Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Celebrity's Solstice features real grass

Celebrity Cruises unveiled another first in the cruise industry this week: real grass growing aboard a cruise ship. The new “Celebrity Solstice” (due in December) will feature a country-club-type area on its top deck called “The Lawn Club” – a half-acre setting with an actual lawn for bocce ball and croquet, golf putting, and picnics. Next to the lawn will be another first-time activity: a glass blowing center, with live demonstrations for passengers. The Lawn Club will also feature a patio, a club shop, and a bar.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Document rules take effect Jan. 31

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reminding travelers that beginning Jan. 31 border crossers will be asked to present documents denoting citizenship and identity when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry. This change primarily affects United States and Canadian citizens, who have previously been permitted entry by oral declaration alone, and marks the transition toward standard and consistent documents for all travelers entering the country. It is also the start of a more robust and concerted public education campaign, intended to inform travelers of document requirements which will be implemented next year.

Beginning Jan. 31, travelers will be asked to present documentation from a specified list of acceptable documents when entering the U.S. at land and sea ports of entry. Examples include birth certificates and driver's licenses.
Travelers who do not present one of these documents may be delayed while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers attempt to verify their identity and citizenship. Children ages 18 and under will only need to present a birth certificate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Costa Maya port ahead of schedule

The cruise port of Costa Maya in Mexico – damaged heavily last August by Hurricane Dean – will re-open three months earlier than scheduled. Its two existing cruise ship berths will be ready for business at some time this summer, while construction continues on a third berth. There’s no word yet on which cruise lines have decided to return to Costa Maya, but local tourism officials say they hope to announce names next month.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Online check-in for hotels

Much like airlines have done over the past few years, now hotels are starting to allow advance check-in online.

Hyatt unveiled a new online check-in, check-out system called “Web-In” and “Web-Out” recently. The program is available at more than 100 North American properties now. (Web-Out is brand new, while Web-In was previously reserved for Gold Passport members only.) You can go to www.hyatt.com and click the Check-In button to check in after 1 pm on your arrival date (picking up keys at a kiosk in the hotel lobby). Later, you can check out via the Internet and have a copy of your bill emailed to you. Later this year, Hyatt will introduce another function: allowing guests to choose their rooms via the Web.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Holiday Cruise

A three-generation family recently returned from a holiday cruise aboard Holland America's ms Veendam. The ship sailed from Tampa to Key West, Belize, Guatemala and Cozumel.

"We liked it a lot, even though we missed a complete day due to bad weather in Belize. The sea was too rough for us to tender into the port, but Holland America refunded our port charges and offered everyone a complimentary glass of champagne at dinner."

"We really liked the smaller ship compared to Princess. It didn't feel as crowded. We didn't have to wait in lines at the buffet, theater or pool. We ate very well. The food was wonderful. Our room steward and the wait staff at dinner were terrific."

"In Guatemala, we found a wonderful tour guide right on the dock. He took us to the markets and all around. Key West was more of just a big tourist trap."

"New Year's Eve was fine. It was a bit subdued compared to the one we experienced previously on Princess, but it was alright."