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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 »

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 »

Royal Caribbean Updates Crown & Anchor Loyalty Program

Posted by thetraveldoctor on January 28, 2011


Royal Caribbean Ship at Anchor

Royal Caribbean Ship at Anchor at Labadee

On January 21, 2011, Royal Caribbean updated and enhanced it cruise Loyalty program. The program called the Crown & Anchor Society gives frequent cruisers the ability to earn point and special benefits on current and future cruises.

The old program counted how many past cruises you sailed on to figure your benefits. The new program now counts how many days you sail. So if you are on a 3 night cruise, you will receive 3 points. If you are on a 10 night cruise, you will receive 10 points. So you now are rewarded based on the number of days you have sailed with Royal Caribbean and not just the number of cruises. Now if you purchase a suite, you get double the points. So if you sail in a suite for 10 nights, you receive 20 points. So you now have an incentive to book a suite as you double your point total on that cruise.

The new program also added two new levels of recognition. Under the old program the levels were Gold, Platinum, Diamond & Diamond Plus. The new program adds the Emerald Level and the Pinnacle Club Level. So the new program is now Gold, Platinum, Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club. The number of points needed for each level is as follows

Gold – 3 points   Platinum – 30 points  Emerald – 55 points  Diamond – 80 points  Diamond Plus – 175 points  Pinnacle Club – 700 points

Under the Pinnacle Club they have added a free 7 night cruise when you reach a certain level. This is a great incentive to sail with Royal Caribbean as often as possible.

I am looking forward to checking out the new Crown & Anchor program on my next cruise which is coming up quickly. I will let you know how it was when I return.

Check out the program here http://www.royalcaribbean.com/cas/benefitsLoggedout.do;jsessionid=00009y8VJBAow9ZtIhLR3VFmCjo:15lbbpnkd

Posted in Allure Of The Seas, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, food, Haiti, islands, 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Royal Caribbean Returns to Labadee Haiti

Posted by thetraveldoctor on January 23, 2010


Royal Caribbean Ship at Labadee, Haiti with beach in foreground.

Royal Caribbean Ship at anchor at Labadee, Haiti

Royal Caribbean returned to Labadee Haiti this past week. It was the first time the Royal Caribbean ships have stopped at Labadee since the devastating earthquake leveled Port au Prince on January 12, 2010.  Labadee is Royal Caribbean’s private resort and is located on the northern coast of Haiti. The Labadee resort area did not sustain any damage from the earthquake and was able to reopen to passengers of Royal Caribbean cruise line this past week.

Royal Caribbean has taken some criticism since returning passengers to the Resort. I for one applaud the company for bringing tourist back to this country that urgently needs the money. Royal Caribbean has pledged one million dollars toward the relief effort in Haiti. And with the return of the ships to Labadee brings urgently needed supplies and food for the people of Haiti. Royal Caribbean is using every ship in it’s fleet that calls on Labadee as a supply ship for the relief effort bringing much needed food, supplies and personnel. Royal Caribbean has contributed the largest proportion of tourist revenue to Haiti since 1986, employing 300 locals and allowing another 200  locals to sell their wares in the native market within the resort. Royal Caribbean pays the Haitian Government $6 (US) per passenger that arrives on their ships to Labadee. This means that a Voyager Class ship that holds 3114 passenger pays a total of $18,684 per visit. There are at least 3 ship visits per week at $18,684 equals $56,052.00 per week. Plus all the money the passengers spend at the native market, Royal Caribbean is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into Haiti every month. And they have been doing this since 1986!

Zip Line at Labadee

Zip Line at Labadee

More than any other company in the United States, Royal Caribbean has been helping Haiti for over 20 years. So the next time you hear one of these pompous radio talk show host beating up on Royal Caribbean for bringing tourist back to Labadee, ask yourself, what has that talk show host done for the people of Haiti before or even after the earthquake? Some food for thought.

Posted in Brilliance of The Seas, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, emergency, Haiti, investments, islands, news, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oasis of The Seas makes some last minute changes

Posted by thetraveldoctor on December 2, 2009


The Oasis of the Seas Boardwalk area

The Oasis of the Seas Boardwalk area

Royal Caribbean new ship Oasis of The Seas is now sailing as the World’s Largest Cruise Ship. But there were a few last minute changes that were made to the ship before it arrived for it’s first cruise.

