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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 »

Viva Elvis At The Aria Hotel Las Vegas – A Review

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 10, 2011


Viva Elvis show at Aria Hotel

Viva Elvis show at Aria Hotel

I had the opportunity to see the Viva Elvis Circ Du Sole show at the Aira Hotel at City Center in Las Vegas during my visit to Las VI had the opportunity to see the Viva Elvis Circ Du Sole show at the Aira Hotel at City Center in Las Vegas during my visit to Las Vegas on May 17, 2011. I had not heard much about the show, but I enjoy the music of Elvis and thought it would be a worth while investment of time and money.

I purchased my tickets from Tix4Tonight, which is a discount ticket office that has locations along the strip. They sell the unsold tickets for shows in Las Vegas for up to 50% off box office prices. I have been using Tix4Tonight for a number of years now and always have had a very good experience with them.  As in the past, I received a very good deal.

The Viva Elvis Theater is located on the upper level of the Casino at the Aria Hotel, a large but comfortable room with very good sight lines throughout. The show itself follows Elvis from the beginning of his singing career to his last days in Las Vegas. It is narrated by “The Colonel” who makes his entrance at a desk that floats in from stage left about 25 feet in the air.  Some entrance!

The show is fast moving with non-stop action, 90 minutes with no intermission. A large video screen is used very effectively throughout the entire show, showing historical clips of Elvis during the early days such as his induction into the military. The Jail House Rock number opens with a full 3 story cell block on stage, where the cast swings and slides between levels. A very visually exciting scene.  The show ends with an elaborate Old Style Vegas show girl set. Lots of Glitz, Lights and Special Effects.

The next time you are in Las Vegas, spend an evening with Elvis at Aria. You will be glad you did!

Posted in Ace Gold Line, bus, Credit Cards, deuce bus, Deuce Bus Las Vegas, duce, economy, first class, food, Hotels, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Strip, luggage, pillows, restaurant, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 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.

Posted in airlines, airplane, airports, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, food, Hotels, luggage, Mexico, Oasis of the Seas, pillows, restaurant, royal caribbean, ships, tours, Transportation, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations, Voyager of The Seas, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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 »

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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Grand Hyatt NY Gets An “F” For Accommodations!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 6, 2009


 

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

I just returned from a business trip to New York where I gave a presentation to a group of travel industry professionals. The conference went well, but that is not my reason for writing this. The problem was with the Hotel.

The conference hotel was the Grand Hyatt in New York City. This is a very large business hotel located right next to Grand Central Station on 42nd street. I was excited about staying at the hotel as I really enjoy the Hyatt brand. 

 

I arrived at 1250AM in stead of 1030PM as my flight was late from Chicago due to weather in the New York area. So I am now very tired, somewhat wet as it has been pouring rain for the entire trip from Newark Airport to the Grand Hyatt Hotel and I had to wade through the rain to get to the Super Shuttle Bus. I walk into the lobby of the Grand Hyatt and proceed to the Registration Desk. Now remember it is 1250AM on Thursday morning and there are at least 12 people waiting in line to check in. Now that would not be so bad, but there is only one desk clerk handling the check in and to add insult to injury, there are approximately 15 self service check-in kiosk that all say “OUT OF SERVICE – SEE DESK CLERK TO CHECK IN.” So now I am very tired, I have a bad headache and I am standing in a line that is not moving at all. 

 

20 minutes later I make it up to the desk clerk. I give him my name and my reservation number. He types it into the computer and then I see that look on his face that I have seen to many times before. You know the look of bad news at 115 in the morning. So he tells me that the room I reserved was not available. My heart dropped! I said you have to give me a room. He tells me that he has a queen size smoking room. I said to myself, “how bad could a smoking room be?” So I say to the desk clerk, I just need a room to sleep in, I will take the room. 

