This is a re-broadcast of a July 13, 2015 “Travel Minute”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines recently slid its newest cruise ship into the water for testing. When it goes into service next May, it’ll be the world’s largest cruise ship. But is it too large?
You won’t believe how many people this behemoth called “Harmony of the Seas” can carry: 6,360 passengers plus a crew of 2,100. That’s one big ship. It’s longer than the Eiffel Tower laid sideway–164 feet longer.
I presume Royal Caribbean knows how to provide fine service to 6,000 passengers—they do own the two largest other cruise ships right now—but when I posted details of the ship recently on Facebook, the overwhelming response was, “I’ll pass on this monster” or “World’s biggest nightmare.”
To help passengers navigate the “Harmony of the Seas,” it’s divided into “neighborhoods” whose architecture should help orient folks. Those neighborhoods include “Central Park,” “Boardwalk,” “the Royal Promenade” as well as a “Sports Zone” and a “Youth Zone.”
Add 20 dining options, multi-story water slides, two rock-climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a zip line, and a full-size basketball court, and, well, there you have it. It’ll be fascinating to read passenger reviews when the “Harmony of the Sea” sets sail.
Frontier is known as a no-frills airline, but it’s adding 12 of these new seats to its Airbus 320s and 319s this summer, though I’m not sure why it’s not making every middle seat wider.
Wait—maybe I do know. The airline is making room for the seats by moving lavatories further back in the plane; since Frontier doesn’t serve much food, it can afford to squeeze the galley space behind the lavatories.
These seats won’t be in the economy premium section; these 19-inch seats will be in regular coach. But there are footnotes: the seat will not recline. The airline says it will be “pre-reclined” so you don’t have to worry about the person in front of you shoving his seat into your knees. And it’s a thinner seat with two less inches of pitch, which is the measurement of the distance between the point on your seat and the same point of the seat in front of you.
Sounds like an interesting idea, but with so few of the wider seats on a plane, not many people will be able to try it out.
A couple of recent surveys have found that millennials like using travel agents. That’s a bit counter-intuitive since you’d think a generation so familiar with computers would just click to buy travel.
But there are often good reasons to use a travel agent.
Here’s when you should consider using a travel agent: If you have a complicated flight itinerary. If you’re headed to a new, foreign destination and you know an agent is very familiar with the territory. Or if you’re thinking of a cruise and know that your agent sells a lot of cruises, your agent may be able to get an upgrade or other perks for your sailing. An agent can be useful when you might need someone 24/7 you can call if something goes wrong. Like: You hate your hotel or your flight is severely delayed.
The thing is, you have to pre-qualify your agent. Does he or she know your destination well or are they going to put you in a hotel that pays them the biggest commission? Do they offer 24/7 service? Do they listen—really listen—to what you want in a trip?
Agencies can charge as little as $100 for planning a trip and as much as $10,000. The latter are boutique agencies for rich people who want curated trips.
Decades ago, airlines told travel agencies they didn’t want to pay fees the agencies’ earned when booking customers’ tickets. Which is why you now must pay a fee when a travel agent issues you an airline ticket.
And now the airlines are targeting on-line travel sites, the ones that allowed us to see who was flying where for how much easily–sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. Delta dipped its toe in that water first, banning a couple of smaller online travel agencies from listing its flights and fares. Overseas, Lufthansa and airlines it owns including Swissair and Austrian say this fall they’ll start charging passengers an extra $18 for every ticket they buy from third-party sellers.
Then there’s the profusion of extra charges for preferred seats, early boarding, and other perks that make a side-by-side comparison of airline fares harder than ever before.
At least one senator, Chuck Schumer of New York, thinks things are going in the wrong direction, and he quoted a number on-line travel agencies that argue this trend will cost consumers $6 billion a year.
Let’s hope not.
If you were thinking of opening a hotel or B&B in Barcelona, cool your jets. The Spanish city feels so
overrun by tourists (the accompany photo shows pedestrians on Barcelona’s famous La Rambla street) that it’s decreed a one-year moratorium on the opening of any travelers’ accommodations.
Too many tourists?
Barcelona isn’t alone. In Denmark, foreigners aren’t allowed to buy beachfront property, and the city has designated quiet zones where tour guides can’t lecture to tour groups. The Chinese government has promised to keep a black list of its citizens who offend countries they visit as Chinese tourists swarm neighboring countries in Asia.
Once, tourism was the goose that laid lots of golden eggs. And it still is in most places. But as noise, carbon emissions, trash, and crowds begin to encroach on residents, tourism is emerging as a problem, not just an opportunity.
Ever been in Venice in July or August? The south of France or Amalfi Coast in the dead of summer? Or even Charleston, South Carolina, or New Orleans at the height of tourist season? Then you know the feeling of too many people in too small a place.
Watch for more and more destinations to try to control the growth of tourism by, for example, restricting the building of hotels.