Thursday, January 4, 2018

Diary of Southeast Asia Voyage

Journey to Southeast Asia (R/T Singapore)

Having cruised for 30+ years, our cruise selections are driven primarily by destination and secondly by cruise ship. We love exploring new destinations from our bucket list as well as revisiting some of our favorites. Exploring new ships, including older ships we've never sailed on before, is also quite enjoyable. Of course, we love to share with our readers so that they can discover the world that awaits them.

Escape from Winter

As we update this article with our pre-booked shore excursions, it is-3°F here and 80°F in Singapore. January is prime time for snowbirds in the states to escape to warmer climates. For most people, the first choices for winter getaways are Florida and the Caribbean. We suggest broadening your horizon and exploring more of the world. It's quite warm in Southeast Asia and you'll be immersed in sights, sounds, food, and culture of this Asian destination. If you are intrigued, follow us on our journey.


Come along with us as we provide a day by day diary of our voyage to Southeast Asia.

15 Day Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam


Port Blog Posts Photo Albums
Mon
Jan 8
Travel
Pre-Cruise - Singapore


Tue
Jan 9
Singapore 
View general port information 
Check In 12:00pm-3:00pm

Wed
Jan 10
At Sea

Thu
Jan 11
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 
12:00pm – 8:00pm
City Drive & Sabah Museum


Fri
Jan 12
At Sea
Sat
Jan 13
Nha Trang, Vietnam 
Tender Required
7:00am – 4:00pm
Ponagar Cham Tower, Long Son Pagoda & Embroidery


Sun
Jan 14
Ho Chi Minh City (phu My), Vietnam 
7:00am – 6:00pm
Cu Chi Tunnels & Countryside

Mon
Jan 15
At Sea

Tue
Jan 16
Sihanoukville, Cambodia 
Tender Required
7:00am – 4:00pm
Wat Krom, Villages & Market


Wed
Jan 17
Bangkok (laem Chabang), Thailand 
7:00am – 7:00pm
Nong Nuch Gardens & Cultural Performance


Thu
Jan 18
Ko Samui, Thailand 
Tender Required
8:00am – 5:00pm
Temple of the Big Buddha & Monkey Demonstration


Fri
Jan 19

At Sea


Sat
Jan 20
Singapore 
7:00am – 4:00pm
Battlefields of Singapore
Sun
Jan 21
Penang, Malaysia 
Tender Required
3:00pm – 11:59pm
Taste of Penang

Mon
Jan 22
Langkawi, Malaysia 
8:00am – 5:00pm
Rice Museum, Cable Car, Craft & Cultural Complex


Tue
Jan 23
8:00am – 6:00pm
Kuala Lumpur Highlights


Wed
Jan 24
Singapore 
7:00am


Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 in Review


As the year draws to a close, we'll take a look at some of the industry headlines and review some of our cruise adventures.  Weather made the biggest headlines impacting the cruise industry in 2017.

The cruise lines continued to add capacity, but at the same time increased their presence in new markets, like China, which helped to stabilize pricing, which was a goal for the industry.   Now more than ever it is important for passengers to plan ahead so that they can take advantage of lead-in pricing.   The lines have vowed not to do "fire sale" pricing close in to the sailing date.


Viking Sky Photo Gallery
 "First New Cruise Ship
for 2017"


Honors went to Viking Ocean Cruises as it took delivery of the third ship in Viking Ocean's fleet, Viking Sky, in February. It's sister ship, Viking Sun, was delivered in October. They both are virtually identical to sister ships Viking Star and Viking Sea, featuring 930-passenger capacity with highlights such as the Explorer Lounge, a two-deck observation library with lots of comfy chairs and couches; the Nordic-inspired spa with Finnish sauna and snow room; the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace dining venue; and a magrodome pool, with a glass roof that opens in warm weather.

Viking Sky and Viking Sun are all-balcony cruise ships with the smallest cabins measuring a sizable 270 square feet; the largest suites comes in at 1,300 square feet. The ships specialize in destination-oriented cruise experiences with long days in ports, plenty of overnights in major cities and few days at sea.

Cruise fares include a selection of free shore excursions, complimentary Wi-Fi, and beer and wine at lunch and dinner offering good value for the cruise price.


