Showing posts with label Tips on Thursday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips on Thursday. Show all posts

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Myths About Travel Agents


10 Myths About Travel Agents
 

1.    Myth: All Travel Agents and Agencies are the Same

Fact: Every travel agent is different and has a different area that they specialize in. So, depending on what type of trip you are looking to take one travel agent will suit you better than another. That’s why it is important when planning a trip to find a travel agent that specializes in where you want to go.

2.    Myth:  No One Uses  Travel Agents Anymore

Fact: Travel agents still sell 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and about 47 percent of all hotels.*

3.    Myth: Travel Agents are Trying to Cheat Me if They Don’t Quote Me the Cheapest Price

Fact: Travel agents know the ins and outs of different itineraries. While you might find one that is a little bit cheaper, that cheaper itinerary might involve a whole slew of headaches.  For example, longer waits at the airport and odd travel times.  A travel agent will be looking to get you the best value for you money spent which should include the most direct and time friendly itinerary they can find. – Unless you have told them you would prefer to have the cheaper options presented as well expect value to be a factor included in the trip they plan.

4.    Myth:  It is Expensive to Use a Travel Agent

Fact:  The fee a travel agent charges really depends upon the agent. While some of the more luxury agencies have higher fees, the average fee is quite marginal. Some travel agents will even drop the fee or offer a discount once you have finalized your trip with them. Plus, you can always ask an agent upfront what their fees are and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Also, it is important to remember that a lot of online booking sites, such as Orbitz and Expedia, charge a booking fee as well.

5.    Myth:  I Can Easily Book the Same Trip on My Own Without Using A Travel Agent.

Fact:  Although travel agents have access to all of the same outlets you would use when looking to book travel, they also have access to exclusive pricing and package deals that are most times not available to the public. Your travel agent also has more leverage in helping out in situations such as hotels claiming to be booked, when in fact they may still have rooms available that are on hold for travel agents reservations. So when everyone else is telling you “No” your travel agent can help turn that to a “Yes.”

6.    Myth: Travel Agents Don’t Have Information as Updated as the Internet

Fact: Travel agents obtain some of their information from the same sources as online booking sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity. They also receive daily emails and faxes with new specials from resorts and hotels that may not be published on the internet. Travel agents can also call a place directly to see if they can work out other kinds of special deals for you, something an online site can’t do.  

7.    Myth: Travel Agents Are a Waste of Time

Fact: Although you can find much of the same information that the travel agent provides for you on your own, you are going to spend a lot of valuable time doing so.  A travel agent can actually save you from hours of painful research and price comparison shopping.  They have up-to-date prices, hotel conditions, and interesting new activities. Their prior knowledge and experience gives them the upper hand in trip planning.

8.    Myth: Travel Agents Have Lost Their Clout

Fact: Travel agents book hotels, cruises, and activities every day. The companies that provide these services know that and want their business and will work to keep that business coming back. So while a place might be telling you “Sorry we are booked,” for your one time trip, they are more likely to make an exception for the travel agent to insure that the agent sends them more business in the future. 

9.    Myth:  Good Travel Agents are Hard to Find

Fact:  While there are some below par travel agents out there, sources such as Tripology are great outlets to go to find reliable specialized travel agents that will match your needs.

10.    Myth:  Travel Agents Can Only Book My Flight and Hotel

Fact:  Travel agents can arrange car service, personalized tours and activities, in addition to all the basic travel services they provide. They are also excellent sources of information concerning good restaurants, good sites to see, and tips on what to pack.

*Source: American Society of Travel Agents

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Refreshed Team Members are More Productive


Refreshed team members are more productive.  Reward your team.  Reward yourself.

Corporate incentive travel is the ultimate reward, an ideal way to motivate your team members to not only give their all in order to earn the extra perk that a travel incentive program can provide.

We offer travel planning services with a focus on incentive travel and meeting management for all organizations.  Want to use travel as a way to build teamwork, increase sales or thank top achievers?  How about rewarding valued clients; training employees on, about or launching new product; or planning your annual corporate meeting?  Nothing succeeds like a luxurious cruise vacation.  It’s truly an amazing experience to travel from one exciting port of call to another while enjoying a wide range of amenities, gourmet meals, 24-hour room service, fantastic entertainment and meeting rooms complete with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment.  It’s the perfect meeting place.

Cruise Planners~Neverland Adventures Travel works with all the cruise lines, and can offer customized packages for group and individual incentive travel supported by meeting and logistical management services executed with precision-like detail and excellent customer service and satisfaction.
 