 

So he gives me the key card and I proceed to the 15th floor room I was assigned. I get to the room and open the door and walk in and then it hit me. This room REAKED of smoke! Oh did it stink, it just knocked you over. It smelled like someone chain smoked no-stop for a week! But again, I was so tired and I had this terrible headache and I just needed so sleep. So I climbed into the bed and fell asleep. 

 

When I woke up, I really look around the room for the first time. The window shade was all stained and looked as if someone threw a cup of coffee on it. The lights on the night stands did not work properly. The Desk lamp shade was broken and had a hole in it.  There was a floor lamp that was leaning over like someone bent the base.  And the final straw, the wifi in the room did not work.

 

I walked into the bathroom to take a shower. The bathroom look pretty good, so I get into the shower, close the curtain and turned on the water. I adjusted the temperature and then the tub started to fill up. Ok, so the drain was running slow. I hit the shower button and the shower turned on. It started to spray nicely around the curtain and on to the floor. I could not get a good flow onto me, but it did a great job of making a puddle on the floor of the bathroom, which I could not stop.

 

I was really frustrated by this time. I got out of the shower and threw two towels on the floor to soak up the water. I then dried myself off with a third towel, at least they gave me 4 towels and they were not the usual fluffy Hyatt towels, they were very scratchy and thin towels.

 

The service was just fair throughout the hotel. The public areas were very nice, but the service was poor at best. I stay in lots of hotel rooms during the year and this was a stay that I want to forget. I cannot recommend the Grand Hyatt in New York until they do something to improve the quality control of the rooms and the attitude of the staff.

Posted in bags, Credit Cards, economy, first class, food, Hotels, luggage, lunch, news, options, PC, pillows, restaurant, seniors, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Delta Queen Reborn As Chattanooga Hotel

Posted by thetraveldoctor on February 11, 2009


 

The Delta Queen On The Mississippi

The Delta Queen On The Mississippi

A welcome befitting a Queen, the 82 year-old Delta Queen Steamboat arrived in Chattanooga on Wednesday February 11. Hundreds of people turned out to welcome the Queen to Chattanooga which will be it’s new home as it will become a floating hotel.

 

Ambassadors International, which owns the Delta Queen has chartered to Harry Phillips, owner of Chattanooga Water Taxi and Fat Cat Ferry. Mr. Phillips has hired  Sydney Slome, owner of Chattanooga’s Stone Fort Inn, to manage the Delta Queen Hotel. The hotel is slated to open to the public in April. The hotel will have 87 cabins and can hold 174 guests.

The Delta Queen was built in 1926 and has a steel hull and a wooden superstructure. Currently the Delta Queen cannot legally operate overnight cruises at present because its congressional exemption from fire safety laws was allowed to expire on Oct 31, 2008. 

The Delta Queen will host Dixieland jazz bands, cabarets and musical revues. Tours of the vessel will also be available.

So if you are planning on visiting Chattanooga this summer, you may want to book a cabin on the historic Delta Queen.

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Orient Lines may not be returning after all.

Posted by thetraveldoctor on December 14, 2008


 

The New Marco Polo II

The New Marco Polo II

Orient Lines has release a statement that its inaugural season, set to start in April of 09 is being delayed. The line is refunding all bookings on the Marco Polo II, the former Maxim Gorkiy. The line has furloughed ten full time employees and most of the sales force was let go.

Wayne Heller, the lines founder said, “We are exploring possible options to relaunch our cruise program at a more favorable time. This sound like the end of the line for Orient again. Too bad, I really thought it was going to make a go of it. I will keep you abreast of any future developments.

Stay Tune!

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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.

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JetBlue to Increase Service to the Caribbean

Posted by thetraveldoctor on October 26, 2008


 

JetBlue at the Gate

JetBlue at the Gate

JetBlue announced that it will add service to Nassau Bahamas from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale on February 1, 2009. And St. Maarten will be getting a new Saturday flight from Boston beginning February 14. All service is subject to government approval. So getting to the Caribbean just got a little easer. Check http://www.jetblue.com for reservations and fares.

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