Save Money by Booking Your Next Cruise Onboard

Cruise insiders always seem to tout the idea of booking your next cruise while onboard. The conventional wisdom is that booking on the ship gives passengers access to discounts, onboard credits and other great deals. It sounds believable, but is it true?

My wife and I just returned from a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Equinox. The experience was exceptional in every way, so much so that we decided to book another cruise on the same ship for next May. We paid a visit to the Future Cruise office to get a sense of the situation.

Like many other cruise lines, Celebrity runs frequent sales. In their case, the rates are bundled with a choice of two, three or four different perks (Classic Beverage Package, unlimited high-speed internet, prepaid gratuities and onboard credit). We usually forego the added perks and book the lowest available rate, preferring to add extras on an a la carte basis.

As an incentive to book, the future cruise representative offered a “special rate” that included our choice of two perks. The rate in question was $1100 higher than the lowest available price for that cruise (a ten-day Caribbean sailing). Even when I added in the two highest-priced perks (internet and prepaid gratuities), the price was still $350 higher—not quite a deal.

After much negotiating, we settled on the lowest available published rate plus a $200 onboard credit, a reduced deposit ($200 rather than $900) and the option to rebook at a lower rate if the price dropped. We also had the flexibility to change to another cruise later on and could credit the booking to our travel agent (if we had one). Did we come out ahead? Maybe, but we loved the ship and were going to book anyway. Many other passengers were doing so, and there was nearly an hour’s wait to speak to a representative.

Here are the advantages of booking onboard, according to the cruise lines. As always, it pays to do your research and to do the math:

Azamara: Both Open and Confirmed Bookings offer a 50% reduced deposit; discounts range from 4-10% (Open) and 3-10% (Confirmed), depending on loyalty level; Confirmed bookings also get a $200 onboard credit.

Carnival: Up to $50 per person onboard credit, depending on stateroom category; 50% reduced deposit; two-category upgrade; pricing excludes the ability to choose other rates and discounts, such as a past passenger rate; if you find a lower rate later and rebook, the onboard credit disappears.

Crystal: 2.5% discount when booking onboard, combinable with 2.5% past guest discount; reduced $100 preliminary deposit (passengers pay the rest of the deposit when they return home); may be transferred to your travel agent.

Cunard: 5% onboard booking discount, combinable with advanced purchase fares and 10% past guest savings; reduced deposit of $300 per person; passengers must use the same travel agent that booked their current cruise.

Holland America: Up to $200 per person onboard credit, depending on stateroom category and length of sailing; reduced deposit of $100 per person; future cruise pricing can be combined with current promotions; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent; take up to four years to decide on a specific sailing.

Norwegian: Onboard credits up to $500, depending on amount and number of future deposits; not combinable with other promotions; ability to transfer to your travel agent; category upgrade in select categories when booking a specific sailing; up to four years’ flexibility to choose ship and itinerary.

Oceana: Offers are highly variable, but include onboard credits up to $1,000, discounts, reduced deposits and best price guarantee until the day of sailing; all benefits are combinable with the line’s best promotional offering.

Princess: Reduced, refundable deposit of $100 per person; onboard credit up to $150 per passenger, depending on length of cruise and stateroom class; book a specific cruise or an open reservation for up to two years; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent.

Royal Caribbean: $600 in savings which may be used as a discount or onboard credit; reduced deposits of $100 per person on select fares; onboard credit depending on length of sailing; option to choose your ship and sailing date later; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent; protection for price drops prior to final payment.

Regent: Onboard savings from $300 to $2,000, depending on suite category; reduced deposits from $500 per person; full refund within 30 days; travel agent of record automatically credited; shipboard credit of $200 applied to current voyage.

Seabourn: The formula is simple: a 5% discount and $500 initial deposit (the rest is due within 10 days of disembarkation). You can also make an open booking, receive the 5% discount and receive up to four years to reserve a sailing.

Silversea: Guests also receive a 5% discount for either an open or confirmed sailing. A floating deposit of $1,000 must be applied to a cruise within six months; if not, it is refundable.

