Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will Fuel charges come back?

With things the way they are everyone is looking to save a money on their trips. People are driving instead of flying, due to the high cost of flying and those darn luggage fees. But now the price of fuel is on the rise. Many are predicting that here in the US we will have $4 a gallon gas. How is this going to affect our vacations?

Already, British Cruise Line Fred Olsen Cruises will be implementing a fuel surcharge as of may 5th 2010. The surcharge will be £3.00 (about $4.60) per person per night, up to a maximum of £60 (about $92) per person, for the first two people in a cabin, and £1.50 (about $2.30) per person per night for third and subsequent occupants of a cabin, to a maximum of £30 (about $46) per person. The charges will apply to all bookings made on departures featured in its 2010/11 Worldwide brochure and the 2011 Preview brochure.

Carnival, reported a that it expects that the rising cost of fuel will probably reduce its earnings by $119 million. Which is not a drop in the bucket. There are still passengers booked on Disney Cruise Line who are paying surcharges now depending on when they had booked their trip and when the ship sails. What does that mean for the budget conscious vacationer? Well, as of right now...nothing. All three major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and, NCL) all are confirming that they don't have any plans to re-adopt surcharge policies at this time, but reserve the right to do so if certain criteria is met.

As someone who cruises, I would keep my eyes and ears open, if you are planning on booking a cruise. Any discount may be negated when and if they implement a fuel charge!

So what do you guys think? How do you feel about the surcharge if they implement it? Would it stop you from booking? Let me know your thoughts?

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Come visit us on Facebook...New pictures of the Star Princess Cruise Ship

Click HERE to go to our Facebook page and look at the pictures.

Great pictures of the Princess Star Cruise ship, that sails out of Fort Lauderdale. Currently it is sailing two itineraries a 10 day and a 20 day cruise. Prices ranging from $1,199.00 plus tax for an inside room on the 10 day itinerary to $4,398.00 for a mini-suite on the 20 day.

Enjoy fine cuisine in Traditional or Anytime Dining venues, superb specialty dining at Sabatini's and our latest addition, the Crown Grill, casual fare at open-air Prego Pizzeria or Trident Grill or choose from other offerings such as Vines wine and seafood bar. Follow a morning swim with an afternoon massage in the Lotus Spa or under a cabana on deck at the newly added adults-only retreat, The Sanctuary. There are over 700 spacious balcony staterooms and entertainment options galore, plus this sparkling vessel now features that Princess favorite - Movies Under the Stars.

The Star was a beautiful ship. It was very elegant and very clean. There were plenty of elevators, and some were dedicated at embarkation to get people boarding to their rooms, which was a nice touch. I did not see many children there, but it was not a school vacation week. They did have a very nice kids club, which was divided into to rooms.

Her 10 day itinerary
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida , Aruba, Aruba, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, Grenada, Grenada, Dominica, Dominica, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Princess Cays, Bahamas, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Her 20 day itinerary
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Princess Cays, Bahamas, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominica, Grenada, Grenada, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Aruba, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Princess Cays, Bahamas, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Making memories is what it is all about!

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

Come join us on Facebook for information on travel, sales, fun games, contests, triva and more...Click the Facebook logo at the bottom of this page!

Writing about packing made me think....

Writing about packing made me think of how much I love traveling with my family. My kids are getting older now and traveling is changing. They like to go off on their own and do thing with friends they make. When this happens, I remember the times when they were little and the memories I have from our travels.

There was the time we had breakfast at the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World with the three girls Who at the time were 3, 3 and 8 years old. Right after the meal and the excitement of meeting Pooh Bear and friends (they no longer offer this meal ), we went over to the hotel gift shop. As happens with kids one starts acting up and the others run for it. Suddenly we were looking for Angela, and I am in a frantic mommy state. We turn the corner and there she is, cuddled up with huge Pooh Bear taller than she is. She is curled up with him with a sly little look on her face. After taking a deep breathe we bring Angela and the Pooh Bear home, and we still have both of them. Then there was the impromptu dance choreographed by Katerina on the Princess Lilly paddle boat in Disney, telling me how happy she was. Then there was the time Kassie, wore her Snow White dress for the first time in the parks and getting sick because she had an earache but didn't want to miss anything, and then seeing that dress again years later on her sisters.

