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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

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 »

Is the Allure of The Seas A Clone of Oasis of The Seas?

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 19, 2010


Central Park on Allure Of The Seas

Central Park on Allure Of The Seas from the interior Staterooms

The Allure of The Seas is due to set sail on its maiden voyage on December 1, 2010. This inaugural cruise is billed as a “4 Night Labadee Extravaganza” cruise. This cruise will include 2 days at sea and a day at Labadee Haiti, Royal Caribbean’s beach port.

The Allure of The Seas will make Fort Lauderdale Florida at Port Everglades its home. But the question on everyones mind is this. Is the Allure a carbon copy of the Oasis Of The Seas? Well, looking at the two ships brochures, you find that the layout of both ships are identical. But the Allure will be different in its Boardwalk neighborhood. Instead of the Seafood Shack, the Allure’s Boardwalk will have a Mexican restaurant, Rita’s Cantina. A specialty hot dog counter called the Boardwalk Dog House, will be located where the doughnut shop is on the Oasis. So where is the popular doughnut shop on the Allure going to be? Well, it is next to the premium ice cream shop. I have no idea where the ice cream shop is, but that’s ok. I am getting confused now.

There is going to be a first in shopping on the Allure as “Guess” clothing opens up it’s first Clothing Store at Sea! Guess will be located on the Royal Promenade, where the Focus photo store is on the Oasis and the Focus Photo Store will move to the new photo gallery area on the Allure. Are you throughly confused now? Don’t be. If you have sailed on the Oasis then you will be able to navigate your way around the Allure without much trouble.

So is the Allure Of The Seas a Clone of the Oasis Of The Seas? I will leave that up to you, the passengers to tell me.

Posted in Allure Of The Seas, art, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, economy, Europe, first class, food, free, Haiti, Hotels, islands, luggage, Mexico, Oasis of the Seas, Panama Canal, restaurant, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Voyager of The Seas, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Farewell To Travel Trade Publications after 80 Years!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on October 26, 2009


 

Joel and Lenore Abels

Joel and Lenore Abels tribute dinner

It was a family run business for more than 3 quarters of a century. Joel and Lenore Abels were the best friends the travel industry ever had. Joel passed away on January 25, 2007 at the age of 80 and Lenore passed away 2 months later. The industry lost two great supporters that year.

 

I wondered what would happen to the publication that was built from scratch 78 years ago. I soon found out that the publication was sold to Ian Gittlitz and that he was going to continue the rich tradition of Travel Trade.

Things started to change at Travel Trade and it just didn’t look right. Then came the headline ” Ian Gittlitz, one of the owners of Travel Trade, had been arrested on embezzlement charges. If convicted, Gittlitz faces four to 15 years in prison.”

I was still told that Ian’s son, Seth was running Travel Trade and he was planing a great celebration for the 80th anniversary. But then things started to go south. They stopped publishing the print version of the publication and went to a “Web Only” version. Then at the end of September of 2009, the Website started to shut down. I tried for 3 weeks to contact someone at the offices in New York, but all I was able to get was a voice mail box. Then on October 20, the Website was pulled off the web and the phones were disconnected. This is very sad. Something that took 78 years to build was trashed in less then two and a half years. I am sad to see it go, but I will always remember my many years of friendship with Joel and his wife and what wonderful people they were.

 

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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……..

Posted in airlines, airports, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, Coach, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, economy, Europe, food, gas, islands, luggage, lunch, Mexico, Panama Canal, pillows, restaurant, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ryanair To Consider “Pay To Pee”

Posted by thetraveldoctor on March 6, 2009


 

Ryanair on Take Off

Ryanair on Take Off

Ok, this is the most ridiculous thing I have every heard. Ryanair, an Irish discount airline is considering a new way to make money. They already charge for everything extra on their flights, but now they want you to pay to pee! That’s right, you have to go, you have to pay! I never thought that anyone would have the nerve to charge you to go to the toilet on an airplane! 

So there you are at 35,000 feet and you have to go and you don’t have any change? What do you do? Do you wet your pants? Do you walk down the aisle and ask everyone for spare change so you can GO? 

Here is a quote from a Ryanair official. “One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future,” This is just crazy! 

So if you are thinking of flying Ryanair in Europe, be sure to take some spare change. You never know when you may have to GO!

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

Royal Caribbean New Ad Campaign A Real “Dud”

Posted by thetraveldoctor on December 13, 2008


 

At Sea on Royal Caribbean

At Sea on Royal Caribbean

You have probably seen the new Royal Caribbean commercial called the “Nation of Why Not?”  This is the new ad campaign for Royal Caribbean. I cannot tell you that who ever came up with this campaign should be FIRED! What a DUD! It is so bad that I have to change the channel every time it comes up on my TV. It looks like a really bad Magic Kingdom commercial. If this what Royal Caribbean thinks will get people to sail on their ships, well they have another thing coming. 

The past campaign was “Get Out There!” Now that was a great campaign as it showed that you could do anything on a cruise vacation. A real upbeat campaign. It made you say “That looks like FUN!” 

