as 16,000 soldiers at a blazing 30 knots (cruise ships today do 20-something). Queen Mary went back into passenger service after the war until 1967 when she became a “floating hotel,” parked in California ever since. A new Queen Mary 2 honors the original, designed for transatlantic crossings.

Much younger Queen Elizabeth, launched in 2010, is also the new version of a ship previously holding the same name. While capable of transatlantic crossings, this ship lacks the heavy plating on her hull and the propulsion system of Queen Mary 2. Still, the 90,000+ ton ship will carry over 2,500 passengers.

Mary and Elizabeth are two of the three Cunard Line queens. The other sister is Queen Victoria. Cunard Line is a member of the Worlds Leading Cruise Lines, Carnival Corporation-owned cruise lines that include Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Carnival Cruise Lines.

The Event
A narrative of the ships’ histories was simulcast on both ships and ashore by Everette Hoard, commodore of Queen Mary who called the two queens, “the most famous ships since Noah’s ark,” in the video below.

This is not the first time Gadling has reported queens hooking up in a historic way. “There Will Be Three Queens In New York Today” told of Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, meeting in New York for the first time in 2011. But that too was not the first meeting of Cunard queens.

“In January 2008, Cunard Line’s first Rendezvous of their three Queens took place. It was quite exciting as it was the first time Cunard had three ships with Queen in the name and all three were together,” said cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron CEO, CruiseGuy.com

Also of historic significance, this is not the first time for a rendezvous between queens named Mary and Elizabeth. The original meeting came during the original Mary’s last transatlantic crossing before being transformed into a hotel.



[Image credit – Cunard Line]

Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing

carnival cruise

Carnival Cruise Lines fleet of FunShips have plied the oceans of the world for over 40 years, enabling travelers to sample a variety of destinations and cultures. Many of those travelers might not have ventured out of their own back yards without the affordable, normally safe and secure travel option largely pioneered by Carnival. Reporting this week from Cruise Shipping Miami, the South By Southwest of the cruise industry, Gadling was on the scene when the story broke: another Carnival ship in trouble.

Just days before reports of Carnival Dream, her passengers and crew stuck at the dock in St Maarten, Carnival’s President and CEO Gerry Cahill participated with other cruise industry leaders in a keynote panel discussion.

Addressing February’s Carnival Triumph incident, when an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, Cahill updated the crowd on hand for the annual State of the Industry discussion. A signature event of Cruise Shipping Miami, last year’s event was dominated by the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding. Costa Cruises, like Carnival Cruise Lines, are sister brands along with others that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.

“I can assure you since this fire has occurred it has been the number one priority for both Carnival Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation,” said Cahill of a comprehensive safety review in-progress on the entire Carnival fleet.

Bringing in experts in fire safety, naval architects, marine engineers, electrical engineers, experts from shipyards and more, Carnival seemed committed to raising the bar on safety as never before. The U.S. Coast Guard determined the cause of Carnival Triumph’s fire to be a failed fuel return line, one that had been properly maintained at correctly scheduled intervals.

“This review is very comprehensive, it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Cahill “but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Doubling down on safety protocols while the detailed fleet review continues, Carnival is taking nothing for granted.

carnival cruiseCarnival Dream‘s six massive diesel-electric engines offered over 84,000 in horsepower and were functioning properly. But before going to sea, all systems on the ship are tested and one of those is backup power.

Carnival Dream’s backup system did not pass the test. So with the Carnival Triumph incident fresh in their minds, the failed generator became a “no sail” issue. That’s the good part of the story. Carnival could have allowed the Dream to sail the over 1,100 nautical miles back to Port Canaveral; the ships propulsion system worked.

But taking a page from recent history, a mechanical issue that might not have caused concern before came under the microscope, much like Carnival Cruise Lines, if not the entire cruise industry.

What if some other unknown, unanticipated mechanical breakdown occurred half way between St Maarten and Florida’s Port Canaveral? Carnival has clearly adopted a laser-focused concentration on safety, looking for any issue that could disrupt what should be a fabulous FunShip cruise.

Dream Event Incomplete, Here Comes Another One
Just a day after Carnival Dream was held at the dock (the cruise line equivalent of being grounded, much like the Boeing Dreamliner recently), Carnival Legend was recalled to the port of Tampa, citing propulsion problems. The engines were working; the ship just did not have the ability to go fast enough.

This issue might sound a bit more familiar to frequent cruise travelers. Reduced propulsion issues happen with a bit more frequency on cruise ships from multiple lines and for a variety of reasons.

Design flaws aside, moving parts wear out and these engines and the propulsion systems they provide power for are moving all the time, every day of the year.

carnival cruiseEven docked, ships engines are running, albeit at a reduced speed or with a different fuel, for environmental impact reasons. A handful of ships can “plug in” to a shore side power grid but the amount of reduction in emissions is debatable (the power still comes from somewhere) and plugging in only reduces emissions while in port (there are no extension cords).

In the case of Carnival Legend’s recall to port, that move too might not have happened pre-Triumph. Ships with limited (but reliable) propulsion issues commonly run modified itineraries that do not require the drive system to be quite as vibrant.

Carnival Cruise Lines and its sister cruise lines are not taking any chances. They have brought in experts to look for issues not thought of before and are taking quick action when safety concerns come up.

“It is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with solutions we will implement across our fleet,” added an obviously committed, apologetic and humble Cahill.

The Big Question
But the ugly elephant question in the room is, fairly: “OK, so maybe these things are freak accidents or an abundance of caution. Why are they all happening to Carnival Cruise Lines?”

Results from third-party sources indicate that Carnival Cruise Lines is operating at a level that meets or exceeds that of regulatory organizations world wide, including the very picky U.S. Coast Guard. Believe that, and the negligence hat does not fit.

Maybe the other cruise lines have higher standards. That dog won’t hunt either. Carnival Cruise Line is just one of the Carnival Corporation family of brands that also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard Line, none of which have Triumph-like events in their history.

Still, bad things happen to good travel options and cruise travel is no exception. Like the hotel fires that occurred with some frequency in the first half of the last century, right now is a time when cruise lines are addressing safety concerns as never before.

Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com put it well in a recent Huffington Post article:

“One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the industry over the past 24 years is that policies and procedures are constantly evolving. Nothing is etched in stone and improvements will always be made, especially when safety is concerned.”

When thinking of the post-Truimph era of cruise travel, who better to pioneer raising the bar, creating new protocols regarding the issue of safety than the organization that created the industry in the first place?

While shoddy journalism by a whole bunch of news organizations clearly focus on sensationalizing the story, I’d hate to forget the contribution to the world of travel that cruises have made. Carnival Cruise Line is shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong. We hope their efforts keep that door to the world of travel open to those who might not otherwise have seen it.


[Photo credit – Chris Owen]