Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Cruises’

Recapping Friendly Planet Travel’s first live Facebook travel chat

CHAT AWAY: I was happy to answer your travel questions
during our first live Facebook chat!

Having traveled both professionally and personally for over 30 years, I am often used as a resource for a wealth of travel questions. So you might have seen that we held our first-ever live chat on Friendly Planet Travel’s Facebook page. I answered many of our fans’ travel questions in real-time, and had a great time doing so. I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways with those who missed it.

Q: What are the benefits of booking with a travel agency versus booking on my own?

A: The benefits are various, but mainly, you’ll save money. We spend a lot of time getting great deals for our passengers and we pass those on to you. Also, you’re getting plenty of expertise. All that research you’ll need to do, we’ve already done it.

Q: Out of all the cruises you’ve taken, which is your favorite and why? 

A: Honestly, the very best cruise I have ever taken was on a small ship, part of the Cruceros Australis fleet, in Patagonia. I loved this cruise because it was an amazing adventure, not just fancy food each day — we visited some of the most pristine places in our hemisphere. Also, the size of the cruise was very conducive to making new friends.

Q: Do you save any money planning a trip far in advance? 

A: It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, especially with airlines and cruises, the best rates are not always available far in advance. However, with tour companies like ours, if we see opportunities to reduce cost, we always pass along the benefits, even at the last minute. The main reason to book early is to be sure you get the trip you want. If you wait, you might not get the space at all.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for traveling abroad, specifically to Ireland? 

A: If you are traveling on your own, perhaps with a rental car and some basic hotel arrangements, you’ll want to check in with the Irish Tourist Board. It has a tremendous amount of information, plus plenty of recommendations for restaurants, pubs, and fun events, many of which are completely for free. Since there isn’t a language problem, you’ll meet plenty of warm and friendly people among the Irish who will share their personal favorites regardless of where you travel. Ireland is one the most accessible destinations for Americans.

Q: What would you recommend for a good girls’ getaway trip, one with lots of sightseeing but also some relaxation? 

A: Go to Tuscany. It’s amazingly rich in touring opportunities; it’s gorgeous, friendly, with great food and plenty of opportunities to relax.

Q: Is it safe to travel to Greece right now? 

A: You bet it’s safe. There is no problem with safety in Greece today. Not a bit. The Greeks have their issues with their economy. Tourist are not only safe, they are major personas MUY GRATAS. The Greeks will treat guests like royalty, and there is no reason at all not to consider visiting Greece this summer.

Q: When is it best to exchange dollar for Euros? 

A: Never exchange money in the U.S. before taking a trip abroad. Your best exchange rate will be in the country you’re visiting. You can exchange some money when you arrive, usually right in the airport. That will get you started with local currency for tips or small purchases. Then you can check the local exchange places you’ll find everywhere or at the banks. You should check Travel.State.gov for information regarding specifics of customs, health requirements, alerts, and lots of other information. The site is for U.S. travelers, and it is very helpful.

I want to thank everyone who participated in our first of many live travel chats. If you missed it, we are holding our next chat on Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. EST. Join in and ask me your biggest travel questions. Just remember, it’s better to know before you go!

Tips for how to cruise safely

Any time there’s a travel disaster, the instinctive human response is to avoid that method of travel. This is a process known as cognitive dissonance, where humans have two conflicting viewpoints — we know travel is safe, but we worry because of the most recent disaster.

We wrote about this last year when we put together an infographic titled, “Is it safe to fly this holiday season?” Anyone who’s concerned about taking a cruise because of the explosion of news coverage around the Costa Concordia disaster should really take a second look at that infographic.

The reality is, you’re more likely to die driving your car to work then you are flying or taking a cruise.

Despite the fact that cruises are mostly safe, accidents that sometimes lead to tragic events can happen to anyone at any time. I thought Wendy Perrin’s list of cruise safety tips was excellent, which is what I wrote in the comment I left. I also plan to include her list in the documents we give to all cruise travelers. After you’re finished reading my tips for cruise safety, click over to Wendy’s post to read hers, because I think they’re really helpful.

Cruise safety tip #1: Talk about scenarios with your family. When was the last time you practiced a fire drill at home? Probably not recently. It’s the same idea with cruise safety — it’s better to be prepared before something bad happens. It’s good to know how to find the muster stations, but also talk to your family members about how your family will handle an emergency. If members are separated from each other and an emergency occurs, everyone should head to a previously decided upon muster station and meet up there. Trying to find your entire party before heading to the muster station can waste valuable time.

Cruise safety tip #2: Carry your cell phone. Most of the time, I tell travelers to unplug from their electronics while on vacation to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime sights around them. But, in the interest of safety, it might be best to keep that cell phone on your person. You can turn it off and keep it in your pocket or backpack, but you’ll have it with you in case of emergencies. Although cell phones don’t get reception while in deep water, the Costa Concordia disaster took place right on the coast of Italy, where it’s possible to get reception.

