Cruise Lines Respond to Ebola

Cruise ships in general are arguably one of the cleanest, safest, and most sanitized environments – outside of my kitchen, of course. Nonetheless, the recent press devoted to Ebola has caused concern for travelers – especially cruise passengers. It is interesting to note the public’s concern over the Ebola virus and the seemingly lack of concern over the flu virus. The flu is much more easily spread than Ebola and kills as many as 49,000 American’s in a single year. Yet the public is seemingly more concerned about Ebola. Another interesting aspect of the public’s reaction is that the flu is preventable. Yet only 1 out of 3 American’s bothers to get a flu shot. Isn’t that amazing? I can’t recall the last time anyone said they weren’t taking a cruise because they were afraid to catch the flu.

Well, the cruise lines take the flu, Ebola, Norovirus, and all transmittable diseases and illnesses seriously. It would be bad for business otherwise. Carnival Cruise Lines just announced on 10/24/2014 additional precautions to be taken with regard to the public’s concern over Ebola by releasing the following letter to passengers sailing in the near future:

We know there has been considerable media coverage about the Ebola virus, which has raised concerns among the public in general.  We’d like to take this opportunity to provide you some important information in an effort to ease any concerns you may have. 

At Carnival Cruise Lines, the safety, health and welfare of our guests, crew, and staff is always our number one priority.  Therefore, we have implemented strict screening and boarding procedures following collaboration with federal and international health authorities.

At embarkation, all guests, visitors, and crew boarding our vessels must complete a mandatory health screening questionnaire prior to embarking. Those individuals who answer positively to any of the screening questions will be asked to submit to further medical screening prior to being allowed to board.

As part of our screening process, guests are asked to disclose if they have visited or traveled through countries with a US CDC Level 3 Travel Warning (any of the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and/or Guinea). Guests must also disclose if, within 21 days of their cruise departure date, they have been in contact with, or helped care for someone known or suspected to have the Ebola virus, or is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to Ebola. Any individual who answers positively will be denied boarding.

Carnival and other cruise lines continue to monitor the situation closely, along with Cruise Lines International Association and our colleagues in the rest of the travel industry. We remain in close contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates and guidance. Guests seeking more information on Ebola can visit the World Health Organization’s website at www.who.int or the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/.

We greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation in our efforts to safeguard our guests and crew. Most importantly, we look forward to having you sail with us.

Carnival and all cruise lines take extraordinary measures to keep the ship’s environment clean, safe, and sanitary for the passengers and the crew. So, relax and enjoy your next exciting cruise vacation. As for me, I am more concerned about catching something from the handle on the grocery store shopping carts. So, I keep sanitizing wipes nearby. Happy sailing!

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The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Explore it; Enjoy It!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people want to travel and they are able to travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

Travel professionals at AREA Vacations who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, and specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.

Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

Outline your travel needs

Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip organizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home?

Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aides? How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?

Travel, whether solo or in a group, is no time for roughing it or trying to “tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter or portable oxygen will make your trip easier, place that item on your list. Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobility aides for tour and excursions. In fact, most of Special Needs Group’s wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.

Plan Ahead

If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.

Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions. Again, documentation and paperwork are required.

Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.

Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area and other amenities. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.

Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.

When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.

Ask the Right Questions

When making the final bookings, be sure you ask the right questions, even if the accommodations or cruise stateroom are categorized as “accessible.”

For example, are doorways wide enough for the largest wheelchairs? Do the doors open outwards or into the room?

Are all the public areas of the hotel, resort or ship accessible? Do you need to make special arrangements in the dining room to accommodate the wheelchair or scooter?

Will the bathroom facilities truly fit your needs? Is the bathroom large enough for the wheelchair or scooter? Is there a roll-in shower? Grab-bars?

Are there facilities for companion/assistance animals?

Are there shopping and entertainment facilities close by if you are staying at a hotel or resort?

On shore excursions or tours, does the van have a lift and method for transporting wheelchairs and scooters?

Simply stated, don’t take anything for granted. It’s easy to arrange for almost every situation, and the world is wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available and how to find the necessary equipment.

The world is accessible to you – please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or travel@area-vacations.com to review your travel options.

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Carnival Corporation Reaffirms Shareholder Benefits

Shareholder BenefitsCarnival Corporation announced yesterday that shareholder benefits would be extended for another year. The announcement was contained in the just released 2012 Annual Report from the cruise industry giant – which celebrated its 25th Anniversary of its initial public offering (IPO) in 1987. 

Carnival Corporation, owner of Carnival Cruise Lines and several other major brands such as Cunard, Princess, Holland America, Costa, and Seabourn, is the world’s largest cruise line company. The extension of shareholder benefits means that shareholders will continue to receive up to $250 in onboard credits when they take cruises on any of the company’s brands.