There was the trip to Fort Myers where we all went para-sailing, or in Jamaica where the twins and I (now 13 years old) went bobsledding through a rain forest. The car adventure to Chicago, or the look of awe on their faces when they stood beside a sequoia tree in California. Then there was having an alcoholic drink legally with my oldest daughter now, while we were in Cozumel, Mexico....boy I felt old. Memories from vacations tend to stick with us. They are times when we forget our everyday stresses, and just enjoy each others company. All my vacations have countdowns and are something that keeps me going when things are rough.

My vacations with my kids are changing, but I can't see them ever ending. That is our time to connect and I won't give them up easily :)

Making memories is what it is all about!

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

Come join us on Facebook for information on travel, sales, fun games, contests, triva and more...Click the Facebook logo at the bottom of this page!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Dilema of packing for a family vacation

Gone are the days of sitting on your suitcase to close it. New flight regulations, and now paying for carry-on luggage have made "packing light" the cool new catch phrase. Whether you're traveling overseas or driving to Grandma's for a visit , packing can be a major pain in the tushy.  If you're traveling with toddlers, tweens or teens, think small, think smart, and take stuff you can layer.

Now with new regulations, people try to fit everything into carry-ons, that must fit into those little metal containers as you board. Often times, if you are at the end of your line boarding, your bag ends up getting checked because so many people have multiple carry-on bags that they put in the overhead compartment. With all that in mind.....

1) Always pack medicines, first aide kit, and one change of clothes in each person's carry-on. If going on a beach vacation add your bathing suit to that list. Just in case your luggage gets lost you have a change of clothes and your medicine.

2) Make a  list of everything you think your family will need. Put the list away and when you come back to it, knock off at least ten items you don't need. Remove anything you can buy cheaply at your destination as well as wishful thinking items, such as the extra book you won't read. 

3) Plan your outfits. You will save a tremendous amount of space by planning one outfit per day, per family member. Items like jeans can be used for multiple days. To save space roll the entire outfit together. Pants, then shirt, with underwear and socks on the inside.  Roll tightly to save space. Secure with belt, kerchief or other item that needs packing.  Save additional space by packing only one or two pajama outfits. Kids can wear the same t-shirt and shorts to bed.

4) Shoes are always difficult: heavy and bulky. Try to wear your heaviest/bulkiest pair on the plane. Try to limit yourself to 3 pairs: something comfortable for walking, a pair of sandals or flip flops, and something to wear with a more dressy outfit if needed!

5) With new modern-day regulations on what can be carried on, limit the toiletries you bring. Spend ten bucks at the store buying mini-shampoos and mini-deodorants. Give each person their own to carry in their luggage.

6) Child-size rolling suitcases are great as carry-on luggage. Kids love the added responsibility that an individual suitcase gives them.

7) Consider mailing a package with items you can't live without to your destination. You can mail yourself a package with toiletries, diapers, and other items. Just remember to put your name and date of check in right on the front of the package.


Pack jeans - they’re good for two maybe three wearings.

Textured or patternedfabrics don’t show spills or wrinkles. Avoid whites they will inevitably get stained, believe me I know :)

Take baggies, they are good for almost anything from holding tooth brushes, to snacks and the big ones for dirty clothes. 

Bring detergent tablets and do a load of laundry if needed. Most hotels have laundry facilities, or something near by.

Remember that if you DO forget something, chances are good that you can buy a replacement somewhere on your trip. Relax, and enjoy your family vacation.

Just in case pack a duffle bag in one of your bags, in case you need an extra bag in the way home :) 

 Christmas Cruise Sale!

Don't miss out! If you are interested in our group rate on the Navigator of the Seas for Christmas. Please click on the image below or call us!

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Christmas on the high seas!

Christmas Cruise Sale!!!

Second Star Travel has cabin reserved a special price starting at $729 plus a $50 on board credit for the Dec. 23 - Dec. 28th 2010 sailing of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Navigator of the Seas. The ship is absolutely gorgeous and I can say I have sailed her 3 times now and have loved every single time. The huge Christmas tree in the Promenade and Christmas decorations make the ship even more special. There are only limited cabins at these prices, because it is a Holiday sailing. Do not miss out!!! A $50 deposit holds the cabin and must be made by May 8th!

Grand Suite $1484 pp
E1 balcony  $1109 pp
E2 balcony  $1099 pp
D2 balcony  $1016 pp 
Promenade  $809 pp 
M Interior    $746 pp  
N Interior   $728 pp

Ship Facts  Maiden Voyage: December 14, 2002
Passenger Capacity: 3,114

Click on the Second Star Travel icon below to make your reservation NOW!!!
Or call 508-808-5995

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why use a travel agent.....