To motivate:  The prospect of earning a place on a customized trip to an exciting destination greatly motivates people

To reward:  An incentive trip’s value is not quickly spent and forgotten – unlike cash.

To recognize:  Recognition will foster a higher commitment to your organization.

To improve:  Travel incentive programs will improve overall productivity and attract qualified applicants.

We have special incentive programs for small to large groups including extra amenities, upgrades and many more incredible benefits.  We will help you find the itinerary best suited to your needs.  
 
Your new travel incentive program is just a phone call away.  To learn more please visit www.neverlandadventurestravel.com/incentives--travel-vouchers  or call 855.776.1733.   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Love Happens


You’ve dreamt your whole life of that special day where everything is absolutely perfect.  Did you know that Cruise Planners can help you plan the most idyllic destination wedding, whether it is on a cruise to the Mediterranean or at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean?  It’s true!  We can take care of all your travel needs and ensure a dedicated wedding planner is on location to handle every last-minute detail. 

With exclusive shoreside wedding packages in over 20 beautiful destinations, your special event can be customized to suit you and your intended.  To name just a few, locations include Miami, Ft Lauderdale, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Rome, Santorini and more!
Weddings, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, anniversaries, you name it – we do it!  Tell us your hopes and dreams and we will simplify the process for you so that you can simply enjoy your special day.  With packages designed to fit all party sizes and budgets, your Destination Wedding or Honeymoon is simply a phone call away.  To learn more, please visit my website or call 317.776.1733.   

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Babymoon

"Congratulations!"

"Life will never be the same again"

"We can't wait to meet him (or her)"

"When's the shower going to be?"

 "What will you name her (or him)?"

 
A brand new baby on the way is an exciting time of life for anyone, whether for a first-time parent or for the third, fifth ( or more) time.  Life can and will change for the happy couple with the addition of the new little bundle of joy, as schedules will need to adapt, and the ability to fly off to Rome with very little notice literally flies out the window.  Suddenly there is another person's needs to take into consideration.  Whether that would be arranging for childcare or simply packing all of the assorted extras that babies have - the addition of a baby into a couples' lives can be a major adjustment over those first few childless years. 
So what is a couple expecting a baby to do while expecting that precious little bundle?  Plan a babymoon.  That's right, a babymoon.  More and more couples when realizing between the initial congratulations when telling ther family and friends about their impending joy - and beginning to aquire all of the new necessities for the nursery are realizing and recognizing the value of those special getaways before the baby arrives.   Babymoons are wonderful ways for couples to getaway and enjoy each other (or to devote some special time with that first child or more) before little Johnny or Susie comes along and turns life as they know it upside down (at least for for the first couple of months). 

Babymoons can be as simple as a weekend getaway, or as complex as you want.  Many couples enjoy a short 3 or 4 night cruise as an ideal babymoon, given the nearly all-inclusive nature of cruising.  What with the accommodations, travel to exciting ports of call, the food and all onboard entertainment included in the fare - it really makes for a great mini-vacation. 
But what is the best time to travel during pregnancy?  Aren’t there traveling restrictions on pregnant women?  For most pregnant women, the second trimester is the most pleasant time to travel. By this time, the nausea of the first trimester is hopefully a distant memory and the discomfort of the third trimester is yet to come. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is between 18-24 weeks.  Of course while the second trimester may be the optimum time to travel, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel during the rest of your pregnancy. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before planning any trips, particularly if you choose to travel in the first and third trimesters as there may be more safety and comfort issues to consider during these times.

Since the cruise lines are not equipped with major medical facilities onboard, and airlines have none, they have established very strict policies with regard to expectant mothers and infants. In general, each cruise line requires pregnant women to provide a letter from their doctor (which can be submitted in advance or hand delivered at the time of check-in) stating that passenger’s due date, and that the passenger is in good health, fit to travel, and that the pregnancy is not high risk.  The average cut-off period for travel for pregnant women between the various cruise lines and airlines is 24 weeks. 
So for all of those folks in your life that you know who have recently announced their upcoming arrival, be sure to say babymoon to them (after you wish them congratulations and other pleasantries, of course), and then why not refer them to us?  Cruise Planners~Neverland Adventures Travel specializes in making memories to last a lifetime for people, and that's exactly what a babymoon is all about, making memories, as well as having a little bit of fun before an entirely new kind of fun arrives on the scene!

