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You know that old idiom, “everything happens in threes?” Well, it absolutely applies in the case of WiFi on cruise ships this season. At-sea connectivity is a notoriously sore spot in the cruise industry, since the standard satellite systems bring embarrassingly low bandwidth at a shamefully high cost. In most cases, we’re talking $0.75 per minute. For real.
Several years ago it was normal to be charged ~$300 just to keep up some minimal internet access for emailing and some social media-ing on a 7-day cruise, and as of 2014 not much had changed...other than the passengers’ desire for more time online at a better price.
Then along came Royal Caribbean’s “smartship” Quantum of the Seas and its lower cost, lower orbit, higher bandwidth satellite technology, includinggaspunlimited plans.
There are certain travel topics that are guaranteed to rile up the Internet. Overweight passengers and children on planes are always reliable, but so is anything that has to do with airport fashion choices (pajamas, travel pillows, flip flops, and so on).
It turns out that blaming people for things they don't like is also not very popular. Go figure.
Last week Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View's veteran economics columnist, posted an article making a very basic point about how the airline industry works. She explained that, since airline customers purchase their tickets based on cost, airlines will be driven to cut costs.
The headline was a little provocative: "Hate Flying? It's Your Fault." But the argument shouldn't have been very controversial. As we've explained before, the profit per passenger really is wafer thin.
The Internet disagreed and its culture of outrage went into overdrive.
No official change has been brought forth by officials, but travel agents and tour operators are telling the media that they've been informed of the changes and are beginning to pass on the information to their clients.
The goods news for us Americans, though, is that we still don't need a visa to enter the U.A.E. so long as the stay will be for less than 30 days. If you plan to stay longer than a month, you'll need to do some paperwork.
Before everyone began to break for the holidays, Italian authorities fined TripAdvisor $610,000 for what it calls a failure to properly vet and monitor its user reviews. TripAdvisor and consumer-review websites are no strangers to these criticisms in general, but this is the first time a country or destination has done something about it and levied a fine.
While most are genuine in their reviews, still others log on with a motive that doesn't include making an honest review. How can you tell? And how can you get the most out of TripAdvisor, without being led on by a phony review? Below, we provide a few tips when evaluating reviews:
Tragedies / AirAsia / Tony Fernandes / QZ8501 / Travel News / Indonesia Travel / A320 / Indonesia AirAsia / → All Tags
"Until today, we have never lost a life." - AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, 28 December 2014.
There's been no resolution yet to the question of what happened to Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320 (tail PK-AXC) which disappeared while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, and we're not going to speculate.
More and more there's been an issue with the responsible reporting of aviation incidents. FOX News is an infamous offender, prone to flagrant speculation and misinformation, but they're not the only ones. Even CNN can get their facts wrong. For example, today the CNN Asia Pacific Editor, Andrew Stevens, compared the search area to the size of California. In reality it's less than half that size; Stevens made a mis-calculation between square kilometers and square miles, but issued no correction. Media loves a soundbite like that California size comparison, so automatically CNN spreads flawed information.
If you'd like to follow along with the latest in the search, we recommend checking out the few sources we trust in these matters:
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Looking back, 2014's travel news ran the gamut from excellent to tragic. On the whole, it stands out as one when travel truly tugged at our heart-strings.
We've rounded up the tenderest moments of the year, ranging from magic planes to romantic proposals. Grab a box of Kleenex.
Airline News / Airlines / AirTran / 717 / Travel News / → All Tags
When AirTran flight 1 landed at Tampa International Airport last night, passengers disembarked with tears in their eyes. It was the last AirTran flight ever, a bittersweet occasion as it marked the full integration of AirTran into Southwest.
So while AirTran as a brand is gone, their memory lives on through what they did right as an airline.
Here's what we will miss...
The busiest travel day of the year isn't right after Thanksgiving as holiday travel folklore would have you believe, but it is tomorrow, December 19. Are you ready?
Airlines4America predicts that 45 million travelers will fly US airlines over a period of 19 days, the peak holiday span between December 17 and January 4.
Planes are projected to be 80 percent to 90 percent full over the winter holiday period, with the busiest travel day expected to be Friday, Dec. 19. The lightest travel days are expected to be Wednesday, Dec. 24; Thursday, Dec. 25; Wednesday, Dec. 31; and Thursday, Jan. 1.
"Hackers Vs. Illuminati." Name of next year's summer blockbuster movie, or inevitable result of this whole Sony scandal?
Both, probably. In case you've been living under a rock, the film studio has been hit by an embarrassing cyber-attack, one that continues to result in leaks of sensitive information: from stars' social security numbers to the kind of very entertaining emails that refer to Angelina Jolie as a "minimally talented spoiled brat." (Oh my.) The latest revelation? Pseudonyms used by various Hollywood celebs when they travel — you know, for hotel check-in and other incognito reservations. We've included some of the recently revealed aliases below, in approximate ascending order of cleverness.
Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg News, investigators have managed to trace the source of the attack back to the five-star St. Regis Bangkok Hotel. Ironically, whoever actually did this dirty work remains the one (in)famous hotel guest with their identity still unknown.
Hackers: 1. Illuminati: 0.
Jaunted Interviews / Cruise Travel / Ships / At-Sea WiFi / Quantum of the Seas / Royal Caribbean / Travel News / WiFi / Travel Tech / Technology / O3b Communications / Allure of the Seas / Anthem of the Seas / Oasis of the Seas / Caribbean Travel / → All Tags
"This changes everything."
That's the boasty slogan of ads on TV commercials and even plastered on bus shelters around NYC, referring to the newest cruise ship now sailing: Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas.
The Quantum calls itself a "Smartship," deploying fresh technology from bow to sternin some cases, technology that's never before been seen on a cruise ship, including at-sea WiFi faster than the usual slower-than-stalagmites connection and dedicated apps to help plan your cruise time in real-time.
Between riding the North Star and peeking into multi-level suites, we managed a moment with Bill Martin, Chief Information Officer for Royal Caribbean to discuss faster speeds, better satellites, and what all this means for the bottom line of your cruise folio:
If you haven't heard, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has spent $4.7 million on travel this year so far. The $4.7 million has taken Mabus over 955,000 miles through Iraq, Afghanistan, numerous trips to German military bases, and a few relationship-typing “we-need-to-talk” type of chats Japan and South Korea.
With this, it’s truly difficult to grasp the magnitude of 955,000 travel miles. To quickly put that in perspective, that’s about the distance between Earth and Mars… times four! For fun, we decided to figure out some crazy, cool, and crazy-cool things to do with a $4.7 million and 955,000-mile travel budget.
Cruise Travel / Virgin Cruises / Norwegian Cruise Line / Celebrity Cruises / Ships / Travel News / → All Tags
Branson with a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant in the Bellagio fountain, Las Vegas
As the new year approaches, so does what the cruise industry calls "wave season." This means a slew of great promotions are offered at the beginning of the year, every year. It's perfect timing as most of the country is in a deep freeze. Before the deals, however, comes news of what to expect with cruise ships in 2015 and 2016. Here's the latest:
· Airplanes and spaceships and cruise ships, oh my?
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group confirmed today that Virgin Cruises is a GO, with two planned ships. While itineraries, sail dates, and ship specifics are hush-hush for now, Branson has dropped some hints:
We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love.
They’ll be sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.
How will the Virgin Cruise experience really compare to or include(?) their other travel offerings, like the airlines and Virgin Hotels? Are we bracing ourselves for another megaship or something more intimate? Where will the itineraries travel to? Will it be the saturated Caribbean, hot spot China, easy Europe? Whatever the decision, we'll be booking that inaugural for sure.