 

[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

Florence: New additions to our cheap hotels guide

Whether you are scoping out the best meals in the city or making your way to the Duomo, Florence has a little something for everybody. Not to mention a plethora of cheap hotels in the city center and beyond.

That being said, those budget hotels can fill up quickly with others looking to enjoy all that Florence has to offer.

To keep you in-the-know of some of the hidden gems dotted along these ancient streets, we’ve combed through thousands of hotels and recently added some of our favorite cheap hotels in Florence to our guide.

Related: 10 travel tips to help you save in Florence


Newly added hotels in our Florence guide

Here are five excellent budget hotel options that are new to our guide.

gray hotel exterior

Dante Alighieri

Neighborhood: Duomo
Rooms from $78

Located in the center of Florence just 800 feet from the Cathedral, Dante Alighieri B&B offers peaceful rooms at rates that can’t be beat.

Rooms here are styled minimally, but the historic building lends some charm in the form of frescoed ceilings. Although the decor is basic, amenities are aplenty with air conditioning, an elevator and free Wi-Fi all available.

The nightly rate includes breakfast.

Book a cheapo stay in the heart of Florence at Dante Alighieri.

white hotel room with chandelier

Badia Fiorentina

Neighborhood: Duomo
Doubles from $88

The 3-star Badia Fiorentina offers attractive, budget-friendly rooms just a short stroll from the Cathedral.

Rooms are dressed in white from top to bottom, and the tufted headboards and chandeliers bring a touch of glamour to these cheapo guestrooms. You’ll also find flat-screen TVs, kettles, mini-fridges, toasters, free Wi-Fi and more. Ask ahead for a room with views of the city. For an even cheaper stay, opt for a shared bathroom.

A fresh breakfast, included in the nightly rate, is served every morning.

Find your home-away-from-home at Badia Fiorentina.

blue hotel room with open window

Hotel Por Santa Maria

Neighborhood: Duomo
Doubles from $95

The quaint, 1-star Hotel Por Santa Maria is conveniently located near the Uffizi Gallery and the Cathedral and is in an ideal spot for easily exploring Florence.

Rooms are unembellished and feature predictable floral bedspreads, wood furnishings and a framed art print here and there. The hotel stays quiet thanks to a lack of televisions, but there are still plenty of creature comforts, including free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and kettles. You can save even more on the nightly rate by choosing a room with a shared bathroom.

While you won’t find breakfast here, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area.

Stay in the center of Florence at Hotel Por Santa Maria.

hotel room with pink bed and brown curtains

Il Gattopardo

Neighborhood: Duomo
Doubles from $98

Nestled into a 13th-century building, the Il Gattopardo B&B benefits from a central location just a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral.

Rooms are simple, with charming touches like antique furniture and exposed wood-beamed ceilings. If this wasn’t cozy and comforting enough, there are plenty of amenities to make guests feel at home: free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, kettles and more. Rooms with shared bathrooms are a bit cheaper; likewise, rooms with private balconies can be worth it if you are in a position to splurge.

Breakfast is included in the rate and is served in the guestrooms each morning.

Enjoy a lovely stay at the Il Gattopardo B&B.

hotel room with red bed and frescoed ceiling

Hotel Dei Macchiaioli

Neighborhood: San Lorenzo
Doubles from $110

The 3-star Hotel Dei Macchiaioli offers a bit of grandeur to its quiet location near the Santa Maria Novella Station.

From the lobby to the guestrooms, you’ll find frescoed ceilings and ornate details. Many of the rooms are simpler but still immaculate and pleasant with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, minibars, slippers and more included.

The room rate includes a pastry-filled breakfast.

Book a room with pizzazz at Hotel Dei Macchiaioli.


Interested in seeing more options? Check out thousands of hotels in Florence.

The post Florence: New additions to our cheap hotels guide appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

Rick Ingersoll Is Back on Frugal Travel Guy

Hi, My name is Rick Ingersoll. I have been playing the game since 2001, I founded this blog in October of 2007 and sold it to its current owners in January 2012. With the tricks of the trade others have taught and shared with me, I hope to share with you our travel story and how this hobby has been so significant in making this so affordable, My wife, Katy and I have visited over 70 countries, been to each of our 50 states and filled our scrapbooks with a lifetime of memories.