It is a common misconception that travel agents cost the consumer money. Unlike car salesmen our commission is paid by the travel company. The travel company pays a commission to the agent for the booking. So those internet companies are getting the commission for the work you did. Many times, you can get better deals with an agent than you can even find online, because they may be willing to lower their commission or work with a consortium not used by the online sites to find you a better deal.

Price isn't everything-
Your agent will get you the best deal out there. If you are going to save $30 on a flight, but have to get up a 3am...or have to stay at a hotel (negates the savings and then some) an extra night to get it, then it is not a bargain. It is also not a bargain if you scrimped $50 only to find out you could have gotten a much nicer place for those $50 more. A good travel agent will give you the best price for what YOU want...not what you will settle for. Nobody wants to pay more than necessary so an agent can find you the best value without the sacrifices of a cheap trip.

Your time is worth something. If you work, have children, have a life...your time is worth something. Do you want to sit and look at website after website trying to find the perfect location or deal? Or would you want someone to do it for you, at no extra cost to you?

Sure there is Orbitz and Expedia-
Yes, it is true that you may get a rock bottom price for a hotel or cruise on these sites, but what happens when you get to your destination and your hotel is sold out? Or your reservation is lost? Try getting a human being who cares on from one of those internet sites.  Or even getting someone at the sold out resort to help. As one traveler, the hotel or the cruise line does not care if it loses your business. It does care when an agent calls on your behalf. From a purely business perspective, a travel agent can send them either thousands of dollars, or none at all.

A travel agent also has better flexibility in payment terms over an online website that usually requires prepayment for their travel arrangements. Agents can often times hold space for a certain amount of time while sites can not. One very important  factor is that an agent can often make price adjustments when your price goes down between the time you book and the time you travel or pay in full depending on the vacation.

A travel agent-
Worth their weight in gold will stay with you from beginning to when you get home from your vacation. They will answer your questions, make your phone calls to the resorts, explain policies, and make sure you have the documents needed for your vacation. When you get back, they will most likely ask how it went. They will often add personal touches like bottles of wine, on board credits, or discount books to your vacation at no cost to you.

Travel agents have firsthand experience-
When you book on the Internet there is no real way to know exactly what you are getting. Descriptions are purposely vague. Photos can be distorted or chosen carefully to avoid undesirable items. User reviews are unreliable seeing as many positive reviews are fakes and even the negative ones need to be taken with a grain of salt. When you work with a good Travel Agent, not only have they probably been to the places they are recommending themselves, but they have established a trusting relationship the vendors they book for you and can usually apply a large amount of pressure to make things right if you are ever dissatisfied. Travel Agents know that they are staking their reputation and any future business on what they book for you and they take that very serious.

What travel agents dislike-
Customers who ask them for quotes only to run to the internet to book, because they are using you only for quotes to compare or use as leverage. Travel agents spend lots of time and energy creating those quotes essentially for nothing. Please only go ask for a quote if you intend to use an agent.

Though our agency is online we are home based. We are available via phone and fax with any questions you may have. Our agents will help you from your planning to welcoming you home from your trip. We will help you get the best price for your dream vacation, so please give us a call at 508-808-5995 or visit us online at www.secondstartravel.net

Thursday, April 8, 2010

First there was Spirit and now Ryan Air?

There has been an uproar over Spirit Air's charging of carry-on luggage, but this one takes the cake. Ryan Air, the Irish airline will be charging it's passengers 1 Euro or $1.33 to use their facilities. Yes, they want to encourage their passengers to use the potty before they board the plane. Thus changing their behavior, to use it less, which will enable them to remove two out of the three bathrooms, and add 6 more seats to their flights. The one bathroom on the flight will be coin operated, so bring the appropriate change :) According to Stephen McNamara, company spokesman these changes will come after the summer rush this year. To make matters worse the airline will increase it's checked baggage fees to between $22 and $30 per bag for the summer rush. This is also the airline who sells the smokeless cigarettes on their flights passengers 18 and older for 6 euros (about $8.72) on all flights. You may remember Ryan Air from last July, when they wanted to have "standing room only" section on their flights so they could fit more people on a flight.

Kayak has a great list of airlines and their fees...click the link below.

Would you continue to use Ryan Air with these changes? Do you think this is a smart economic move? Or do we just believe we should pay for less, and keep accepting this kind of thing.

Second Star Travel because today's vacations are tomorrow's memories! 
Contact us at 1-508-808-5995 or www.secondstartravel.net

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What is Spirit Air thinking? Carry-on fees.....

