Monthly Archives: February 2009

US Airways Reinstates Complimentary Beverages

Score one for the people! US Airways announced yesterday that it’s reversing its decision to charge for non-alcoholic beverages aboard its flights. The airline had started charging for drinks, even water, in June of last year. At that time, it also announced charges for checked baggage and increased other fees.

Doug Parker, US Airways Chairman, announced yesterday:

“We are firmly committed to the a la carte model and believe it’s the right one for our business. It is also a work in progress – US Airways was the only large network carrier to charge for drinks and that put us at a disadvantage.”

What disadvantage is he referring to? Usually when an airline makes a change that impacts travelers negatively, it expcts the competition to to the same. It hapenned this way when American decided to charge for checking bags; it happened this way when Delta cut travel agent commissions; and it happens this way when they increase fares in a particular market. They hope the competition follows suit or that the public does not complain too much. When that doesn’t happen, they often back down and reverse the changes.

That’s why it’s important that us, as consumers, voice our opinions strongly when we don’t agree with the changes being made. If we don’t say anything, they stick. If we do, we have a chance. This is exactly what happened when United tried to charge for meals on international flights. Their letter specifically mentioned customer response as one of the reasons for backing out the charges.

If you’re tired of being nickel-and-dimed by the airlines, let them know. By the way, Southwest remains the only airline to not charge the fees added by the others last year.  No fees for checking bags or for reserving by phone.

What do you think about all these charges?
Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

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Major US Tour Operator Cancels Dubai Programs

It’s not often that a company places principles over profit. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I received the following e-mail:

New York, February 16 2009:

One of America’s largest tour operators, New York-based IsramWorld has canceled its tour programs to Dubai, it was announced today in the wake of the United Arab Emirates’ decision to deny a visa to Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, to participate in the Dubai Tennis Championships.

“The UAE’s action is an odious act of political bigotry, says A. Ady Gelber, president and CEO of IsramWorld, a leading U.S. tour operator for more than four decades and a leading member of USTOA (the United States Tour Operators’ Association), “and it reveals that despite its massive investment in tourism infrastructure, Dubai appears not ready to be a member of the world tourism family.”

IsramWorld offers tours and packages to 56 countries on five continents. In the wake of the Camp David Accords it was one of the first U.S. tour operators to offer a diverse program of tours to Egypt, and in 1994 it began offering tours to Jordan, “I am deeply disappointed in the UAE’s decision, one that seems to spell a return to the grim dark days of division and discrimination,” observed Gelber.

The Dubai Tennis Championships are sponsored by Barclays, Britain’s fourth-biggest bank that in 2008 acquired the assets of failed US investment bank, Lehman Brothers.

According to a report in today’s New York Times, when U.S. tennis champion, Venus Williams, learned of Peer’s visa denial she said, “All the players support Shahar, we are all athletes, and we stand for tennis.” Peer and her family urged the Women’s Tennis Association not to cancel the tournament because of the incident but, the New York Times took an unusually strong position in its article on the controversy, saying: “ There is always going to be international conflict, and athletes in the middle. But they can’t be abandoned there when there is a choice. Tennis should finish its business in the gulf this month, and say bye-bye, Dubai.”

“We’re saying ‘bye-bye, Dubai,’ right now,” Gelber added.

Shahar Peer

Isram is a major tour operator to the Middle East. It also operates in Europe, the Far East, and Latin America. I’ve worked with them in the past and they offer an excellent product with great service.  They even offer some tours to Israel in Spanish, and a series of Elite Collection programs for upscale travelers.

On the same subject, I read in another blog that The Tennis Channel refused to broadcast the tournament over the same incident. This was also reported by the New York Times.

I’m eager to see what the WTA‘s reaction is going to be. I hope they do the right thing and pull out of Dubai.

What are your thougths on this?
Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Pay 4, Stay 7 Nights at Walt Disney World

There’s no doubt Walt Disney World and the other Disney parks in Orlando are one of the country’s most popular attractions.  Those of us who live in Florida are lucky to be able to drive to Orlando and take a weekend vacation to Disney. For those coming from farther away, it’s more practical to make it a week’s vacation.