Love that New Ship Smell


Our 2017 National Conference took place on Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas. We had our pre-cruise reception, hosted by   MSC Cruises at Hilton Marina Fort Lauderdale.  MSC launched two large ships this year, the 4500 passenger MSC Meraviglia and the 4140 passenger MSC Seaside, which began sailing in Summer and December 2017 respectively.  These ships are part of MSC Cruises' nine billion euro shipbuilding program from now through 2022.

Prior to the introduction of these ships, Royal Caribbean had the corner on the market for massive passenger count at sea. Contrasting this year to 2016, the remaining ships were much smaller with the total added capacity being 13,900 berths in 2017 while last year there were 18,500 new beds added.

Having our conferences on a relatively new ship, Harmony of the Seas, was one of our highlights for the year.


If you have specific questions about the ships, the itineraries, or cruising in general, we'd love to hear from you.
 
Weather Impact on Cruises


Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria changed parts of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean forever. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will long be remembered as one of the busiest and most destructive hurricane seasons on record.


Throughout September and October, we were posting itinerary updates as schedules were impacted by either the approaching storms or following the landfall.

Cruise lines rushed to aid victims with several voyages cancelled to launch rescue and supply missions.  The industry response was like no other in history.   We are proud to be part of this industry as everyone joined together to help in this time of need. 

At our conference, industry leaders from the cruise lines and organizations stressed that while there had been a tremendous response to date, it was crucial that we as Travel Professionals helped get the message out that the Caribbean is Open for Business.   They still need our help to recover from the hurricanes.   One of the ways this can be done is by bringing tourism dollars back into the regions hit hardest by the hurricanes.

Our Favorite Cruise for 2017

Having cruised for 30+ years, our cruise selections are driven primarily by destination and secondly by cruise ship. We love exploring new destinations from our bucket list as well as revisiting some of our favorites. Exploring new ships, including older ships we've never sailed on before, is also quite enjoyable. Of course, we love to share with our readers so that they can discover the world that awaits them.

Penguins of South America

Those of you who have followed me here or on Twitter, know that I love Penguins. That's what this trip was all about - having the opportunity to see multitudes of penguins in their natural surroundings. However, this trip wasn't only about penguins.

We arrived in Santiago, Chile on January 18, 2017. For the next 14 days, we explored South America including the countries of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands. We saw Amalia Glacier, Glacier Alley, Fjords, Cape Horn and many other magnificent sites along the way.

Having sailed the seas for more than 30 years, it's hard to narrow the list down to one trip as the "best", but this trip certainly is among the top contenders.  Read our Cruise Diary 

What's Ahead for 2018

It will be a rebuilding year for the Caribbean and another ship building year as well.   What will the added capacity mean?   There are still a large percentage of the population that have not experienced cruising.   The lines, including new players like MSC Cruises and Viking Oceans, will continue to advertise which will help spread the word.

As cruise prices stabilized, many lines have been looking to onboard expenditures as a means to increase revenue.   Items that had once been included, like room service, have started to see additional charges for example.   Some passengers aren't happy with the new trend to "nickle-and-dime" them and may look to cruise lines that have less optional charges.   Luxury lines are becoming an even better value since you know your cost of the entire trip up front.

It will be interesting to see how new players, such as Viking Oceans, impacts the industry as they grow their fleets.  They are bucking the tide to go big and instead opting for smaller ships and more emphasis on the destinations.  Of course, the river cruise industry is booming as the demand soars for this method of exploring the globe. Crystal has entered the market as well, bringing another luxury option to this growing market.

Travel Professionals are not going away.  In fact, their expertise is even more valuable now, as there are more and more options to sort through.   Matching the right ship and itinerary to the cruisers' desires is one of the biggest values they bring to bear.   Hope to see you on the seven seas in 2018.

Happy New Year

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017

click image to enlarge

Plan Your Winter Getaway

The winter solstice — also known as Yule, Midwinter, the Shortest Day of the Year and the Longest Night — occurs at 11:28 a.m. ET Thursday.  December 21, will be the shortest day of 2017 for anyone living north of the equator.

USA Today is reporting that this Winter Solstice might be the worst day of the year.  Why you ask?

"Apparently, the sun will appear to pass in front of the constellation Capricorn hours after Saturn does likewise. This will cause both of these orbs to line up for the first time time since 1664, according to London astrologer Neil Spencer, who writes for The (London) Observer but first wrote about the alignment on his blog

Normally I'd suggest that there wasn't a better time to plan your January or February escape from the cold winter to somewhere tropical, but with this astronomical prediction, you might want to either do so tonight or wait until Friday.

