Sunday, July 20, 2014

Joys of Booking Flights


For me this is the worst part of travelling, the flying.  But first I have to book flights which is fun, but can also cause me to pull my hair out.

It is something we do ourselves thru one of the many travel search sites found on line.  

Note I do not think this option is for everyone. You need to be very comfortable with the internet and doing searches and know somewhat about routing and itinerary.  I have heard horror stories of people booking the wrong city ie. wanting to go to Sydney Australia, but booked Sydney, Nova Scotia (very different location). Other friends only saw the first page of the search for a flight and booked one of those flight only to find out later that on the next page was a much better flight for a few dollars more. 

Yes even I have made errors. One trip I booked our return flight for the day before we docked. Yup I mixed up the days and it required a call to the airline and a small fee to change the dates. Do you have a horror story?

So if any of the above worry you please, please, call a good travel agent, their knowledge will save you a lot of headaches in the end.  

Okay back to booking our flights.

We normally search for flights daily, yes daily. Airlines change routing, prices hourly (actually probably more often than that). Now with airlines being able to get instant responses as to what people are searching for and what is popular they can easily charge more for flights that seem popular in searches and less for those that are not being searched for in the hopes of filling up that plane.

We use many different sites. is our favorite but we also search travelocity, priceline and a few others, and don't forget about booking directly with the airline's site too. What you need to remember too is not all airlines are represented in these mass search sites. So with that you need to do some more digging or searching on line. I have even gone to airport websites and searched their daily flights to see who and where flights are going. This was very helpful when flying to Rio de Janeiro, we were able to determine that it was better for us to fly from the US to Brazil, then connect to a smaller carrier to Rio for a huge savings.

Yesterday we were searching for flights to LAX for our November trip, and then flights to Fort Lauderdale for our January trip. We had been searching for awhile and knew approximately how much we could expect to pay and since both trips had good routing and prices we booked.  

For November the search actually came up that it was better for us to fly two one way flights, one with Westjet (free bags) and the return with Alaskan. We even looked at options to fly into Long Beach instead of LAX, but this time it looks like LAX has the better times for us. Also even though there was a great flight at 11:35 out of LAX, we knew that could be too tight.  It would be hard to get off the ship, take transfer to the airport in LA week day traffic and then check in and get thru security.  Also noting that this will be the Wednesday before the US Thanksgiving and is typically a crazy day to travel. So with all that we decided to book a 13:30 flight instead and have more peace of mind.

For our January trip, after searching for fares one or two days prior also, it came up with over a $100 savings if we flew in the day prior. We talked about it and decided it was worth flying in a day earlier and starting the holiday off right.  

Another thing about our January trip is the routing, since we are flying into many hubs that could be affected by weather it is key for us to get out on the first flight and head South.  We hate the option of flying all the way to Toronto/Montreal/Detroit/Chicago and who knows what kind of weather they are having. Heck we have been hit hard in Atlanta a few times, even needing de-icing there when we never needed it in Vancouver - go figure. 

With booking this far in advance for January we have experienced subtle changes to flights by the airlines in the past, United especially does this. So we often have to periodically check the itinerary to ensure they haven't made any major change. Note if they do make a major change often you can call them and see if there is something better. 

So here are my tips when booking your own flights:

  • Search daily for your flights to see what is out there and the price.  Make note of prices/flights so you can track.
  • Many sites will show you a history of the price for that itinerary so you can decide if it is a good time to buy or not.
  • Make sure you look at other airports in the area. Sometimes flying into a different airport gives you better flights and less time for transfers.
  • If you are going on a cruise I can't stress enough the need to fly in the day prior. Save yourself the stress and worry and start your vacation right.
  • Search the web for which airlines fly the routing you are looking at cause not all travel search sites show all airlines.
  • Double, triple check that you have the right city code/destination when flying so you don't end up in a city with the same name.
  • After you have booked, print out your itinerary and place with your travel documents and then check periodically your flight itinerary with the airline to ensure that no changes have been made.  Even if you have set up for them to send you an email if there is a change, they don't always do this (personal experience here) so it is up to you to be aware.
  • Book seats if you can but note they change aircraft, especially if you book far enough out and then your seat reservation will be dropped, so check to see if this has happened and rebook those seats.
  • If you do make an error when booking you normally (but check for your country) have 24 hours to make a change. This law is relatively new and applies to the US.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Cruise Ship Show

I just watched the show called The Cruise Ship featuring the Royal Princess.  It is a four part series, with episode one shown tonight. 

This is a show from ITV in Britain.  So to watch the show you have to be a resident there.  But you can circumvent it by going to  you need to register with hola and then you can watch any content around the world by changing your settings to the appropriate country.   So for this show I change it so that it thinks I am using a UK server.  

