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United Airlines Fails in Customer Service……

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 10, 2012


A United Airlines 737 At The Gate

United Airlines new 737 at Gate

I flew on United Airlines on June 8, 2012 from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and then on to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Needless to say it was the trip that would make anyone scream!!! The letter below is to the CEO of United Airlines Jeff Smisek. I have mailed this letter to him and I will let you know what his response is.

Enjoy, as you just can’t make up a story like this one……

June 8, 2012

Mr. Jeff Smisek
CEO United Airlines, Inc.
77 West Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60601

Dear Mr. Smisek,

I am a very frustrated customer. I am currently sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for the next flight to Chicago because I missed my connection due to no fault of my own. I have started this letter in Los Angeles at LAX airport and will finish it at home in Chicago.

Here is my story. I was booked on United 968 from Las Vegas to Chicago at 11:35PM. My reservation number is MY7XMZ. I was in Las Vegas on business and I finished very early, so I decided to catch an earlier flight home so I could sleep in my own bed instead of sleeping on the plane. So I used the United app on my iPhone and I paid $75 to change my current later flight 968 to flight 197 at 4:10PM to LAX connecting to flight 704 at 6:01PM in LA to Chicago. This would get me home just before midnight and I could have a good nights sleep in my own bed.

This is where the nightmare begins. I arrive at the Las Vegas Airport at 2PM. This is plenty of time to get through security and get to the gate area. I arrived at the gate area at about 2:25PM and I sat down in the gate area to wait for the flight. At 3:30PM I noticed that the aircraft had not arrived, so I started to become concerned. The aircraft arrived about 10 minutes later and we began to board at 4PM. I walked up the gate agent and said to her, “I have a VERY tight connection, do you think I should get on the Plane?” She looked up the connecting flight and told me, Oh, you will make it. I asked if my connecting flight was in the same terminal as my arriving flight from Las Vegas. She said, “Yes it is, don’t worry you will make it!” So I proceeded to board.

I entered the aircraft and I told the flight attendant that I had a VERY, VERY TIGHT CONNECTION, and asked if she could help me out getting off the plane when we landed? She said to me, and I quote “Oh it doesn’t work that way, when we land everybody stands up in the Aisle.” That was not what I expected to hear, in fact I was taken back by her statement. What happened to a little customer service? All I wanted was to be able to be the first one off the plane so I could maybe have a chance, slim as it was, of making my connection. I was taken back by the flight attendant, I said to here “OK” and I proceeded to  find my seat in the rear of the aircraft.  We sat at the gate. And sat, and sat and when it got to be 4:35PM and we were still at the gate I pushed the call button. A flight attendant came to my row and asked what the problem was. I told her that I had a very tight connection and now I know I will miss my flight. I asked if I could get off the plane and have an agent rebook me on another flight out of Las Vegas. The look I received from this flight attendant was that of “How dare you ask to get off the plane.” What the flight attendant proceeded to do was scold me for getting on the plane in the first place and that if I wanted to get off the plane that I would inconvenience this full airplane of people as they would have to match every bag to every passenger. Now I did not have any checked luggage. I had my small carry-on and my computer. So I was about to say forget it to the attendant when she says to me, I will just have to talk to the Captain  and she walked to the front of the aircraft.

It is now 4:40PM and we start to push back. The flight attend comes back to me after we have pushed back and stopped and announces to me. “The Captain has stopped the plane for you.” I looked at her and I said, “FORGET IT! I AM NOT MAKING THIS PLANE GO BACK TO THE GATE.” I felt two feet tall after she scolded me. She went back up the front of the plane and we proceeded to taxi to the runway. The passengers around me consoled me and said, that was not very nice of that fight attendant to do that to you.

We were in the air at about 5:05PM. The captain came over the speaker system and said our flight time was about 45 minutes. So I looked at my watch and figured that if I could get off the flight and run I could make the flight with about 2 minutes to spare. We landed and taxied to the gate area and stopped short of the gate waiting for an aircraft to clear the taxi way. So now I am really concerned. We get to the gate area and I can see that my connecting flight is still at the gate and they were loading the last of the bags. I say to myself, well that flight is not in the same terminal, it was in the next terminal and I don’t know if I could make a mad dash for the plane once I got off. Well, we stopped at the gate and everyone popped up and left me in the rear of the aircraft. Did the flight attendant say “We have a passenger that needs to make a tight connection, please let him out first.” NO, I stood in the Aisle for 14 minutes as everyone took their time to get off the plane. When I did eventually get off the plane, I looked out the terminal window across to the other terminal and saw the jetway was pulled away from the plane. I asked the gate agent to call over to Gate 83. She did and told me the plane is ready to push back. I was furious! I just paid $75 to miss my plane. And no one at United seemed to give a dam. The gate agent said, “Walk over to the customer service desk and get rebooked.” No, “I am really sorry you missed your connection.” Just go get your flight rebooked across the hallway.

