If you follow Twitter, you might have caught some mad tweeting with the hashtag #BAcon14 this weekend. It’s been over a year since the last Boarding Area Conference aka BAcon, and I prepare to depart Las Vegas even more impressed with the caliber of people that make up BoardingArea and Prior2Boarding and the staff at the House of Miles. It was nice seeing old friends, and making new ones. The group has gotten big, and I did not get a chance to speak to everyone, but it was great connecting with folks I’ve only “met” via the interweb.

The speakers were high caliber and informative. I especially connected with the talk on Google Analytics. While I’ve always “looked” at my page views, I’ve admittedly not done a lot of scratching beneath the surface. I’d gotten a bit better about that in the last month or so, but I’m feeling more informed now. We had a good August here at MJ on Travel, a little less so with September, but I think last month taught me something about what I have to do. Trip reports and passenger experience does pretty well here. Most interestingly, I’ve always known that the cruising content doesn’t draw a lot of “day of” business, but it’s my most searched for writing. Interesting tidbit on that – my review of Enchantment of the Seas written last year has been viewed over 6,000 times this year. Things that make you go hmmm.

I’m better for being here. Many thanks to Randy and the entire team at the House of Miles. Now, it’s time to go fly.

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-MJ, September 22, 2014

Greetings from fabulous Las Vegas and the 2014 BoardingArea Conference. Learning so much and I hope I can successfully translate the massive amount of information learned this week into a better blog. I know I’m going to try. I’ve been to Vegas a few times, but I’ve never had a view like this.

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Let’s take a look at our posts from the week that was.

And this week at MJ on Travel….

  • Cruise Line Loyalty – The World’s Leading Cruise Lines
  • Trip Report – Alaska Airlines First Class

These travel topics, and no doubt more, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, September 21, 2014

I don’t post terribly often about random shopping deals, but this caught my eye when scanning my emails this morning.

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eBags is offering a special bonus of 14 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent through September 23, 2014 at the AAdvantage eShopping mall. Additionally, AAdvantage eShopping members can receive 10 percent off their purchase and free shipping on over $49 in purchases until September 27, 2014. Most of my bag purchases are made with eBags, and I’ve always been satisfied with them. If you’re in the market for a new bag, or even a backpack or briefcase, surf over to aadvantageeshopping.com to check out this deal.

-MJ, September 21, 2014

Royal Caribbean turned things up a notch with shipboard entertainment with the advent of its Oasis Class ships. Broadway productions set sail with Hairspray on Oasis of the Seas and CHICAGO on Allure of the Seas. Now that Quantum of the Seas is receiving her finishing touches and preparing to convey down the River Ems tomorrow, September 21, the entertainment team is already on board and getting ready for show time. MAMMA MIA! will be the main production show, but there’s other interesting entertainment on board as well. Sonic Odyssey promises to be one of the more unique shows at sea.

Royal Caribbean refers to Sonic Odyssey as an “epic fusion of music, performance art and innovation.” Here’s an interesting look at preparations for the new show.

 

 

Atlanta fliers, be advised that one the main runways at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is closed for the better part of a month for some maintenance work. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the airport does not expect a significant impact to traffic.

“According to the airport, the runway closure is “not expected to significantly affect flight traffic” and travelers should not notice any change in the flight schedule due to the work. The airport added that September and October are the slowest months for air travel.”

The runway that is affected is the northernmost runway, usually used for arrivals. The reality of my Thursday night flight was a slightly delayed arrival in Las Vegas due to a lengthy taxi time. We took the “end around” taxiway and taxied about half the length of the active departure runway before crossing back over the runway and getting in line. It was an atypical taxi out, and took a bit of time. Other than that, I noted no issues. I fly again next week, and will see if longer taxi times are a trend while the runway is out of service. They expect it to reopen on October 15th.

-MJ, September 20, 2014

Introduction

Cruise Line Loyalty – Carnival Cruises

Cruise Line Loyalty – World’s Leading Cruise Lines (Other Carnival Corporation lines like Princess and HAL)

Cruise Line Loyalty – NCL

Cruise Line Loyalty – Royal Caribbean MyCruise Rewards (including Celebrity and Azamara)

Cruise Line Loyalty – How the Bank Rewards Programs Stack Up

In our first post on the loyalty programs of the major cruise lines, we’re going to cover Carnival™. Recognizing that I should probably turn in my frequent floater card for this, I want to be honest and tell you that I’ve never sailed on a Carnival ship. One day when the price and itinerary are right, I will, and that will be blogworthy for sure.

Elite Status

I covered the benefits of elite status with Carnival last year in my “Status Matters” series. Like many cruise lines, Carnival offers a multiple tier system in its VIFP Club with the number and value of perks rising as the number of days you spend on a Carnival cruise rise. Perks range from simple discounts and onboard cocktail parties to complimentary specialty restaurant dinners and priority boarding and disembarking.

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You can review more details about the elite status details of Carnival’s VIFP Club here.

But What About Points for Spending?

Like most cruise lines, Carnival does not credit “sea miles” (my term) to an account where you accrue points for “free cruises.” The loyalty program is purely perk based. However, Carnival does offer a credit card program. The Carnival™ MasterCard® is issued by Barclays Bank, and is pretty standard among the cruise line credit card offerings. Cardholders earn 2 FunPoints® per dollar spent on purchases with Carnival Cruise Lines, including onboard purchases, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. Points can be redeemed for cruises on Carnival™ or other eligible World’s Leading Cruise Lines (Carnival Corporation owned companies like Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises and the Yachts of Seabourn)  vacations, hotel or flight discounts, onboard gifts and services, merchandise or gift cards. Currently, the card is offering a first purchase bonus of 5,000 FunPoints®.

