Monthly Archives: April 2009

Swine Flu in Mexico

By now you’ve most likely heard about the swine flu epidemic in Mexico, and to a lesser extent, in the U.S. So, what do you do if you have plans to travel to Mexico? First, check often for updated from the CDC and the State Department.

At this time, the CDC is recommending that people avoid non essential travel to Mexico. In general, you should also follow the CDC’s recommendations for avoiding catching the desease:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid contact with sick people.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Some airlines, such as Continental, Delta, United, American, and others, have relaxed their change and cancelation policies for people traveling to and from Mexico. Some tour operators I work with, like Travel Impressions and  Funjet Vacations, are also working with customer who want to reschedule or cancel their upcoming trips to that country.

Moreover, classes at all levels have been suspended across the country, and the American Embassy has suspended all but the most essential services. This clearly is proof of how serious people are taking this outbreak.

At this time, however, no cruise line has announced plans to alter itineraries that call on Mexican ports, but they have indicated that measures will be taken to reduce the chance of outbrakes on their ships.

If you are (or were) planning a trip to Mexico, please comment on how this epidemic is affecting your plans.

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

Deployment News

This past couple of weeks, there have been several newsworthy press releases from several cruise lines, announcing very interesting developments on their 2010-1011 ship deployments:

  • Royal Caribbean will base it’s Freedom Class Independence of the Seas year-round in the U.K. in 2010. Cruise lines have typically limited their European season to the months between April and November. Independence joins Brilliance of the Seas as the only Royal Caribbean ships based in Europe all year. Independence’s Winter season will visit the Italian Rivera, the Sorrento and Naples areas,  and the Balearic islands. Sailings for the 2010 Winter season go on sale this June.
  • Also from Royal Caribbean, year-round Caribbean sailings on 5 ships from 4 ports. Serenade of the Seas expands season sailings from San Juan to the whole year. Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, Independence’s older sisters, will continue to alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Port Canaveral (close to Orlando) and Miami respectively. Finally, the new Oasis of the Seas, and its sister, Allure of the Seas, will sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. These two will be the biggest cruise lines in the world and will offer an incredible host of amenities.
  • Princess Cruises has revamped and simplified its Alaska itineraries. Princess is recognized as one of the best cruise lines for Alaska. They will now offer 4 different itineraries aboard 7 ships. They will include more sailings through Glacier Bay National Park, and will include sailings on the smaller Royal Princess, whose size allows to visit some smaller ports.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines is basing it’s newly refurnished Carnival Fantasy in Mobile for 7 night Western Caribbean sailings. The new cruises visit Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The seven-day voyages complement the line’s four- and five-day schedule from Mobile on the Holiday. Carnival Fantasy underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation last year that included the addition of the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, new Serenity adults-only retreat and redesigned tropical-themed main pool area.
  • Celebrity Cruises is basing its newly refurbished Century, one of their most popular ships, in the Caribbean year-round. Century will alternate 5 and 4 day sailings, which give new cruises an ideal way to experience what cruising, and especially Celebrity cruising, is all about.
  • Azamara Cruises is deploying the Azamara Journey next Winter season with cruises from Miami and San Diego, as well as 2 full Panama Canal transits between these 2 ports. From Miami, Journey will visit ports such as St. John, St. Croix, Saint Martin, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Barts, Virgin Gorda, St. Lucia andDominica. The San Diego cruises will focus on ports in the Sea of Cortez, such as Mazatlán, Topolobampo, Loreto, Guaymas and La Paz. Panama Canal sailings will add Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; and Huatulco, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to the itinerary

These new offerings give options to every type of traveler, from the relax of a Caribbean cruise to the exploring opportunities on a European voyage. And this year, prices can’t be better. If you’d like to explore the opportunities available, please contact me and we’ll work together on planning the perfect cruise.

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

Photo Workshop in St. Lucia

For those of you who share my 2 hobbies of travel and photography, this is a great opportunity. Anse Chastenet resort, in the island of St. Lucia, is offering a photo workshop with renowned photographer Joe McNally, and a special session with Scott Kelby, a Photoshop expert.  The week will be an informative, intensive look at the possibilities of small flash, and the nature of what is beautiful light and how to use it to make your pictures more eloquent and expressive. Each day will involve shooting all around the lush grounds of the resort, working with models, heading into jungle locations for action flash photography of mountain biking. During the “bad light” of the day, classroom sessions will take place discussing the theory and the practical use of flash photography. Each day of shooting will be followed the next day with a critique of the efforts in the field. The critique sessions will spur further investigation of the practical, fluid use of flash photography and how to improve your skills.

Kelby will finish up the workshop with a session on post-production skills, bringing the photographic experience to a full circle.

For those of you not familiar with St. Lucia, the island offers not only the beautiful beaches you expect in the Caribbean, but also a lush interior landscape, thanks to its volcanic origin. The omnipresent Pitons, perhaps one of the most recognizable sights in the Caribbean, provide a backdrop for framatic landscapes.

The island also offers vibrant towns with a rich cultural heritage, a variety of hiking trails, horseback riding, and even turtle and whale watching.

The workshop starts on July 5th and costs $1500 per person, and the 6-night package at Anse Chastenet costs $1475 per person, based on double occupancy. It includes round trip transfers, all meals, taxes, and service.

