Lately, I’ve been writing a weekly recap on Saturday, and a “this week” roadmap post for the week ahead on Sunday. Oh well… didn’t happen this time. I’ve taken Sunday morning flights so much earlier than 8:20am on a Sunday in my time, but getting ready to leave was extra challenging this week for some reason, and that flight came earlier than I expected. In short, I struggled to get ready to leave, and get the heck out of the house this morning! My upgrade cleared at the window for the internationally configured Delta 767 I flew from Atlanta to Seattle this morning, and I was stoked. It offered a chance to sample the 767 BusinessElite® seat, albeit with domestic service and catering. Suffice it to say that this flight to Seattle seemed remarkably shorter than the Delta flight I took to Seattle in coach 2 weeks ago! But I have a couple of constructive comments for Delta based on today’s flight that you’ll see in a post later this week. In the meantime, even this wide-bodied guy thought he could sleep in the 767 seat, but I tend to sleep on my side…YMMV. More this week. In the meantime, here’s the weekly recap and a look at the week ahead.

The Weekly Recap

This Week at MJ on Travel

  • Bose QC20i Review (#Awesome)
  • How I Learned to Stop Caring About the Game and Start Enjoying Myself
  • A Word on the Delta B767 BusinessElite® Seat
  • Reason # 785,642 Why I Love American Express

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

-MJ, July 20, 2014

 

 

 

 

MrsMJ and I are taking a cruise next month. The thing is…we have not booked it yet. We usually take the same week in August off each year, and book a cruise for the week following a meeting she attends in Florida each year. Most years, we book well in advance, but this year is different. First, we haven’t had the luxury of knowing we would actually be able to pull this off (still aren’t totally sure). Second, without fail, for each year we’ve done this, prices have dropped in the days and weeks just before the cruise. We haven’t always had the luxury of being flexible, so we booked what we booked and dealt with it. This time, things are different. We live within driving distance of the port (I can drive down to join her, saving airfare), and if we happen to not make the cruise this year, there will be others. This flexibility and open-mindedness about the cruise enables us to capitalize on attractive pricing. I’ve been “stalking” the particular itinerary we want for weeks, and pricing has been static. Yesterday, it started to creep…down, and now I bring in my secret weapon – CruiseFish.net.

CruiseFish.net allows you to set up pricing alerts for itineraries you are interested in, and receive an alert via email when the price of a cruise drops below a certain point that you choose. The service isn’t free, but it is reasonable, and worth the effort to me. You can buy credits, with each credit being worth one price alert. I bought a package of 5 alerts for $4.95. You can review all pricing options here. Once you are set with credits, you can begin setting up your pricing alerts which is pretty straight forward.

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Clicking on “Finder” will take you to a list of cruise lines. Clicking on the cruise line of choice will offer a list of ships, and then you can get specific with the sail date you want.

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Your next choice will be a selection of cabin types. For this short cruise, I prefer the cheapest accommodations available, which are typically inside cabins.

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Clicking on the green price (279) takes me to the next screen where I can set up my alert. In my case, I want an alert if the price drops under $250 per person.

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After entering the information, click save. When you do that, the cabin category you’ve set the alert for turns pink.

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Now, you wait, and hope for the best possible result. :) Some travel agents are very good about doing price checks for you, and some aren’t. If you have one that routinely monitors pricing, that’s great. But I think this is a good insurance policy for achieving the best possible price for your cruise. Happy sailing!

-MJ, July 16, 2014

It suddenly occurs to me that the year is half over…..wow. Or WOW! Lots going on. I’m in the office this week, but on the west coast the week after for work, returning just in time for dinner with DeltaPoints and a handful of DeltaPoints readers. Let’s see if I can fit 5 days of suit and tie combinations into my small carry on. Challenge accepted. :) I’m a little stoked about this trip because its scheduled to be on a 767-300 with the new BusinessElite seats. It’s questionable (doubtful) whether or not I clear the upgrade as just a Platinum Medallion flying from Atlanta to Seattle, but at least I’ll get to snap a few photos. The joys of blogging! In the meantime, let’s take a look at the weekly recap for this week.

The weekend is here, so whatever you do, make it a great one! Enjoy your Saturday evening.

-MJ, July 12, 2014

Cruise line dining elicits a lot of emotion. I find people fall into one of a very few camps such as:

  • I don’t like a company telling me when to eat
  • If I don’t have a set time, I won’t get there
  • I never go to the main dining room

With that said, I found this tiny little snippet of info from Cruise Critic quite interesting. It seems that the cruise line that pioneered “Free Style” dining is now taking reservations. While still optional, Norwegian Cruise Line is now accepting reservations in the main dining room. A Cruise Critic member reported the news for an upcoming Pride of America cruise. Apparently, you can make reservations 90 days before your cruise or once you are onboard.

Frankly, I don’t care one way or the other. I tend to mix it up when I’m on a cruise with going to the main dining room and at least one or two (if not more) specialty restaurants. Funny thing is, I usually book those specialty restaurants for the same time as late main dining…..it helps with planning. What say you? High time for reservations with free style cruising, or a bad development?

-MJ, July 11, 2014

Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that it is introducing another innovation at sea, Google Street View technology for its largest ship, Allure of the Seas. According to Royal Caribbean,

With just a few clicks, guests will be able to virtually walk through the various decks of Allure of the Seas including the Royal Promenade, a boulevard that runs nearly the length of the ship, flanked by restaurants, boutiques and lounges; Central Park, an outdoor park longer than a football pitch complete with over 12,000 live plants and trees; the Boardwalk, featuring a hand-crafted carousel, two rock-climbing walls and the AquaTheater, a high-dive aquatic performance venue with the deepest pool at sea; Entertainment Place, with an elaborate theatre, night club, comedy club, jazz club and ice-skating rink, which offers professionally produced ice shows; the Pool and Sports Deck featuring a zip line, twin FlowRider surf simulators, full-size basketball/sports court, nine-hole mini-golf course, 15 pools and whirlpools and 22 restaurants, and many, many more.”