The program is pretty basic, you accrue FunPoints® to an account, and redeem them when ready. If you buy a $500 cruise, you’ll need to redeem 50,000 FunPoints® to cover the cost. You can also redeem your FunPoints® for most anything else cruise related from onboard credit and gifts. The Carnival online forums are a good source of information on redemptions options.

The Bottom Line

This is a straight penny per point program. The credit card is free of an annual fee, which is a good thing, but unless you spend the majority of your time sailing Carnival, there are better options out there for paying for your cruise vacation. We’ll wrap up the series with a post on some of those.

Up next, Princess, Holland America, and the other Carnival Corporation cruise lines.

-MJ, September 19, 2014

I just cleared (Thursday at 3:30pm) the south TSA PreCheck checkpoint here in Atlanta. This is the spot that has been serving as the “PreCheck” area for quite a while now. I noticed a few weeks ago that the area had been enlarged. In a change since last week, Delta has added a Sky Priority lane to this area as well. Be advised – even though it might look like it from the outside, the Sky Priority lane does not merge with the PreCheck line. The entrance where this new Sky Priority line is located is essentially the same spot that was PreCheck. They’ve moved the queue entrance for PreCheck just a few feet away towards Brooks Brothers.

If you just follow the signs for PreCheck, you’ll be fine. Don’t enter the Sky Priority lane by mistake. It looks like it will merge with the PreCheck line in front of the ID and boarding pass scanner, but it’s actually divided. You’ll get the nekked scanner treatment there. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

-MJ, September 18, 2014

I’ve made no secret about my disappointment with Delta Air Lines and their knee-jerk, ill-informed, and out of touch decision to prevent their customers from using ExpertFlyer. I expressed that disappointment in this space, and in what I believe to be one of only two critical notes I’ve ever sent Delta. I got the same form reply as everyone else.

Contrast that to this news from ExpertFlyer:

Dear Marshall,

As part of our continued partnership with American Airlines, we are pleased to announce that ExpertFlyer now supports full US Airways Award & Upgrade searching and alerting. The addition of awards and upgrades from US Airways operated flights will complement the existing American Airlines operated award/upgrade data already available to subscribers of ExpertFlyer. In addition Flight Alerts can now be created for award and upgrade inventory for US Airways operated flights.

The newly supported classes are:

O – First – Award/Upgrades, also complimentary Preferred upgrades into First
J – Business – Upgrades into Business using Certificate upgrades for ALL applicable routes
I – Business – Award/Miles Upgrade
X – Economy – Award

Click here for the full list of airlines supported for Award & Upgrade searching and alerting.

We hope you enjoy the new addition to ExpertFlyer.

Sincerely, The ExpertFlyer.com Team

It is very gratifying to see that the new team at American is more in touch with its most frequent flyers (on this issue, at least), and has now made award and upgrade availability searchable for its US Airways customers, rather than moving in the other direction. Bravo American!

-MJ, September 17, 2014

Let me be clear – I tip. I probably over-tip, but I believe in rewarding good service when rendered. As a guy who takes a lot of cruises, tipping is just part of the deal. That said, I have to wonder at times if the tipping culture in the USA is getting out of hand? Of course, I’m speaking about yesterday’s news that Marriott International will soon be leaving an envelope on our pillows for tipping the housekeeper.

envelope plz

While I can’t claim to be 100 percent compliant with housekeeping tips at the hotels I stay in, I try to make a habit of leaving a tip, especially if I’m upgraded to a larger room or suite and there’s a lot more real estate for housekeeping to clean. I’m not particularly “put out” by the idea of an envelope on my pillow, but I don’t think it will make me any more likely to tip hotel housekeeping than I already was. What the envelope, and the internet buzz around it have done, is lead me to ask “where do we draw the line on tipping?” Who’s next? Airline employees? Train operators? Public subway drivers? The mail man/woman?

Has the tipping culture gotten out of hand in the USA? Here’s a new reader poll.

Has the tipping culture gotten out of hand in the USA?

View Results

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Many of us are now carrying the Citi Executive® / AAdvantage® World Elite™ MasterCard® thanks to the 100,000 mile promotion earlier this year. Interest in this card perked up a bit when Amex Platinum card members lost access to the Admirals Club and US Airways Club lounges following the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. According to an email I received from Citi this morning, effective November 23, 2014, Cit Executive Card members will receive new or improved coverage in a number of areas including:

  • trip delay protection,
  • baggage delay protection,
  • medical evacuation coverage,
  • worldwide car rental coverage (still secondary),
  • trip cancellation/interruption protection,
  • return protection,
  • missed event ticket protection (ironically being deleted from Amex Platinum coverage in December), and
  • damage & theft purchase protection.

These are all travel-related areas that the Amex Platinum Card is known for, and they do represent improvements in the Citi Executive card. However, you’ll notice that things like reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees, a $200 airline fee reimbursement, Cruise Privileges, etc. are missing. Of course, there’s also access to the American Express Centurion Lounges.

It’s good to see Citi upping the benefits of the Citi Executive card. In my opinion, the card is as good of a way as any to access the Admirals Club, and it offers respectable benefits and protections for travelers. However, the Amex Platinum Card offers most of the same traveler protections, reimbursement for known traveler options, and access to the best domestic US airport lounges. For these reasons and more, the Platinum Card is still the one for this traveler, but the best card for you will depend on your personal situation.

-MJ, September 15, 2015

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