A great week of travel talk, and a long sought travel experience is the story this week. Yesterday’s ride aboard the A321T 3-class airplane in First with American Airlines was a highlight of the week. I’ll have a full trip report up later this week. Here’s a look at the weekly recap.

And this week, at MJ on Travel -

  • Trip Report – The AA A321T First Class
  • Trip Report – My First United Flights in Years
  • Hotel Review – Renaissance LAX

These topics, the weekly cruise deal, and no doubt more, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, August 17, 2014

Who else has a “bucket list?” There are bucket list trips, bucket list places, and bucket list things to do. MJ on Travel? Well, I have a cruising bucket list.


Allure of the Seas was a bucket list cruise. You might wonder why such a massive ship sailing for a mass-market line would be on anyone’s bucket list. Allure is not only a big ship, she’s the largest cruise ship afloat, a marvel of engineering. I’m of the mind that everyone that likes cruising should sail on Allure or her sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, at least once. The remainder of my bucket list cruises aren’t nearly so entertaining. In no particular order, here they are.

The Galapagos Islands aboard Celebrity Xpedition - I’ve traveled to Ecuador a few times, on business, but I’ve never been to the beautiful Galapagos Islands. While I don’t think anyone would confuse me with a naturalist, the tranquil beauty of the Galapagos and all manner of animal life there intrigue me.

Anywhere aboard Pacific Princess – The modern day Pacific Princess is not the same ship that Captain Stubing sailed and introduced America to cruising. However, she’s still a wonderful smaller ship with appealing ambiance and capacity for only 680 guests. She’s still the original Love Boat, so you can place Pacific Princess solidly at the top of my cruising bucket list.

The Amazon River with Aqua Expeditions – The custom-built river ships of Aqua Expeditions offer up close and personal cruising experiences. With a maximum of 32 guests, this promises to be a unique experience, an up close look at the wonders of the Amazon, and just about the exact opposite of the Allure of the Seas cruise I mentioned above.

Polynesia with Regent – I chose Regent for their service reputation, but I’d sail anyone around Polynesia. The longer the itinerary, the better.

The Mighty Mississippi aboard the Queen of the Mississippi – I might be the youngest person on board, but I can’t deny that I have always had a strong desire to take a Mississippi River cruise. Perhaps it’s my interest in American history, or maybe it’s just that I have an intense interest in all manner of floating transportation vessels, but cruising aboard the Queen of the Mississippi is among my top cruising goals.

The Baltic and Northern Europe - Very high on my list would be a Baltic and Northern Europe cruise. Norway, Finland, St. Petersburg….all are unique destinations, and I can’t wait to visit them during a great cruise vacation. I think this wonderful 13-night cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette might just do the trick.

So there’s my cruising bucket list. Tell us about yours! Enjoy your weekend!

-MJ, August 15, 2014

While I wouldn’t want to imply that Port Canaveral is an easy drive from Atlanta, at 7 hours and change, it is doable. Being safe in that knowledge, it’s afforded me some flexibility in picking and choosing cruise itineraries. Within some limits, I can manage to squeeze in a few days off on relatively short notice as long as I can manage my projects accordingly. As you might remember, I’ve been stalking a particular cruise itinerary for a short summer getaway. It’s been pricing at various rates, all above $300 per person. That’s not a bad price, it’s just that I know it can go lower, I have that flexibility I mentioned, and…well….. if I take that quick getaway next week or in 3 weeks……that’s really indifferent to me at this point.

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That $109 number is, of course, short of taxes and port charges, and is based on double occupancy. It’s also a Georgia state resident rate. But the all-in price works out to roughly $100 per night for two people. Granted, the bar bill is extra, but I think you see where I’m headed. If you’re just a bit flexible, you can really take advantage of some remarkable cruise prices. (Note: This is the 8/18 sailing of Enchantment of the Seas if anyone’s interested.)

-MJ, August 11, 2014

As an experienced cruiser, I know what I am getting when it comes to doing business with one of the so called “mass market” lines. You get your room, you get meals in the dining room and the buffet, and you get coffee, tea, and water to drink. Beyond that, there’s usually a charge. Notably, sodas are included with Disney, and perhaps others. When I’m preparing for a cruise, I plan on expenses above and beyond what are paid in advance. That’s just the way it is with the mass-market lines. The up market lines vary with some being what I’d safely consider “semi-inclusive” and others being “all inclusive.”

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Courtesy of NCL

NCL recently introduced a short term offer that really has me intrigued. Essentially, it’s an “all inclusive” package that you can buy in addition to your normal cruise fare. It will include most alcohol (up to $10 per drink), dining in one of the up charge restaurants each night, and more. The all-inclusive packages are available for all cruises in 2015 and all categories of staterooms for sailings of 3 nights up to 14 nights. According to NCL’s press release,

The All-Inclusive package is available for 2015 sailings from three to 14 days in length, is priced by the number of days, and is available for all stateroom categories, including the Haven by Norwegian. When adding the All-Inclusive to a selected cruise, guests receive 10 percent off the cruise fare. For a seven-day cruise, the $899 package includes the Ultimate Dining package; the Ultimate Beverage package; shore excursion credit of $200 per person, pre-paid daily service charges; a 250-minute Internet package per person; 20 photos of any size; chocolate-covered strawberries; a bottle of wine; one bingo session and six bottles of water. For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from 9-14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

As part of the All-Inclusive offer, Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining package provides complimentary access to one of the line’s specialty restaurants every night of the cruise, including Cagney’s, the popular steakhouse; French bistro, Italian restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria, Asian-Fusion restaurant and more. The Ultimate Beverage package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, draft beer, bottled beer and glasses of wine up to $10 and unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants and on Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.

