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Daily Travel Dish

November 6, 2003 

A recent TravelClick study found that the average hotel rate booked through a travel agency was 41% higher than the average rate booked via the Internet. Another reason to shop for a hotel online before you go. Make sure you read my recent article, "How To Get The Best Hotel Deals."

I am off to the annual Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) convention in Orlando. I'll be flying US Airways to Orlando and trying out their online check-in today. Stay tuned for the results in an upcoming column. While preparing for today's flight, I noticed that US Airways recently changed their checked baggage weight limits. They use to be generous at 70 pounds; however, they've now joined the rest of the legacy airline lemmings by lowering it to 50 pounds. I find it amusing that the low cost carriers: Southwest, JetBlue, and AirTran offer the most generous baggage allowance of all. Gee, you can bring more bags and fly cheaper. Nice concept!

The next Daily Travel Dish will appear on Monday, November, 10. Until then have a wonderful weekend!

November 5, 2003 

UPDATE :  Two passengers on board the bug-hit P&O Cruises liner Aurora have died, the company said. But P&O said the deaths were "not related" to the Norwalk (NLV) virus, which has afflicted around 500 of passengers on the luxury liner in the last few days. A company spokeswoman said, "I can confirm that two passengers have died during the duration of the cruise, but must stress that they are both unrelated to the norovirus." 

In September, Chris Elliott broke the story on a new air travel gadget called, Knee Defender. Put Knee-Defender on your tray table and it keeps the seat in front of you from reclining. Needless to say, this is causing a lot of controversy in the airline industry and among frequent fliers. Northwest Airlines has banned the device citing that they could damage aircraft seats. The industry's largest flight attendant group, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), has harsh words regarding its use. Knee-Defender inventor, Ira Goldman, cites he's just standing up for the rights of the tall guy. What do you think? Talk to us and fellow travelers on our bulletin board and cast your vote in this week's poll.

Oh Deer

If you are driving in any area with a large deer population, beware. It's deer mating season, which means a higher chance of accidents. Each year in the U.S., deer accidents cause over 150 deaths and 1.1 billion in property damage. Be on the lookout, particularly at dusk and dawn, when deer are most active. I came within two feet of totaling my SUV last night.  Thank heavens for anti-lock brakes.  Just be careful driving out there!

November 4, 2003 

I've been on my fair share of cruises to know it's one of the more enjoyable value-vacation options anywhere.  Still, this latest fiasco with P & O's Aurora shows that the problem of Norwalk Virus (NLV) breakouts onboard ships still haunts the cruise industry. So, why are cases growing? Clearly, the increasing number of individuals choosing to cruise for vacation has much to do with it. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that the NLV virus has become more resistant. So, what can be done to help limit NLV? Here are my personal observations and opinions.
  • Buffet Watch - I cannot tell you how many times I've witnessed poor handling of food by passengers (not crew) in the buffet areas. Picking up something and then putting it back, or worse bringing back used plates and cups for re-fills. You will never see this problem on the luxury cruise lines as passengers used plates are quickly removed from tables.

  • Sticky-Fingered Darlings - Over the years I've noticed that as more kids cruise, so too, does the spread of illness. Fortunately, I've never incurred the wrath of NLV aboard a cruise ship; however, my young daughter has. She clearly picked up the bug in the ship's youth area. Like daycare, school, or any other area mobbed kids germs and their rapid spread are a given.
What Cruise Lines Should Do? Like airlines have done to inform fliers of the risks of blood clots called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), cruise lines should start educating passengers on the dangers of NLV. Perhaps, an in-cabin video along with printed materials to show proper hand sanitation and etiquette for buffets. And, more crew members to monitor the buffet area and be sure no used plates touch the buffet area. This past June while cruising to Bermuda onboard Radisson Seven Seas Cruise's Navigator, all passengers had hand sanitizer applied to their hands each time they re-boarded the vessel.  Why did they do this?  It was because of SARS.  I thought this was a really good idea.  This could work great at the buffet lines where designated crew members could apply hand sanitizer to passengers prior to their handling food and buffet utensils.  Likewise for children's play areas, counselors should apply hand sanitizer before and after children leave the facilities.  

CEO On The Go

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity CEO Jack Williams for completing Sunday's 26-mile New York City Marathon in 5 hours, 18 minutes. Way to go!

November 3, 2003 

Welcome to the first installment of "Daily Travel Dish", a no hold's bar look at hot travel issues. I want to thank fellow travel journalist Chris Elliott for giving me an idea regarding a "blog". He's doing a fantastic job with his.  Remember Chris, imitation is the best form of flattery. 

Speaking of Chris Elliott, he sure is having lots to print about my former employer, US Airways (the Rodney Dangerfield of airlines). Last week, was a bad week for the airline as Southwest Airlines (airline of naked pilots) announced they are going into US Airways' crown-jewel hub, Philadelphia.  Then two separate incidents involving box cutters found on their aircraft was splashed all over the news. Top it all off, former US Airways' CEO Steven Wolf's Virginia mansion (the house that United Airlines built and US Airways helped fill a wine cellar) went on the block for a cool 12 million. All this has the worker bees in a buzz on various airline Internet bulletin boards, US Aviation and the Yahoo UAIR, to name a few. Seems the employees want current CEO David Siegel to step aside. Some employees even suggested that former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall should come out of retirement and run the airline. Is that a good idea? Maybe.

P&O's luxury cruise liner Aurora is literally out to sea as no country in the Mediterranean wants to deal with her. What's going on? A boatload of sick passengers with the Norwalk (NLV) virus. On Friday (10/31/03), all passengers were prevented from leaving the ship in Piraeus, Greece. Then today, Spain has closed its border with Gibraltar because virus-hit laden ship docked there. A local public health official was onboard to make sure none of the ill passengers disembarked the ship. Needless to say, this has caused uproar among the passengers; many plan to sue P&O. Read my take on the NLV virus and how to lessen the odds you'll get it on your next cruise.

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