Friday, April 29, 2011

Prepaid Hotel Rooms

Pre and Post Cruise Hotel packages:

The following was written up on the national news media regarding how to waste money or how to save it without inconveniencing yourself.
When you book a hotel room through a travel site such as Expedia.com or Hotels.com, you're required to pay in advance. Instead, use the sites to compare prices, then call The Cruise Outlet to reserve a hotel room without paying in advance and to get a better rate! You can usually cancel without a one-night-rate penalty if you call one or two days in advance.

Monday, April 18, 2011

American Cruise Lines Names New Riverboat Queen of the Mississippi

American Cruise Lines named its new 140-passenger sternwheeler Queen of the Mississippi. The vessel, slated to enter service on the Mississippi River in June 2012, is currently two months ahead of the construction schedule at Chesapeake Shipbuilding Corp. in Salisbury, Md.
“Queen of the Mississippi is a natural addition to our fleet, the name perfectly befitting of the grandeur she will exemplify,” said Charles A. Robertson, president of American Cruise Lines. “We truly look forward to carrying on the historic legacy of Mississippi steam-boating, taking it to the next level, and offering a riverboat cruising experience like never before.”
The riverboat will have open seating between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the main dining salon, which will have crystal chandeliers and fine works of art. A complimentary cocktail party will precede dinner; wine is served with the meal.
The Paddlewheel Lounge, featuring rich wood and comfortable furnishings, will offer panoramic views of the scenery and the large red paddlewheel at the stern. The d├ęcor is designed to capture the tradition of the riverboats that operated on the Mississippi back to the 1800s.
The first brand-new overnight sternwheeler built for the Mississippi in nearly 20 years, Queen of the Mississippi will offer oversized staterooms and most will have private balconies. American Cruise Lines will operate the sternwheeler over the entire Mississippi River system, with the option of cruising at significantly higher speeds to make more itineraries possible with longer visits to the many river towns. A number of seven-night cruises are planned that take passengers as far as St. Paul, Minn., on the Mississippi River and Pittsburgh on the Ohio River.
The Queen of the Mississippi will have a bow ramp that will allow passengers to walk off the ship directly onto land. It will have elevator service to all decks.
Entertainment will include four- or five-piece jazz bands and entertainers who will come on from ports of call for the evening.
American also operates the 120-passenger Queen of the West on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The company about a year ago purchased the mailing lists of other defunct river operators such as Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Majestic America Line and American West Steamboat Company, Robertson said.
Fares for a seven-night cruise range from $3,995 to $4,685 per person, double occupancy. Single rate is $4,685. For more information, call The Cruise Outlet at 1-800-775-1884

Monday, April 4, 2011

U.S. State Department Updates Travel Warning for Japan

The U.S. State Department updated its Japan Travel Warning, which replaces the Warning dated March 21, 2011. In response to the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Department of Energy, and other technical experts in the U.S. government have reviewed the scientific and technical information they have collected from assets in country, as well as what the government of Japan has disseminated. Consistent with the NRC guidelines that would apply to such a situation in the United States, the State Department continues recommending, as a precaution, that U.S. citizens within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or take shelter indoors, if safe evacuation is not practical.
Areas of Japan outside these above regions of concern include the islands of Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, and the prefectures Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Osaka, Shiga, Shimane, Tottori, Toyama, Wakayama and Yamaguchi on the island of Honshu. Travelers to these prefectures should bear in mind that transit through Narita (Chiba) and Haneda (Tokyo) airports may be required.
Strong aftershocks are likely for weeks following a massive earthquake such as the March 11 earthquake. Japan remains at risk for further tsunamis. Japanese authorities have issued a warning for people to stay away from low-lying coastal areas. If a tsunami alert is issued by Japanese authorities, evacuate immediately to higher ground.
Commercial flights have resumed at all airports that were closed by the earthquake, except Sendai Airport, and commercial seats are available at the time of this posting. In Tokyo, public transportation including trains and subways are operating. Across Japan, about 90 percent of roads damaged by the tsunami and earthquake have been repaired or made passable, and most restrictions that limited traffic on roads to emergency vehicles have been lifted. Hardships caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami continue to cause severe difficulties for people in such areas as Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures. Temporary shortages of water and food supplies may occur in areas of Honshu north of Tokyo due to power and transportation disruptions. Restaurants, supermarkets, and other stores in Tokyo have resumed operations