Disney is now making it easier than ever to do just that. They have extended their Buy 4, Get 3 Free package for travel until mid-August. The way it works is that by buying a 4-night, 4-day non-discounted Magic Your Way Package, you get an additional 3 days for free! The Magic Your Way Package includes Disney tickets, and so your tickets for the 3 extra days are also free.

Disney Buy 4 Get 3 Free Flyer

Disney Buy 4 Get 3 Free Flyer

Not only that, but if you stay at the Disney’s Old Key West Resort or Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, you will receive a $100 Disney Gift Card** (available for arrivals beginning March 30 – April 1 and April 19 – Aug. 15, 2009).

If that’s not enough, you can also stay at one of 24 off-Disney participating hotels and take advantage of the same promotion. Participating hotels range from a Holiday Inn Express and the Lake Buena Vista Comfort Inn, to the luxurious Disney Swan and Disney Dolphin Resorts.  Off-Disney hotel stays are only available until June 27th.

These packages have to be booked by March 29th, and are subject to limited availability and black out dates.  Also, there are several options for Disney tickets. I can help you figure what the best option for you and your family is.
Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Aruba is Full of Action this Year

Last week, I wrote about Grand Cayman, one of the most popular Caribbean ports of call. Today I want to give you some information on another very popular island, Aruba.

Aruba is the smallest of the so called ABC islands (the other two are Bonaire and Curacao). They are part of the Netherland Antilles, and one of their main advantages is that the lie below the Caribbean’s “Hurricane belt”. This means the probability of a hurricane hitting the islands is much less than in the rest of the Caribbean.

Despite being the smallest of the 3 islands, Aruba is by far the more popular among tourists. Its main draw is the white sand beaches along part of its Western and Southern shores. Areas like Eagle Beach and Palm Beach offer a variety of accommodations, and they are just North of the island’s capital or Oranjestad. They also offer water based activities such as parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, etc.

For those accustomed to an active lifestyle, Aruba offers an excellent variety of restaurants, nightclubs and casinos, as well as shopping.

For nature lovers, there is a bird sanctuary, a butterfly farm, caves, natural pools, sand dunes, rock formations, and natural bridges. Even though the most famous natural bridge collapsed in 2005, there are several other bridges worth a look.

The Aruba Tourism Authority has released its calendar of events for the rest of the year. They are a wonderful excuse to plan a visit to the island around events of particular interest. Some of the more interesting are:

  • March: National Anthem and Flag Day features folkloric productions and sporting events
  • April: 49th RBTT International Boulevard Race, with over 200 competitors from several countries
  • May: Soul Beach Music Festival, a 2-night concert series. Past performers include Sean Paul, Chaka Khan, Boys II Men, Alicia Keys and Brian McKnight
  • May: The Food & Wine Festival coincides with the Soul Beach Music Festival.
  • June: 24th Aruba’s International Triathlon, featuring more than 100 competitors
  • July: One of the earliest forms of voluntourism, the 16th annual Reef Care Project allows over 800 participants to clean the islands most popular beaches, dive and snorkel sites, and raise awareness for the need for a clean marine environment
  • August: Pro-Am Golf Tournament
  • September: Aruba Poker Classic & Blackjack Tournament, no limits with over a million dollars in prices
  • October: 8th Aruba Music Festival. Past performers include Pat Benatar, the Doobie Brothers, Chicago, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Gloria Estefan, etc.
  • November: Aruba Catamaran Regatta

Given the economic situation, it’s easier to find deals at several hotels. Some of the good news from hotels are:

  • The Westin Aruba Resort has upgraded its All Inclusive plan to include room service, the Westin Kids Club, beach palapas, and an off-site dining credit to sample some of the local restaurants.
  • The Aruba Marriott has completed a $50 million renovation that includes all rooms, restaurant additions, and overhaul of the lobby and reception area.
  • The new Three for Free Package from Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino offers a fifth night free, a complimentary one-category room upgrade and full breakfast for two daily. Guests using an American Express Card to pay for their room will receive the added bonus of a special welcome amenity upon check-in and complimentary late check-out. The Three for Free package offers a 25 percent savings, and is available for stays now through March 31.
  • Another package deal for the Hyatt Regency offers up to 35% off room rates when booked by March 31st when booked in conjunction with American Airlines flights.

