PRESENTING THE WORLD’S MOST COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL Q&A
Please note that all of your questions are color-coded for easy access (latest questions appear at top)
All travel questions not related to cruises or riverboats appear in Red.
All cruise related questions appear in Blue
All riverboat related questions appear in Green
- WHEN WE SEE A TWO-FOR-ONE CRUISE OFFER IS IT LEGIT?
Q – I am sorry – but your industry seems to lack any ethical foundations when it comes to marketing cruises and other types of vacation offerings. We are AARP Members, belong to one of the nicer golf clubs in Ohio, and we donate our time to numerous charities. As a result, we are inundated with mail and e-mails offers the vast majority of which really insult our intelligence. Sometimes I wonder if it is deliberate. But the one that brings about my question is the offer received from two different cruise lines that indicated that if I would only call them, I could get two-for-one pricing – meaning my wife can join me for free. As a former CFO, I smell a rat. What should I be thinking when I receive a two-for-one cruise offer?
A – You should be thinking that your intelligence is being insulted. The assumption of most travel advertising is that the travel consumer is a dimwit who can be told virtually anything about pricing. The industry is built on a foundation of misinformation and manipulation. You are not supposed to understand cruise pricing.
Before a pricing brochure is finalized, cruise executives determine the actual price they need to put on each stateroom category to realize the kinds of profits they need to generate. They take that price and double it. They then advertise 2-1 pricing. The Top Ten Cruise lines, the real ones, tend to raise their pricing every 90 days while creating new offers designed to make the consumer feel good about paying more – they may raise prices and then throw in one or two free shore excursions or gratuities.
The secret for the consumer is to fully understand the real price formula every potential cruiser needs to know. We have mentioned this before in one of our responses – but here is the secret to understanding cruise pricing:
Use the same mathematical formula each time you consider a cruise: Take the minimum unobstructed outside stateroom and remove the port charges and the air from the total cost. Then, take the total cost and divide it by the number of nights you will spend on the ship.
This will give you a per diem price with the “applesauce” removed. Use this formula each time you look at a cruise to determine the real cost of your cruise. You can decide if the air is a good deal separately. We actually have a client who has used this formula for years and, based on the outcome, he decided to book a 72-Day Grand Voyage based on the low per diem costs.
- OUR FRIENDS MAY JOIN US IN EGYPT – BUT HOW TO DO THIS WELL
Q – We have some wonderful friends who have indicated they will join us on something like a ten-day Nile cruise/tour in Egypt. We are well-traveled, as our friends, but they like to travel independently and a group tour may be a tough sell. I have heard from returning friends that Cairo and the Pyramids, along with Luxor were packed with tourist buses. We will want to avoid some of that by going in the off-season. Is there a time when tourism in Egypt really slows down? Do you recommend we try to convince our friends not to do Egypt on our own?
A – The “off-season” in Egypt is May-September, their summer. Summer in Egypt is no picnic and we do not suggest you visit during days of physically challenging heat. Prime Season is November through March. A good compromise might be shoulder months of April, September, or October.
Since there will be four of you, we would normally urge you to consider a private journey. The price when you are joined by one or two additional couples makes private travel somewhat more affordable. But in this case, you will want to be on a Nile River Cruise with other people and you will want to go to the most popular tourist sites. So “getting away from the crowds” is far more challenging.
It seems to us that your best option is going to be a small group journey with fewer than 20 fellow guests. We think that Abercrombie & Kent, a company with a strong presence in Egypt, is the first company to consider. But there are several other good Egypt operators including Tauck and National Geographic.
Egypt is one of the “UIP” countries (Upgrade If Possible). You really want to avoid three and four-star hotels. Egypt is also known for having a surplus of non-certified guides.
Finally, we would suggest that your friends try to understand that independent touring is not what it once was – independent travelers often believe what they are being told on internet travel sites and apps. The fact is that the independent traveler receives few of the price breaks enjoyed by upscale travelers on group programs. “Independent Travel” now carries a real additional cost on virtually every component of a trip. Given security issues, we think that you need to travel with a company that has on-the-ground staff in-country when traveling to Egypt.
- Headed to Athens from Omaha: But Where to Connect?
Q – So pleased that our pediatrician told us about this site. But the lack of ads is scaring us. Won’t you go broke soon?
So here is my question: We are going on a wonderful Explora 1 Cruise next summer that begins in Athens and ends in Barcelona. I don’t worry about the return but my schedule is such that I will only have one day in Athens before we board. I don’t want anything to go wrong. Should we connect through Newark, JFK, or Boston Logan? Do you feel strongly that our chances for a hassle-free flight connection over are going to be better from one or the other? We would be looking at American or United most likely.
