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TSA tax increase next week for flyers

If you're thinking about booking a flight to get to a cruise (or even just booking a flight period), and if you want to avoid a tax increase, book now. Well, not exactly right now…but before Monday.

That's when new fees go into effect throughout the U.S. for air travelers.

It's a little confusing, as fee increases often are. These increases come from the Transportation Security Administration, already not the most popular organization in travel, and here's what we've been able to cull from the news:

• TSA fee of $2.50 per leg and capped at $5 per one-way trip or $10 per round trip will now be $5.60 per one-way and $11.20 per round-trip…but here's the catch: That's if there are no stops.

• Layovers will be $5.60 for each leg if the stopover is four hours or more.

So when you're looking at those cheap, multi-city fares that you're willing to tolerate in the interest of cost, you have to factor in the TSA.

The increase will be rolled into your ticket price when you select, not when you check out and pay.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
October 6, 2014
Miami (return): NassauCoco CayKey West
Inside: $215
Cost per day: $53

When Traveling Goes To The Dogs…

On the weekend, we put our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter on a plane for home after a welcome visit that was short on time and long on enjoyment. But that's beside the point, because we wouldn't be telling you this unless there was some connection to cruising.

And there is.

On their plane were at least five, and maybe as many as 10 dogs. Now to be clear about something, we love dogs. Not in that "some of our best friends are dogs" kind of way, but in the family way, if you'll pardon the expression. There have always been dogs somewhere in our family, and there always will be.

However, count us among the airline passengers who think dogs have no place in the cabins of planes…and the connection to cruising, if you haven't figured it out, is that Corgi-Sannse(WC) copythey also have no place on cruise ships. Fortunately, they remain unwelcome on ships unless they are working — as service dogs for people who require them.

There are good reasons behind our reasoning. At least we think so. Dogs can travel in the hold of planes. Our Corgi did it for years and years. One time, she even flew in the hold when we weren't in the cabin after the flight attendant alerted is that it would be too cold for her, so she took a later flight.

Secondly, as hard as this is to believe, some people just don't like dogs. And some are allergic to dogs. And some could be bitten by dogs roaming the aisle — just wait! — the way little kids do. And some will find it annoying if a dogs whines or growls or, worse yet, makes a mess in his Mommy's purse, or wherever it is they keep pet dogs on planes now. As an aside, none of these things happened on our family's latest flight…in fact all five or 10 dogs were eerily quiet.

On our family's flight this weekend, these were not "purse" dogs. There was a German Shepherd, a black lab, etc. etc.

So far, cruise lines are pet smart and not pet friendly.

However, life changes in strange ways, doesn't it?

Photo credit: Sannse, Wikimedia Commons

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean, New Orleans parting ways

Norwegian Star
9 nights
July 12, 2014
Copenhagen (return): BerlinTallinnSt. PetersburgHelsinkiStockholm
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $77


Up In The Air Over Free WiFi!!!

You travel. You cruise. You hear the word "Norwegian" and you don't think about a tall Scandinavian or an Olympic athlete from Norway, competing in Sochi this week. You think about the cruise line.

We did.

Yesterday, another "Norwegian" popped up on our computer and it wasn't an Olympic athlete or a cruise ship.

It was an airline. It's not Norwegian Air, Airlines or Airways. Just Norwegian and you might like to take note of it for two reasons.

One, its fares from North America to Europe are competitive, to say the least. New York to Oslo for $242. New York to Stockholm for $257. New York to London for Norwegian-Anzassin$192. Including taxes, and these are starting prices. Norwegian also flies out of Fort Lauderdale.

Two, Norwegian offers free WiFi (most flights). That's right…fly for six hours and be online the entire time without paying a dime. That's what caught our attention because maybe there will be more free WiFi on airlines…and maybe in time it will spread to cruise ships.

There are reportedly 650,000 locations in 144 countries where you can locate free WiFi by using an app called WiFi Finder. It's also free.

Who doesn't like free stuff…especially when it's WiFi?

Remember. Norwegian is more than a cruise line.

-photo by Anzassin

Norwegian Jade
10 nights
April 2, 2014
Rome (return): OlympiaAthensEphesusIstanbulNaples
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $44

A Flight Plan That Attracts Tourists


PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten — Go ahead. Call us crazy. Unless you think it's normal to go halfway around the world on planes and boats and taxis to see a jet fly over a beach?

