The sun is finally shining in Atlanta. Of course, I’ll be leaving for more cold in Washington, DC, but I digress. It’s good to be back on the road again, if only for a short trip to the Nation’s capital. Here’s a look at our posts over the last week at MJ on Travel.

Enjoy what’s left of your weekend!

-MJ, January 25, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a deal worthy of a “weekly deal” post, but today is the day. This is even more worthy of a post since I was able to take advantage of this. As you may know, the world’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, will be spending a summer season in the Mediterranean before repositioning back home to Fort Lauderdale in October. Right now, there are some really good deals available on the 12 night trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale departing October 25, 2015.

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I was able to take advantage of this price, and save myself over $1000! I called Allure of the Seas “Shockingly Awesome” and now you can experience a trans-Atlantic voyage aboard this beautiful ship for an equally awesome price. Call Royal Caribbean or your travel agent to take advantage of this price while it’s available.

-MJ, January 24, 2015

This week, Carnival released some additional details on their forthcoming newest ship, Carnival Vista. The ship sets sail in spring 2016, and promises to be Carnival’s best ship yet. According to the company, Carnival Vista is designed to connect guests to the ocean with sweeping views and plenty to do inside and out. One of my favorite features (for the kid in us all) is the new SkyRide – an 800 foot track suspended 150 feet above the ship. Guests can pedal their way around for great views of the ship and sea.

carnival vista

Carnival Vista will feature also feature the first IMAX® Theatre at sea which the company indicates will feature the latest Hollywood films as well as IMAX® documentaries and classics. The theatre will be a key feature of the entertainment Multiplex that will include a multi-dimensional Thrill Theatre as well as a video game arcade. One of the more interesting looking bar options at sea is the Havana Bar. According to Carnival, Havana Bar will feature cocktails and light bites by day, and transform into a nightclub in the evening. Outside, a new Havana Pool will be added that promises to offer some of the best views at sea.

carnival vista

Carnival Vista will begin regular cruising in Europe in May 2016, before repositioning to New York in the fall. You can catch all the latest Carnival Vista news at www.carnival.com/carnivalvista or follow her own Twitter handle @CarnivalVista.

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-MJ, January 24, 2015

All images courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

If you’ve ever looked at the About Me page here at MJ on Travel, you know I’m an airline guy/#AvGeek first and foremost. I cut my teeth at American Eagle and American Airlines, and it really makes me smile that American Airlines has taken delivery of its first 787 today. Yes, I’m following on Flightaware.com.

american airlines, 787

If you, like me, have a little red, white, and blue in you, be sure to follow along as AA 9702 makes its way from Seattle to DFW. Having spent most of my “formative years” with American, I’m especially proud to see an airline finally focused on something other than shrinking itself to oblivion. Yes, I’m actively seeking opportunities to fly on one of these new AA 787s. Are you?

-January 23, 2015

The latest ride from Uber has arrived in Atlanta, uberSELECT. UberSELECT is a step up from uberX. Uber describes the new ride like this – “stylish, sleek vehicles like BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis – at an affordable price. uberSELECT is the latest experimental feature from the Uber garage….” Fares fall somewhere between uberX and uberBLACK.

uberselect, uber, uberx, uberblack

What do you think of this new uber option in Atlanta? Yet to try uber? Register here, and get $20 off your first ride. I’ll get $20 off my next ride too.

-MJ, January 23, 2015

I suppose it’s hard to take away something that’s already been taken away, then put back, but not published. However, I’d say Delta has managed to do that. Just what the heck am I talking about? Per DeltaPoints, Delta has quietly removed the unpublished upgrade benefit for Platinum Medallions on the premium transcon routes from JFK to LAX and SFO. Now, you can only be placed on the upgrade list for these Business Elite/soon to be Delta One™ transcon flights if you are a Diamond Medallion. While the likelihood of me flying one of these routes is slim to none in the foreseeable future, the way Delta has managed this particular series of upgrade changes has been kind of hokey from the get-go to put it mildly.

delta transcontinental upgrades

I’m glad Delta is really proud of their transcon product. But seriously, is it so much more superdynawhoppin’ special than what American and United offer in the market? So special that an airline needs to go out of their way to annoy higher level Medallions? Remember, the usual Medallion upgrade process was removed for just these routes (and JFK-SEA until recently) not all that long ago, and restricted to mileage upgrades or using a Global Upgrade Certificate. At some point over the last year, Delta quietly re-instituted upgrades for just Platinum and Diamond Medallions in sort of a super-secret fraternal handshake kind of way. The official word was that their policy had not changed, but they had begun awarding upgrades to Platinums and Diamonds during slower travel periods as the operation permits.

While I doubt someone at Delta woke up this morning and said “let’s annoy some Platinums today,” the whole back and forth trick with this is interesting. I want to give Delta the benefit of the doubt, but for whatever reason, I’m struggling today. Admittedly, Delta has the financials on this, I don’t. However, I can’t help but ask – was anyone being harmed by letting this one little thing remain the way it was?