If you’d like more information on the workshop, or just on visiting St. Lucia, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll be happy to help you plan your St. Lucia 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

The Value of Using a Travel Agent

I often hear arguments for and against using a true professional travel agent, as opposed to relying on the Internet or booking directly with a cruise line, hotel, or tour operator. Last week I had an experience that underscored the importance a travel agent can have. It was such a textbook example, that John Frenaye, a noted columnist who is also a travel agent, wrote a column about the ordeal. You can read the complete column at TRO.

For those who want the (slightly) abridged version, here it goes:

Book your travel online! The Internet will put the travel agents out of business. I’m in a MLM, so just go to my website and book your travel. How many times have you heard these, or similar, phrases over the past decade?  Well, travel agents are still around, and believe it or not they are still kicking. People often will question what a travel agent can do for a consumer when the Internet claims to solve every travel woe. Well, one thing the Internet will never have is the personal connection to the client; and more importantly for the client—a personal connection with other agents and suppliers.

… the point of this column is to demonstrate how a good relationship between client, agent and vendor should work. And we offer a huge pat on the back to Royal Caribbean for allowing this particular voyage to stay afloat.

Last week, Enrique Brener of KC Travel in North Miami Beach, FL ran into a problem that would make anyone’s head spin.  Enrique had a client on the April 12, 2009 trans Atlantic crossing of the Independence of the Seas. His client had two Passports and had pre-registered for the cruise using a Polish Passport (since no Visa would be required to enter Europe), yet was traveling on a Peruvian Passport (used to enter the United States). Once at sea, the passenger was told he was in violation of immigration laws and would be disembarked in Ponta Delgada (first port of call) and potentially fined $10,000.  The ship confiscated his Passports. On April 13th, the passenger emailed Enrique from the ship with his urgent SOS.

At 8:48 am Enrique posted his dilemma and by 8:55 am he had the contact information he needed to get the ball rolling at Royal Caribbean, US Immigrations, and UK Immigrations.

At 9:20 am, he contacted Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales and left a voice mail followed by an email message. At 9:40 am, Vicki was in touch asking what she could do to help. She advised she was not the right person, but was going to make sure to bring it to the person who could resolve it.

At 10:00 am, she sent another message to Enrique that Sebastian Drakolovich, Director of Guest Services had been in touch with the ship and was working on it. Shortly after 10:00 am, Sebastian emailed and advised that the passenger would not be disembarked or fined; however, they would not be allowed to disembark in the UK for lack of the proper Visas on the Peruvian Passport. Enrique pressed the issue that the passenger also held a Polish Passport and should be allowed to disembark. Sebastian advised he would research further and get back in touch.

At 12:35 pm, Enrique received the following email from Sebastian:

Since our last e-mail, the ship has been working with the UK immigration teams and has come up with the following solution. “The issues with the dual citizenship guest onboard ID has been working out with UK immigration.  The ship will take him into the UK without penalty and without Independence having to change his nationality during the voyage. The guest will have no issues at this time.

…To put this in perspective, a professional agent, was able to utilize his network and expertise to resolve this issue in 3 hours and 40 minutes! In 3 hours and 40 minutes, the client went from being thrown off a ship mid-voyage and facing an exorbitant fine to relaxing on his balcony without a care in the world because of the professionalism of his agent and the relationship the agent had with a supplier.

The end result, the passenger had a few tense hours for sure, but is now enjoying his cruise on the Independence of the Seas.

So, what is the takeaway for the consumer? For all but the simplest transactions, utilizing a trained, professional travel agent is your best bet. Even if there is a small service fee or retainer involved. This particular passenger sees it as a $10,000 savings! And remember, although your travel professional may not have personally visited a specific destination or sailed on a particular itinerary, paying a small fee for his knowledge and more importantly his network can indeed be priceless. The Internet will not provide this capability, nor will any of the Card Mill or MLM agencies — you can bet on that!

From TRO, we offer huge kudos to Royal Caribbean, Vicki Freed, Sebastian Drakolovich, and the many other unnamed people that were involved. Don’t worry about the Hokey Pokey—THIS is what it is all about!

Credit goes to John for his help and for writing the column. There’s not much more I can add to that. If you’d like me to help you plan and set up your next trip, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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

Eating for Free at Disney World

Back in February, I wrote about the best offer I’ve seen from Disney in a long time. Although not as good, their new offer still provides great value, especially for families. Now, when you stay at some of the Disney hotel for 5 nights or more, you get the Disney Dining plan for free.  Of course, you also get:

  • The convenience of staying at a Disney hotel, with transportation to and from the parks
  • The use of Disney Express transportation to and from the Orlando airport
  • Tickets for the parks (Magic Your Way base tickets, that can be upgraded to Park Hoppers and No Expiration tickets)

The dining plan includes (for each night staying at the hotel):

  • 1 Table Service Meal (buffet or entree and dessert plus a non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 Quick Service Meal (an entree or combo, plus dessert, plus a non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 snack

A typical price for a family of 4 for 5 nights is $1390. That’s less than $70 per person per night, which is really a bargain, considering just the cost of the tickets. The tickets included are the standard ones that allow guests to visit one park per day. I would recommend upgrading to the Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to move between parks in the same day.

Disney Free Dining Offer

This offer is valid for travel most nights between August 16th and October 3rd and must be booked by June 31st. There’s a limited number of rooms available for this package every day, so book early! If you’d like more information, or would like us to help you book, please contact us.

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