This is the worst customer service I have seen in a long time. And I watched you on the in flight TV screen saying “I wish I could greet each and everyone of you and personally shake your hand and thank you for flying United.” Well your company failed me big time. Here is what I would have done if I worked for United. I would have never let me board the plane in the first place and I would have rebooked me on another flight from Las Vegas or let me off the plane first and have one of the golf carts at LAX waiting for me to take me over to gate 83 and call over to flight 704 and tell them I was on the way. I guess what really upset me was that no one cared, no one gave a dam. The only one that had any sympathy for me was the really nice agent at the customer service desk that rebooked my flight. She was the only one that cared, but after what I went through, it was little consolation.

I was rebooked on United Flight 1451 at 7:30PM. I returned to Gate 70 to wait for my new flight to Chicago. I boarded Flight 1451 at 705PM. I was thinking of telling the flight attendant on this new flight when I boarded, “Can You please be nice to me because the last crew didn’t treat me very well.” Well, that went out the window when I saw the flight attendant crew on this Chicago flight was the exact same crew that was on the Las Vegas – LA flight that treated me like dirt. I have to tell you that when I saw the same crew again, the anxiety I experienced on my first flight returned. So I decided to just go to my seat and avoid all contact with the flight attendants during this flight.

Some people want to just complain and not tell you what they want you to do. Well, that’s not me. Here is what I want you to do. I want my $75 refunded to me by way of a credit to my credit card for $75. I had not flown United in a while because I have been flying Southwest. Why do I fly Southwest? Because they know how to treat their customers and they really do give a dam about all of there customers and the “Get It!” I decided to try United again and thought that the merger with Continental would change the airline for the better as I have always liked flying Continental. Boy was I wrong! You have a long road to travel before your service is back to just good. If you want to know what knock you socks off customer service is, look at Zappos. They also have it all right. They know how to treat their customers.

I hope to hear from you soon. And I really hope that you, Mr. Smisek will read and respond to this letter. I hope that you do, it would prove to me that you really meant what you said in your pre-flight announcement. And you really care about everyone of your passengers.

In closing, you have a lot of work to do to bring your airline back. Just remember, ”It’s all about the CUSTOMER!” If you give your customers great customer service then even when things go wrong, your customer will tell you that you went that extra mile for them to make it right! And they will be your customers for life. Let’s see if you can make that happen. For your sake, I hope you can.

 

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, economy, first class, Las Vegas, luggage, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When A Good Air Fare Deal is Not A Good Deal

Posted by thetraveldoctor on May 16, 2012


Southern California

Out of the Window of a Southwest 737 over Southern California

You see an ad for low low airfares. You log on to the Airline web site and find that the deal you saw advertised is not what you thought. It happens more then you want to admit. So how do you really get a low fare that really is a good value? You need to do your homework and compare fares on different airlines. Bing fare search engine is a great place to start. It will give you the lowest fares to your destination on multiple airlines, but if you want to compare the results to Southwest, you will need to go on to the Southwest web site as Southwest only lists their fares on their own web site.

Remember when you compare your fares you have to take into account the “Extra Fees” imposed by the airlines. These extra fees include checked bags, on board meals, pre reserved seats and so on. Airlines make millions of dollars every year on these fees. What once was included with your ticket is no an “EXTRA” cost item. One of the few airlines that does not charge for bags or food on their aircraft is Southwest. So before you book your ticket, add up all the “Extras” and then make your decission. You will save time and money in the long run.

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, bags, Credit Cards, luggage, pillows, seniors, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Delta Orders 100 New Boeing 737-900ER Aircraft

Posted by thetraveldoctor on September 3, 2011


New Delta 737-900ER

The New Delta 737-900ER

Delta Airlines announced on August 25, 2011 that it had ordered 100 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft from Chicago Based Boeing Corporation. These aircraft will be for delivery between 2013 and 2018. These aircraft will replace older planes in the Delta fleet.

The order will enable Delta to add 100 fuel-efficient, state-of-the-art 180 seat aircraft to its world wide fleet, replacing on a capacity-neutral basis older technology aircraft that will be retired from the fleet. The new Boeing 737’s will have a range of 3,200 nautical miles and will be able to operate on any domestic route offered by Delta.