For more information, or to start planning your babymoon, visit our website or call 855.776.1733. 

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tips on Thursday - My Trips and Mobile Apps

Whether you make the plans yourself or use the expertise of a travel professional to put it all together for you, traveling always comes with a few various bits and pieces of information that passengers must keep track of in order to keep it all straight - reservation or confirmation numbers, departure times, resort addresses, and so much more.  In the very technical world that we’re living in, it is a great benefit when you can download the information to your smart phone or tablet and have it all together in front of you.  And now with Cruise Planners~ Neverland Adventures Travel, you CAN! 

I’m pleased to announce that the highly anticipated Cruise Planners Mobile app has officially launched!  It is available NOW in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for iPhone and Android devices (search term: Cruise Planners Mobile).

Cruise Planners Mobile is an excellent way to have all of your trip information in one place, via our existing MY TRIPS features found on my website, while also giving you the ability to stay in touch with your travel advisor (me) while on your trip should any unforeseen problem arise through secure messaging.  But not only that, with Cruise Planners Mobile you are able to:
  • Search through current Travel Deals and Specials
  • View day-by-day itineraries with port details and weather forecast / Google Maps (when available)
  • View a detailed summary including reservation comments and attachments
  • Share your trip details via email and social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • View a checklist of items to complete before the trip and check them off as they are completed
  • Book your next vacation!


 
The best part too is that both Cruise Planners Mobile and My Trips share a single login so you don’t have to worry about setting different login information or remember multiple logins. One login provides two ways to stay connected . 

Simply visit www.neverlandadventurescruises.com to set up your My Trips account, and then download the app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store and get started exploring the app today! 

 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tiips on Thursday - Marriage Licenses Abroad


Looking to get married abroad?  Destination Weddings are a very popular way for couples to celebrate their love and tie the knot these days.  But before you decide 100% that a Destination Wedding is the way you would like to go, there are a few legalities that you must be aware of.  But have no fear, when you work with Cruise Planners, we can assist you in obtaining a marriage license in most destinations for an additional processing fee.  Once the wedding has been reserved, Destination Weddings by Cruise Planners will send the bridal couple detailed marriage license requirements.  Bridal couples booked for a legal wedding are responsible for fulfilling the marriage license requirements for their desired wedding destination.  All applications and appropriate documents should be received sixty (60) days prior to the vacation date to avoid late fees.  Please note that in some destinations, the courts are closed on weekends as well as local and national holidays. Some may charge additional weekend or holiday fees.  Couples providing their own marriage license must present it to the marriage officiant prior to the ceremony.

Certified Copies

A certified copy has a raised seal or stamp.  It must be the original certified copy.  Certified copies of birth/death certificates may usually be obtained from the Department of Vital Statistics in the state where the birth/death occurred. A certified divorce decree may usually be obtained from the courthouse that presided over the divorce.  All documentation in another language other than English, must be legally translated and notarized.
 
Apostille

A seal that authenticates the document for use abroad.

Wedding couples that reside in Europe who will have their wedding performed in the United States or St. Thomas may need to acquire an apostille for an additional fee.  The apostille is verification from the United States Government that the marriage license is a true and legal document.  All couples should check with their local marriage bureau to see if this document is necessary for them to register the marriage in their country of residence.


Note:  Prior to the wedding, couples are encourage to contact their nearest agency to verify if additional documentation is required to register their marriage in their country of residence.  Please speak to your Cruise Planners advisor or an event manager for further details or please contact a licensing coordinator should you have any questions at cruiseplanners@imaginevip.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Proper Travel Documentation


As a travel planner, when working with my clients, I always strongly recommend that each client familiarize themselves with the required travel documents necessary to travel throughout the United States and abroad. Anyone who plans to travel outside the United States will require a valid passport or visa to enter another country, as well as re-entry to the United States. It is the sole responsibility of the traveler to identify and obtain all required travel documents and have them available when necessary. Travelers who do not have the proper documentation may be prevented from boarding their flight or ship and from entering a country. No travel refunds will be given to individuals who fail to bring proper travel documents. These requirements are by government regulations and policies.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda by land, sea or air must present a valid passport or other approved document that establishes the bearer's identity and citizenship in order to enter or reenter the United States.

For complete information and application, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.
http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/get_4855.html

In order to assist our clientele, and make things easier for them, Cruise Planners is proud to announce our partnership with American Passport Now. American Passport Now brings more than 35-years of knowledge and expertise to securing U.S. passport and travel visas to our clients. When time is of the essence, rely on the experts at American Passport Now. Meeting deadlines for global travel is ours business!”