Despite the setbacks from the Costa Concordia in early 2012 and the recent incident with the Carnival Triumph, the report was upbeat and optimistic. The company expects to lead the growth in new cruise passengers with an expanded fleet of nine new cruise ships to be delivered through March of 2016.

For more information about shareholder benefits, please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or travel@area-vacations.com.

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Cruise Webinars – Delivered to Your Home

Royal Caribbean Webinars AREA Vacations has partnered with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to offer you several unique opportunities to learn more about cruising from the comfort of your own home.   Specifically, the partnership will provide a series of Webinars that will be hosted by Royal Caribbean. What a great and convenient way to learn more about cruising.

Have you dreamed of an Alaskan cruise with a land package taking you into the heart of Denali?  Or perhaps sailing in the Mediterranean sampling some of the best food, wine and culture in the world? Maybe you want to sail the warm waters of the Caribbean on one of the two greatest and largest ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas or the Allure of the Seas? Well, AREA Vacations has a webinar designed just for you!

The webinars will be offered in the evening giving your family the chance to gather around and learn about these incredible adventures that you can enjoy together. The presentation will undoubtedly answer many of your questions regarding these exciting itineraries and incredible ships.

To reward you for your participation, AREA Vacations will be providing a special offer available only by attending the webinar and reserving your Royal Caribbean vacation through AREA Vacations. So, don’t miss out on this great opportunity – here are the webinar times:

Tuesday, April 10 – 7:30 pm EST – Alaska and Cruise Tours

Reserve your webinar seat now at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/568789889

Tuesday, April 17 – 7:30 pm EST – European Vacations
Reserve your webinar seat now at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/893246617

Tuesday, April 24 – 7:30 pm EST – Oasis Class Vessels
Reserve your webinar seat now at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/353092200

For more information please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or send an email to travel@area-vacations.com.

Let’s test

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On a Cruise? Book a Cruise!

Royal Caribbean - book a cruise - on a cruiseThere is no “bad” time to book a cruise. But one of the best times is while you are on a cruise. Cruise lines know that while you are on a cruise you are being pampered, you’re relaxed, enjoying delicious meals, wonderful entertainment, exotic ports of call, and experiencing fun only cruise ships can provide. 

What a perfect frame of mind for you to consider booking your next cruise. Cruise lines offer a variety of incentives to get you to commit to your next cruise while aboard ship. Most will offer the lowest available price as well as some other bonus such as an onboard credit, upgraded stateroom, or reduced deposit. 

You will also have the option of booking a specific cruise or simply paying a deposit that can be used on any future cruise. Cruise lines are loyal to their travel agents so the agency that booked the current cruise will be credited with the future cruise unless you elect to have a different agency credited.

Future cruise sales are available on most ships and soon to be on all ships. So, next time you are on a cruise be sure to ask Guest Services where the Future Cruise Desk is located and check out the bargains associated with booking your next cruise while on a cruise.

For more information contact AREA Vacations or send and email to DickViti@area-ga.com.

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Concordia Disaster – Won’t Stop Growth in Cruise Industry

Costa Concordia - a beautiful ship - prior to 1/13/2012
Costa Concordia – a beautiful ship – prior to 1/13/2012

The Costa Concordia tragedy has increased awareness of shipboard safety and the extent to which cruise lines train and prepare personnel to respond to emergencies. Despite this disaster that cost so many lives and destroyed this beautiful ship, a series of recent articles describe how much safer cruising is compared to any other form of recreational travel. The cruise industry experiences only .16 fatalities per million passengers. That means it is hundreds of times more likely a cruise passenger will die traveling to the port than while on the ship. [Source: GP Wild (International) LTD http://www.gpwild.co.uk/]. 

Cruise lines regard passenger safety as paramount. The ships are constructed with redundant safety systems and designed to contain problems that may arise. Every crew member is assigned a task for each emergency and drilled frequently so that crisis response will be predictable and automatic. After cruising multiple times each year since 1980 my observations are that cruise line personnel take the safety of the passengers seriously and they have consistently demonstrated competency in handling emergencies. My observations and conclusions are based in large part on my own experience in onboard training and safety issues after serving on both conventional and nuclear powered submarines in the United States Navy.

The cruise industry has grown at the incredible average rate of 7% per year since 1980 because it is safe – and fun for adults and children. The growth has been consistent during good economic conditions and bad. That trend is likely to continue because cruise vacations are economical, romantic, and one of the best ways to enjoy time with family and friends. The cruise industry is betting on the growth. Despite 18 new ships in the last four years, there are 16 more planned for the next four years. The increased capacity is needed to accommodate increase in demand from the almost 80% of the population that has yet to experience the joy of cruising. 

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Looking for a Great Return on Investment? Try Carnival Corporation!