The new 737-900ER will be Delta’s first aircraft to feature Boeing’s new “Sky Interior,” which offers expanded carry-on luggage space, a roomier, more airy cabin and an LED lighting system that provides different color schemes, such as a soft blue sky and a relaxing pallet of sunset colors throughout the aircraft.

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AA Ups the Fees To Reserve A Window or Aisle Seat

Posted by thetraveldoctor on August 30, 2011


American Airlines with seats to sell

American to charge extra for Window & Aisle seats

Just when you think the airlines can’t think of anything else to charge you for AA finds a new twist! Yes that’s right, AA introduced a new “Preferred Seats” charge. So if you want a window or aisle seat toward the front of the economy section you are going to have to anti up more cash. It’s now not good enough that you paid $300 for the air ticket, now they want you to pay a fee to sit down!  These “Preferred Seats” will begin at $4 per flight segment and will vary based on length of flight and time of day. So if you take a prime time flight from let’s say Chicago to Los Angeles, you could pay $15 or more for a window or aisle seat. Talk about a rip off!

I don’t understand what these airlines are thinking. They are nickeling the public to death. I don’t know where it will stop. The next charge will be $25 to get off the airplane and $10 if you want to stand the entire way.

Keep up the good work American. You should win an award for the worst customer service. Your matto should be “We’re not happy until your unhappy!”

Posted in airplane, airports, bags, Business Class, Credit Cards, economy, first class, luggage, seniors, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Passport Fees Are Going UP!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on July 10, 2010


The US Passport office will officially increase the price of a United States Passport on Tuesday July 13, 2010. The new fees will raise the price of a passport by approximatly $35. The chart below outlines the new fees.

Remember, you need a passport to leave the United States. You cannot travel to a foreign country on your drivers licenses. It amazes me that people in the US think that they don’t need a passport to travel around the world.

But get you passport before July 13 and you will save $35!

Passport Fee Chart

Passport Fee Chart

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, cruise line, cruises, Europe, first class, Government, islands, Mexico, Oasis of the Seas, Panama Canal, politics, royal caribbean, ships, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Voyager of The Seas | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SDX Express beats the Deuce Bus on The Las Vegas Strip!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on May 3, 2010


Ace Gold Bus

SDX Express Bus On Las Vegas Blvd

The SDX Express is the latest in public transportation in the City of Las Vegas. This Express bus, that really looks and acts more like a train is a great addition to the Vegas scene.

So what is the SDX Express anyway? Well, the SDX Express is a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route that provides convenient, limited stops and frequent service on Las Vegas Boulevard in the Resort Corridor between the South Strip Transfer Terminal (SSTT) to the South and the Clark County Government Center/Las Vegas Premium Outlets/Symphony Park area to the North.

So this new term BRT or Bus Rapid Transit, what is it? Well Bus Rapid Transit combines the quality of rail transit with the flexibility of a regular bus service. BRT provides enhanced rapid transit service by using bus only traffic lanes, limited stops, off-board fare collection and level boarding stations. That means that you cannot pay your fare on the bus. You must purchase your ticket at the stop/station. These stations have automated  fare vending machines. This makes boarding faster as people can board without having to pay a fare at the entrance of the bus. This is the way transit trains work. You can board more passengers in a shorter amount of time.

This new service is a great way to get up and down the Las Vegas Strip quickly. But remember, this is a limited stop service. So you have to plan your route in advance so you know where you can get on and get off.

I tried the SDX Express service this past April and I was really impressed. The boarding moved much faster then the Deuce Bus due to the fact that you just get on and hold up your fare card to the “Conductor” at the door. That’s right, there is a conductor on this bus, just like on a train. The motorman is in an enclosed cabin and this person drives the ACE.

The prices are the same as the Deuce Bus, $6 for 2 hours pass, $8 for a 24 hour pass, or $20 for a 3 day pass. And you can use your fare card on the Deuce Bus or the SDX Express. So the next time you are in Las Vegas, give the SDX Express a try!

Below is the route map of the SDX Express.

sdx

 

Posted in Ace Gold Line, airports, Coach, deuce bus, Deuce Bus Las Vegas, duce, economy, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Strip, luggage, tickets, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Voyager of The Seas Cruise – Not the Oasis of The Seas but still Great!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on May 1, 2010


Voyager of The Seas in Cozumel

Voyager of The Seas in Cozumel

This is the Journal of my 7 night cruise aboard the Voyager of The Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. We departed from the Port of Galveston TX on January 24, 2010. This was a family cruise which included my wife and I and my Daughter and Son-in-Law and my Son and his girl friend. We arrived in Galveston on January 23 and stayed at the Hilton Galveston Resort for the evening. The Hilton is an upscale hotel situated right on the water in Galveston next to the Convention Center.