The original design of the Boardwalk “Neighborhood” was to have a tattoo parlor offering temporary tattoos and a tarot card reader store. But the tattoo idea was nixed and was replaced with a Pets at Seas store where passengers can make their own stuffed animals. The Tarot Card Reader Store, well let’s just say it was not “In The Cards.”

This is a great ship and if you have never cruised before, this would be a great ship to take your first cruise. Also Oasis has really out done itself with on the Entertainment offerings. Try it You will LOVE IT!

Posted in airlines, airplane, Allure Of The Seas, art, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, Credit Cards, cruise line, cruises, food, 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: , , , , , , , , | 10 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.

 

Posted in airlines, airplane, caribbean, cruise line, cruises, Europe, Government, Las Vegas, luggage, news, royal caribbean, seniors, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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 »

Tix4Tonight in Las Vegas – Save Big Bucks!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on May 12, 2009


 

The Las Vegas Strip looking South from Flamingo Blvd

The Las Vegas Strip looking South from Flamingo Blvd

I love to go to the shows in Las Vegas. Over the past 5 years I have seen some wonderful entertainment. From Elton John & Bette Midler at Caesar’s to Penn & Teller at the Rio, it has been some of the best shows I have ever seen.

 

Tickets to some shows can put you back a few hundred dollars. I am the kind of person that likes to find a way to save money on shows. When I am in New York, I like to go to the Time Sq “Hot Tix” booth and get last minute half price Broadway tickets. Well, they have a ticket service for last minute show tickets in Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s called “Tix4Tonight” and you can get tickets for loads of shows in Las Vegas for the current evening at up to 50% off the box office price. They also offer up to 50% off a number of Las Vegas Buffets and Restaurants for a $3 charge for the restaurants and $2 for the buffet’s. It is a great way to do dinner and a show for a great price.

 

Tix4Tonight Logo

Tix4Tonight Logo

Here is how it works. You show up at the Tix4Tonight in the morning. Some days the line forms early. They post the current days shows they have tickets for at 9:30AM on 3 TV screens. These list the Show, Hotel, Time of Show and Price. Pick your show and pay for your tickets. It’s that easy. Be advised that there is a $5 service charge added to all the posted prices. Once you pay for the tickets, you will receive a voucher that you have to exchange at the box office of the show you are going to see. I suggest you go to the show box office as soon as you can, but you can exchange the voucher up to 1 hour prior the show time.

 

Now here is the really nifty part. Tix4Tonight wants you to come back. So if you bring your ticket stub and receipt from the previous days show, you get to use the Tix4Tonight VIP line, so you do not have to wait as long to purchase your tickets and you get a $2 discount on your ticket purchase. Such A DEAL! I loved it. I purchased tickets for Howie Mandel  at the MGM for half price and got GREAT SEATS! I also purchased tickets for George Wallace at the Flamingo, Steve Wyrick at Planet Hollywood and The Crazy Horse Review at the MGM all for half price. And they were all great shows and great seats. I figured I saved close to $200 off the retail price.

 

Ticket booth at Fashion Sq Mall

Ticket booth at Fashion Sq Mall

So you are now asking, where are these Tix4Tonight ticket booths. Glad you asked that question. Here are the 6 locations. 1. Fashion Show Mall, strip entrance in front of Neiman Marcus, 2. North Strip Just South of The Riviera Hotel, 3. Showcase Mall, South Strip at the base of the Giant Coke Bottle, 4. Bills Casino on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Flamingo next to the Flamingo Hotel. 5. Hawaiian Marketplace, south strip across the street from the new City Center development. 6. Downtown at the 4 Queens Hotel at Fremont St. Experience.

 

Just remember that not all shows are available every night and midweek is better then weekends. But it is a great way to see some of the best shows in town for up to 50% off. I tried it and I just loved it. The people that work at the booths were great and very helpful. So the next time you are in Las Vegas, try Tix4Tonight you won’t regret it! Remember, you can take the Deuce Bus to any of the Tix4Tonight locations.

Posted in deuce bus, Deuce Bus Las Vegas, economy, food, free, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Strip, lunch, seniors, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »