Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Choosing a European Cruise Itinerary

Europe is a diverse collection of countries, each with its own great cities, rich culture, scenic landscapes, and fascinating history.  Cruising is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the many wonders of the Old World, but with so many itineraries to choose from, how does one decide? With European cruises gaining in popularity, itineraries are always changing and each year new ports are added. However, as a general guideline, most European cruises fall into the following categories.

 Northern Europe cruises generally leave from Southampton or Harwich, England or Amsterdam, Netherlands.  The itineraries encompass two distinct regions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Royal Caribbean announces changes to the Crown & Anchor Society

For the second time in less than two years, Royal Caribbean is making changes to their Crown & Anchor Loyalty program.  This time the alteration is less about the benefits and more about the structure.  Here’s a summary of the changes.

 Previously, Crown & Anchor credits were earned per cruise.  A 3-night cruise and a 7-night cruise earned the same one credit.  Cruises longer than 9 nights earned double, as did being booked in suite accommodations.  The new program moves to a day-based accounting of points.  Once again, those booking suites will receive double points. For example, a 7-night cruise will earn seven points.  Stay in the Grand Suite and you will earn 14 points!

 Two new levels of recognition have been added.  The new tier configuration is Gold (3 points), Platinum (30 points), Emerald (55 points), Diamond (80 points), Diamond Plus (175 points) and the highest echelon, Pinnacle Club (700 points). When you log into the Crown & Anchor web page you can see how your credits were converted to points.  I now find myself with 104 points within the Diamond level.  The road to Diamond Plus will be long but what a lovely path to travel!

 There is now a way to select your upgrade preference, should one be available on your sailing. Maybe you want the upgrade to be automatic, while others prefer to limit upgrades with specific conditions.  That being said, keep in mind that quite often Royal Caribbean ships sail full, so don’t count on one! You can also select a gift preference, should one be due you.  Nothing grand, but I’d rather have a bottle of water on ice than another baseball cap when I arrive at my cabin!

 So there you have it. It is what I feel, a more equitable way of tallying up cruise credits or points. I also like being able to note my preferences.  That’s something that hotel loyalty clubs have been doing for years.  Nice job, Royal Caribbean!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Royal Caribbean International Names Direct Line Cruises Northeast Partner of the Year

Last week, Royal Caribbean International announced its highly coveted Partner of the Year awards for 2010.  Among the handful of winners was our agency (Direct Line Cruises, Inc.), whom has been named the 2010 Northeast Partner of the Year for Royal Caribbean.  This has been truly an incredible year for our company and we have seen tremendous growth with the Royal Caribbean brand.  Our entire team at Direct Line Cruises would like to thank our loyal clients and our partners at Royal Caribbean for helping us win this award.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Europe by Land or Sea

I had always dreamed of touring Europe…visions of castles, cathedrals and cobblestone danced in my head.  My husband and I made that dream come true many years ago when we planned our honeymoon!  With over-stuffed suitcases and lots of energy, off we went for a whirlwind 28 days, traveling the continent by bus, train and ferry.  London, Paris, Nice, Florence, Rome, Venice, Pisa, Lucerne…amazing?  Absolutely!  But never that way again! 

 We’ve been fortunate enough to “cross the pond” several more times over the years. But instead of snapping photos from a bus window and traipsing around from hotel to hotel with suitcases filled with way too many shoes, we chose to cruise.  After all, cruising to the Caribbean, Alaska, or Bermuda had been our vacation of choice for years.  So when we started to think about returning to the Mediterranean, a cruise made a lot of sense to us.

Being able to leave the complicated logistics involved in overseas travel to the cruise line is a wonderful thing! You can forego the uncertainty of booking appropriate accommodations in safe areas and the hassle of seeking out good but affordable restaurants and an evening show.  Train schedules, train strikes, and validating train tickets can be a headache an inexperienced traveler may not want to deal with.  A cruise eliminates all those worries and more.

  When you cruise your ship acts as a floating hotel, a familiar home base to which you return to each evening. All the luxury and convenience of the ship is yours to enjoy.  Imagine treating your weary body to a soothing massage after a magnificent day of exploring ancient ruins! No lugging around suitcases and digging through them for certain items, wrinkling everything you touch.  Instead, unpack once and have your clothes stay neat and organized.  If you need to do laundry it’s a lot easier to leave it with your cabin steward than wasting time in a local laundromat. 

 From a monetary standpoint, choosing a cruise is a no-brainer.  Fluctuating exchange rates have little impact on your budget when you see Europe by cruise ship. However, that is not the case when you’re making hotel reservations but unable to determine the strength of the dollar sometime in the future when you check out of your room! In addition, when you purchase an almost all-inclusive vacation the bulk of your expenses are fixed and often paid for before you even depart. Nobody wants to come home to the shock of opening up a “surprise” credit card bill!

 Discovering Europe by cruise ship is a dream come true. Cruising is a stress free, uncomplicated, and cost-effective. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit some of the most enchanting cities in the world and experience their beauty, history and culture. Are you ready to let one of the European Cruise Specialists at Direct Line Cruises turn your dream into a reality?
 In part 2 of this series I’ll discuss the different European itineraries