Day 1 – Embarkation Galveston TX: January 24, 2010. We arrived on the Hilton Shuttle at the Port of Galveston at 1130AM. Getting a porter to take our luggage was a little challenging but we were able to find one and he took all of our luggage and we continued to the Checking area.

Upon entering the checkin area, we were given a form that asked if you have been sick in the past 7 days. The cruise line wants to cut down of the chance of a flu outbreak on the ship and that is why they have you fill out the form. I don’t know what they would do to you if you answered yes to any of the questions, and I did not want to find out!

We continued through the security check point, which was just like the airport security with xray machines for your bags and the walk through metal detectors for the passengers. Since we were Diamond Plus Members (24 or more cruises with Royal Caribbean) We were able to use the special express check in line. We were able to check in immediately and we then began to wander around the terminal. No one told us that Diamond Members and Suite passengers could board immediately. We found this out after I stopped a Royal Caribbean staff member after we wandered around for a while and found some chairs to sit down. The staff member said to me “didn’t the person checking you in tell you that you could just board the ship now? I said “No” and he showed me where to go to board. So we gathered up our carry ons and proceeded to board the ship. Once on board, we found that the cabins would be available until 1PM. So we all headed to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch.

Shops on Voyager

Shops on Voyager

The Windjammer is a buffet style restaurant located on deck 12, aft. They have a large selection of food for just about every taste. Since we are a party of 6 on this cruise, we were able to find a large table near the window and settled down for a very nice lunch. We finished lunch at 1:15PM and proceeded to our staterooms. We are on deck 9 midship. Our staterooms had queen size beds with a private balcony, which is very nice on sea days to be able to just sit there and enjoy the sun and surf. Since the Voyager is now 11 years old, it has undergone a major refurbishment in 2009. So the ship looks very good for it’s age. I remember the inaugural cruise which I was on 11 years ago. This ship, at that time was the worlds largest cruise ship. Today Voyager is considered a large ship but nowhere near the largest ship anymore.

We are on Second Seating on the traditional dinning track, so we eat dinner at 8PM. Royal Caribbean now has what they call “Any Time Dinning” which let’s you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner any time you like. Dinner for anytime dinning begins at 545PM and ends at 830PM on this ship. I personally like the traditional dinning where you sit at the same table every night and have the same wait staff the entire cruise. I must say that I was not impressed with the dinning room service this first night. Our waiter just did not have his act together and it took forever to get our food. And to make things even worse, they forgot to bring my daughter her soup and our waiter did not introduce himself to us until we were ready to leave the dinning room after the meal. The dinner itself was very good and the presentation was very nice.

After dinner we went to the “Welcome Aboard Show.” Since there was only one show tonight, we had a very hard time finding seats. But we finally found seat and settled down to enjoy the show. Our cruise director, Mike Szwajkowski introduced the weeks events and played a very old cruise game that I have not seen done at sea for a very long time. It was the “Hat Game” where 7 men are chosen from the audience. They are given 6 hats and when the music stops, anyone now wearing a hat is out! Well, it is extremely funny and every one had a great laugh. Next they had two acts that will be preforming in two of the lounges on the ship during the week. Both acts were very good and I will be sure to stop by the lounges they will be playing in this week. Mike then introduced the comedy of Hal Spear. Hal is the producer of “Who’s Line is it Anyways” and has appeared on Comedy Central and The Tonight Show. He was extremely funny. He will be doing an adult late show on Tuesday night at 11:30PM and I will be there!

After the show, I spent about an hour making my donation to the Royal Caribbean Casino and then headed to bed.

Day 2 – At Sea: Monday January 25, 2010. The sun is out and not a cloud in the sky! I woke up at 8AM to get ready for our Diamond Member special event. The special event was our personal bridge tour of the Voyager. We met the crew members that would escort us to the bridge at 8:50AM on Deck 10 at the forward elevators. We were escorted to the bridge where we had a wonderful tour of the High Tech Bridge. This tour is very special and we really appreciate the fact that Royal Caribbean gives Diamond Plus members the chance to take this tour.

After the Bridge tour I was off to breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe where I had a wonderful breakfast as I watched the ships pass us by in the distance. After breakfast it was off to the Cleopatra’s Needle lounge for Cruise Director Mike’s Madness Trivia hour. The first part of the trivia game was TV theme show songs, which I am an expert at. Yes, I know, I have to get a life! But the second half was just way out there really off the wall trivia questions. So my team won the TV theme show half, but we lost the second half. But I did keep my record as the only person in the room that knew two of the TV themes.

