Saturday, October 14, 2017

Top 5 Solo Picks - October 14, 2017

As a solo traveller, you may be eyeing the latest Caribbean cruise deals and thinking that this might be a good time to find a good solo fare. You'd be right, but there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Learn more in my recent blog post, Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal? Happy reading!

For those of you who like short Pacific Coastal sailings, there are actually two (2) 3-night sailings via Vancouver this winter (we don't normally see ships between November and April). The Star Princess will be going into drydock in BC, so you can sail on her:
  • northbound on November 29th - you'll be the last person to sail in your cabin pre-refit, but don't tell me about your souvenirs!
  • southbound on December 16th - followed by some California sun, or perhaps a Mexico or Hawaii cruise?
  • better yet, sail on both, and compare the differences!
  • I've included both sailings in my Top 5 list below

Here are my Top 5 Solo Cruise Picks today!

Why these sailings? There my be solo cabins, reduced/waived single supplements, a great deal overall, or simply good value on an itinerary solos can't usually afford. Fares below INCLUDE TAXES, and are subject to availability.

October 29, 2017 - 7 night Bahamas cruise sailing roundtrip from New York on the Norwegian Breakaway
Balcony - $1137 CAD solo
Oceanview - $895 CAD solo
Inside - $695 CAD solo

November 4, 2017 - 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip San Juan on the Celebrity Summit
Oceanview - $970 CAD solo
Inside - $879 CAD solo

November 29, 2017 - 3 night Pacific Coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver on the Star Princess
Balcony - $495 CAD solo
Obstructed oceanview - $423 CAD solo

December 16, 2017 - 3 night Pacific Coastal cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles on the Star Princess
Balcony - $664 CAD solo

January 6, 2018 - 5 night Caribbean cruise sailing roundtrip from Miami on the Empress of the Seas
Oceanview - $988 CAD solo
Inside - $854 CAD solo

If you see something you like, please contact me and I can send you more details.


About this newsletter: With so many solo travellers looking for affordable ways to travel, without the dreaded single supplement, I am always watching for specials. Periodically, when I have time, I summarize a few into an email to send to those who may be interested.

Want this news as soon as it comes out? Just email me with the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. Actually, any email works fine. A human will read it (this one), not a bot.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal?

As you might imagine, there are excellent deals on Caribbean cruises at the moment.

And don't feel bad about taking advantage of the deals; the islands need your tourism dollar!

Before you leap though, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Itineraries are in flux - You should expect ports so ports of call to change. All cruiselines have been scrambling to replace visits to now-closed ports (such as St. Thomas and St. Maarten). But even the new itineraries are not etched in stone; to support local economies you should expect further itinerary changes as ports re-open.

Sailings may change or cancel - As cruiselines continue to adjust the new realities, sailings may be cancelled, as ships are redeployed to more popular gateways, or for truly unforeseen circumstances. A case in point: mere days after modifing itineraries and ensuring supports were in place to support the Carnival Fascination to continue sailing from San Juan, and announcing confirmed details, Carnival received a request from FEMA to charter the ship for 3 months to support relief efforts in the US Virgin Islands. Always ready to support the community and to help in any way possible, Carnival granted the request.

Hotel availability may be limited - In San Juan, for example, there are hotels that are closed that still have reservations on their books (I discovered this recently when I called a hotel directly), while others are overbooked (as demonstrated by the hotel that called me directly to see if my clients were still travelling). This is also a bit of an issue in larger port cities, such as Miami, as a number of displaced Florida residents are still housed in area hotels.

Flight schedules are subject to change - Airlines survive based on passenger loads, and they can't afford to service areas hit hard by hurricanes, at least not to the same levels. Case in point: my clients who had booked their November cruise from San Juan back in the spring, found themselves without flights when WestJet cut service until early in the new year. Not only did they need to find new flights, airfares would undoubtedly be higher, and availability limited as planeloads of people all need to rebook.

Does all that cause you to think twice about travelling?

If you want a specific itinerary, perhaps this isn't the best time to go... or if the very thought of changes to your planned vacation stresses you out, maybe you should make other plans.

However, if you need some sun, and are flexible, these low fares offer fabulous getaway opportunities.

If you want to go, here are a few tips to help things go more smoothly:
  • This is a good time to work with a travel agent, even if that's not your usual way of doing things. Your travel agent can put that great deal on hold long enough for you to confirm that all the other parts of your trip can be planned.
  • Ask your travel agent for a quote on flights, and while the seats are on hold, check out hotel availability. Booking your flights with a travel agent also means you have someone to help you if something goes sideways.
  • Book hotels with refundable rates. While the price may be lower with a non-refundable rate, and you may be determined to go, things can change. Why not pay $20 more than risk holding the bag on a hotel room in a city you won't be visiting afterall?
  • More than ever, it is important to travel with trip cancellation an interruption insurance!
  • Travel lightly and be organized.
  • Carry snacks, extra medications and reading materials, as well as a cellphone.
  • Pack a sense of humour, and remember that travel is an adventure!

Feel free contact me for more information or a quote. I'd be pleased to help!

Related resources
Caribbean cruise deals
Travel insurance
Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights - Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Orkney Islands' Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands
Inspired by a Lonely Planet article, Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments, I  have been learning about the Ring of Brodgar.

Most henges don't actually not contain stone circles; but Brodgar is a striking exception. It ranks with Avebury and, to a lesser extent, Stonehenge, among the greatest of such sites.  It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Also known as Brogar, or Ring o' Brodgar, the henge  is situated about 10 kilometres (6 miles) north-east of the village of Stromness, on Mainland Island, in Orkney, Scotland. Mainland is the largest of the Orkney Islands, and the ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between Loch Harray and LochStenness and Harray.

It is thought that the monument was erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, which would make it the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness. Flint arrowheads found nearby seem to date from the Bronze Age. An excavation was undertaken in 2008 to settle the age issue, but they are still digging through the results, so to speak.

The Ring of Brodgar stone circle is 104 metres (341 feet) in diameter, the third largest in the British Isles.

While today only 27 stones remain standing, the ring originally comprised up to 60 stones. The tallest stones stand at the south and west sides of the ring. The famed "Comet Stone" stands on the southeast side. Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle.

Part of a concentration of ancient sites, and the northernmost circle henge in Britain, the Ring of Brodgar is part of a significant ritual landscape.

Within 5.2 square kilometres (2 square miles) there are the two circle-henges, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.

The Ring of Brodgar has been recognized as part of the "Heart of Neolithic Orkney" World Heritage Site in 1999. Others sites include in the designation includes Maeshowe, Skara Brae and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Related resources

Stinge Henge: eight alternative ancient stone monuments - LonelyPlanet
The Boy with the Bronze Axe - Kathleen Fidler*

* the 1968 novel depicts the Ring of Brodgar as a male-only space in which a lamb is sacrificed in a midsummer ceremony