American Passport Now is headquartered in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with satellite offices in New York, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Here are just a few of the benefits of using American Passport Now, and their commitment to Cruise Planners.   
  • Customer Service Support. Fast, effective, and informed travel visa and passport experts available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.
  • Important government updates to travel documents. Notification of important updates in travel requirements and information.    
  • Unique Services. Services ranging from same day processing, custom delivery options, weekly updates, and many more.  
  • Outstanding Customer Service. We are committed to providing our customers with the highest level of personal attention and professional service.
  • Real-time Status Update. With a password provided to each client, a real-time status update is available throughout the process. We make the process for you convenient and informative.
  • Experience. We are committed to being the fastest, easiest, and most secure way to obtain travel visas and passports. Our goal is to provide you with exceptional service each time you use our services.
  • Special Discounts. Certain discounts may be available for Seniors, Military, and Universities at time of process and will vary.
To learn more about this great service, click here.








Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Know Before You Go

Whether sailing through the Mediterranean or kicking back at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, our travel tools and resources will help make planning your trip easy. Simply select the appropriate link(s) below.

Health- Familiarize yourself with conditions of the destinations that could affect your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers general guidance on country-specific health warnings, vaccinations and other precautions.

Money Converter- Ever wonder the value of a Vietnamese Dong? Find out how much you’ll get for the U.S. Dollar (USD) in other countries.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the safety of civil aviation. The site offers multiple air travel safety resources and information. Click on the links below to learn more.

Preparation for Air Travel- Educate yourself and make airport travel a snap with security checkpoint wait times, baggage tips, weather and flight delays, and information on passengers with disabilities.

Passenger Safety- Learn more about turbulence, health, safety and approved electronics in flight.


Flying with children- Keep your little ones safe when you’re in the air.

International Travel- Prepare yourself for a wonderful international flight.

U.S. Department of State- A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA), its mission is to protect the lives and interest of American citizens abroad and to strengthen the security of United States borders through vigilant adjudication of visas and passports. Their vision is to help American citizens engage the world. Click on the links below to learn more.

Travel Alerts- Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, either transnational or within a particular country, that pose significant risks to the security of U.S. citizens.

Travel Warnings- Issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country.

Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad- Helpful tips for before you go to excellent precautions to take while you are there.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Stateroom Selection



Cruise Ship Stateroom Selection OR How to Find the Smoothest Ride and Figuring Out Pricing

When trying to make a determination as to where to stay onboard a cruise ship, there are two main considerations to make – what kind of stateroom (the category) that you would like, and where the stateroom is located on the ship.  Both of these factors come in to play when looking to find the best price and the overall smoothness of the ride throughout your voyage.  In order to fully examine finding the best price and the smoothness factor, first we must look at the four basic types of staterooms found on nearly all cruise ships. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream: Inside Stateroom
  • Inside – Inside staterooms are typically found on the inner side of the hallways, across from the outside of the ship. Inside staterooms tend to be the least expensive category onboard as they will be pitch black when you shut the door and turn out the lights as they do not have any windows, or any way to see the outside world at all.  Most modern ships offer them, but there aren’t as many onboard as there once were, as many ships utilize the majority of that space for crew space or other needs such as Kids Clubs, Business Facilities such as Conference Rooms, guest laundry spaces or other functions.  There is one line, however, who offers Inside Staterooms WITH a view to the outside world.  With the introduction of the Disney Dream in 2011 and the Disney Fantasy in 2012, Disney Cruise Line introduced the innovative “virtual portholes” to its inside staterooms.  These “windows” are actually round video screens that look like porthole windows, and feature a live feed from cameras facing out from the sides of the ship.  These staterooms, while still the most inexpensive onboard, have quickly become the most popular too on Disney Cruise Line. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream:  Oceanview Stateroom
  • Outside or Oceanview – Outside staterooms are called "Outside” or “Oceanview" because they have windows where you can see outside to the ocean, but the windows do not open. The windows are typically very heavy glass portholes closer to the surface of the water, often on decks 2 and 3.  The windows themselves are designed to be almost as strong as the hull itself, and usually have heavy steel covers that can be closed and tightly screwed down in case of very strong weather conditions. Some Outside or Oceanview rooms will offer just one porthole, others offer two, and still others might offer one large porthole that might be the equivalent size of three in one.  Each line designs their ships differently, so we cannot make blanket statements that cover them all, since that’s just not possible. 
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream:   Oceanview with Verandah Stateroom
  • Balcony – Balcony staterooms have a verandah, or balcony, with a door that opens.  On the balcony, guests will find deck chairs, often a small table and a strong railing that must be at least 42 inches high.  Balconies vary in size, as well as the separation device between them.  Some offer a full wall for a higher degree of privacy in between neighboring rooms, while others offer less than a full wall.  
Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream: One-Bedroom Suite
  • Suites – Suites are extra-large staterooms, but it is a mistake to assume that all suites offer a separate bedroom space, because many do not.  Keep in mind that cruise staterooms are not hotel rooms in the same manner as on land, and are never as large as a traditional hotel room.  Suites are the closest approximation, however. There are "Junior” or “Mini-Suites," "Family Suites," as well as "Owner's Suites" and “Penthouse Suites” and so many other name variations specific to each cruise line.  The overall look and feel varies by cruise line, but most of them have bathtubs, mini refrigerators, extra closet space and larger seating areas. Some include whirlpool tubs, or dining areas, or are even multi-level with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. 