After Trivia, it was time to explore the ship and find out what has changed on this ship since my last time onboard. I always enjoy exploring the ship and finding great hiding places to just get away from it all. Royal Caribbean did take out all the chairs along the windows on the pool deck and replaced them with round tables with 4 chairs per table. I personally think they should have kept some chairs along the windows and alternated with two tables and then 6 chairs. I feel this would be a better use of the space as the tables are only used during meal time and even then they are not fully utilized.

At 1PM it was time for lunch. My daughter and Son in Law joined my wife and I for a very leisurely lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. I had the Pasta in red sauce with some veggies and a small salad. It was a very relaxing lunch and I enjoyed it throughly! After lunch I relaxed at the pool for a little while and then proceeded to the Schooner Bar for 50’s & 60’s Name that Tune game. My Daughter, Son in Law and I were a team to take on about 20 other teams. We did pretty well, with 19 points we came in 5 overall. Not to bad for 3 people who did really not know what they were doing!

Life Raft Rescue

Life Raft Rescue

Later in the after noon, we felt the ship make a sharp turn and head back north. The turn was so sharp that the pool emptied out onto the deck. The Captain came on the loud speaker and told us that he had to turn the ship around because the crew had spotted a life raft in the water. So we were on a rescue mission to retrieve the life raft in the water. We pull up along side of the raft and we launched a rescue boat to go and get  the life raft. The entire ship was along the rails on the Port Side to watch the rescue effort. When the rescue boat got to the raft, it found no passenger aboard. They then towed the life raft back to our ship and brought it on board. We don’t know if there were any people that were in the raft at one time but we do know the the raft and a smaller life raft that was attached to the big round one had flipped over. It was were interesting to watch a real rescue effort at sea.

Tonight is formal night and it’s time to down the Tux and get those special pictures taken!

We did get our pictures taken and Lil always blinks! We all really looked good tonight. There was a not so nice incident that happened in the Concierge Club. Lil and I are Diamond Plus members (24 or more Cruises) and we have access to the Concierge Club. My Daughter and Son in Law wanted to relax in the Club before dinner. I gave them my entrance card and they went in. The Concierge in charge then proceeded to tell them they were not welcome and threw them out! Wow, how rude! I take my family on this cruise, spend all this money and the Concierge has the nerve to throw them out of the Club. My kids are 26 and 30 years old! I just don’t get it. Nice way to piss off your best customers.

We did have a very nice dinner. The food was very good but the wait staff still does not have their act together. Our waiter gives everyone a menu except me and then when I finally track him down and ask for a menu, he looks at me and says “Didn’t I just give you one?” Well, I don’t have one so I guess not. It is still taking them over two hours to serve us our meal. Maybe by the end of the cruise they will get it right! We did celebrate my Son and Son-in-Laws 30th birthdays this evening. The wait staff did get the Birthday Cake correct! Thank goodness for that.

The entertainment for the evening was a very good production show in the main show lounge. Music in Motion was the name of the show and it followed music from the movies over the years. Good dancing and singing and a fun evening.

After the show I spent some time with the family in the Cleopatra’s Needle lounge listening to Karaoke, which my Son was one of the participants.  I then headed back to the cabin to turn in for the evening.

Day 3 – At Sea: Tuesday January 26, 2010. Well, it is getting warmer the farther we get into the Caribbean. I got up at 8AM and had a great breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe. After breakfast, I did some shopping in the shops on board. Then it was on to the La Scala Theater for a very interesting hour with our cruise director Mike about living and working on a cruise ship. It was a real learning experience and a glimpse behind the scenes of the day to day operations of a large cruise ship. After Mikes talk, I decided to hang out around the sports deck and ended up shooting some baskets on the basketball court.

Lunch in the Windjammer Cafe is always a pleasant experience. The nice part about it is the selection of food. Since it is buffet style, you have a large choice of items that fit just about everyones tastes. I love the pasta and there is pasta every day. So after a nice leisurely lunch I decided to spend some time just exploring the ship. I love the water slide on the kids deck in the aft of the ship. It starts out on deck 13 and winds its way down to deck 12. It’s great for kids of all ages.