Retirement is hard for Type A personalities. After selling the blog I continued to play golf til my skillset became embarrassing to me. I walked the beach, went to the coffee shop and yes continued to travel. Maybe not the wild weeks on end adventures of days gone by, but we kept “Seeing the World at Prices We Could Afford”

I’ve missed the opportunity to share my story with so many of you, I got to know over the years, and am thrilled to make a small contribution again to the blog I started 12 years ago. I have been invited back to speak at the Chicago Seminars this year in October. I can’t believe we started that 10 years ago and hope to see some old familiar faces again.

I’m still asked all the time what my favorite credit card is. My answer is always the same.  That depends on where I’m using the card and if it is a new card that I’m working on meeting my required minimum spend.

I have a favorite card for paying my phone bill, internet and cable TV bill, and shopping at an office supply store. Another favorite for the grocery store and restaurants. And two, maybe just recently three more favorites for non-bonused category spending. And as always, the latest card I’ve gotten and am meeting the minimum spend on is the most important spending I can be doing at the time. We’ll cover all these “favorite credit cards” in the weeks to come.

And as far as what card is best for you as a new player, that depends on so many factors, like what your travel goals are, what airlines service your local airports and if you like to fly coach or are a premium cabin flyer.

I’ll be 70 years old by this time next year. Three times a Grandfather or Pop Pop. I’m still applying and being approved for travel credit cards ( I’m also mixing in cashback cards as well). My Equifax credit report is over 200 pages and long I can still say two very important things about my travel successes and philosophy.

“I have never been late on a payment”

and I still believe

“Your credit is one of your most important assets”

A special thanks to Jeremy for giving me another chance and Nathan Weber, Steve Belkin and Randy Petersen for getting me started on this life long obsession.

Next Post  One of my most looked forward to vacations ever. The Dolphin Experience with my grandkids at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. And how we’ll pull it off with Hilton cards and status.

Source: frugal travel guy

Build in Splurges for That Trip Around the World

splurges on a trip around the world

There’s no such thing as an average travel budget for a trip around the world. Whether you’re going to circle the globe or just go backpacking through the Americas for a year, you need to give a calculator a workout and do some math. After all that though, you need to be honest about how […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

How to Get Free Nights With Hotel Credit Cards

Frugal travelers know that cheap is good, but free is better. But are free hotel stays really “free?” Strictly speaking, the only hotel nights that are truly free are the bonus nights booked on award stays with selected chains:

Hilton offers the fifth night free on award bookings for any HHonors elite member (from Silver through Diamond). The nights must be booked consecutively on a Standard Room Award. You’re limited to four free nights in a single stay, for a total of 20 nights. If the point cost of the room fluctuates during your stay, the cost will be averaged out. Status can be achieved with any of the American Express Hilton cards, the Platinum card, or earned the old-fashioned way with paid nights.

With Marriott, you also get the fifth night free on award bookings, and anyone can take advantage of it—not just elite members. There’s no stated limit on the number of times you can use the free night during a single stay. Guests staying more than five nights can mix and match the nights for the award stay, creating the opportunity to pay cash for the cheaper nights.

IHG is even better: Members holding their Rewards Club Premier Credit Card get their fourth night free.

The discount is automatic with all three chains at the time of booking, so you don’t have to wait for a refund. Hyatt occasionally runs free night promotions for specific hotels, regions or time periods, but doesn’t offer the perk across the board.

Credit Card Anniversary Nights: Many co-branded hotel credit cards offer a free night on your account anniversary, with some variations in terms. While these nights aren’t technically “free,” they can be a great value depending on the card’s annual fee.

Once upon a time, the IHG Select card ($49 annual fee) came with an unrestricted, chain-wide free night. Those days are over: The Select card is no longer offered to new signups, and cardholders now receive a free night on their anniversary which can be redeemed at any hotel costing 40,000 points or less. If you still have the Select Card, however, you’re able to sign up for the newer Premier card ($89), which also offers a free night at hotels costing 40,000 points or less. Those two nights may be stacked. IHG estimates that 4,900 of its 5,200 hotels are under the 40,000-point threshold, but a great deal depends on your travel patterns. It’s impossible to find a qualifying hotel in Manhattan, for example, and other big cities are difficult as well.

