Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take Control Back

Take Control back by buying Travel Insurance with "Cancel for Any Reason" Option. 

The recent East Cost storm "Sandy" reminded me of another reason why it is important to have your own control over when you need or want to cancel a vacation.  Many travelers who had booked cruises during the recent 2012 Sandy storm were at the mercy of the cruise line's decision on what to do.  Cruise lines typically have a clause that allows them to alter itineraries and this can be a factor during hurricane season.  However, the massive "Sandy" storm left little choices in alternative itineraries.

USA Today reported how unhappy some travelers were with the decisions of Norwegian cruise lines.  "I really wish that (Norwegian) could show a bit more compassion toward its guests," says Robert Kipp, 45, of Ontario, Canada, one of the vacationers who was scheduled to board the 2,394-passenger vessel on Monday for a nine-night voyage to the Caribbean but is now facing a shortened trip to Bermuda.   Norwegian says the Monday voyage, which has been pushed back due to the closure of New York's port in the wake of Sandy, is now expected to begin on Friday — four days behind schedule. Instead of sailing to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic, the ship will head to Bermuda for a two-day stay.

Other cruise lines like Carnival offered full refunds.  Norwegian cruise liners were faced with shorten trips and trying to rearrange travel schedules during the chaos of the storm and the effects on transportation after the storm.

This leads us to taking back control of your vacation and the money spent on vacation.  Buying Travel Insurance with the "Cancel for Any Reason" option from individual travel insurance vendors can give you more latitude and choices in events like Sandy.  In addition, buying insurance from the Travel Vendor like a cruise line might only offer a voucher for another cruise where independent Travel Insurance will offer your money back so you have the flexibility to plan another trip that suits your needs and budget.   When buying your travel insurance be sure to buy when you make your deposit, in most cases, there will be a waiver for any preexisting conditions when purchased with your initial deposit. 

Contact Pamper Me Travel for help with your next travel vacations.  email:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

RCI Oasis - Something for Everyone

I had the great pleasure of attending a Travel Conference last May on RCI's mega cruise ship The Oasis.  The Oasis is one of the largest cruise ships on the sea.  Launched in 2010, the ship has a capacity of 6,296 passengers just slightly less passengers then RCI's newest mega cruise ship, the Allure launched in 2011 and part of the same class of ships. 

My first thoughts about the possibility of 6296 passengers was "No Way", not for me.  I visualized bumping into people and long lines.  However, I really wanted to see some of the great new "fun" features like the zip line and not 1, but 2 flow-riders.  I'm happy to report that the Oasis is anything but small and cramped.   I never felt crowded and in fact didn't even have to get up early to grab a seat by the pool, although, this was in early May. 

The Oasis was packed full of things to do and places to eat.   I literately did not get to see everything, even after 7 days on the ship.  The "Central Park" had an elevator "bar" that moved from ship floor to ship floor, sometimes with their own musicians.  Your eating venues range from the typical cruise dinning rooms to new choices like a variety of Central Park restaurants or wine tasting in Central Park itself while watching a painter.  You can take in a Boardwalk restaurant while watching the astonishing synchronized diving.  The Oasis had a large selection of entertainment but requires planning to schedule some shows a head of time.  I was personally blown away with the Beatlemania show, the skydiving/swimming show and the musical HairSpray, top notch all the way.  The ship is packed with such a variety of choices that it is sure to be a hit with all ages and a great choice for those planning a multi-generational group trip.   RCI's Allure ship has many of the same features and is also part of the OASIS class of ships, I can't wait to try it too.

I hope to give you more insights into the Oasis and the great time we had soon.  However, RCI has some great news for my local customers. Our home port, Baltimore will see a new RCI ship in 2013.  RCI has completed a $48 million makeover of the Grandeur of the Seas in June 2013 and many of the new upgrades are the same as amenities available on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Allure.  The Oasis is a wonderful ship that I highly recommend, but for those wishing to cruise from our home port, the Grandeur is sure to be a hit too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why use a Travel Agent - Ashburn Travel Agent Explains

"Experience, attention to detail and exceptional value" is what Crystal Cruises explains is one of the best reasons Agents can help create the ideal cruise booking.

