Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricanes Galore

An interesting question was asked and this was a new one. "When there are two hurricanes in the Caribbean - one in the east and one in the west, where do the ships go?"

Needless to say none of the cruise lines will put passengers, crew or ship in jeopardy when storms are brewing. If there is something in the Gulf of Mexico or threatening Jamaica, Cayman Islands, or Mexico, they normally change and do an Eastern Itinerary and vica versa.

But now, we have Gustav heading into the Gulf and Hanna playing around and growing east of the Leeward Islands (supposed to follow Gustav maybe and loop around to Cuba and west and then north into the Gulf.

So this is a great question! With the sophisticated sattelite information and the flexibility to move ships as necessary, somehow they can travel around and get behind storms or out far enough in front to head to where the storm already passed through. Either way, they do seem to keep ships out of harm's way. Maybe a or several ports are useless (damage etc.) so they can't stop there, but there is so much to do on the ship anyway----------- but that's another topic.

Gustav and Hannah are sure making life interesting right now for the cruise lines and I'm sure glad I'm not the one trying to figure it out and make it all work. Living here in FL, hurricanes are always a concern but we have never not felt safe being on a ship (and love to cruise during hurricane season). I actually think of them as great hurricane shelters - bars, food, entertainment and activities (hot water and electricity too ) which can be much better than at home (ie Wilma a few years ago - and yes, we missed that "fun" time while on a cruise. IN fact, it turned into a 9 night cruise since the ship was not allowed back to S FL - oh what a shame).

So the answer to the question is somewhere safe, you can bet on that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Test is strange

Seems like the test is not working correctly (and learned I could not change the misspelling you may have noticed once a vote was cast) so have pulled the test down for now. I will be doing another one shortly once I figure out what is happening.

Seems like there are 3 votes and 6 recorded and the results are up rather than the choices. Back to the drawing board on this idea.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We need your help with a test

Thanks in advance!

I am testing something for use shortly and would appreciate your help. You will notice a "poll" set up on the right. Please select one of the 4 choices for me. This is strictly a test! The poll means absolutely nothing so don't read anything into it.

Last week we created e-mail distribution lists and sent a notice to all in our data base about this, and yes, gave people an option to opt out of them. We will be doing a much better job in getting information out on many things, specials, promotions, etc. to our clients using technology.

One of the first things we will be doing is creating a newsletter and we will announce a contest shortly to help us come up with a great name for it. That is the reason for this poll test. Once name ideas are submitted, we will choose several that we like and let our friends and clients make the decision.

And yes, we will have a great prize for the winning selection. So thanks again for helping in this test and stay tuned.


Have a question or concern? Post it here or e-mail us at You never know, it may get answered here on the Ask Me About Cruising blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Visits to Blog milestone

Thanks to all of you (whomever you are) who read our Blog on a regular basis. Some are fellow agents and some are clients or prospective clients. I only wish the person who had been the one who was the # 1000 visit recorded would have left a comment so I know who you were. Let me know and there might be something in it for you.

I am working on an idea combining this blog and our website for a fun contest and then you will need to identify yourself to enter .

So thanks again all who read this blog and I hope I have given you some good insight, ideas, or information that will be beneficial for your cruise vacations in the future.

I need topics though so please ask questions. In fact, ask questions that I might have to research and I can learn new things too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Disembarkation Chaos-Don 't Blame the Cruise Line

You've had a wonderful cruise, met new friends, ate yourself into a coma (hopefully not), visited interesting places and won in the casino (hopefully). You've been relaxed and having a good time all week or whatever length cruise you have been on, and you've come to that final morning when it is time to disembark the ship. The NIGHTMARE begins!

Long lines, delays, people are upset and complaining about everything even if it didn't relate to the cruise and it is natural to blame the cruise line for these delays in getting off the ship. We went through this just yesterday coming off the NCL Sky (we were on a Seminar at Sea) in Miami. We opted to not take our own luggage off the ship and took a late "color tag" so we could take our time getting off the ship and not have to rush.