With the Marriott Bonvoy card from Chase ($95), you receive a free anniversary night at hotels costing 35,000 points or less. The same applies to the Marriott Bonvoy card from American Express ($95, formerly the Starwood card), which has been discontinued for new applicants. Amex’s new Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card ($450) comes with an anniversary night that can be redeemed at hotels costing 50,000 points or less. These nights may be stacked for holders of multiple cards, and it’s easier to find a room in a major city.

The Hyatt Visa from Chase ($75, now closed to new applicants) and their newer World of Hyatt card ($95) both offer a free anniversary night at hotels in Categories 1 through 4. While this rules out Park Hyatt properties and high-end resorts, it does include a number of Regencies in major cities. Holders of the World of Hyatt card can also earn an extra free night with purchases of $15,000 or more during their cardmember year. Unlike IHG, you cannot hold both of these cards at once.

For the Hilton cards from American Express, the situation is a bit more complicated. The Surpass card ($95) offers a free weekend night as part of the signup bonus, after spending $4,000 within the first four months after account opening; cardholders can earn an additional weekend night by spending $15,000 or more during a calendar year (a weekend is defined as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night). The Aspire card ($450) also gives a free weekend night each year, with the option of earning another one by spending $60,000 or more. These nights may be used at any Hilton property costing 120,000 points or less. In addition, the Aspire card gives members a $250 annual statement credit at participating Hilton resorts.

Signup Bonuses: These vary all the time, and banks have been aggressively competing with each other lately. Bonuses an excellent way of accumulating a pile of points to use for free nights, provided the spending requirements work for you. Right now, American Express is offering 75,000 points for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card and 150,000 points for the Hilton Surpass Card, both for spending $3,000 within the first three months; Chase is countering with 75,000 points for their Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card and 125,000 points for the IHG Premier, also with a minimum $3,000 spend.

Remember that all points are not created equal. Most estimates place Hyatt points at nearly two cents each; Marriott points are worth close to one cent, while IHG and Hilton hover around one-half cent per point.

Bottom Line

There are multiple opportunities for scoring free or heavily discounted hotel nights. Study the programs carefully to figure out which chain works best for you and your individual travel goals.

 

[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

New routes to Paris: French Bee and Corsair launch cheap flights

Are you thinking of heading to Paris for 2020? You might want to start making your travel plans sooner than later. Two airlines based in France, French Bee and Corsair, have just announced that they will be launching new routes between Newark and Paris with rock-bottom prices starting next June.

I remember being a student and hoping I could book a flight on Air India between Newark and Paris, which was among the cheapest ways to get to and from France back then. Today, it seems like budget options are the norm whether it’s scoring a low-cost flight on Norwegian or Level or waiting for a flash sale from your favorite airline.


New cheap airline routes to Paris

First, French Bee, an airline that lays over in San Francisco on the way to Tahiti, announced it will begin brand-new service between Paris (ORY) and Newark (EWR), and the prices are pretty incredible. Almost unbelievable!

A one-way ticket begins at just $138 — no typo there! We played around with the website and landed a round trip ticket for under $300. Who’s ready to go? The flights begin on June 10, 2020, but bookings are available right now.

There are catches, of course, but budget travelers are likely used to these constraints by now. The “Basic” fare only includes a carry-on bag, but the weight is very generous at 26 pounds for your bag. If you want a little more for your money, you can upgrade to “Smart” which includes a checked bag (up to 50 pounds) and meals. Both classes include in-flight entertainment, PC and USB sockets at every seat, headrests with four positions, and LED ambient lighting in the cabin.

 

 

Corsair flights starting in 2020

Starting at the same time, in June 2020, Corsair, the French low-cost carrier to the Caribbean, will also fly between Newark and Paris. Prices and baggage allowances are comparable to French Bee, though meals are included. Corsair already flies to Paris from Miami and Montreal, so this will expand the transatlantic routes that they offer.

Arriving and departing from Orly Airport

Also, it’s important to note that both airlines arrive to and depart from Orly, Paris’s smaller airport located south of the city. Don’t let this tiny detail deter you because there are plenty of budget options to get into the city. You can take the RER train in less than 40 minutes for €12.05.

