MJ on Travel

Marshall Jackson is an aviation enthusiast and avid cruiser. After 10 years in the airline business, Marshall moved on to a new career that includes plenty of travel and plenty of cruises, and that’s just the way he likes it.

15 Septembers Later

I’ve put this same post up for 7 years in a row, and I don’t feel any need to change that habit. These few paragraphs represent the best short summary of my recollections of my day as a Customer Service Manager for American Airlines at DCA on September 11, 2001. This is by no means a complete synopsis. Truth told, there was a moment when I thought an airplane might fly through the expansive glass terminal at DCA at any minute. A broadcast on a policeman’s radio that says “there’s another airplane inbound to DCA, ETA 15 minutes” will do that to a guy who doesn’t know any better. I changed that day. We all did. But little did I know that the change had only just begun. Originally posted on September 11, 2009. Nine years ago today, my morning began much like any other early fall day.  I was roaming the airport in search of coffee and a bagel, mentally celebrating a successful morning launch of kick-off flights at Washington National Airport (DCA) on September 11, 2001.  I was one of the Customer Service Managers at DCA on duty for American Airlines that day. During a visit with our operations agent, I heard a radio call from our first inbound flight of the day.  The crew had a question, “had we heard anything about an incident in New...

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I Like Kimpton’s Approach on Card Fraud Issue

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. Simply put, they get it. If there’s a Kimpton property in a city I’m traveling to, I’m going to make every effort to stay there. You may have heard that the boutique chain experienced a major card fraud issue earlier this year. I first learned about the Kimpton card fraud issue at Krebs on Security. Kimpton has added a link to details about the issue on its home page. The information appears to have been updated yesterday (August 31, 2016). Here’s an excerpt. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants...

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My Latest Amex Retention Call: Talked to a Computer

I’m weeding out the credit cards that I’m no longer using as I refocus on financial simplicity, bring my personal balance sheet back to reality, and replenish my cash coffers so I can start tip-toeing back into a focus on miles and points. OK, I’m doing some of this because team MJ on Travel is getting ready to relocate, but I digress. 🙂 Next on my list of cards: The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express. I’ve dithered with the idea of keeping this card. I do appreciate the utility of SPG points, but limited earning potential coupled with...

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Why I Am Not Applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

As you likely know, a brand new credit card product just arrived on the scene. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card may be the best credit card product of all time if you travel frequently. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why. 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 3X Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining purchases, and 1X points on all others. A $300 annual travel credit. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. ($100 value every 4 years) Airport lounge access through the Priority Pass Select program. Trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Primary auto rental collision damage waiver. Emergency evacuation & transportation coverage. Trip delay reimbursement. All of this (and I haven’t listed every benefit) makes the card well worth its $450 annual fee. The $300 travel credit effectively brings the annual fee to $150. This coupled with the impressive 100,000 point bonus and 3X points earning for travel and dining expenses  and superior travel protections make this one of the best, if not the absolute best, credit cards for travelers I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I think it’s that good, yet I am not applying for it.   Wait. What? You read that right. I am not applying for the best credit card for travelers ever. If you’ve read me before, you might...

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Royal Caribbean Backs Off Loyalty Program Changes

I reported here a few days ago that Royal Caribbean was removing the popular balcony discount for its Crown & Anchor Society loyalty members for cruises booked within 6 months. A predictable outcry ensued from Royal Caribbean’s most loyal cruisers. While I wasn’t happy, I noted that I could now take advantage of other benefits like Amex Cruise Privileges which offered me an equivalent or near equivalent value. Well, it appears that Royal Caribbean has heard the cries. According to this post on Cruise Critic, they have decided to put the changes on hold for now. Notably, postpone is not the same thing as cancel….but it does suggest the company is considering the viability of such a move after hearing an outcry from its most loyal cruisers. The Bottom Line It never hurts to make sure your voice is heard. We’ll see if the Royal Caribbean permanently backs away from this unpopular change or if it moves ahead at a later...

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How Do You Fall Off a Cruise Ship?

Short answer – you don’t. Now if one is standing on the guard rail, leaning over from the waist so you can get that perfect shot, and/or intoxicated, then you may find yourself going for a swim. Further, if you have the good fortune to survive the “fall,” the likelihood that you’ll be recovered is pretty low. It appears that a Chinese tourist aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas has defied all the odds. According to crew-center.com, Chinese tourist Wang Si went overboard on August 10. “First to notice her disappearance was her family who informed the ships officers. All crew were engaged in an on board search operation, but they could not find the 32 year-old woman. Ship’s captain notified the Coast Guard, and search and rescue operation was initiated. After reviewing the recordings from the surveillance cameras, security officer noticed that the woman fell overboard.” Fortunately for Ms. Si, she is apparently an accomplished swimmer because she was discovered by fishermen 38 hours later, and apparently no worse for wear. “She was in a stable condition with minor injuries on her arms. Upon her rescue, the woman said she fell off the Mariner of the Seas while leaning over a 1.4-meter rail and gazing into the sea.” My Take First, I’m glad she’s OK. That said….. Don’t lean over the rails! Don’t climb on them. Don’t...