When looking at the various ships in each cruise line’s fleet, it can be said that the newest ships tend to have far more balcony cabins than the older ships do.  Simply stated, this is because balcony cabins are the most popular category across all lines.  Nearly 80% of the staterooms on the newest ships (within the past five years) offer a balcony; some luxury ships are 100% balcony staterooms.

When looking to see what location to secure a stateroom in onboard the ship, the location and category not only affect the price that you’ll pay, but also how smooth your voyage might be.  When it comes to location, the smoothest ride is going to be experienced in the mid-section of the ship, or "mid-ship,” located about half-way between the front (forward) and the back (aft).  To understand why the smoothest ride is at mid-ship, think of your childhood and playing on the equipment at the playground, specifically the teeter-totters, and the up and down motion that they make.  A ship acts very much like a teeter-totter as it glides through the ocean’s waters.  The middle of the ship is essentially the axis for the entire ship, as it goes up and down, called “pitching”, which refers to the front of the ship moving up while the back moves down. Good captains will face their ship into the waves because it is less dangerous than taking a large wave from the side, so pitch is more common than “rolling”, which refers to the motion moving from side to side, which happens when a ship takes waves from the side versus the front.  Still imagining that teeter-totter, the ship’s fulcrum is the water line.  The closer to the water line, in the mid-ship section, the less motion is felt, while more motion is felt in the forward and the aft.  So, the “best” stateroom location for movement purposes is on a lower deck in the mid-ship. Of course the size of the individual ship comes into play as well, with the larger ships pitching and rolling a lot less than smaller ships do, as the smaller ships are more prone to respond to every wave than the larger ships.

The pitching and rolling effect experienced during your voyage is what may cause trouble for you, if you are prone to sea sickness.  The rougher the seas, the more difference it can make.  If you ARE prone to sea sickness, do anything you can to stay away from the forward staterooms, as this section will experience the most nauseating motion, thanks to that teeter-totter affect.  Aft staterooms also can experience some of it as well, though nowhere as much as the forward. 

Now that you’ve considered the various stateroom categories, and the locations of the ship, why are some stateroom sub-categories higher than others, price wise?  Each basic category is often broken down even further into sub-categories, which can have very different price points just within the main category.  And pricing all comes down a couple of primary factors:  location on the ship, and supply and demand. 

·         Many categories might be available on multiple decks, while some might only be available on specific decks.  Within those category sub-sets, location onboard comes into play as well.  Oftentimes the lower priced staterooms within a category sub-set might be in the highest “traffic” areas, or be balcony rooms with an “obstructed” view (either obstructed by lifeboats, of structural aspects of the ship itself or something else).

·         As individual categories sell out, the price for remaining stateroom inventory within a specific category or sub-category goes up, and once inventory at specific price-points is gone, it’s gone.  So be warned if you are looking to cruise in the future and you want a specific stateroom category (or even a specific stateroom), book early as the closer you get to the sailing date, the less likely you are to be able to secure exactly what you want. The old adage “the early bird gets the worm” certainly applies in the cruise industry as well, of course, here it’s the “the early booking gets the prime locations and prices.”  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tips on Thursday - RFID A Game Changer for Disney


It has been hailed as a game-changing technology for the theme park industry.  It has been reviled and feared by many who don’t want changes to “their” theme park experience.  It is something that I have been slow to speak on, as I don’t know that I fully appreciate it for what it can and will do yet or not. At the very least I’m being cautious before making any public judgments on the system, waiting to reserve personal judgment on it.  But no matter, my thoughts or feelings Walt Disney World fully announced last month that their new MagicBand bracelet is here, and will enable guests at Walt Disney World to enter the parks, purchase food and merchandise, unlock their hotel rooms and access certain rides with a wave of their wrists. A similar system is supposed to be unveiled at Disneyland next year.  