Royal Caribbean has decided to offer WiFi on their ships. Now you have to pay for the privilege of using it, but thats ok, if it worked. Dozens of people are trying to get on the internet and they just keep timing out. It is the slowest service I have ever seen from a satellite internet provider. And to make things even worse, everyone is getting charged $0.55 per minute, even when you are not getting a signal and are still connected. It took me 8 minutes to download my email into my Mac mail client. This was for only 15 messages with no attachments. The total download was less then 50K. That is just highway robbery!  After about 15 minutes of trying to get on line and the signal going up and down, 6 of us that were in the internet cafe on board went down to the front desk to complain. The young lady at the front desk listened to our complaint and issued each of us a $10 credit. It did not make the internet any faster, but it did take some of the bite out of the cost. It todays always connected world, cruise ships should be able to offer decent satellite internet connect speeds. I don’t expect cable broadband, but I do expect better then a dial up modem speeds.

Later in the day I was talking to my Son-in-Law about a future cruise. So we decided to go over to the future cruise booking area to see if we could get a brochure. I saw that there was a cabinet that was open with cruise brochures in it. I started looking for a Caribbean and a Europe brochure. All of a sudden I was pushed aside and scolded by Mr. Peter Enns the Loyalty Ambassador no less! I was told that  I was looking at a private cabinet and that he did not have ANY brochures (which I knew was not true as I was just about to pick one out of that cabinet.) Some Loyalty Ambassador, he made me feel like an ass in front of my son and all the other people that were in the room. Really a great way to make friends and influence people. It really made me very angry. I will guarantee I will NOT be booking our next cruise with Mr. Enns.

It was then back to the cabin for a quick rest before the show and dinner time.

Day 4: Roatan Honduras: Wednesday January 27, 2010, The temperature is in the Low 80’s and the sun is out with not a cloud in the sky! We are off on our tour of the island this morning. Our guide was Spencer and there were 10 people on our tour. I liked the fact that we had the smallest group, as we were able to get into and out of places very quickly. We first went to the Exotic Bird and Butterfly garden. This was a rather small but very interesting stop. They had lots a very talkative parrots and a number of toucans. The butterfly garden was outstanding. I have never seen so many butterflies in one area in my life. We even watch 2 climb out of their cocoons. After about an hour at the Garden we were off to the West End of the island to watch a performance of the “Important Dance!” After the performance we had a chance to walk on the beach and I took some great pictures! It was then off to the Botanical Gardens where we received an education of all the native plants on the island. We were also give the ability to taste some of the fruit that is grown on the island. All in All I give this tour an A+, it was much more then I expected which was a pleasant surprise! Then it was back to the ship for a late lunch and a short rest.

The evening entertainment was very good. It was Ice Show night. The name of the show was Ice Odyssey. It is really something to watch an Ice Show on a cruise ship. The Ice Rink is not the biggest you have ever seen, but the cast members were able to do things that you would think that they could only do on a large rink. I really enjoyed the show and would recommend it to everyone. After the Ice Show it was time for the Love and Marriage Game Show. This is always a very funny part of the cruise. This game is basically the old Newlywed game with a twist. They take a newlywed couple, a couple that has been married for approximately 33 years and then a couple that has been married for over 50 years.  Well as you can expect, things get very funny! It was a good time for all. After the show, we sat in on the Karaoke night in the Cleopatra’s Needle lounge and then off to bed.

Day 5 – Costa Maya, Mexico –  Thursday January 28, 2010, Today is our first port in Mexico. Costa Maya is a fairly new port. This port was built approximately 9 years ago and a town has grown up around it. It is a very quaint port and very easy to get in and out of. We went on a shore tour to Chacchoben, which is a Mayan archaeological ruins dig site. This is a wonderful area, it is about an hour drive inland from the port. Royal Caribbean uses a tour company that has brand new motor coaches with all the comforts of home. From a restroom to video screens, this was the most comfortable bus I have been on in years. If you have never been to a Mayan Ruins site before, this is a great place to start. It is one of the best tours available in Costa Maya. I highly recommend it.

Day 6 – Cozumel Mexico , Friday January 29, 2010 – Today was a day to relax and explore around the port area. It was HOT today! I walked halfway from the port to the downtown area, but it was so hot that I stopped and sat in the beach for about 15 minutes and then headed back to the ship.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and I really enjoyed being with my family for the week. I have said it many times that cruises are the best vacation for the money. I really hope that Royal Caribbean takes a look at their current operation and maybe return to the kind of customer service that my wife and family remember.

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Southwest Vacations Hassle

Posted by thetraveldoctor on March 9, 2010


Al and Lil at Universal Studios New Years Day 2010

Al and Lil at Universal Studios New Years Day 2010

Just returned from a very cold trip to Orlando Florida. My wife and I took a Southwest Vacations package to Orlando at the Doubletree Universal. I love to fly Southwest Airlines as their crew, planes and gate areas are the best in the business.