-MJ, January 22, 2015

I’ve managed to book two J-class awards for my wife and I for travel to Europe at Delta SkyMiles Level 1 (saver). Granted, J-class saver costs 62,500 miles each way, which is 12,500 more than most domestic carriers at the moment, assuming you can find availability, but I was quite happy with the result. October isn’t exactly high season to Europe, I suppose, but I got a flight that worked for us on exactly the day and time we want to go. The biggest news is that I’ve managed to do this twice since January 1 to two different cities.

delta skymiles, skymiles award availability

My latest booking is actually on Air France metal, but I need to depart for the trip from Chicago where I’ll be for a business meeting. I could have saved a few miles booking AA/US (US metal) in the latest wrinkle in award availability that appeared over the weekend, but that would require a connection or an extra day in Chicago for me to make it work. In the meantime, I have set up an ExpertFlyer.com alert just in case award availability opens up on AA metal on their nonstop from ORD. Then, I’ll make a decision on whether to stick with burning DL miles or flying AA for this trip.

I’m not sure October is the best example for travel to Europe, so I’ll ask – have your Delta SkyMiles award searches proved more fruitful since January 1, 2015? Has award availability really improved? Share some experiences in the comments section.

-MJ, January 22, 2015

 

Rant on.

It isn’t lost on me that the airline industry in the United States has been a financial basket case for most of its existence. We all know the quip from Warren Buffet about investors being better off if Orville had been shot down. :) I’ve been reading a lot of news articles about Delta’s fairly stellar earnings announcement yesterday. We’ll let that pesky little fuel hedging mark to market thing by for now. To a tee, the headlines have taken one of just a few tracks with the focus mainly being something like this (paraphrasing):

  • Cheaper jet fuel won’t mean lower airfares
  • Profits flowing to bottom line, not consumers
  • Airlines paying down debt and returning cash to shareholders
  • Profits going to pension plan

There’s a lot of bloviating about airfares being high and fuel being “cheap” and a few explanations here and there about market forces and whatnot and why airfares aren’t coming down. There’s also a little righteous indignation expressing dismay that airlines are maximizing profits. No sheet sherlock! I mean why would a profitable business behave like….a profitable business? Because we’re talking about airlines, that’s why. I’ve yet to read any articles wondering why FedEx hasn’t lowered shipping rates (maybe they have), or the cost of a postage stamp hasn’t gone down since it costs less to fuel the mail truck. Adjusting to a new paradigm with airlines is proving difficult.

Yes indeed, America poured a lot of cash into airlines when times were bad, especially so right after 9/11. I haven’t forgotten loan guarantees, reimbursements for the closed air traffic control system, the layoffs, the pension losses, etc. I haven’t forgotten a thing. Nor have I forgotten this – until a short few years ago, has there been any other industry where so much wealth has been transferred from the pockets of shareholders, the companies they own, and the people they employ into the pockets of consumers than that of the U.S. airline industry in the last 30 years or so, especially since 9/11/01? The pendulum has swung. We’ll get back to balance. But barring something very, very catastrophic, I doubt that balance looks anything like the basket case years. We’re all going to have to get used to it.

Rant off.

-MJ, January 21, 2015

air fares, airline industry

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Skip the drama over Dynamic Dining, and let’s talk about one of the most notable features of Quantum of the Seas. No, it’s not North Star, though that’s certainly notable. Nor is it the bumper cars, the beautiful solarium or the polar bear statue. The most notable feature of Quantum of the Seas to this Royal Caribbean loyalist is nothing other than the interior decor. Specifically, the staterooms have a fresh modern look that was long overdue. If you’ve cruise one Royal Caribbean ship other than Quantum, you’ve cruised a lot of them when it comes to tapestries, carpets, and the general look of the guest accommodation spaces. Quantum of the Seas changes everything about that. Here’s an interesting look at Quantum Experience Advisor and interior designer Genevieve Gorder’s reaction to the Royal Loft Suite aboard Quantum of the Seas.

My 2015 Marriott Reward Gold Elite packet arrived today.

marriott rewards, marriott gold elite membership

It was similar to every other one I’ve had listing the benefits of being a Gold member such as:

  • Guaranteed lounge access/breakfast
  • Complimentary room upgrade
  • Complementary Wi-Fi
  • Guaranteed room type

Notably, missing from this year’s packet – a new elite membership card. Instead, Mr. Marriott has invited me to view my mobile Elite membership card on the Marriott® Mobile app.

marriott rewards, marriott gold elite

Granted, that’s something I’ve been doing for a while in the off chance that I couldn’t remember my Marriott Rewards number when I needed it.

marriott rewards, marriott gold elite, marriott mobile app

So, there you have it. If you were in the habit of looking forward to your new membership card each year from Marriott, fret no more. It’s as close as your smartphone. While I rarely needed the card, carrying one in my travel wallet was one of those old travel habits that will prove hard to break. Have your elite membership credentials arrived from your favorite loyalty programs yet? I’m still waiting for my Delta Platinum Medallion packet. What about you?

-MJ, January 20, 2015

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