But now the powers that be have come up with this terrible campaign that is driving people away from the brand. My advise to Royal Caribbean, dump this campaign and regroup and come up with something GOOD! After 37 years in the travel industry, I think I know what I am talking about.

Posted in airplane, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, disabilities, Europe, first class, investments, luggage, Med, Mexico, news, Panama Canal, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A Tale of Two American Airline’s Cities

Posted by thetraveldoctor on November 17, 2008


 

New American Terminal at Miami Airport

New American Terminal at Miami Airport

I am writing this on my way home from a conference in Miami FL. I am sitting in seat 28C on an American Airlines 757. I don’t know why, but American can’t seem to give me two problem free flights in a row. 

Let’s start on Saturday morning at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. I had a 9AM flight to Miami. I arrived at O’Hare at 7:20AM. I walked up to the self-service kiosk, checked my bag (for $15 –Ouch!) and was on my way to the gate. The American employees we very helpful and very pleasant.

I made it through security. Let me tell you, that is always an experience. I was behind a family of 3. They had 3 suitcases, 3 carry-on bags, a stroller and various stuff in their pockets. Well, it took them 10 minutes to get every thing on the belt and get it into the scanner. Then of course they could not get through the metal detector. They must have gone through that detector 10 times until they stopped beeping. It was a comedy of errors. I had to laugh or I would have started to cry. They need to bring the “Family Lane” to O’Hare so that people that travel a lot and know how to go through security can avoid these situations.

So I made it through security, finally! I proceed to the gate and waited to board. The boarding process went smooth, even with a full plane and we were off to Miami on time! Wow, what a great flight. I really enjoyed it, all the on board entertainment worked very well, and the seat reclined too, as little as it reclines, it’s still nice when it works. We arrived at Miami 10 minutes early and I was a happy customer. Now remember, I check my bag. I guess that was a mistake. I waited almost 40 minutes for my bag and my bag was one of the first ones to come around the belt. I guess this should have been my first clue that American at the Miami Airport has some major operational problems. I took my bag and I was off to the Hyatt Regency Miami in a cab. I actually got a cab driver that knew where he was going and got me to the hotel in record time.

It was a great weekend conference. I had hundreds of people at my workshop and panel. It was a really wonderful experience.

So it is now 5:30AM on Monday and I am on my way to the Miami Airport for my return flight home. I arrive at the American Airlines terminal and proceed to the self-service check-in. As easy as it was at O’Hare on Saturday, it was that very difficult in Miami. I had already checked in on my computer at the hotel and I had my boarding pass. So I followed the directions on the self check-in machine and I touched “Bag Check Only.” I am good at following directions. It then told me to scan my boarding pass or put in my record locator number. Well, my boarding pass would not scan, so I entered my record locator number. It took it a while but it found me. It asked me how many bags I wanted to check and I pressed 1. It then asked me for my credit card. I inserted my Amex, it didn’t like that one, it said, “Enter another Credit Card” so I entered my Visa. I guess it liked that magnetic strip, and it charged my credit card. It then told me to go to the “Checked Baggage Only” line. And then it printed another boarding pass for me. Why I don’t know. So there are signs all over that state “Look For The Baggage Only Check-in Line.” That’s great, I am looking all over the place for this Baggage line and I can’t find it. I ask one of the AA employees, where is this Baggage Only line for self-serve? She informs me that I should just get in any line, we don’t have a Baggage Only line. Now mind you, I am standing in front of this sign that is telling people to look for this Baggage Only line and this employee is telling me they don’t have a Baggage Only line. So I get in line and I wait 20 minutes to hand my bag to an agent and it is 6AM! Once I get to the agent, she could not print out my luggage tracking tag that I had already put in all the info in the check-in kiosk. Unlike the Chicago Check-in kiosk where your luggage tags are printed out at the front of the bank of kiosks. So it took 30 minutes for me to check in at a very disorganized Miami Check-in area for American. Then you have to lug your bag over to this area where another employee takes your bag. And this is out of the way. They really have to figure this baggage thing out in Miami.

Now it’s off to the security. I figured, 630AM on a Monday morning, how bad could it be. I came around the corner and noticed that the line was not that long. So that was a good sign. Little did I know that the TSA agent that was checking ID’s thought he was Columbo and was interrogating every passenger that had to pass through his post. This short line that should have been no more than 5 minutes turned into another 20-minute ordeal.

Once I got through security, and yes I was behind another family that had at least 120 pieces of stuff to put thought the belt. How do I get so lucky! All I want to do is check in, go through security and get on my airplane. Is that too much to ask?

I now hike to the new gate area at the Miami Airport. American has opened part of their new terminal. It is really very nice, but the hike to the last gate, well, it’s a REAL hike. And there are no moving sidewalks like some other new airports with long walks have. But I make it to the gate with about 35 minutes to spare. I find a nice spot to settle in to wait for boarding. Now I understand how AA wants to board. You have a group and you are to board by group. Well, it kind of didn’t happen, as the agents lost control of the entire boarding process, which in turn backed everything up. It was like watching a keystone cop movie. Instead of having each group board, they boarded the early boards and then they called group 1, then 2 minutes later they called group 1, 2 and 3. And this is on a FULL 757! On the plane, there was not enough space for the deluge of carryon bags that the $15 bag charge has caused. People standing in the aisles shoving these bags that should have never gotten past the gate agent, trying to cram them into the overhead bins. Well, we did leave 8 minutes late, because no one that was in the aisle would sit down. What a nut house!