But the new MagicBand bracelet is not a singular introduction,rather it is merely part of a larger, technological initiative known as MyMagic+, which Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has been, and will be, rolling out throughout the Walt Disney World resort complex over the next several months in an attempt to improve the overall guest experience. 

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, a Cincinnati-based theme park consulting company, stated, “It’s going to reshape how the customer interfaces with the park.  Disney always sets the bar for our industry. … This is the future.”

Within the official announcement, made by Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, was this statement by Staggs,  “Imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions, even before setting foot in the park, with MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.”

So what exactly IS MyMagic+?

MyMagic+ is certainly more than just the new wristbands.  The system itself includes a new website and a mobile app called My Disney Experience, but the real key to MyMagic+, both literally and figuratively, is an RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology embedded in each MagicBand bracelet. The technology, known as FastPass+, is an enhanced version of the 14 year old FastPass system, whereby guests are able to secure a “reservation time window” for the top attractions, moving on to enjoy other areas of the park then returning within the “reservation window” to essentially skip a large portion of the attraction line.  The existing system certainly has many ardent fans and detractors.  So time will tell if the new FastPass+ is truly an enhancement to the overall guest experience or more of a hindrance.

As presented by Staggs, FastPass+ is purported to enable guests to book not only their dining reservations in advance of their vacation, but also other experiences, including reserving times for certain attractions and shows well in advance of their actual park visit. Additionally, guests  are supposed to be able to reserve viewing areas for fireworks and parades, as well as schedule meetings with Disney characters long before they ever set foot inside the theme parks.  And the MagicBand bracelets provide access to all the FastPass+ experiences selected and will serve as a connection to Disney’s PhotoPass program, which enables guests to take, store and share their photos from the theme parks. In order to allow flexibility, the new system is supposed to also give guests with smartphones the ability to change their pre-made plans while they are actually inside the parks. 

Resort room locks have been changed, now using the RFID
technology. Guests simply hold their Key to the World card close
 to the Mickey head, instead of pushing it into a slot, as formerly done.
When the Mickey head lights up turning green, the lock is opened
and the guest may enter the room.
The system certainly sounds impressive, but at the same time it does give a very real feeling that the theme park experience will no longer be a spontaneous one.  When FastPass was first introduced in 1999, and with the advent of pre-planning meals up to 180 days in advance the spontaneity factor was certainly diminished.  This only augments it even further.  I know from personal experience I have a hard time figuring out where I want to eat six months in advance of a trip – and now I’ll need to make sure to figure out which characters I want to see, as well as which attractions I want to ride so far in advance!!  Sounds crazy to me, but Disney certainly has the research behind their programming to indicate that many guests LOVE this type of experience… planned down to the last moment.  Thank goodness for the in-park flexibility of being able to make changes.  Hopefully this new system will actually allow for enough vacancies at attractions and restaurants in order to actually mean changes can be made easily!  Again, only time will tell.  

PIN-setting device now found at resort Front Desks around Walt
Disney World property, where guests select their personal pin
when adding their credit card to their Key to the World card,
and eventually their new MagicBand.
Initially the new MagicBand will be made available to select Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests, as the same technology is being used within the resorts themselves.  All room entry locks are in the process of being converted to the new locks as shown above. Guests simply pass their Key to the World card - or the new MagicBands - near the Mickey shape, and when it lights up green, they are able to enter their room.. Other guests will be able to use their standard ticket to access the benefits of MyMagic+, such as making FastPass+ selections on the My Disney Experience website. MagicBand bracelets will be distributed in lieu of the paper tickets currently used. The bracelets will also serve as an optional payment technology when linked to credit card information, if guests choose to use it.  Eventually all paper tickets will be completely phased out as this new technology completely replaces it in all of the theme parks within the Disney universe. 

