Norway – 9 Customs and Etiquette Advice

Hurtigruten - NorwayAbout 4,463 miles is the distance between the central U.S. and Norway. With such great lengths invariably comes new customs, unique walks of life and different ways of doing things. So before setting sail on a Norwegian cruise and docking at cities across the Scandinavian country, it’s helpful to learn about the Norwegian people and their customs. Here are nine things you should take with you:

1. For starters, more than 99 percent of the 4.3 million people who live in Norway speak Norwegian, the official language. Norwegian has two written forms of language: BokmĂĄl (literally “book language”) and Nynorsk (“New Norwegian”). Although both have the same legal recognition, BokmĂĄl is more common. You will see both on signs throughout the country.

2. When greeting someone from Norway, use a firm handshake, direct eye contact and a smile. Like the U.S., Norwegian greetings are casual but meaningful. If you want to stay on the side of caution and be very polite, people may use the honorific title “Herr” (Mr.) or “Fru” (Mrs.) followed by their surname.

3. Though informal, Norwegians generally have reserved body language, so don’t take offense if someone appears cold or aloof.

4. Norwegians are punctual in both social situations and business.

5. Keeping calm and not displaying strong emotions in public are common virtues in Norway.

6. Avoid discussing business. Norwegians tend to separate their business and personal lives.

7. Similar to the rising trend in the U.S., many couples live together without getting married. A wedding is not a prerequisite to starting a family, so it’s best not to make presumptions about people’s marital status.

8. In general, Norwegians are known to be humble, good-natured and friendly. Many people recognize Jante Law, a term used to describe a pattern of behavior associated with Scandinavians that frown upon individual success and achievement. Essentially, it is meant to teach people to be modest. As such, Norwegians try to see all people as standing on equal footing.

The tenets of the law are: 

– You shall not think you are special.
– You shall not believe you are smarter than others.
– You shall not believe you are wiser than others.
– You shall not behave as if you are better than others.
– You shall not believe that you know more than others.
– You shall not believe that you can fix things better than others.
– You shall not laugh at others.
– You shall not believe that others care about you.
– You shall not believe that you can teach others anything.

9. Most Norwegians have simple tastes and are not prone to excessive showiness.

One of the best ways to experience Norway is on Hurtigruten coastal cruise. You will be immersed in the culture and visit as many as 30+ ports in the 6, 7, or 12-night itinerary. For more information about visiting Norway or taking an exciting Hurtigruten cruise please contact AREA Vacations at travel@area-vacations.com or call 770-591-5552.

Carnival Miracle – Upgraded to Fun Ship 2.0 in 2015

CarnivalThe Carnival Miracle, a Spirit Class cruise ship operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, will undergo an extensive refurbishment this spring that will add an array of new and exciting on-board innovations, from unique bar concepts like RedFrog Pub and Alchemy Bar to fun entertainment choices such as Playlist Productions and Hasbro, The Game Show, and the family-friendly Seuss at Sea program! The new features – part of Carnival’s ongoing Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative – will be added during a two-week-long dry dock that will take place March 7-21, 2015.

The exciting new enhancements include:

  • Red Frog Pub – Carnival’s Caribbean-inspired watering hole featuring the region’s best rums and beers – including Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red – enjoyed in a distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West atmosphere
  • Alchemy Bar – at this vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy,” mixologists “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients with creative names like “Forty is the New Twenty” and “Restorative Basil Drop”
  • Playlist Productions – these four spectacular shows – 88 Keys, 80’s Pop To the Max, Getaway Island and Heart Of Soul – combine captivating live performances of recognizable pop and rock songs with dazzling special effects to create unforgettable evenings of entertainment
  • Seuss At Sea – part an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Seuss at Sea brings the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to life with fun activities like the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends, Seuss-a-Palooza Story Time, and more
  • Hasbro, The Game Show – this audience-participation favorite features larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic and popular games with titles like Connect4 Basketball, Sorry Sliders, and Yahtzee Bowling
  • Cherry On Top – this “candy and more store” celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel and more
  • New SPORTS Bar – at this sports lovers’ paradise, guests can catch live sporting events and check out scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker
  • Spin U – developed in partnership with legendary DJ IRIE – Carnival’s official DJ who has entertained crowds from South Beach to Las Vegas – this fun DJ academy provides aspiring spin-masters ages 15-17 all they need to know to “hit the decks” and rock the club!

These innovations complement a wide range of existing onboard features such as the Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, a Serenity adults-only retreat with magnificent ocean vistas, a classic American-style steakhouse serving prime cuts of beef and other gourmet cuisine, a nine-hole miniature golf course, a 14,500-square-foot health and wellness center, and The Taste Bar offering bite-size samples from popular Fun Ship 2.0 dining venues.

Carnival Miracle Itineraries
Carnival Miracle operates year-round departures from Long Beach, California, featuring three different week-long Mexican Riviera cruise options: a three-port itinerary featuring Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas; a two-port option that includes a stop in Cabo San Lucas, along with a two-day overnight stay in Puerto Vallarta; and a third choice featuring a day-long visit to Puerto Vallarta, along with a two-day call at Cabo San Lucas.

Carnival Miracle will also offer 15-day Hawaii cruises round-trip from Long Beach departing Oct. 17 and Nov. 28, 2015, and Jan. 16, 2016, along with a special one-time 13-day Mexican Riviera cruise departing Jan. 31, 2016.

Reservations are currently being accepted for all of Carnival Miracle’s 7 to 15-day departures from Long Beach. For additional information, please contact us at travel@area-vacations.com or call 770-591-5552.

Discover Alaska with Princess Cruises

For many people a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is a perfect destination for multi-generation travel with much to offer people of all ages. Alaska is rich with history; offers breath-taking scenery – a real paradise for photographers; and the wildlife is spectacular. One of the best ways to visit Alaska is by taking a cruise or cruise-tour. Here is short video describing the experience on Princess Cruise Lines.

For more information or to book an Alaska cruise or cruise-tour please contact AREA Vacations at 770-591-5552 or travel@area-vacations.com.

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!

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.

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.

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 (expired)

Tuesday, April 17 – 7:30 pm EST – European Vacations
Reserve your webinar seat now at: (expired)

Tuesday, April 24 – 7:30 pm EST – Oasis Class Vessels
Reserve your webinar seat now at: (expired)

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

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.

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. 

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.