I decided to use Southwest Vacations because the package of Hotel, Car and Flight were much less expensive then booking each component separately. I knew that something was not right when I tried to lookup my flight to put my rapid reward number in the record and the Southwest website told me it could not find my reservation. Now to be fair to Southwest Airlines, Southwest Vacations is run by the Mark Travel Corp, which owns Funjet Vacations and a number of other airline tour companies. The big problem is that Southwest Vacations issues paper tickets. I cannot tell you the last time I used a paper ticket on a domestic flight. Paper tickets are a hassle and they can be lost or stolen. Well, what Southwest Vacations does not tell you is that you cannot check in on line ahead of time, you can only get a “Security Document” that will get you through the security checkpoint, but you still have to stand in line to get a boarding pass. Plus, you cannot get this Security Document on the Southwest Airlines website, you have to go to the Southwest Vacations website, which is a completely different website. So once I figured this out, I tried to check in, as the website said, “Check in Online” which is really not correct. After jumping through a number of hoops, I was able to print out the “Security Documents”. It was a real hassle at Midway Airport in Chicago, but we got to the gate and I was able to stand in line and get a real boarding pass. The disaster was on the return trip.

It’s January 3, 2010 at 500AM. My wife and I had a 735AM Southwest flight from Orlando to Chicago Midway. I could not check in on line at my Orlando hotel because as you read earlier in this store, you can’t do that with paper tickets. We walk into the front door of the Orlando airport and look over at the Southwest Check In. To our surprise, there is a line that looks to be at least an hour and a half. Now we had only carry on luggage, so I asked the Southwest agent if we had to stand in line, she told me “know, just go to the self serve kiosk and check in. Well, you guessed it, it would not let me check in. So I ask the Southwest agent for help. She came over to the kiosk and tried 3 times to check us in. It just would not work. She said to me, “Why don’t you go out to the skycap and let him check you in.” I said “That is a great idea, thank you!” So I went outside to the skycap station. Well, there was a line there too, albeit a much shorter line (15 min instead of 1.5 hours) and the skycap then checked me in and we were on our way to the gate. Getting to the gate was a whole other story, as Orlando shut down the screening area for about 45 minutes but I will not bore you with the details. We did get home on our scheduled flight. I still love Southwest, but the vacation division has to allow the issue of etickets so passengers don’t run into the kind of problems we had.

Thinking of a cruise? Read my blog post on the new Oasis of The Seas at http://thetraveldoctor.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/oasis-of-the-seas-makes-some-last-minute-changes/

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My Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of The Seas

Posted by thetraveldoctor on August 11, 2009


Alan & Lil on The Tender with the Mariner in the background

Alan & Lil on The Tender with the Mariner in the background

This is my second time on The Mariner of The Seas and my 87th cruise over all. With all these cruises under my belt, I feel that I have a good Idea of what makes a great cruise vacation.

My wife and I departed on July 12, 2009 from the Port of Los Angeles on Royal Caribbean’s  Mariner of The Seas. We were very excited to be on the Mariner again and were looking forward to a great vacation at sea. We sailed away from the dock at 5:45 PM and headed south from LA to Mexico in the crystal blue Pacific Ocean.

We Unpacked and settled into our stateroom.  We headed to the dinning room at 555PM, as we had first seating dinning. Royal Caribbean has instituted a “As You Like it Dinning” as an option for people that don’t like  early or late set dinning times. This option gives you the choice to come to the main dinning room at anytime between 6PM and 8:30PM and you are seated as if you were at a restaurant. I personally like the fixed seating at the same table, waiters and people at my table all week. We were seated at a table for 6 with two other couples. One couple was from the Chicago area and was also in the cabin next to us we discovered. The other couple was from Big Bear California. Really very nice people and we had a great conversation at dinner. But that’s what dinner on a cruise ship is really all about. Meeting new people, great food and great conversation. The food was excellent, which was nice to see that Royal Caribbean had not cutback on the quality of the food during these trying economic times.

After dinner it was off to the Savoy Theater for the welcome aboard show. We met our Cruise

The Parade on the Mariner of The Seas

The Parade on the Mariner of The Seas

Director Abe who gave us a rundown of what to expect during the upcoming week. Then we were entertained by a juggler and a comic, who were both very good. The evening ended with a great “Welcome Parade” on the Royal Promenade. So for the first day, things looked pretty good.

