Friday, August 28, 2009

Wi-Fi on Airplanes Not so Popular When it's not Free

The Wall St. Journal reports that more than 500 airlines are now flying around the U.S. with wireless internet access up and running! But airlines are finding that the technology that they hope will bring new revenues may be more like in-flight meals: People gobbled up food when it was free, but they find it a lot less appetizing when they have to pay.

Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi providers say usage has been strong and is growing as more travelers sign up for the service and find it on more flights. Virgin America and AirTran Airways have Wi-Fi hotspots installed on all their aircraft and Delta has them on more than 225 of their planes.

But in tests and now in regular service, usage drops off considerably when travelers must pay for the service. Alaska Airlines even tested charging just $1. The result: a lot fewer laptops, BlackBerrys and iPhones signed on. "There's a very substantial decline in passenger usage the minute you start charging for the service,'' said Michael Planey, a consultant specializing in in-flight passenger technologies. "It really begins to invalidate the model on which this service is being built for the next 10 years."

Mr. Planey believes that ultimately Wi-Fi will be free for most fliers, and the best use for airlines will come in having that seat-back connection to customers. A Wi-Fi hotspot can allow airlines to sell tours and tickets in destinations travelers are flying to, and could possibly one day allow in-flight updating of flight connections or baggage problems before landing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

River Cruising: a great way to see Europe

A cruise through Germany’s Mosel and Main rivers is like taking a step back in time: rolling hills and steep vineyards that cascade along the horizon. Castles perched high above, with the sound of cathedral bells ringing in the town square. All this viewed from the AMA Waterways ms Amalyra ship, which I personally cruised on June 29, 2009 from Trier to Nuremburg, Germany. Everything on this ship impressed me: great service, large and comfortable staterooms, internet service in every room, and a smiling, helpful crew on board.

River cruising is quite different from ocean cruising with the major cruise lines. Calm seas, proximal shores and lower ship capacity (maximum 148 persons) all make for a more intimate cruising experience. Although you won’t find a wave pool or a Broadway style theater on board, you will enjoy five-star cuisine along with a cheerful and attentive staff endeavoring to meet your almost every need. In fact, on our particular ship there were just 105 guests aboard. This was a great number both in terms of access to the dining and lounge areas as well as offering the opportunity to get to know one another better while onboard.

Shore excursions are included with AMA Waterways, so you can choose to do as many of the offered tours as you like, or simply sit back and relax in the air-conditioned comfort of your stateroom or lounge. One benefit of small ship cruising is that the boat docks right in town, so disembarkation takes only a few moments and the tour guides can wait alongside the ship. This was a great plus in cities such as Mainz and Frankfurt, where we were within walking distance to attractions such as the Gutenberg and Goethe Museum. The local guides are enthusiastic and quite knowledgeable about their areas of expertise, shedding light on the lesser-known aspects of a particular region. This made for an “insiders” tour experience and greatly added to the enjoyment of the cruise.

If you’re looking for a different way to see Europe, consider an AMA Waterways cruise!

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to get started booking your next cruise!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jet Pack Flying is Coming to New Zealand!

Forget bungy jumping and river rafting, New Zealand's tourists will soon be able to whiz around in a strap-on mini helicopter to get their thrills.

The Kiwi inventor, Glen Martin, will launch public flights early next year, with plans to expand to Australia soon after. The Martin Jetpack, literally a personal strap-on aircraft, is a two-liter jet-powered engine designed to soar across the skies at 60 miles per hour at heights of up to 160 feet!

The first public flight program will be limited to low and slow flying in a controlled area while the Christchurch-based company road tests the safety and limits of the engine. "It will still be flying as it's never been done before, just in the confines of a rugby field-type space." said the inventor. "Just because we have to stay under 30 feet high and under 6 miles per hr doesn't mean it won't be an incredibly exciting experience."

The flights are expected to cost about the same as a bungy jump or a tandem skydive, and will require just a few minutes training before a person can strap in and take a solo flight. Inventor Glenn Martin dreams of the day commuters will hop into the contraption to fly to work, missing rush hour traffic in their cars.

To book your new vacation to New Zealand, contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why is Airport Food so Expensive?

USA TODAY recently posted a good article regarding airport food and it’s pricing. Different airports have different ways of how to calculate food costs, the article mentions.

Many airports have adopted so-called "street pricing" policies, which means they require airport shops and restaurants to charge prices comparable with similar stores in town. But many haven't. Most retailers claim the operating costs are too high at airports to follow these guidlelines. Los Angeles International, for instance, doesn't even have a policy, while others, such as Atlanta's Hartsfield, allow retailers to charge a set premium over street prices.

Since airlines have cut back drastically on meals and snacks on flights in recent years, this leaves travelers with little choice then to pay higher prices.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next trip!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Celebrity Introduces Chair Concierges

Celebrity Cruise Lines' new "Chair Concierges" will help passengers arriving at Solstice and Equinox pool decks find a spot.

The "chair concierges" will keep tabs on where chairs are open so they can quickly lead passengers to them. A Celebrity spokesman said the line is getting more aggressive about stopping passengers from "saving" unoccupied chairs for long periods of time. Both the Solstice and the Equinox ships do not have as much deck space as some of the other ships. The chair shortage issue only comes up on Solstice on the sunniest sea days, in certain warm-weather destinations where most passengers want to be on deck at once, and the level of complaints have been few. However, the cruise line made a design change to Celebrity Equinox; widening and lengthening the Solstice Deck at the front of the ship to allow for 100 extra deck chairs.

Celebrity has not made a final decision on what to call the new position but "Chair Concierge" works for now.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to get your next cruise booked!