Cruise safety tip #3: Have portable FM radios. Having your cell phone on hand is important, but it’s also a good idea to carry a small FM radio or walkie-talkie, because cell phones aren’t close enough to cell towers to work in the middle of the ocean. Your family can use them to communicate while on board, and if you need them in an emergency, they’ll be there. Remember to put fresh batteries in them every morning and you’ll be good to go all day.

Cruise safety tip #4: Enjoy your cruise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You’re more likely to get struck by lightning (about 40 people per year) than be killed on a cruise. So follow procedures, be aware of your surroundings, and then enjoy the vacation you’ve worked hard to take. Don’t spend your entire vacation worrying about what might happen. Instead, take the time to appreciate the wonderful places you’ll see, people you’ll meet, and the experiences you’re having.

Alright, what did I miss in this list? Anything that you would add? Tell me in a comment!

10 things to know before you book a cruise

Cruises have been in the news lately for power failures and enduring rough seas. Unfortunately, negative stories like these can perpetuate the misconception that they’re commonplace.

But these situations aren’t the norm for cruises. The odds of a power failure or a rogue wave are very small.

Approximately 10 million passengers board a cruise ship in the U.S. every year. They’re one of the safest ways to enjoy a trip.

However, if you want to make sure your ship is up to tip-top standards, know what to do in an emergency, or how to make your trip more enjoyable, here are 10 things to know before you book a cruise.

Check your cruise ship’s inspection results. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) assists the cruise ship industry to prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships. Every report they produce is documented. Look up your cruise ship to see how it fared on its most recent inspection.

Wash your hands frequently. This is one of the first lessons we learn when we’re younger and it still rings true today. Washing your hands throughly is the easiest way to avoid exposing yourself to germs and illnesses. Wash them often, but especially before you eat and after you use the restroom.

Seek medical attention if you’re sick. Even if you have the sniffles, go to the ship’s medical facility and follow their instructions. In any case, you don’t want to risk spreading your illness around to other passengers. So play it safe and seek medical attention as soon as you start to feel ill.

Check for cleanliness. Whether you’re on the ship or at port, look for inspection stickers where you’re eating. Or take a look around and just see if the place looks clean. Your impression will be a good indication whether or not the food you’re about to eat was prepared in a sanitary setting. Think of it this way. If they’re allowing the public parts of the restaurant to look messy or dirty, just imagine what the parts you can’t see (like the kitchen) look like.

Make copies of your important travel documents. You should bring copies of your driver’s license, passport, credit card, debit card, and any other travel document necessary and keep them in your cabin’s safe. If anything happens on the trip or to your original documents, you will have all the information you need safely tucked away. Having copies of your original documents will also speed up the process of getting you new documents.

Carry a flashlight. Always bring a small flashlight with a replacement bulb and battery. You never know when the power is going to go out (no matter the reason). Having the flashlight can be a lifesaver. For all sorts of security and safety issues, this is a piece of equipment worth buying and keeping with you.

Know your exits. Every cabin has emergency exit information published in each room. No one ever reads it, but every traveler should! In addition to reading it, travelers should actually go to the exit, open the door, and see where it leads. By taking a practice run, you’ll gain an important piece of information in case of a fire or other emergency. And when your captain calls for a lifeboat drill, be sure to participate. Don’t stay in your cabin and think that you’ll figure it out when the time comes. Knowing how to exit your cabin in the event you need to is an invaluable piece of information for every traveler. It can mean the difference between a good and a bad outcome in an emergency.

Pack a power strip or surge protector. Each cabin has only one electrical outlet, which is located right next to the desk or vanity. And it has only two plugs. If you want to use your computer, charge your camera, listen to music, and use a hair dryer while someone is taking a shower, you’ll need more outlets. A power strip or a surge protector will give you the extra electricity you need.

Put fabric softener sheets between your garments in your suitcase. If your travel time to the ship is more than 24 hours, this will help keep everything in your suit case smelling fresh. This is particularly nice with garments or accessories that are not regularly laundered, such as sweaters or jackets. You can cut a sheet in half and place each half in your shoes.

Bring bungee cords. They are easy to pack, take up virtually no room at all, and can even be useful in keeping your bags lashed together as you maneuver onto the ship. Just hang the bungee cord from any suitable place and you have a sturdy hook. They also make a great clothesline when you string it across the opening of your shower, or between a couple of towel bars. Lastly, use one to strap down your towel if you’re up on the deck when the ship is underway.

Is there any thing I missed that you think could make a cruise more enjoyable? Let me know in a comment on this post. Happy cruising!

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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