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.

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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American Commits to Charlotte

I was always entertained at all the predictions about American’s Charlotte hub “going away” once AA and US were fully integrated. I mean….the original AA couldn’t make it in Raleigh, so Charlotte had to go, right? Not really. Many armchair CEOs liked to hang their hat on a little nugget of information – Raleigh produces more “local” traffic than Charlotte….or at least it has, even though Charlotte’s metro area is larger. There are a few reasons for that little anomaly, in my opinion, that I won’t get into here. For sure, the nature of the CLT hub has changed within a larger AA network, but I never thought the hub was going away. So, did American make some proclamation about serving CLT forever? No. According the the Phoenix Business Journal, the airline is consolidating its pilot training operations at both the original AA Flight Academy and at CLT: “American Airlines is relocating flight training operations out of Phoenix and is moving those to training centers in Charlotte and Fort Worth, Texas where the airline is based. The closure of the Phoenix flight training center and the relocations to North Carolina and Texas is slated to happen by the end of 2017.” My Take While relocating additional pilot training resources to Charlotte is not a guarantee that hub operations won’t be curtailed, I think it’s a positive sign for the...

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10 Years, 2735 Posts, Immeasurable Memories

Ten years ago Wednesday, I wrote my first blog post. Some 2,734 posts would follow that one. Daily page views have ranged from 1 to over 6,000. Not surprisingly, I suppose, my most read topics have been cruise reviews, cruise line drink packages (what does that say about me? 🙂 ), Delta Air Lines, SkyMiles, and my overall thoughts on the new loyalty paradigm….not necessarily in that order, and not always popular. I’ve been posting less lately, and that’s no one’s fault but my own. Blogging is not a career for me, and my actual job is taking increasing amounts of my time. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to change in the next month or so. I have a few thoughts to ponder about the future of MJ on Travel, but in the meantime, I’ll be blogging about life on the road and things that matter to business travelers when they happen. I have to work through some recent day job changes before I can “get my groove back” but I’m still here, and still thankful to Randy Petersen, everyone at the House of Miles for their continued tolerance, and every single one of you. More soon. -MJ  ...

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Two FREE Uber Rides for Hotel Stays

Uber and Booking.com are out with an interesting promotion. According to the email I received, book a hotel stay with Booking.com and you’ll receive two promotion codes good for free rides up to $15 in value. Not a bad deal if you plan on booking a hotel anyway. The offer is valid once per customer and the hotel stay must be completed by October 31, 2016. After your stay, Booking.com will send the promotion codes to you via email, with their exact value to be detailed in the email. Rides need to be completed by December 31, 2016. It is not clear to me whether this offer is targeted or not so YMMV. Review the full terms and conditions of the deal here. Follow this link to book your...

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Royal Caribbean Discounting Beverage Packages

I’ve blogged on the virtues of cruise line drink packages before. While they are very much a YMMV situation depending on your habits, they are worth a few minutes of consideration in your cruise vacation planning. At best, they really can save you money. At worst, you know most of the cost of your cruise in advance and don’t have to worry about blowing your budget. Royal Caribbean is running a promotion right now the offers 20 percent off the cost of your beverage package. I can’t guarantee it is available on every sailing, but reports are widespread that if you log into royalcaribbean.com and enter your “Cruise Planner” to shop for the packages, you’ll see the promotion. I did and found the offer. I was able to pick up the Ultimate Package for $49 per day plus gratuity. The all-in price worked out to $57.82 per person, per day for our short 5-night getaway this fall. That’s actually a perfect deal for us as Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Package includes bottled water and specialty coffees. We drink lots of coffee and water….and when we’re on vacationing…especially on a short “party” cruise like this, we’ll do our share of imbibing too. If you are cruising Royal Caribbean soon, check and see if your cruise is eligible for a beverage package discount. It could be worth it depending on your...

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