Since we had travelled with Royal Caribbean on more than 24 cruises, we are considered Diamond Plus members in their Loyalty program, which is the top tier of the program. Along with being in the top tier brings some perks, such as a special on board coupon book. Now it’s been 18 months since our last Royal Caribbean cruise and we were expecting the same perks in the coupon book we received in February of 2008. Well they have decided to change the coupon book and take away a lot of the “Perks” that they gave to their best customers. This did not make much sense to me. Why would you take away perks to your best customers. Things such as a free 8” X 10” photo is now gone and replaced by a 20% off coupon on a special type of 8” x 10” photo. Gone also is a free 30 minutes of internet usage, replaced by a $10 off coupon for internet usage. At a ridiculous $0.55 per minute (OUCH!) you will use that $10 credit up real quick, as the internet connection on this ship is so slow, you could finish the novel War and Peace before you could send your email.

Gone is the “Ship Shape” program. This program got people involved in the fitness activities aboard the ship. You would earn Ship Shape dollars for participating in the activities and you would then be able to redeem them for “Ship Shape” gifts at the end of the cruise. A really great program that I really was sorry to see it eliminated as I was on the ship that they started the ship shape program back in the 1980’s. I guess the one thing that Royal Caribbean eliminated that I was really sad to see go was the Mint and Saying on the Pillow at night. Did I eat the mint every night, no, but It was like a warm fuzzy that I had come to expect on Royal Caribbean ever since we sailed on our first cruise on the Song of Norway in 1978.

To be continued……..

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United Airlines Needs Customer Service Lessons

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 20, 2009


United Terminal at O'Hare

United Terminal at O'Hare

This has got to be the height of how not to treat a customer. My daughters Mother-in-law purchased 2 round trip tickets for my daughter and her husband for their honeymoon. They were headed to Rome, Italy from Chicago. The best fare and connections were through Toronto on Air Canada. The entire itinerary was on Air Canada except for the first leg of the trip which was from Chicago to Toronto. This leg was a code share flight with United Airlines. That means that United Airlines operated the flight, but the ticket showed an Air Canada flight number but also said “Flight Operated by United Airlines.”

The tickets were purchased about 4 months ago. During that time, United Airlines had a major schedule change and canceled a large number of flights. One of those flights  was the Air Canada code share flight that my kids were on. Now you would think that United would have let us know that the flight was canceled. That would have been the proper thing to do, but remember, this is United, an Airline that does not know what the words “Customer Service” means.

So let’s jump ahead to the night before the flight. I ask my daughter what the flight number was so I can check the times and maybe even get them checked in and get a boarding pass. She gives me her itinerary and I proceeded to look up her flights, but I could not find her first flight number. So I checked all the flight from Chicago to Toronto and I found that her flight did not exist anymore. So I tried to check her in on the United website. But it was not able to check them in as the website said that they did not have a flight from Chicago to Toronto. Now I am really worried. So we call Air Canada. They tell me that they have rebooked them on a United flight to Toronto at 110PM. So I felt a little better, but I still didn’t trust United. So I  called United Airlines Reservations. By the time we got to a real person I was very nervous. I gave the United reservation agent the reservation number and I was told the flight was an Air Canada flight. I told the agent, “No it is your flight, because it is a 737 aircraft and Air Canada does not have any 737’s. The agents argued with me for a few minutes, but then agreed with me that it was a United flight. I hung up, but I still was not feeling very good about this, as it was still not showing the flight correctly in the United reservation system.

The No Customer Service Gate Check In

The No Customer Service Gate Check In

Fast forward to the next day. My kids arrive at O’Hare Airport at 11AM for the 1;10PM Flight. They get in the International check in line and they wait, and wait and wait. After 50 minutes in line, they get to the kiosk and try to check in. But my fears come true and it will not let them check in. It says on the screen “Cannot complete check in, Please see agent.” So they turn around and grab an agent and she tells them they have to go and stand in yet another line to see an agent. They have now been at the airport for 1 hour trying to check in. The next line has at least 40 people in it and only one agent working the line. It takes them 40 minutes to get to the agent. Once they get to the agent, they are told  by the agent “You are too late, I cannot check you in, there is only 20 minutes before flight time. Go to Air Canada, it’s their ticket.” Can you believe that! And she was rude on top of it. They told her that they have been waiting almost 2 hours in LINE! There was no response from the agent. So they gathered up their luggage and  walked from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, which is a long haul.

The Air Canada Agent they finally checked in with could not have been nicer to my Daughter and Son In Law. She could not believe that United treated them so poorly. She apologized and booked them on an Air Canada flight at 2PM and up graded them to First Class. This is the sign of a Class Airline. United can learn a lot about customer service from the Ticket Agent at Air Canada. Because if you don’t treat your customers with respect, then you won’t have any customers. And if you don’t have any customers, you won’t have an airline. Just some food for thought United!

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