A – In this case, don’t worry about the airport. Ideally, we want you to have a two and a half hour connection and we would prefer if you left before midnight. You might also consider the type of aircraft on the East Coast to Athens segment. If you are flying Business you will want lie-flat seats. If possible, avoid flying the 767 as there are now roomier options. Consider adding Philadelphia to your list of options as American is turning it into a major international hub. If you want to go crazy, you might want to look up back-up flights – as in what can you fly if you miss your connection.
There is also arrival time. If you arrive in Athens at 7:00 am and get to your hotel by, say, 9:30, it is highly unlikely that your room will be ready.
As to our consumer-oriented, ad-free approach: No worries. We all have day jobs. We do this work out of a sincere desire to provide at least one source of truthful information for the intelligent traveler. It helps us sleep at night.
Just to cross our t’s on our response: Do consider shipping your luggage from home to your hotel. And please seriously consider using a reputable flight monitoring service so if there is a hiccup they will be by your side via app. to re-book you on the best available option. These are two specific things savvy travelers do when there are questionable connections on the horizon.
Please let us know how this all turns out including your time aboard Explora, the new, upscale division of MSC Cruises.
- CAN YOU GUARANTEE ROMANCE IN FRANCE?
Q – We have been going up and back with two travel agents, one online, to plan a one week stay somewhere in France in a wonderful village setting. There are some great hotels but then we would need to drive or be driven to the local village. We are both educators, I am a High School Principal. Our time is somewhat limited as we plan for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We’ve been saving for this trip and price is not a huge consideration. If possible we want to avoid Paris and other cities and just stay in a great hotel smack in the middle of a lovely village. But we also want great service and food that we will never forget.
So far, we are being given names in Provence and along the French Riviera. We just started reading this web site and we feel that your backgrounds may point us in the right direction. We do have a relationship with one of the agents who we have met with twice but you can convince us to work with you on this truly important trip. Thank you in advance and know that we appreciate the total lack of insulting travel drivel.
A – This is, of course, an opinion question and we are at a disadvantage as we have never spoken and we would want to know more about you before making a final recommendation. But, based on what you have told us, we strongly urge you to consider the Hotel Bastide de Gordes. Gordes is a commune in the Vaucluse département in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. The residents are known as Gordiens. The nearest big city is Avignon; smaller cities nearby include Cavaillon, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Apt .
The hotel is among the finest we have ever experienced and the village has been named France’s “Prettiest”. The hotel is on the main street with terraces out back that overlook a magnificent scene of hills and old stone villages. The extraordinary staff all speak English and the food is Michelin + quality.
We appreciate your kind offer of possibly working with us but we would urge you to be loyal to the agent who you met with two times. We have been in business for 38 years with a following in 46 states and 6 countries – there is no need for us to use this consumer site to solicit or even seek new business.
Whatever you do in France, thank you both for your service to our kids and have a memorable second honeymoon.
- SAME SUSHI RULES IN BOCA RATON AS IN LONDON’S WEST END?
Q – Love that you are including some food and restaurant information on traveltruth. We hope you will feature more. My wife and I are head off to London in mid-August. We will be staying at the Lanesborough, a hotel I would think you would recommend. We have booked it directly with the hotel and so we will be expecting the refund for booking direct when we check out.
But our questions concerns sushi. My wife and I love sushi restaurants – I would say that Nobu is our favorite restaurant group in all our travels and, of course, they have one and many like them in London. But here in Boca, most of us are smart enough to stay away from raw fish in mid-summer when the temperatures are so high and food handling of fresh fish becomes problematical. Would you be afraid to order sushi at Nobu in August in London or any other high quality restaurant in London? We are recommending this site to all our friends. Keep it up – but more food Q&A.
A – Interesting question. We feel that you can trust the food handling at Nobu worldwide. When it comes to other London sushi restaurants we would urge caution about dining on raw fish mid-summer when real temps may be above 100 degrees. That requires a lot of faith not only in the sushi chef but in the the system of receiving and storing newly arrived fresh fish supplies during a heat wave. Sushi is a gastronomic leap of faith at the best of times. We think your question is relevant and we would urge some level of caution. One rule of thumb recommended by some experts is always avoid eating raw fish between May and September while traveling in a heat zone.
But allow us to also suggest that you should also consider that fresh fish standards in Great Britain, are higher than they are in the United States as a result of stricter government regulation and, of course, proximity to the sea. We would not, personally, hesitate to order sushi at a top-grade Japanese restaurant in London mid-summer. You might want to request a selection from “your last fresh fish delivery”.
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