Spirit has just added up to $45 fee for your carry-on bags. Yes, you heard right the discount carrier will now charge you for your carry-on bags. Guess, they weren't getting enough from us for our check in bags! Effective immediately for travel on or after August 1. I should not have said anything about baggage in yesterdays post.
  • Personal item: Free (umbrella's, pocketbooks, laptop cases)
  • Carry-on bag, paid online; $9 fare club members: $20
  • Carry-on bag, paid online, on the phone, or at check-in; non-$9 fare club members: $30
  • Paid at the gate: $45
Items such as umbrellas, strollers, and car seats are also free.
Spirit is concurrently lowering its checked bag fees for $9 Fare Club member

First bag: Old fees $19 online/$25 airport; new fee: $15 domestic, $20 international, $45 checked at gate (domestic or international)  

Second bag: Old fee: $25 online or airport; new fee: $15 domestic, $20 international  

Third through fifth bag: Old fee: $100; new fee: $75 domestic, $80 international
    For non-members, some checked bag fees have actually gone up:
    • First bag: Old fees $19 online/$25 airport; new fee: $25 domestic, $30 international, $45 checked at gate (domestic or international)
    • Second bag: Old fee: $25 online or airport; new fee: $30 domestic or international
    • Third through fifth bag: Old fee: $100; new fee: $85 domestic, $90 international
    Bottom line: You will pay for bags on Spirit no matter what. This is obviously not a development many travelers will be happy to see, but hopefully the concept of carry-on fees stays relegated to the realm of the ultra-low-cost carrier.
    My question now is, why on earth would anyone fly Spirit?

    Second Star Travel because today's vacations are tomorrow's memories!

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    How do you save money on your flights?

    As fees multiply, fliers alter course

    Houston Chronicle

    April 2, 2010, 11:50PM

    Melissa Phillip Chronicle
    Travelers are thinking ahead to deal with the many airline fees they could end up paying. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Riley Webb prefers to sit in an airplane's exit row when he travels. At Bush Intercontinental Airport for a recent trip, he realized he had to pay $49 for that perk, and another $25 to check his suitcase. That's in addition to the $460 he paid for a round-trip ticket to Miami for a long weekend. “I'm more upset about having to pay for the exit row,” said Webb, of Houston.“That's ridiculous. A co-worker told me about it, and I thought he was kidding.”

    Airline fees, airport delays and long lines at security checkpoints have changed the way some people travel, and travelers are becoming more creative in how they pack and plan. Webb can't make himself any shorter, but passengers are finding ways to travel lighter. Schoolteacher Jessica Jackson managed to fit all of her belongings in a small carry-on by planning to use hotel shampoo, lotion, hair dryer and iron. And she wore a pair of brown and black heels that matched all of her outfits. “I wasn't used to being a light packer, but you can adjust some things,” said Jackson, who traveled to a two-day conference in Boston recently. “If I can, I avoid paying for baggage when I travel for work.”

    Many airlines now charge for pillows, blankets, movies and baggage. Houston's Continental Airlines recently started charging extra for the emergency row seats, with their extra legroom. And in the fall, it will start charging coach passengers for meals during most domestic flights. Such new revenue streams will bring airlines across the globe an extra $58 billion this year, for checking baggage, airport lounge access and booking car rentals, the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation reported in February. That's 12 percent of total airline revenue and double what airlines collected in ancillary fees in 2001.

    ‘Nickeled and dimed'

    But the fees can make passengers feel like victims of a practical joke in MTV's hidden camera series Punk'd, said Brandon Macsata, executive director of the Washington-based Association for Airline Passenger Rights. “It's almost like a sitcom. ‘Am I beingPunk'd and filmed during this experience?' ” said Macsata, who lugs a lot less in his carry-on bag these days, getting toothpaste and other toiletries from his hotel. “People feel like they are being nickeled and dimed.” College student Jeany Ngo has ditched her sneakers for smaller flats when she flies to San Francisco to visit relatives. A jacket she bought for snowboarding in Lake Tahoe stays behind with her aunt because it would take too much precious space in her carry-on bag. And she overstuffs her bag so much that sometimes it doesn't fit in the overhead compartment. “We're girls. We overpack,” said Ngo, a graphic designer. A few years ago, she would have checked a couple of bags . But she's scaled back.