We had had a nice relaxing breakfast and headed to the gangway around 9 AM. Ooopps! There was a long line both at the exit from the ship and in the terminal waiting to go through customs. I turned to Helen and said "let's find a seat and wait a little while." Why stand in a line and wait when we could sit in a lounge and wait for the line to move along. A few minutes later there is an announcement "Attention passengers we have a slight delay in the terminal and apologize for the delay. We will disembark you as soon as possible." We heard some groans from people near us. Then the announcement about 15 mintes later again apologizing but it was explained that the Customs folks had an issue with their computers and could not clear people through the customs and immigration process.

Let's be fair here to the cruise lines. They want you to get off as quickly as possible so they can prepare the ship for those coming on in a few hours. They don 't delay the process. Think about embarkation. Yes, there are lines but they move quickly because they have control over the process. They put as many check in personnel at a station as possible. (Things are a little slow at first at the security check-in getting into the terminal with screening carry on and people but again, that's not really the cruise lines fault. Actually it's people who slow things down there by not being prepared for this process (another topic for another day).)

We ended up getting off the ship around 11 AM - two hours later than we started to. Those people who got off at 7:30 had no problem (except lugging luggage ) and there were some who stood in line for a very long time. In fact, we went back to the buffet area and got some coffee and read a book and it was stress free for us.

The point is be prepared that when issues happen with Customs and Immigration, you will be delayed getting off the ship and it is not the cruise lines fault so please, be fair and don't blame them. We hear clients say that the process of getting off the ship was so bad that we will never sail on that cruise line again. Guess what, it happens to all cruise lines at various times.

So my tip today is when disembarking the ship and you see long lines, you have two choices. Go back somewhere on the ship and relax or stand in line and complain. If you then stand in line and wait and wait, put the blame where it really belongs - on YOU. You made that choice.

On a side note, things do happen at disembarkation beyond anyone's control and this is why we never recommend planning flights home before noon time or even later depending on the port you are at. There will be lines at the airport too and you don't need to stress yourself out anymore than flying stresses people out these days trying to catch your flight.

When we saw the lines moving again and get smaller, that's when we left the ship, went through customs, got our luggage and into the car and it all took less than 30 minutes without any stress.

So it's not the cruise lines fault and they should not be blamed when disembarkation doesn't go smooth (and very rarely does it). You've relaxed all week so please don't ruin it the last morning for yourself or others.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or suggestions on this topic in the comment section. Your comments are appreciated.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fuel Supplements????

First off, as a professional cruise specialist, let me say that we have no control over the cruise lines pricing. We do not make any commission on the fuel supplements, port charges or gov't fees only the cruise fare portion of the price you pay.

The thought struck me about the added fuel supplements that as the cost of fuel (per barrel) was going up, the fuel supplements were added on to the cost of a cruise. OK, I personally did not have a problem with this since it takes a lot of fuel to run these wonderful cruise ships and staying in port was not my plan for my cruise vacations. They started at $5 for the 1st and 2nd passenger, then went to $7 and then $10 or more and even the 3rd and 4th in the cabin were being charged something.

But as the price of fuel is coming down, the supplements are not. Why? This was supposed to be "temporary" to offset the cost of fuel until prices came back down. Needless to say since booking people on their cruise vacations is how we earn our money, I will not be in favor of boycotting cruises.

Even with the fuel supplement added to the price, cruising still represents a great value and is our personal preferred way to vacation (and yes, with only a few exceptions, we pay for our cruises the same as you although we do get to save the commission portion since it comes back to us).

Hopefully the fuel supplements will be reduced soon. Helen and I will be going on a Seminar at Sea on the NCL Sky next week. Now that the ship is going to be in Miami for the 3/4 day itinerary, and we are well familiar with the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships, it will give us a chance to know this product also for making recommenadations to our clients.

We will be attending many hours of workshops during the cruise so it is work actually (I know - it's a sacrifice but someone has to do it ). My point here is that I believe once one cruise line lowers their fuel supplement, the others will follow suit (the same as the airlines) and I will try to bring this up during one of the meetings. I can't guarantee anything will happen but I can guarantee nothing will if nothing is mentioned or tried. I will also look for opportunities to bring this up in other ways.

Time will tell.