For hundreds of cruise passengers in St. Maarten, that's normal.

The beach is Maho Bay, or near Maho Bay. The locals know it well because the tourists want to go there. The beach is at the end of the runway (yes, the only one) at Princess Juliana International Airport. That's the "front" end of the runway, where planes first land or begin to take off.

The beach is across the street. Literally.

Hundreds of passengers from the Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas gather on the beach or in the bar on the beach to wait for the next arrival. Nobody bothers to check a flight schedule. It's the Caribbean way.

Sure enough, here comes a jet and…whoosh…just like that's flown over your head faster than the shutter speed of your camera, which inevitably misses the mark. No problem. Wait for the next jet. Whoosh again…empty air again.

This is billed as "the closest you'll ever come to a plane in flight without being on the plane" and it is hard to imagine being any closer. Big and small, the planes look like they're going to land on the beach or, worse yet, you. The jets are especially low because by the time they're going to touch down — right there on the other side of the road — they have to be low.

The site of this world-wide moment is about a half hour from Philipsburg, capital of the Dutch half of the island known as St. Maarten in the south and Saint-Martin in the north, which is French. That's half an hour by bus, which costs $2, or one-tenth the price of lunch when you get there.

It's for curiosity-seekers and thrill-seekers alike. The curious are, well, us. The thrill-seekers stand on the beach, which is to say behind the jets, as they take off. One woman allegedly was badly hurt when she gripped the wire fence at the start of the runway — right there, across the street — and was blown away as a jet was taking off.

On this day, the thrill-seekers and their belongings were only blown across the beach and into the water. There was only one injury.

"I'll never do that again," said the middle-aged thrill-seeker. "I just got sand-blasted."

And he probably flew, sailed and drove just to have it happen.

Carnival Glory
7 nights
July 21, 2013
Boston (return): Portland, Saint John, Halifax, Sydney
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

Cruise Lines to Mirror Airlines?

Some call it a creative way to improve revenue for cruise lines. Some call it bean counters at work. Some call it a sign of the times.

It's the dreaded extra charge.

The question now is this: Do cruise lines use airlines as the model?

Anybody remember flying when you could check pretty much all the luggage you had to take on a flight, at no extra charge…when you ate full-course meals, at no extra charge (Is this revenge for complaining about "airline food" the way we complain about "hospital food"?)…when drinks of all kinds were available, at no extra charge…and when the price of your airline ticket was all-inclusive with minimum or no tax?

Airlines now charge for all that, and more. Are cruise lines moving in the same direction?

Today we pay for checked luggage on most flights on most airlines. There are no charges for taking luggage on cruise ships…is that coming?

Today airlines charge for food. Is the parallel that cruise lines charge for "specialty" restaurants, in increasing numbers, and on occasion for room service?

There are no drinks of any kind on some airlines without paying. While cruise lines got the jump on that one with booze and soda, will bottled water, juice and coffee be next?

Airlines charge more if you want priority seating. Cruise lines are starting to charge for priority boarding.

Do you want that bulkhead seat on the plane, or the more spacious emergency exit aisle? Ante up. Will cruise lines structure the price of staterooms according to location, if they don't already?

Many airlines charge extra for headphones to enable you to be entertained by the in-house TVs. Is it thinkable that cruise lines would levy a cover charge for on-board shows?

It is wrong, by the way, to call anything on either vessel "free" because you've already paid for being on the plane or ship. It is right to say that the corporate giants are looking for additional revenue to keep shareholders happy, and you can be sure it caught the attention of the cruise industry when airlines revealed the enormous profits that come from extra charges just for luggage.

So far, in cruising the extra charges are for non-essentials. Nobody has to go to the specialty restaurant, or drink wine or soda pop, or get on the ship quickly. So far, cruises are still close to being all-inclusive.

If that changes, it may lead to another question…something about killing the golden goose.

Windstar's Wind Star
7 nights
December 8, 2012
Colon, San Blas Islands, Panama Canal, Coiba Island, Golfito, Drake Bay, Puerto Caldera
Inside: $1,999
Cost per day: $285

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