    One bag free

    Most airlines still let passengers check one bag for free on international flights.
    When Christina Garza flew to Cancun recently for her nuptials, she carried her wedding dress on the plane, and she and her husband-to-be checked just one bag they shared. That way they could check a bag full of gifts and souvenirs on the way back. SmarterTravel.com executive editor Anne Banas said some passengers hire third-party shipping companies to send their luggage from their home to hotels and back. That's more expensive, but travelers can track their bags online and not have to drag them through airports and on shuttle vans.
    She likes the plethora of products available now to help the savvy packer, such as single-use toiletries in packets and specially designed carry-on bags. Fliers are also comparing not just ticket prices but baggage fees before they purchase tickets, Banas said. “They're kind of recalibrating what they consider as a favorite carrier,” she said. “Unfortunately, it's more work for the consumer. It's somewhat of a necessity if you want to get the best price.”

    To save money, Banas said, some travelers book vacation rentals with kitchens and washers and dryers instead of traditional hotel rooms. And some are taking another look at transportation alternatives. Peggy Clark and her son recently hauled their luggage and a flat screen television set with them during a trip from Houston to Tucson. Taking that gift to Clark's father for his 80th birthday would have been expensive if the two had flown. Instead, they rode an Amtrak train and avoided the baggage fees and airport hassles, Clark said. “I would definitely do it again,” said Clark, an office manager for a cat veterinarian. “It's kind of nostalgic.”

    Do you agree? What do you do to save money? Are you driving more? Shipping stuff ahead? Do you check airfares 3 times a day? Share with us...

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Last day wrap up (Navigator of the Seas day 4 and 5 trip report)

    Guess what disappeared again today? Give you 2 chances. If you guessed money, yeah you would be right, of course I spent money, but that isn't it! The sun was once again gone! It was cold and yucky, with no end in sight! Our stinky room smelled good, figures it was close to the end of the cruise...no problems there, thank goodness. We are getting used to and have started gathering the animals 2 by two..anyone know where we can get cheap lumber?

    Ok, so day 4 we watched the most incredible ventriloquist. His last name was Lucas, and if you can catch him on his regular gig at the Rio in  Las Vegas do so. He involved the audience, made us laugh, cheer and even cry. He told a story and had great characters, and if given the chance I would watch him a third time in Vegas. He was funny, entertaining and very PG, you could take anyone to this show. Go see him...do not miss it, and I will look it up and post his name when I find my Compass. Who knows where I have put them.

    We were only 1 number short and the first people to stand for the BIG bingo game. It was a fill the card final game and we were missing one number for the longest time, and did not win! Oh well, better luck next time! Below is what a winning machine would look like. The person in charge pressed something before the game started and everyone's machines gave a winning message. To bad it wasn't real :(

    We went shopping. Now here is something that all experienced cruisers know. The cruise line discounts everything the night before the last night, and puts it on the promenade. Anything on the promenade the 2nd night will be on sale the last night for cheap. Everyone thinks it is a clearance thing, but it is the same stuff every cruise, so wait on those t-shirts and some of the costume jewelry you see on sale there. Also, get your last minute alcohol or cheap cigarettes.

    The last night of the cruise is tip night. One thing people need to know is that the people who provide a service for you on the cruise are not getting huge salaries. They are making more on tips than wages. Many of them are shipping this money home to family. Our waiter James was from India and had a wife and kids at home. He had been on the ship for 2 year and was planning on staying for two more. His kids were 3.5 and 1.5 years old.  He has seen very little of them only when he has gone home on leave, but this is the only way his family can survive right now. Please do not skip the tip for these people. They work very hard for their tips, and they really do make cruises special! Every cruise line leaves a suggestion of what to pay. If the service is good, leave that. If the service was exceptional leave them more! These people really do earn their tips!

    We said goodbye to our table mates on the last night. I was going to post a picture of all of us, but I have not heard from them, so I do not want to post the picture without their permission! Hope they read this! We really enjoyed their company.

    So, on the last morning we woke up and said goodbye to our awesome corner balcony room!  Above is the picture of Miami at 5 am in the morning. If you can get one, it is well worth the extra steps to the back of the ship! The balcony is huge and perfect if you have 4 people in the room! We will be back, hopefully for the Oasis in the next 2 years.We took our own luggage off and off we went to Disney! Yes, of course it was pouring all the way to Orlando! As usual we checked into the Swan Hotel in Disney World! If you are a teacher check out their teacher rates!!!!

    Will be back with the Disney portion of our trip....hope you are enjoying!

    Next cruise is the Norwegian Epic July 2-4 for the inaugural cruise out of NY!!!!