On certain sailings, I’m a big fan of all inclusive drink packages, and this is pushing things to the next level. I like the idea of an “all in” price. Those who know how to maximize the already included offerings may not be interested. But for those of us that like to push their cruise vacation to the max, this may be a very attractive option. I’ll be watching with interest to see if this spreads to the other big cruise lines. It’s also an acknowledgement IMHO that the price differential between the big lines and up market lines like Crystal (which is mostly inclusive) is not as big as one might think at first blush. Would you be interested in booking one of these all inclusive packages?

-MJ, August 9, 2014


Of the many questions I get on cruising, one of the most difficult for me to answer is the quandary of the solo cruiser. For the well partnered among us, I’ll elaborate. When you see a price for a cruise, it is usually based on double occupancy. If you select “1″ for the number of travelers when you book a cruise, you are likely to pay for 2. Of course, this is not always the case, and I have seen some cruise lines offer a cabin for a “single” price from time to time. In all cases, I’ve found those sales accidentally. Further, some cruise ships, NCL Epic comes immediately to mind, are equipped with single occupancy cabins….an innovation which is making an appearance on more ships. And that is a good thing.

Provence, France. Trying out panorama feature on iPhone 4S.

For those times where there is no special pricing or a single occupancy cabin, Celebrity Cruises has introduced a benefit for its Captain’s Club members. If you’re sailing solo you’ll now receive double Captain’s Club points. Here’s the text from an email I just received from Celebrity.

Captain’s Club is happy to announce a new benefit for solo travelers. When you sail with us as a single traveler in a stateroom, you will earn double the amount of Club Points*, based on stateroom category and number of nights sailed. This applies to all sailings on or after July 1, 2014, and to all Captain’s Club members including Preview members.

While I think I might prefer the lower price if sailing solo, that just doesn’t happen very often. At least there’s some recognition here for solo cruisers.



Well, it’s looking more and more like December will be my next opportunity to cruise, but that hasn’t stopped my search for good deals. I’m game for most anything in the short cruise market right now, as I just need a quick getaway. As I was poking around, I came across this itinerary aboard the Caribbean Princess for Labor Day week, departing September 1.

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$229 is a pretty good price point for a 5-day getaway during Labor Day week. With the Monday holiday, you only have to burn 4 vacation days, and you get the weekend on each end. And check out this itinerary, 2 ports of call bookended with a relaxing day at sea at the beginning and the end. This speaks to me.

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The voyage number is B438, and you can check out the full scoop at princess.com. Have fun, and let me know if you go for this one!

-MJ, August 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The Weekly Cruise Deal is a service for readers. MJ on Travel cannot guarantee that the pricing available at the time the deal was first discovered will be available when you book.crusi

Royal Caribbean’s newest and most innovative ship, Quantum of the Seas, is edging closer to completion at they Meyer-Werft yards in Germany. Not only will Quantum feature the latest cruising from a guest entertainment perspective, she’ll also feature brand new fitness classes like FlyWheel. Here’s a look at Spinning Into Fitness with Quantum’s Sports and Fitness Advisor, Dhani Jones.

News that the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas, will join the Marriott Autograph Collection of hotels piqued my interest, but probably for reasons that are a bit different than others. Nassau is a huge stop for mass-market cruise ships, and a port that I’ve visited so many times that I usually choose to stay on the ship when docked there unless I want two things – wi-fi at the Green Parrot bar near the port, or to hit the super-duper awesome water park at Atlantis.

The cruise lines sell excursions to the water park that include transportation to Paradise Island. The cost is typically $165 per adult, and $119 for children. You can also buy a day pass at the resort on a space available basis. And finally, I’ve previously covered a unique way to obtain access using Ultimate Rewards points. Now, there will be another option.


Image courtesy of Marriott

Of course, all of this is pure speculation until Atlantis actually joins the program, and we learn what category the hotel will be assigned. We’ll know this fall, according to Marriott. Depending on where you are with points balances, and your travel goals, I think it could be possible to make a case for spending Marriott Rewards for a room, even if you aren’t spending a full night. For a family of 4, you could be looking at $568 for a day at the water park, and that’s before food and beverage. It will be interesting to see where Atlantis winds up on the category chart. Then I’ll test whether this will work in practice.

-MJ, August 5, 2014

The inaugural season of a new vessel is always special. Regal Princess is already at sea, but this fall she will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for a Caribbean sailing season. Princess Cruises is honoring the occasion with a special Regal Princess® Inaugural Sweepstakes. Play a photo scramble game, and you’ll be eligible to win a trip to the official naming ceremony and a balcony cabin for 2 aboard a special 3-day preview cruise.

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Visit princess.com/regalsweeps to enter. You can review the official contest rules after the link as well. Contest ends August 31, 2014. Good luck!

-MJ, August 3, 2014

I’m starting something new here at MJ on Travel. Once per week, I’m going to highlight a cruise deal that offers the right combination of relaxation and price to make it notable. As you might imagine, I shop a lot of cruise itineraries. Sometimes with a specific focus, and other times, just seeing what great cruise vacations are out there for remarkable prices….frequently for friends and family. Today, I found a great price for a 4-night Carnival cruise from Miami aboard Carnival Ecstasy. Departing Miami on August 18, 2014, you’ll visit wonderful Key West and Cozumel before enjoying a great day at sea before returning to Miami.

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Best of all, this cruise is part of the Carnival LIVE™ series featuring a concert by Gavin DeGraw. Carnival LIVE™ represents a great opportunity to catch a live show by a well known artist at sea. What a great way to add more enjoyment to your cruise vacation! You can spend time in Key West, my favorite place on the planet, enjoy a concert, and a great 4-night getaway, all for as low as $199 per person. Check it out.

-MJ, July 30, 2014

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