Carnival Corporation LogoInvestors who love to cruise should consider owning 100 shares of Carnival Corporation (CCL) stock. Shareholder benefits include an onboard credit (OBC) of up to $250 when sailing on any of the cruise lines owned by CCL including Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn, Cunard, and Costa Cruises.

The $250 OBC applies to cruises 14 days or longer; 7-13 day cruises provide a $100 OBC and cruises less than 7 days are rewarded with a $50 OBC. Not bad considering that each time you cruise the OBC adds to your return on the investment.   

At its current price of $30.47 per share just one 7-day cruise per year would provide a 3.28% return with ownership of 100 shares. Add to that CCL’s current $.25 dividend per quarter and you have a 6.56% return. One additional 7-day cruise and the return is just under 10%. The more you cruise, the more fun you have, and the better return on your investment. What’s not to like?

Royal Caribbean has a similar stockholder benefit as well. Check out ownership of cruise line stocks and start booking those cruises to take advantage of this terrific stockholder benefit. Of course all stockholder benefits are subject to renewal at annual meetings.

For more information about Carnival Corporation check out its Brand Essence Video. To book a cruise and have a travel professional assist with securing your shareholder benefits, please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or by email at travel@area-vacations.com.

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Princess Offers Military Benefits on All Sailings

Honoring All VeteransWhile most cruise lines offer current and former military personnel discounts on some sailings, Princess Cruise Line offers veterans onboard credits on every sailing. The aggressive benefits program, started over a year ago, is designed to attract current and former armed forces members to Princess. Veterans receive onboard credits of $50 for cruises 6 days or less; $100 for cruises 7-13 days; and $250 for cruises 14 days or longer.

Princess recognizes the service of active military, retired military, and many others who were honorably discharged. Veterans need only provide proper documentation to their travel agent who will then make the request on behalf of the veteran.

The program applies to members of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard or Reserves, Canadian National Defense – as well as the British Army, Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force or Reserves.

For more information or to book a cruise and take advantage of this special military benefits program from Princess Cruises, call AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or send an email to travel@area-vacations.com.

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NASA Predicts Record Northern Lights Activity in Winter 2012

Northern Lights on Hurtigruten Cruise

Strongest activity in 50 years according to NASA

Waiting to see the Northern Lights? Well, winter of 2012 may be the best chance of lifetime to see this amazing natural phenomenon. NASA predicts that this winter will see the strongest Northern Lights activity in 50 years and what better place to see them than from a Hurtigruten ship where they are set against the dark night sky, away from artificial light.

The Northern Lights have increased in intensity since 2007, and will be at their peak in 2012. The Solar Maximum, the period with the greatest solar activity, peaks around every 11 to 12 years. According to NASA, 2012 is the year that we will once again witness the Solar Maximum, and it will be stronger than at any time in the last 50 years.

The Northern Lights are at their most active in the late autumn and they occur most frequently and at their brightest in a belt of some 2,500 kilometers from the magnetic pole. Much of the Norwegian coast lies in an area with the greatest Northern Lights activity, especially the high Arctic above the Arctic Circle.

For more information or to book your Hurtigruten Cruise to see the Northern Lights, please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or travel@area-vacactions.com.

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Getting the Most Out of Your Carnival MasterCard

Carnival "FunPoints" MasterCardOne of the best “rewards” credit cards for cruise enthusiasts is the Carnival MasterCard. The card is available through Barclays Bank. The Carnival card tracks your purchases in FunPoints – one FunPoint for each dollar charged. The World and Platinum versions of the card double the points for eligible purchases made directly from Carnival Cruise Lines. Charge a $2,000 Carnival cruise and the card holder is rewarded with 4,000 FunPoints!

FunPoint redemption for small amounts is at the rate of approximately $50 for every 5,000 FunPoints redeemed or a 1% payback. FunPoints can be used like cash to offset air travel purchases or purchases from Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, and Holland America. 

What is important for Carnival MasterCard holders to know is that the rate at which FunPoints can be redeemed increases dramatically when redeeming 100,000 FunPoints or more for cruise purchases of $1,500 or more. Once that level is exceeded, the redemption rate will be $75 per 5,000 FunPoints or a 1.5% payback. If the FunPoints were accumulated by making cruise purchases at the rate of 2 FunPoints per dollar spent, the payback is actually a whopping 3%.

To get the best payback it is necessary to accumulate at least 100,000 FunPoints. Then purchase a cruise that is at least $1,500. For whatever reason, the payback calculator used in the program requires 149,900 FunPoints to pay in full a cruise purchase of $1,499. However, if you purchase a cruise that costs just $1 more – $1,500 – the FunPoints necessary to pay it off in full is just 100,000. That is 49,900 FunPoints LESS!

If you want help getting the most out of your FunPoints contact AREA Vacations to book your next Carnival Cruise.

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