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Royal Caribbean Dropping Crown and Anchor Balcony Discount for Close-in Bookings

Much to the chagrin of Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members, the cruise line has announced that it is dropping the popular balcony and suite discounts as of September 1, 2016, for its loyalty program participants unless they book more than 6 months in advance. The change was rolled out on a promotional flyer recently and reads: “Encourage your clients to book now! As of September 1, 2016 balcony and suite discounts will only apply to sailings booked more than six months out.” The balcony discount is one of the most valuable perks of being loyal to Royal, and it is disappointing to see it removed for cruises booked less than 6 months in advance. My Take Disappointing, but there is some good news. If you’re booking less than 6 months out, you can now take advantage of other opportunities like the American Express Cruise Privileges program which may equal or exceed the value of the Crown & Anchor discount. In a bit of other good news for Royal’s most prolific cruisers, Pinnacle Club members, the discount is increasing by $25 starting August 15, 2016. In the end, I’m not sure this is totally bad news for me as most of my sailings are booked more than 6 months in advance. Further, I can now take better advantage of the Amex Cruise Privileges program for those sailings I...

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Summer Travel Tips Work When Airline Computers Attack Too

Well, the last few weeks have been interesting from an information technology perspective. One could be forgiven for asking “what can I do” in this kind of situation. Not that much, but my “Summer Travel Tips from an ex-Airline Guy” post contains a few nuggets that apply here to. Of course, “flying early” would not have helped today, but these tips are still worth a review. So here’s a “Best of” post from way back in 2013. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. What can I possibly be talking about? Summer travel season, of course! It’s the best because it’s summer, and it’s time to play. It’s the worst because that means the cherubs are all heading for the airport at the same time the rest of us are there, and it can challenge your patience…big time! Throw a thunderstorm or hurricane into the mix, and you’ve got an instant cauldron of madness that can push even the calmest person you know over the edge. I have personally been on the receiving end of fire-tinged vitriol from upset customers whom I am certain were otherwise perfectly reasonable. That may be why I have no hair left! Many times, we (being my employer) were at fault, and other times, there was nothing anyone could do, and the customer was just a victim of something...

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10 Years of Blogging, Drink Package Discounts, and a CLEAR Vision

I’m finally spending a week at home and at the office, and I’m not unhappy about that at all. Lots going on and I need to catch up at the day job and the job of blogging. While I’m looking at another month or so before things settle down, I did manage to say a few words here on the blog over the last week or so. Let’s take a look. Happy Birthday to MJ on Travel – 10 Years of Blogging….WOW! My First CLEAR Experience in Years Royal Caribbean Discounting Drink Packages SS United States Not Returning to Sea American Commits to Charlotte (CLT) Two FREE Uber Rides for Hotel Stays JetBlue to Europe? Yes Please A Tale of Two Airlines: AA and DL Enjoy the rest of your weekend! -MJ, August 7,...

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SS United States Will Not Return to Sea

In February, Crystal Cruises disclosed that it was exploring the possibility of restoring the iconic oceanliner, SS United States, to seagoing service. Crystal undertook an extensive technical feasibility study to ascertain whether or not the ship could be brought into compliance with current regulatory requirements and start sailing regular cruises again. After a 6-month study, the company determined that the investments needed to modernize the ship were not commercially viable. According to a press release from the SS United States Conservancy “Following an intensive, six-month evaluation, Crystal Cruises today determined that while the SS United States is structurally sound, the technical and commercial challenges associated with returning the historic liner to service as a modern cruise ship have unfortunately proven insurmountable. As a show of support for the vessel, Crystal Cruises will be making a significant donation of $350,000 to aid in the Conservancy’s ongoing mission to save the ship. The Conservancy intends to resume its pursuit of stationary redevelopment opportunities for America’s Flagship.” The release went on to provide greater details on the technical challenges that would need to be met to bring the ship back into service. “Led by retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan, Crystal’s impressive team of maritime experts and engineers conducted numerous assessments on the ship in the Port of Philadelphia, where it has been docked for 20 years. The evaluation and testing included in-depth...

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