MyMagic+… the future is now, and coming true within the Disney theme parks in 2013 and beyond!  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tips onThursday - Bringing Baby Along


As recent as just five years ago, the cruise industry varied greatly by line whether or not they would support people who wanted to bring their very young children along with them – including children as young as six months old.  The vast majority of cruise lines limited access for babies to at least a year old, but if you brought your infant along, you were pretty much on your own throughout your cruise vacation.  Beginning in 2010 though, the cruise industry began to standardize around a common set of recommendations from CLIA (the Cruise Line International
 Association) which not only encouraged the lines to allow children as young as six months old, but to also provide amenities such as high chairs, strollers, cribs, cots, and bottle warmers.  But it didn’t stop there either, as CLIA strongly recommended organized care programs for the children so that parents might be able to take a much-needed break from the constant care of their youngest children.  Certainly, all of the clines have had programs for older children, from three to 17 for many years now, some for decades, but not for the care of the youngest cruisers out there.  That was an industry revolution.

Today most of the major, mainstream cruise lines will provide for children as young as six months old.  These cruise lines include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruise Line. Furthermore, the Euro-centric MSC Cruises allows babies as young as just three months old.  However just because these cruise lines accommodate young children, do not assume that all cruise lines do, as many of the more “up-scale” or “luxury” lines do not, having no children’s programs on board any of their ships, and simply do not recommend bringing children of any age onboard.   

Truly the pioneer within the industry for accommodating children of all ages is Disney Cruise Line, being the first cruise line to be designed specifically for the entire family from the line’s introduction back in 1991.  From supervised children’s activities to Disney characters on board ship, to family-friendly dance parties and deck parties, and more, Disney just excels at making sure all ages in the family have a great time.  They’ll even cater specifically to the infant set, but delivering diapers and warm baby formula to the stateroom. 

So you might be asking, what is provided for these kids onboard?  Each line varies, and we’ll get into that below. 

All of the cruise lines above have a minimum age of six months for most cruises, but raise the limit to one year from the rare trans-oceanic cruises, trips to South America, and cruises to Hawaii.  While most do not sell diapers, a few of the lines have diapers available for sale in their onboard shops, including Holland America (must be pre-ordered), Norwegian, and Disney.  Baby formula is not available onboard, so you will need to bring your own. 

High Chairs, strollers, and cots are available at no extra cost on all the cruise lines mentioned above with the exception of Carnival which charges $6/day or $25/week for strollers and/or bouncy chairs.

Onboard activities and babysitting services are available on all of the lines mentioned above.  Most will provide organized group activities with a good number of trained and supervised caretakers. Generally, there is no charge for these group activities, you just need to go and check your child in. These services are offered during most days from breakfast through about noon. Often they take a break in the afternoon but re-open well before dinner, continuing to provide services throughout the dinner hour. After dinner parents have the option of taking advantage of organized babysitting services which have an added cost for most lines, except Disney, where it is included and available the vast majority of the day, even into the nighttime hours. 

Here’s a rundown of the latest offerings and charges, as of this post.  Know that the cruise lines reserve the right to change provided services and fees at any time.  So be sure to inquire about the current information when booking your next family cruise:

Carnival: Camp Carnival offers finger painting to cartoon time, arts and crafts to puppet shows. Toddlers do not have to be potty-trained. Group babysitting is offered from 10pm -3am - Charge: $6/hour.

Celebrity: Babies/tots have access to crafts, games & toys in the Fun Factory. Children under the age of 3 must be accompanied. Group Babysitting is available for $8 per hour, as well as private babysitting, also for $8/hour.

Cunard Line: Onboard nurseries are outfitted with Fisher-Price Little People as well as toys made by Little Tikes and Lamaze. The Queen Mary 2 liner has a "Minnows" pool for families, plus a splash pool for smaller children. Group babysitting is staffed by "British Nannies" and available from 6:00pm-midnight at no cost.

Disney:  Disney has a special area called "Flounder's Reef Nursery" which will accommodate babies as young as three months old (12 weeks). Within this area, they provide meals and cribs for nap-taking. The area is supervised by trained "nannies" so parents are free to go their own way. Parents are required to supply their own diapers and formula, but they can buy these onboard or have them delivered to their staterooms. Nannies will change the children.  The cost for the nursery is nominal, at just $6 per hour.  

Holland America Line: The line offers "Toddler Times" sessions for kids under the age of three to play in the children's facilities, but there are no trained caretakers so parents must stay with their children at all times. Babysitting is offered to children under three on a limited basis by voluntary staff - price negotiable.

MSC Cruises: One of only two lines to allow kids as young as just three months old onboard. However, there are no baby-sitting services, and any kids less than 36-months old must be accompanied by the parents when they are in the children's play area.