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I think this is a pretty innovative approach to making more details of the world’s largest cruise ship available to potential and current customers. Allure of the Seas is a big ship, and I think it is entirely possible to spend a week on board and not experience everything that is available. I called Allure “shockingly awesome.” Google Street View should make the cruise experience a little more awesome…or at least easier to navigate.

View Allure on Google here.

-MJ, July 8, 2014

A happy holiday weekend to you from Vancouver, BC. I’ve often heard Vancouver called the most beautiful city in North America, and I do quite like it. Part of me wishes we could stay a little longer, but it’s been an enjoyable visit. We’re not here to tour, but to visit family, but have managed to work in a bit of sightseeing and experiencing new things – not counting eating Chinese food for lunch on the 4th of July in Canada, but I digress.

I was wondering if this visit to Canada would offer the opportunity to test the Chip & PIN capability of my Barclays Arrival Card. According to the materials that came with the card, it is Chip & Signature with Chip & PIN capability, and you’ll need to sign for your first transaction. In reality, I’ve needed to sign for every transaction. Not an issue, just an observation. I’m sure some of that is driven by the underlying workings of EMV chips, and what drives PIN requirements. I’ve not “studied” them but I think some of it has to do with attended terminals vs unattended and whether or not there is a real time connection to the payment network. In any event, chip cards are expected here, but each terminal I have used has included the option to swipe. The card has served me well this trip, and the Chip & Signature capability has worked like a charm. So…that’s enough of that Chip card datapoint. Let’s take a look at the week in review here at MJ on Travel.

No matter how you’re spending your weekend, enjoy it! Talk to you next week.

-MJ, July 5, 2014

Yesterday, I was perusing a few news articles, emails, etc., over lunch, and a marketing email came in from Royal Caribbean. It contained… wait for it…. tips for the first time cruiser. You might remember I wrote a little 3-part primer on the topic not too long ago.

The email reminded me that I failed to mention something extraordinarily important – travel documents. I can be excused a little (but not fully) because I have called a passport the cheapest travel insurance you can buy for your cruise on this blog more than once. I view a passport as something as natural to have as a driver’s license, so maybe I’m a little jaded about the idea. The truth is, the passport question is one I get more often than any other from new cruisers. It always surprises me, but perhaps it shouldn’t. According to this Forbes.com article from 2012, just over 1/3 of Americans actually have a passport, and that was celebrated in the article as a big improvement over past years.

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My advice to any cruiser, first timer or not, if you do not have a passport you should get one. Yes, I’m aware that “closed loop” cruises which begin and end in the same US port do not require them. Yes, I’m aware that getting a passport does have a cost in funds and in a little time. You’re leaving the country, you need a passport. What if you miss the ship in a port of call? What if you get sick, and need to be medivac’d out? You are now an American in a foreign country without a passport. Will you get home? Yes, I have no doubt you will. But the stack of paperwork along with the level of hassle and scrutiny you’ll no doubt receive strike me as exceeding the small amount of time and money you’ll invest in just getting a passport.

Going on a cruise? Please consider applying for a passport if you do not have one. You can learn more about passports and applying for one here.

-MJ, July 3, 2014

Royal Caribbean’s most loyal cruisers can now book next year’s Crown & Anchor member cruise. This morning’s email contained details on the cruise which will be a 12-night southbound Canada and New England itinerary originating in Quebec City, Quebec and ending in Cape Liberty, NJ with 12 days of beautiful sailing in between aboard Serenade of the Seas (which happens to be a favorite ship of mine). (Map image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.)

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Member cruises tend to attract a lot of higher tier elites, and feature special parties dedicated to the cruise line’s most loyal guests. Canada and New England itineraries are on my cruising bucket list, which make this attractive. Alas, I’ll be setting sail on a trans-Atlantic cruise a little too soon after this cruise ends to take advantage this time around. I have to work to pay for all these cruises! :) But if you’re a Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor member, take a look at this itinerary. Looks like a great one.

-MJ, July 2, 2014

That kind of headline caught my eye. Couple that with Princess Cruises being high on my list of next cruises to choose (you never know when you might run into Captain Stubing onboard), and I thought this was worth sharing. Right now, Princess is offering up to $200 in onboard spending money and pre-paid gratuities when you book a balcony, mini-suite, or suite stateroom on select itineraries.

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Click here for details like terms and conditions as well as a sample of available itineraries. Personally, the 10-day Tahiti and South Pacific itinerary is talking to me!

-MJ, July 1, 2014

 

According to this Yahoo News story, Holland America Line’s Westerdam was forced to return to Seattle Saturday after what was referred to as a small fire occurred in one of the boiler rooms. The fire was extinguished, but the ship returned to Seattle in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard for a check up. The article notes that the ship was likely to sail again on Sunday, and quick check of marinetraffic.com shows the ship is underway, and headed for Alaskan waters.

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According to reports from passengers on board the ship posting to this Cruise Critic thread, they turned around about an hour into the voyage. They were kept abreast of what was happening, and did not see or smell smoke. The fire apparently reignited at least one time after being extinguished.

Fire on any ship at sea is a major concern, but it looks like this was handled well. Reports around the internet indicate that passengers on this voyage are going to miss Sitka as a result of the delay, but are receiving some compensation on board for the delay. The best compensation – no one was hurt, and vacation continues.

-MJ, June 30, 2014

 

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