So we finally get settled and the plane gets pushed back, taxied and we took off.  The crew was friendly and efficient, but the audio system had this terrible buzz that it was very hard to watch the video. After about 15 minutes of the buzz, it started to fade, so I was able to watch the “CBS eye on American” video entertainment on the video screen. They showed 3 sitcoms. “How I Met Your Mother” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “The Big Band Theory.” Now these are prime time family sitcoms right? Well, I guess American doesn’t think so. Get this, they were bleeping out 25% of the dialog. It ruined the video. I was able to read lips at times and the words they were bleeping out were, sex, screwed and full sentences. Folks, these are not programs that are on pay per view, these are prime time network sitcoms. I just don’t get it. Why would they censor these programs? It really ticked me off. I think that American needs to chill out or stop airing video on its aircraft.

 The flight itself was comfortable and the plane was clean. But if you have to fly out of Miami on American, beware! They don’t have their act together like they do at Chicago O’Hare and it could be very frustrating.

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, Business Class, Coach, economy, Europe, first class, Hotels, Las Vegas, luggage, Mexico, news, pillows, seniors, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Royal Caribbean Creates “Youth Zone” On Oasis

Posted by thetraveldoctor on November 8, 2008


 

Oasis of The Sea

Oasis of The Sea

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line will introduce the “Youth Zone” on it newest ship, The Oasis Of The Sea debuting December 12, 2009. The Youth Zone will be one of the 7 “Neighborhoods” on the ship. The Youth Zone will include, Kids Avenue and Central Boulvard which will connect various themed play areas. And Adventure Ocean Theater, a theater just for kids. Plus a first for Royal Caribbean a Nursery for infants at least 6 months old and toddlers.

The Oasis of The Seas is going to be the World’s Largest Cruise Ship at 220,000 GRT and will carry 5400 passengers.

Posted in airlines, airplane, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, Business Class, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, Europe, islands, luggage, Med, Mexico, news, Panama Canal, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, Transportation, Travel, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of The Seas – A day at The Panama Canal

Posted by thetraveldoctor on October 8, 2008


 

One of the Mules that Pulls the ship through the Locks

One of the Mules that Pulls the ship through the Locks

Alan at the Midpoint at the Gatun Locks

Alan at the Midpoint at the Gatun Locks

The Brilliance of The Seas exiting the Gatun Locks

The Brilliance of The Seas exiting the Gatun Locks

The Brilliance of The Seas at anchor in Lake Gatun

The Brilliance of The Seas at anchor in Lake Gatun

Approach to the Gatun Locks

Approach to the Gatun Locks

 This past January my wife and I took a fascinating cruise thru the Panama Canal on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of The Seas. This is a wonderful ship and a great cruise for anyone that loves cruising. The day we began to  transit the canal started early in the morning just before sunrise. Our pilot arrived at our ship as the sun broke the horizon. We then picked up our two tug boats that would help our ship into the locks.  The total transit took about 3 hours. The pictures below are my “Photo Blog” of our experience through the Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side of the canal.

If you have never been on a Panama Canal cruise then you have never experienced the excitement that you feel as you approach and then transit the canal. It does get hot during the day, so take a lot of sunscreen along so you don’t get burned.

If you have never been on a Panama Canal cruise then you have never experienced the excitement that you feel as you approach and then transit the canal. It does get hot during the day, so take a lot of sunscreen along so you don’t get burned.If you have never been on a Panama Canal cruise then you have never experienced the excitement that you feel as you approach and then transit the canal. It does get hot during the day, so take a lot of sunscreen along so you don’t get burned.

Posted in Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, Europe, gas, islands, luggage, Mexico, news, Panama Canal, pillows, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Travel Agents, Worth their weight in GOLD!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on October 6, 2008


 

Alan On Tour In The Pacific Northwest.

Alan On Tour In The Pacific Northwest.

Have you tried to make any travel plans lately? If you have, you probably have searched and searched the web till your head was spinning. What you need to do is find a good professional consultant. A good travel consultant can find you deals that are not available on the web and can save you hundreds of dollars on cruises and tours. They can also give you great advice for your trip, such as little known places to visit at your destination. 

There has been lots of talk as of late that Travel Agents are a dying breed. Not so, they are not only alive and kicking, but more and more travelers are turing to them for help in booking their vacation travel. So a tip to the savvy traveler or the novice traveler, use a travel agent and save lots of time and money!

Posted in airlines, airports, auto, bags, Business Class, cancun, caribbean, Coach, cruise line, cruises, economy, Europe, first class, gas, Hotels, investments, islands, Las Vegas, luggage, Med, Mexico, news, pillows, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »