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Holland America: A New Flight Plan

As the PICOT in this family — that's Person In Charge Of Travel, now that you ask — I welcome anything that simplifies the process of flying. So when I spotted an item about Holland America and something called "Flight Ease" I was all over it.

It's the first time I've heard of a cruise line going so far to make it easier for passengers to get to the ship on time. In a nutshell, this is what you get with Flight Ease, starting this fall:

• Schedules (they'll be updated continuously) only for flights that arrive in time for your cruise

• Competitive pricing (cruise line promise) and availability from multiple carriers

• Next-port protection…if your flight is delayed or cancelled en route to the home port and you miss departure, the cruise line will get you to the next port

That umbrella of assurance has two other components. The "Flexible Fares" give you no fees for changing your flights and you pay when making your final cruise payment. Go for "Restricted Fares" and you'll pay less but be responsible for cancellation fees and pay the full amount when booking your cruise.

Passengers who use travel points to fly from their home city to the point of departure need not apply, of course. And passengers who shop around for the best deal are going to match it against the Flight Ease fare. That comparison is likely to determine whether Holland America's flight assistance is better than those of any other cruise line.

It will be interesting to see how many others copy Holland America's idea.

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 23, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. MaartenSt. ThomasGrand Turk
Inside: $698
Cost per day: $99

Last-minute — Good Deals or Not?

We’ve always believed you could find some of the best travel deals at the last minute. Fill up the empty seats in a plane, berths in a train, staterooms in a ship, right? Now we’re not so sure.

About 10 days ago, we were were checking out flights because, unexpectedly, we were making “last-minute” plans. Five days before flying, the best fare was $171, one way. As the day of departure got closer, the price went higher, ending our plans when it climbed to $381, one way.

On the weekend, the same thing. On Sunday, the best fare available for a September flight was $289. Yesterday, it was $313.

What’s happened to last-minute bargains?

Most of us have to fly before we cruise and in these regressive economic times every travel dollar saved is important, so these “stock-market-like” prices for flights are important.

What about cruise prices?

We’re planning to track some last-minute cruise prices in the days ahead to see what the research demonstrates. In the meantime, what’s been your experience in booking cruises at the last minute; in particular how you think it has changed…or if it has.

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