Norwegian Cruise Line: while this is one of the few cruise lines that sell diapers and baby wipe onboard, the line does not have any supervised activities for tots 36-months or younger nor does it offer any baby-sitting services.

Princess Cruises: children from six to 36 months are welcome in the youth playroom as long with supervision by a parent or guardian. Princess Youth counselors will not change diapers. Group babysitting is offered from 10 pm-1:00 am but only for kids three years or older. The charge is $5 per hour.

Royal Caribbean: the line offers 45-minute Interactive playgroup sessions developed by Fisher-Price, held in an onboard lounge. Moms can keep fit with the "Stroller Mates" workout sessions. Group babysitting is offered from 8 am to 2 am. The Charge is $10/hour. Private babysitting is also available.


While we all want to have a great time on our vacation, please do keep in mind that while some people will enjoy seeing your baby on board, not everyone appreciates loud kids or crying babies, especially in the dining rooms. So if you bring your youngest children, be aware of the close proximity of other cruisers and be prepared for the looks you’ll get from some passengers, and the comments you might receive from others. If you do not want to risk this particular social stigma it is best to stick to Disney Cruise Line, or the larger, newer ships from Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tips on Thursday - New Family-Friendly Options from Royal Caribbean


First, they had the “DreamWorks Experience”, now Royal Caribbean is prepping to further expand their family-friendly offerings - especially for young girls who love all things Barbie – by introducing the all-new "Premium Barbie Cruise Experience”. 

The new experience debuted in January on select ships and will be introduced fleetwide by March.  This newest offering will give Barbie fans, both young and young-at-heart, the opportunity to delight in all things Barbie.  For a cost of $349 per person, you can enjoy a wildly pink-decorated stateroom containing a souvenir tote bag, tiaras and teacups, toothbrush and toiletries, pillowcases, a Barbie blanket, and specially designed nautical outfits for your very own Barbie. (Don’t forget to pack your own Barbie, as the doll itself is not included).

Barbie, first introduced in 1959.  © Mattel, Inc
Continuing the experience, guests will be relieved to know that yes, there’s more!  Each Barbie Experience also includes Barbie related activities on board ship, including the Barbie Design Workshop where you can  create your own outfits for your Barbie doll, and show them off on the "pink carpet" in the Barbie Fashion Show.  And of course the experience would not be complete without a Barbie-themed tea party - the "Tiaras and Teacups Party", which is an invitation-only affair with a palate of pink pastries and pink lemonade to round out the fun.  But wait, there’s more, following the tea party, guests will then join in a Barbie “Mermaid Dance Class" to learn the various from the movie, Barbie in Mermaid Tale 2.

Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Royal Caribbean, Vickie Freed, who admits to owning over 200 Barbie dolls, took a major part in the planning and negotiations for this new cruise experience together with the folks at Mattel, who market and sell the Barbie collections, including the Barbie Cruise Vacation Doll, which was already part of their collection prior to this new partnership, but will be sold on board all Royal Caribbean ships hereafter.  Barbie was created by Ruth Handler in 1959 and she modeled and named the doll after a German adult toy doll called Bild Lilli.

To book your Premium Barbie Cruise Experience or to learn more about Royal Caribbean, or cruising in general, be sure to visit my website or simply call 317.776.1733.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tips on Thursday - Bring Your Own Wine


Recently Royal Caribbean International changed a long-standing policy which prevented guests from bringing their own beverages, including alcoholic beverages onboard any Royal Caribbean cruise.  Sure guests could purchase alcohol while in port, but once back on board the purchases had to be secured in the ship’s storage until the end of the voyage. Additionally, any alcoholic beverages seized on embarkation day were not returned to guests. Period.  

Royal’s new policy allows for two 750-milliliter bottles of wine per cabin to be brought onboard ship, that may be consumed in the guest’s cabin or on a balcony without charge. If the wine is consumed in a public space, there will be a $25 corkage fee.  Further the policy requires that the wine bottles must retain the original manufacturer’s seals and exhibit no signs of tampering.  If a guest brings more than two bottles, the additional bottles will be secured by ship personnel and returned just prior to the end of the cruise.   

According to Royal Caribbean, the change of heart comes from the recognition that "vacationers may have a particular bottle of wine or champagne that they would like bring on board to commemorate a special day or event while on their cruise."  It has been well received by many cruisers, and provides a slight edge for those considering a cruise vacation, looking to enjoy some wine while onboard.