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crystal to Include Drinks, Gratuities Starting in March 2012

Crystal Cruises will include wine, spirits and gratuities for housekeeping, bar, butler and dining room staff in cruise fares starting in March 2012.
“Crystal is going all-inclusive in 2012,” said Bill Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the luxury line. The new policy will go into effect after the 2012 World Cruise when both ships head for Europe on trans-Atlantic voyages: Crystal Symphony’s “Beyond the Sea” sailing from Miami to Lisbon on March 19, 2012, and Crystal Serenity’s “New World to Norway” voyage from New York to London on May 8, 2012. The company is waiting until then because the cruise schedules are already published through the first quarter of 2012.
“Pricing is already out in the marketplace with the ‘All Inclusive-As You Wish’ [shipboard credit] promotion, and it would just be too confusing because a lot people are already booked on that,” Smith explained.
The company is doing away with the suggested $7-per-person gratuity for waitstaff in the Prego, Silk Road and The Sushi Bar specialty restaurants, but there still will be charges for Vintage Room wine dinners because they include high-end wines and liquors. Gratuities will still be accepted in the salon and spa.
Crystal will end the “All-Inclusive-As You Wish” promotion, which gave onboard credit of up to $2,000 per couple, although some shipboard credits still will be available through agreements with national accounts and for Crystal Society members who reach certain levels.
Smith said Crystal is becoming more inclusive, not because of competitive pressures, but because it is the “next step in Crystal’s evolution as a luxury leader.” The company has also instituted a Personal Choice dining program that allows guests to dine whenever they choose, as well as the traditional two dinner seatings.
“We now have open seating dining and we are all-inclusive, so we are competitive with any of our luxury competitors and we’re positioned way out in front of the premium and mass-market guys now,” Smith said. “I feel particularly sensitive to what the marketplace and travel agents say. There are some things our competitors do that we don’t do. Some things we do, our competitors don’t do. This is just an easier message for the consumer and travel agent. We want to be competitive, but we didn’t respond just because they were doing it, we felt the market was ready for us to do it.”
He noted that Crystal does not charge for enrichment programs such as Berlitz language programs, Yamaha keyboard classes and lessons with PGA Golf professionals. The line will continue to stock the bar in penthouse accommodations and include a bottle of wine in regular accommodations.
There still will be sommeliers in dining room who will offer a complimentary selection of red and white wines that will likely vary by night and destination. A “Connoisseur’s List” of higher-end wine, champagne and spirits will be available at additional cost.
The company is not looking at including shore excursions, What impact will including beverages and tips have on cruise fares? “This hasn’t really impacted our fares,” Smith said. “I don’t think you’ll see an increase in our fares to cover this. We’ve been very aggressive with our pricing in 2012.”
Overall, including beverages makes a more pleasant atmosphere at the dinner table on the ships, since guests won’t have to wrangle over bills and sign chits for every drink, he said: “It just makes the experience so much more comfortable, not awkward, so much simpler and much more convivial.”
A complete list of 2012 Crystal itineraries and fares is posted and available at TheCruiseOutlet.com. All 2012 cruises are now open for booking.
Also included with all cruises is free round-trip air transportation from two dozen North American gateways (or an air credit), with airport/ship transfers included.
Always included at no additional cost are: non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, specialty coffee drinks, soft drinks and fresh juices; high tea; ice cream and frozen yogurt bar; gym, steam, saunas and whirlpools; fitness classes such as Spinning and group Pilates Reformer instruction; Walk-on-Water weighted vests and Nordic Pole walking equipment; dozens of computer/technology classes; art classes; Crystal Visions lecture series; welcome champagne; shuttles to town; pillow menus; self-service laundries; twice-daily housekeeping with nightly turndown service; and 24-hour room service. Penthouse accommodations also include personal butler service, pressing, stocked bar, and other amenities and services.
For more information, call 800-775-1884 or visit www.thecruiseoutlet.com.