If you want to learn more about Aruba, or would like to look at the possibility of taking a vacation there, feel free to contact us. We’ll work with you to make sure your vacation is all you want it to be.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Resort Credits in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is one of the most popular Caribbean ports. There are few Western Caribbean itineraries that don’t call on the island. As is the case with most cruises, the stop does not allow enough time to see everything there is to see, and to really experience the island.

A lot of the activities in Grand Cayman revolve around its Seven Mile Beach (which is actually 5 and half miles long) and the sea surrounding the island. Perhaps the island’s most famous attraction is Stingray City, where children and adults jump into waist high water and feed the very friendly stingrays.

The island offers many more more activities,  both on land and in the sea. In addition to Stingray City, the Caymans are world renowned for the snorkeling and scuba diving it offers along the shore. For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, there are many possibilities as well:

  • Play (and learn about) sea turtles at Boatswain’s Beach
  • Visit the Pedro St. James Historic Site
  • Stroll around Georgetown (and perhaps do some shopping), the island’s capital, and visit its craft market. The Cayman Islands are duty free, so bargains on many things can be found.
  • Go to Hell (yes, to Hell) and send a postcard back home from there. Learn about why it’s called that while you’re there
  • Go birdwatching in one of the 7 protected bird sanctuaries, including the Q.E. II Botanical Park, or hiking along Mastic Trail, and look for the native wildlife and different varieties of trees and plants.

To make it easier on the wallet to visit Grand Cayman, some hotels are offering up to $100 in resort credit per night. All you have to do is show your airline boarding pass when you check in, and you will be able to use your credit towards food, drinks, activities, etc. The hotels offering this promotion include the Ritz Carlton, perhaps the best hotel on the island, but there are at least 7 more options to choose from. Some restrictions, including minimum stay requirements, apply, so contact me for details and to book this promotion. By the way, it is valid only until March 14th for travel until the end of April.

So go warm yourself up in Grand Cayman!

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Royal Caribbean Profits Down 98%

Royal Caribbean reported this week that 4th quarter earnings were down 98% compared to the previous year.  It’s not a surprise that earnings would be lower. With the economy as it is, many companies are seeing sales go down. People have declared that 2009 will be the Year of the Deal, where travel is concerned. Cruise cabins, just as hotel rooms and airline seats, are time sensitive products. Once the ship has sailed, well, the ship has sailed. Conventional wisdom is that some revenue is better than none, and so prices go down to at least put some people in those rooms and cabins.

In the case of cruises, sailing full is even more relevant because cruise passengers add to the line’s income by spending money onboard.  In fact, USA Today states that Royal Caribbean gets 25% of their revenue from on board spending. All the more reason to discount the price of the cabin to get people to spend on board!

Royal Caribbean has acknowledged the need to lower prices, as have most other cruise lines. However, CEO Richard Fain has said that he’d rather have empty cabins and not sacrifice prices to levels that would be artificially low. Through the last couple of years, Royal Caribbean has been able to keep prices up compared to competing lines like Carnival and Princess, mainly because of the high demand the Freedom class ships get.  Even so, I have clients sailing on the new Independence of the Seas in April for less than $700 per person, for 13 days, including all taxes (and there are even lower prices available!).

In addition, Royal Caribbean is offering reduced deposits until February 28th. Celebrity Cruises, also owned by Royal Caribbean, has a similar promotion, but they are offering up to $300 on-board credit with many sailings as well.  You can read my review of their newest ship, Solstice, and see the details below and contact us for more information or to book your cruise:

Amazing Ships, Amazing Perks

Feel free to contact us for details on these promotions, or to plan your next vacation.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171