Thursday, April 26, 2012

Holland America to send cruise ship on epic voyage to Amazon

Courtesy Holland America
Holland America has unveiled plans for an epic cruise from Florida to South America's Amazon River and back.The 49-day sailing, on the 1,258-passenger Maasdam, will kick off in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 18, 2013 and include calls at 25 ports in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Dubbed the "Amazon and Carnival Explorer Voyage," the trip will feature 14 stops in Brazil, including a multiday stay in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival in early February and several stops along the Amazon River. Caribbean islands on the schedule include Aruba, Bonaire, Barbados, Dominica, Trinidad, Tobago and Curaçao.
The sailing ends March 8 in Fort Lauderdale.
Fares for the trip start at $7,999 per person, based on double occupancy, with two shorter segments of the voyage available at a lower cost. The first 23 days of the trip, from Fort Lauderdale to Rio de Janeiro, can be booked starting at $2,999 per person. The final 26 days, from Rio de Janeiro to Fort Lauderdale, is available starting at $5,199 per person.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deal watch: Princess Cruises kicks off five-day sale

Courtesy Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises today is launching a five-day sale on select fall and winter voyages.The World of Savings promotion, as it's being called, includes departures between September 2012 and January 2013 in Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska and other destinations around the globe.
Princess says savings are as high as $2,000 per cabin, and customers who book a balcony cabin during the sale also will receive $50 in on-board credit (for voyages of up to 9 days; those booking a longer voyage will receive a $100 credit). Customers booking an inside or oceanview cabin will receive an on-board credit of $25 (for voyages of up to 9 days; those booking a longer voyage will receive a $50 credit).
Sample fares during the sale (all per person, based on double occupancy):
-- Seven-night Alaska voyages start at $549 for an interior cabin (down from $874); balcony cabins start at $999 balcony (down from $1,649).
-- Seven-night Caribbean sailings start at $549 for an interior cabin (down from $599); balcony cabins start at $849 balcony (down from $949).
-- Twelve-night Europe cruises start at $999 for an interior cabin (down from $1,790); balcony cabins start at $1,599 balcony (down from $2,790).
Princess says the promotion will end at 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 23. Caveats: It's available only to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico; and reservations made during the sale require a non-refundable deposit.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

When do I book my flight??


When is the best time to book that flight? It’s one of the most fraught decisions travelers face, as ticket prices often fluctuate right up to departure time.
Recent fare analysis by the Airlines Reporting Corporation seems to challenge the conventional wisdom that the earlier you book, the less expensive your fare will be. In January, the corporation, which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies, reported that over the past four years passengers paid the lowest price for domestic flights when buying just about six weeks in advance.
To determine if that six-week sweet spot would hold true for international routes, I asked the company to analyze fares for several trips, like a summer vacation to Europe and a winter escape in the Caribbean.
Not only did the six-week period fail to stand up, but the findings indicate that the window for booking the cheapest ticket for these trips has increased over the past three years; in some cases it’s up to 24 weeks.
“Consumers have been getting the best prices a bit further out year over year,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics at the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
Sure, it’s possible that if travelers pull back on spending, airlines will be forced to cut prices, allowing travelers to nab a cheap summer flight to, say, Barcelona, as little as three weeks out.
“If they don’t see bookings materialize the way they’d like, they will put the route on sale,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.
But Mr. Harteveldt and other travel watchers agree that booking well in advance is a safe bet. So far this year, airlines have raised rates three times, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of, which tracks ticket prices. “I think pricing is going to be crazy,” particularly this summer, he said.
So if you place stock in historical trends, the message is clear: act now.
For guidance, here are the booking windows during which passengers paid the lowest price for flights to popular vacation destinations last year, based on data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
Europe in Summer
LAST YEAR’S SWEET SPOT: 21 TO 22 WEEKS IN ADVANCE You may already be too late to score a cheap flight to Europe this summer. The booking window for the cheapest tickets has moved further out, from 11 or 12 weeks in advance in 2009 to 21 or 22 weeks in 2011. (Average round-trip fares rose to about $1,500 last year from $1,100 in 2009; this year’s outlook is no better.)
To boost your savings, take the least expensive route to Europe you can find. Then concentrate on getting to your ultimate stop cheaply.
“I look into the cheapest fare into a hub like Berlin,” said George Hobica, founder of, which scours the Web for bargains. “Then I figure it out from there.”
He said this may involve taking the train or flying a budget carrier like easyJet or Ryanair to the final destination. Spanish airports like Madrid tend to be cheaper than London or Paris, he said. Dublin and Shannon also tend to be cheaper jumping-off points.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute. Last year, average fares for tickets purchased less than a week before travel were about $2,600, almost double the price of those bought at least 28 days in advance. And if you’re visiting London during the Olympic Games, July 27 through Aug. 12, expect to pay a premium.
Caribbean in Winter
LAST YEAR’S SWEET SPOT: 11 OR 12 WEEKS In 2009 and 2010, the cheapest airfares went to procrastinators who purchased tickets just two weeks in advance at a saving of about 8 percent. But last year, the pattern took a sudden shift, with the cheapest tickets bought much further ahead.
“Certainly you’ll want to start shopping plenty early to get a gauge on pricing,” said Mr. Seaney of FareCompare, who recommended hunting for airfare as early as three months in advance, especially for hot spots like Costa Rica and out-of-the-way islands, which lack the airline competition that tends to keep prices in check.
Business or First Class to Asia or Europe
LAST YEAR’S SWEET SPOT: 23 TO 24 WEEKS While the majority of premium travel is purchased by business travelers booking within six weeks of departure, leisure travelers with the flexibility to buy well in advance have been able to find bargains. Travelers paid about $3,113, or about 20 percent less than average, when buying premium tickets to Asia or Europe 23 or 24 weeks ahead last year.
A good time to take advantage of low business-class rates is during peak vacation times like summer or the winter holidays. While coach class quickly fills up with leisure travelers, the cushy seats at the front of the plane can be empty. Rather than give those seats away as upgrades, airlines often try to fill them with sales, according to Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the travel Web site, which alerts members to such sales.
For travel to Europe in summer, for example, “it looks like all gateways and all destinations between the United States and Europe are on sale,” he stated in a recent newsletter, with round-trip business class prices as low as $2,327 from Newark to Brussels and $2,359 from New York to Frankfurt, if booked by May 31. But, he warned, “Fares seem to be higher in August than in July, and there are some days when prices soar above $4,000 round trip from the East Coast.”
General Tips
Beyond historical trends, there are also some useful online tools that can help you evaluate fares. For example, offers a Price Predictor that uses algorithms to determine how likely a fare is to rise or fall during the next seven days. It applies to flights from more than 250 cities in the United States and to top domestic destinations and major hubs in Europe.
If you decide to wait in the hopes of a price drop, sign up for fare alerts offered by practically every travel site, from American Airlines to Travelzoo., another price-tracking service, alerts travelers when the price of their plane tickets drop after purchase, allowing travelers to request an airline voucher for the price difference.
For the cheapest dates to fly, go to, which allows you to scan an entire month’s worth of fares. To buy, you must go to the airline’s Web site or online agencies like Travelocity.
Finally, buying two one-way fares on separate airlines can be cheaper than the best round-trip price. calls such tickets “hacker fares.” A recent search on the site for a flight from Boston to San Juan, P.R., turned up a fare of $313 on Delta to San Juan, returning on US Airways, compared with $349 round trip on US Airways alone.
This story, "When to Buy That Plane Ticket," originally appeared in the New York Times.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Deal watch: Royal Caribbean kicks off cruise promotion