The Caribbean is Open

Whether you decide to plan your trip on or after the effects of the Winter Solstice are observed,  please know that despite the hurricanes that impacted the Caribbean this past hurricane season, the Caribbean is open for business and ready to welcome you away from the cold winter weather.

This point was driven home by all the cruise lines, CLIA, and others in attendance at our National Conference onboard Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas this past November.   What's more, the Caribbean really needs tourism to rebound from the damage and destruction.   Please keep that in mind when planning your next vacation.


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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Happy Hanukkah 2017



Happy Hanukkah ! The Holiday Season has arrived. The eight-day Festival of Lights begins tonight December 12th at Sundown and continues through December 20th. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.   More info....

We love cruising around the holiday time because the ships are decorated for the season.  As you know the ship's crew is made up of many nationalities and faiths.  So too are the passengers that board the vessel for each cruise.  The cruise lines try to make the environment fitting for all regardless of their beliefs and also will accommodate special requests to help you celebrate.



Holiday time is a time for families. Regardless of the holiday that you celebrate, there is one common theme ... spending time together as a family to celebrate the holiday. As we walked along the decks of the ship and saw the decorations, we couldn't help but think about the ship's crew. For the most part, the crew will not be spending time with families this holiday season. They will be onboard providing service to passengers just like they do every day of the year.

Many of out troops have missed several holidays.   Unfortunately, not all military will be home for the holidays, so once again let us keep the troops and their families in our thoughts, that they remain safe and can one year safely return in time for the holidays.

Whether you are together for the holidays or separated by many miles, may this be a season filled with joy and happiness. Thank you to those that serve, both on the ships and in the military - our thoughts are with you and your families during this time. Happy Holidays to All.


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Loyalty Has Its Rewards

Loyalty Programs Are Everywhere

Hotels, Airlines, Cruise Lines, Restaurants, Businesses

Loyalty programs are nothing new. We bet that your key chain has several key fobs for local establishments, your wallet may have several loyalty cards, and your cell phone has more loyalty apps than games (oh and it can still make calls too).

The travel industry was among the early adopters of loyalty programs. Airlines and hotels reward points for each trip. Those points can be saved and used for future travel discounts or other benefits.

 Cruise lines followed suit with a multi-tier approach. The more you sail, the more rewards you are entitled to (airlines are the same these days as well).  Rewards typically offer benefits before and during your cruise.  Before your trip, you may be able to take advantage of special pricing.   During your trip you may get early boarding, discounts on onboard experiences, and other amenities.  As you advance through the levels, the benefits improve, so that tends to tilt the scales in favor of one cruise line over another when planning your trips.

The purpose of loyalty programs is really quite simple.  The businesses recognize that you have choices, and through the incentive program, are hoping that you will select them.


Book Onboard

It's probably pretty safe to say that most travelers are aware of the various loyalty programs for the suppliers they are using for their vacation.   Those same travelers may not be aware of the cruise line's book on board incentives.   These programs come in various names such as "Next Cruise".  There are different flavors of the programs these days.  Most offer two choices;   book a specific cruise (often with a better incentive) or book an open-ended trip which can be finalized at a later date.  Deposits are usually reduced, there are typically on board credits (OBC) involved, and your travel professional who helped you plan the trip you are on will get the booking so that they can assist you in planning your next cruise as well.

We have just enhanced our Loyalty Cruise Perks offer.  You can "double dip".  Not only can you reap the benefits of booking on board your current cruise, but you also have up to 30 days to cash in on incentives with us as well.   Use the reward towards shore excursions, hotels stays, resorts for a day, or an OBC.   Click on the link to learn more about this program.  But wait, there's more ...

Coming Soon

We've taken things a step furtherYou know the value of a travel professional in helping sort our the maze of cruise choices.   You work hard to earn your vacation dollars and want to be assured you've selected the right cruise based on your requirements for that trip.   Time is money and getting answers to questions that come up along the way is another one of the intangible benefits your cruise specialist provides. 


Why not share your travel professional's details with your family and friends?   A new program is launching shortly where you can become a Vacation Superhero by doing just that.

Stay tuned for complete details about the program.   All we can tell you for now,is that it will be rewarding for you.


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