Crystal Cruises indicates they are proud to work exclusively with professional travel agents. "Whether you are an experienced world traveler or planning your first cruise, we recommend booking your vacation arrangements with one of our experienced Crystal travel agent partners. A professional travel agent has the experience and connections you need to customize your vacation with exacting attention to detail, ensuring you maximum savings and value, and the best cruise experience possible.

In addition to making sure you qualify for any special savings, a professional travel agent will take the time to become familiar with your individual travel wishes. They are then able to provide their own experienced insight into the world’s most fascinating destinations, revealing little known secrets and sharing proven tips for a successful journey. And perhaps most important of all, your travel agent will provide an unparalleled level of service, attending to every little detail of your cruise planning, leaving you to enjoy that most elusive of all luxuries...time."
As a member of CLIA, NACTA, OSSN, and relationships with Cruise consortiums and hosts, Pamper Me Travel is aligned to give the most to clients., 571-445-0441 or email

Please be sure to let your travel agent know if you are a member of a Cruise Society member so that he or she knows to apply your exclusive savings, redeem milestone awards and ensure the best applicable fare.  In addition, Agents have access to groups, incentives, specials not always advertised to the general public.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How To Save Money Traveling - Seeing the Mediterranean on a Budget or Caribbean or Europe

Rick Steven's wrote a recent blog on how to see the Mediterranean on a Budget I would like to share. He captures so much about cruising, how to save money on a cruise, how to get a taste of many destinations in one trip that it was just too great not to share. Although he talks about the Mediterranean this holds true to any cruise destination. I like to hit many of the Caribbean islands and that gives me a great way to know what ones am I really interested in spending more time at. For example, after a recent Caribbean cruise, my highlights included St. Lucia, St. Kitts, food on the French side of St. Marten. Now I know some spots I want to spend more time at.

From Rick Steves: Blog Gone Europe, July 5, 2011
"I still believe that European travelers in search of engaging, enlightening experiences should eat, sleep, and live on terra firma. But cruising is more popular than ever and, for many, it's a great choice. As my passion has long been helping independent travelers make the most of their time and money, my staff and I have written a guidebook on Mediterranean cruise ports. Here are a few insights to pack along if you're considering a cruise.

Cruises let you sample different destinations, then decide where you'd like to return someday. You can efficiently visit several dynamically different destinations in a single week without wasting valuable hours packing, hauling your bags to the station, and sitting on a train.

Short of sleeping on a park bench, there is no more affordable way to see Europe than cruising. On the cheapest cruises, you and your partner can travel for less than $100 per night, and you get a comfy place to sleep, transportation between multiple destinations, and all the chocolate-dipped strawberries you can eat.

Though cruising is affordable, extra expenses, such as alcohol, Internet access, spa treatments, casino games, and cheesy gangway photos, can add up quickly. Passengers can unwittingly rack up bills that exceed the original cost of the trip. To avoid surprises, check your balance at the front desk every few days.

To keep your bill from bloating, buy as little as possible while on board, as things are usually more expensive on your ship than on land. To check email, visit an Internet café in port rather than on board. For souvenirs, do your shopping in port (ideally away from the main tourist areas) rather than on the ship.

One of the biggest optional expenses on a cruise is a shore excursion. Though they can make sightseeing easy and efficient, saving you the time and hassle of figuring out how to get into town on your own, in many destinations they simply aren't worth the expense.

For example, in Barcelona, Nice, Dubrovnik, Venice, and Istanbul, the cruise ports are so close to town that you can easily reach the major sights on your own. In Barcelona, a cheap shuttle bus goes directly from the port to the bottom of the Ramblas, the lively pedestrian drag that runs through the heart of the Old City. In Venice, an express boat zips passengers straight from port to St. Mark's Square in 20 minutes -- or you can walk through the magical, tourist-free back streets in about an hour.

Excursions aren't always a rip-off. Certain sights, such as the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, involve a complicated journey by public transit. An excursion takes care of transportation and comes with a knowledgeable local guide who can bring the ruins to life.

Not all food is included in your cruise fare. Many ships have specialty restaurants, such as a steakhouse or sushi restaurant, which cost extra. Skip these restaurants in favor of the main dining room, where the food is typically good, and even better, included. If you're heading out for a long day in port, help yourself to a big breakfast and bag up the leftovers to keep you going until dinnertime. It may not be classy, but it's cheap.