Courtesy Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean has launched a promotion that combines a Europe cruise with flights to get to the sailing for as little as $1,349 per person.The "Europe Plus" offer, as it's being called, will be available through April 15 and is good on more than 75 Europe voyages in 2012.
As part of the promotion, customers can get a balcony cabin for the price of an outside cabin. In addition, members of Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program booking an outside or higher category of cabin will save 10% on shore excursions. Crown & Anchor Society members also can get on-board credits for introducing friends and family to the line during the promotion.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Airline Service is the Best in 22 Years, According to Latest Quality Survey

By Kate Rice
April 02, 2012 10:33 AM
The old cliché that you get what you pay for is coming true with airlines. The latest Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report finds that passengers are experiencing better performance by the airlines, even though they’re paying more to fly.
For the fourth consecutive year, the performance of the nation’s leading carriers improved, according to the 22nd annual national survey, a joint research project funded as part of faculty research activities at Wichita State University and Purdue University. It was the best overall score in the 22 years that researchers have tracked the performance of airlines. For the second consecutive year, AirTran, Hawaiian and JetBlue were the three best performing airlines. The rankings show that of the 15 carriers rated for performance in both 2010 and 2011, 10 airlines improved, four airlines declined, and one airline remained the same for 2011.
“As the system adjusts to increasing demand for air travel with a limited capacity of seats available, operations must be carefully handled for things to go as planned for travelers,” said Dean Headley, associate professor of marketing at the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University. “During 2011, the industry lowered the involuntary denied boarding rate by nearly 30 percent, suggesting that most airlines are getting it together. Still, more than a third of the customer complaints for 2011 were for flight problems, such as unplanned schedule changes, delays and cancellations. When you look at the past 12 years, you find that the airline industry performs most efficiently when the system isn’t stressed by high passenger volume and high numbers of airplanes in the air. Every time there are more planes in the sky and more people flying, airline performance suffers.”
The challenge is whether airline performance quality improvements can be maintained as more people choose to fly. Or does the infrastructure and air traffic control technology limit what the airlines can do? “Further airline consolidation will continue to reduce the number of air carriers ranked in the AQR,” said Brent Bowen, professor and head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University. “Past AQR data suggest that the combining of two large air carrier operations often results in subsequent decreases in AQR rankings. We will be carefully watching to see if two highly rated carriers, such as No. 1 AirTran and No. 5 Southwest, will reverse this trend.”
The top 10airlines in order of ranking, with their rank last year in parentheses were: AirTran (1), Hawaiian (2), JetBlue (3), Frontier (9), Alaska (4), Delta (7), Southwest (5), US Airways (6), SkyWest (10) and American (11).