Then go to ITV's page ITV and you may need to register with them.  Note they asked for a UK postal code.  I just happened to search for a UK code and came up with SE10AA and it worked fine, but any postal code will do from Britain.
And it worked great and I was able to watch the show.
My thoughts on the show:

  • this is for television and it really is not what cruising is like
  • this Mandy woman, boy I swear we have met her on or her type on board many times.  Loved her comment about the elites... she sure is going to make a good elite passenger since she allready seems to be full of herself.... Oh and let your husband speak.
  • We of course noticed many discrepencies, like Baked Alaska is served on the last night always.  But that just means I am way into cruising and may need to get a life.
  • We recognized so many people, so nice to see Dan, Liz, Dirk, Captain Draper, the F&B Manager, and even Brett. 
  • thought it was quite comical
  • Ship looks lovely and can't wait to get on her in January.
Hope you can all figure out this and be able to watch too.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Day on the Crown Princess

After spending such a long time on the Crown this year and reconnecting with old friends and making many new friends we were excited to be getting on the ship as guests of one of the crew.  This would give us time to see the ship again, and see so many of the crew again.

Of course Bernie stopped by Purdy's Chocolates to pick up some treats to hand out to the crew we knew.  

We arrived at the pier at around 9 am and went to the security area where we were happy to be lead to the line for the crew.  They confirmed we were on the list as visitors for the day.  Scanned our bags - guess no issue with bringing chocolates.  

We then snaked our way thru the terminal to the check-in for crew at the pier just before the gangway. Here they once again checked our id, gave us visitor passes to be worn and held on to our driver's license till we got off.  We headed up the gangway against all the traffic coming off the ship.  Kind of felt like salmon going upstream.  

Princess security was there and they scanned our visitor pass and took our picture and binged us in.  

Our friend Laura was called and she came and met us and big hugs and smiles ensued.  

Down to the International Cafe and so excited to see Beatrice again.  But that is one of the only faces we recognize in the IC as all the others have gone home already.

We sit and catch up with Laura and as we sit there we have so many come by and welcome us on board and big hugs again.  

It was great to see so many - too many to list - and of course everyone was asking "are you on for the week". Sadly no.... we have to head back to work but will be on in September.

We found out that Claudio the Hotel General Manager is still on and is heading home today but he is still around as his flight isn't until later.  We get the chance to meet his beautiful wife and two lovely children.  

We find out that Niki is the new Hotel General Manager while Claudio is away.  We both smile and say oh we remember Niki from the Star when she was the Customer Service Director.  She comes by and we catch up on what she has been up to and congratulate her on her promotion.  We are sorry to hear that she won't be on in September, but then again we are happy Claudio will be back on then. Although she does mention to us that she is getting on the Golden and will be there when we are on it in November.

Johan and Laura join us for a lovely lunch in the dining room.  Note:  Check your Patter when you get on as at least one dining room is open for lunch usually from noon until 1:30.  

It had been a while since I had embarkation lunch so I was curious to see what had changed.  Not much but it is enough of a selection to really be worth the effort instead of fighting the crowds in the Horizon Court.  

I started with the avocado and shrimp salad.  I remember it being served in a half avocado but now it is more just a few slices of avocado, but still very tasty.  

I decided to go with the hamburger for lunch, I know boring but the other options just didn't entice me enough and I really enjoy their burgers and this one did not disappoint.  

I did decide to have the apple Tarte Tatin, but it really was different and not a tart tin at all but the apples were very tasty, but I knew I should behave as I am not on holidays - although I wish I was.

Laura and Johan need to get some work done, so we part ways and tell them we will met up later.

We find all the shoppies (staff from the stores on board) at the forward elevators helping passengers and it was really cute to see how happy they were to see us.  Nancy from Mexico was in charge of one of the elevators and she kept saying "stay here until I come back".  Sanja came and met us and we caught up with her and gave her a belated birthday card and of course a big hug.  We also were so happy to see Clare the Shop Manager as she was getting off today but was still busy doing handover stuff and she informed us she is heading to the Grand so we thankfully will get to see her there.

As the afternoon progressed we both are saying how odd it feels to be on board but having to get off soon.  We are not use to that.  We don't really have an interest in going back to Alaska but we wish we could stay on and just relax, but something tells me this is going to be a busy cruise.  

Why you ask do I say that... well the demographics.... we noticed right away that many passengers were first time or had just a few cruises under their belt.  Lots of questions to the staff, lots of younger people, lots of kids.  I am excited for them.  I remember when I was like them and how everything was so new and fresh and exciting.  So many kids will get to experience this amazing adventure and I am pleased. 

So around 3 pm we decided it was time to head off (we had to be off by 4) and make our way home.  6 glorious hours on board the beautiful Crown Princess.

Not sure if we will get back on again this summer.  We have arranged to meet up with other crew in the coming turn around days to show some of them around and we will be seeing many in just over two months.  

Until then....