Because alcohol, name-brand soft drinks, and specialty coffee drinks all cost extra, beverage tabs can rise quickly. Instead of Diet Coke, develop a taste for iced tea or juice, which is usually included. (To satisfy a craving for pop, get it cheap at local grocery stores.) Some cruise lines ban passengers from bringing alcohol on board, but others allow limited bottles of wine and beer. Before you set sail, find out your cruise line's policy on taking alcohol aboard; if it's more lenient, B.Y.O.B. to save some bucks.

Take advantage of other onboard freebies. Rather than buy a book, check one out from the ship's library. Instead of watching a pay-per-view movie in your cabin, enjoy the free shows. Hang out by the pool, take an art class, or join a trivia game. Read your daily program: There's something free going on virtually every minute of every day.

You don't have to avoid extras entirely. After all, you're on vacation. As long as keep your spending under control, a cruise can still be one of the cheapest ways to experience Europe.

(Rick Steves ( ) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at and follow his blog on Facebook.)

When I was growing up, cruising was a rich person's hobby. The goal was not travel, but hedonism: See if you can eat five meals a day and still snorkel when you get into port. But these days, there's a cruise ship for just about every kind of traveler and the thriving cruise industry is catering to low-budget travelers as well as the high rollers."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to find those Last Minute Cruise Deals

You might have herd someone whisper, I got a great last minute cruise deal and wonder how can I find out about these too ?

Most cruise lines lower prices and offer some great rates when their ships are not full for travelers who are ready to pack up and go close to the cruise date.  As a travel agent, I personnally have access to these deals every week as they come out and I will send my clients who are interested in a last minute deal the lists so if they see one they can take advantage of they will be in "The Know".

Last May, I took advantage of one of these deals and took my daughters and friends with me on the same deal.  We were in port with other cruisers and met many at the beach.  They were shocked at the price we paid, somewhere around $350 for 5 days compared to over $1000 to fellow passengers.  Wow the money that was saved by not only me (no special travel agent rate) but my daughters and friends.  I personally find that a lot of great deals come out in April/May and Sept-Nov.  Carnival has a list available every Wed with prices good through Friday for their Pack-n-Go.  Can't wait for the weekend the prices are not valid.  Give me a buzz or send me an email and I'll add you to my list.  You can also sign up as a 7-Seas Club Member by one of  my host Expedia Cruise Ship Centers.  They send out a "hot deals" newsletter and you can sign up to win a free cruise.  Now that's a deal.  571-445-0440

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cell Phone Usage when you Travel Internationally

One thing to ruin a great trip quick is being hit by a large cell phone bill when you return.  This, unfortunately, happened to me after my first cruise.  My teenager was texting and calling like she was at home.  We also would call her on the ship to find out where she was.  No one told me about roaming and international calling.  Silly me, I thought since I had unlimited text messages I was covered.  Although, most cell phone plans these days cover the US unlike when cell phones first came out, you will get hit with international fees and ship fees when talking on your phone from an international destination and/or at at sea.  First find out from your carrier if they have any options for an international sim card while you travel and about your policy for calls outside the US network.  Many countries you can get a cheap sim card for use while you travel.

I'm still trying to figure out the best options for cell phone usage when traveling.  I use a "free" google voice account at home.  I love it, I can call internationally very very cheaply, have phones forwarded to the number and use my iphone app to call using the google voice number in lieu of my cell phone number.  However, Google Voice, when you are in another country, you can't use your google voice number without those pesky additional charges.  If your not into a lot of different configurations needed to use google voice overseas try renting a phone.

Travel agents have recently told me about two possible solutions for cell phone usage overseas.  One is Travel Cell and the other is PlanetFone.  Travel cell phone companies seem to be pretty comparably priced. They either have a higher weekly rental fee and a lower air time charge, or vice verse. Most companies will send you the phone with complete instructions, a fanny pack, recharger that works in the country you're going to, extra battery, and a phone case. They often also apparently include a FedEx envelope for you to mail the phone back when you're home.  They give you the phone's number and instructions for calling it from the U.S., as well as instructions for calling out from your phone to local numbers as well as calling the U.S. and other international destinations.  I think with my next trip out of country, I'll give one of these a try.  Others have told me they use their skype account.  Feel free to let me know what cleaver way you have come up with to call from overseas or out to sea.
Feel free to contact me, if you would like to be one of my "Pampered Travelers" to receive updates on deals or for me to personally plan and pamper you.
Pamper Me Travel, Ashburn VA