Future of budget airlines

With so many options between Paris and Newark, it seems too good to be true, but time will tell. Will French Bee and Corsair stick around and help keep the market competitive and prices low? Or will it go the way of my beloved Air India leg or more recently, Primera Air, which have both ceased to exist?

The post New routes to Paris: French Bee and Corsair launch cheap flights appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

Pictures of the Week: Texas A&M’s Kyle Field and the Aggie Barn

You like A&M images? No? You like football? No? You like it when people who overspend on photography gear, like me, are forced to use their smartphones for Picture of the Week images? Ok, I know I got you on one of those, click through to see the awesome images!

The post Pictures of the Week: Texas A&M’s Kyle Field and the Aggie Barn appeared first on Andy's Travel Blog.

Source: Andys travel blog

Best Airline Credit Card

Joining a frequent flyer program is similar to getting married: along with a spouse, you get an entire family. Since most airlines are part of alliances, though, the deal is even better. Rather than the usual collection of meddling in-laws and crazy uncles, you gain access to a wide range of new airlines where you can use your miles.

U.S. travelers tend to do most of their flying on either American, Delta or United. The good news is that those carriers are respective members of Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. Here’s how the big three carriers break down in terms of airline partners:

American: British Airways; Cathay Pacific; Finnair; Iberia; Japan Airlines; LATAM; Malaysia Airlines; Qantas; Qatar Airways; Royal Jordanian; Siberia Airlines (S7); SriLankan Airlines.

Delta: Aeroflot; Aerolineas Argentinas; Aero Mexico; Air Europa; Alitalia; China Airlines; China Eastern; Czech Airlines; Garuda Indonesia; Kenya Airways; KLM; Korean Air; MEA; Saudia; TAROM; Vietnam Airlines; Xiamen Air.

United: Adria; Aegean; Air Canada; Air China; Air India; Air New Zealand; ANA; Asiana; Austrian; Avianca; Brussels Airlines; Copa Airlines; Croatia Airlines; Egyptair; Ethiopian; EVA Air; LOT; Lufthansa: SAS; Shenzen Airlines; Singapore Airlines; South Africa Airways; Swiss; TAP; Thai; Turkish Airlines.

Bear in mind that these are only the alliance partners. You can also use American miles to redeem on Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways and Hawaiian Airlines. In addition to their SkyTeam partners, Delta SkyMiles can be used on Gol, Hawaiian Airlines, Mandarin Airlines and Middle Eastern Airlines. United boasts 11 airline partners on top of the 26 Star Alliance members.

All these partnerships are a boon for the consumer, as they greatly expand travel options. American Airlines miles have been notoriously difficult to use in recent years, particularly for American flights at the Saver level. With 18 airline partners, though, your options increase geometrically. You’re no longer limited to American’s stingy award space—not to mention that many travelers, given a choice, would opt for a foreign carrier over a domestic one.

The situation is similar to Delta, where SkyMiles have been devalued so drastically that some in the frequent flyer community refer to them derisively as Sky Pesos. Not only is award space easier to find on partner airlines at times, but the number of miles required for an award is sometimes much lower. United’s 37 partners open up a wealth of opportunities. Even JetBlue, which is not a member of a major alliance, has 11 opportunities for True Blue members to use their points.

The main challenge you might face is finding the award space, as each member airline doesn’t necessarily list availability for all their partners on their website. American’s site, for example, will display flights on British Airways, Iberia and a few others, but you have to go elsewhere to find other availability across all partnerships. The BA and Qantas sites generally work well for flights within the Oneworld network. Also consider using a paid subscription service such as Expert Flyer (expertflyer.com), which allows you to set up alerts for flights, seats, and schedule changes. Once you’ve found the award seats you want, simply call your primary carrier and book the flight over the phone.

Here’s a quick review of the credit card options for the big three carriers:

American: Both Barclays and Citibank issue credit cards that earn AA miles. Signup bonuses vary but tend to be high, while annual fees are generally reasonable. Citi offers six options including the no-annual-fee MileUp card as well as the AAdvantage Platinum Select card ($99 annual fee, waived the first year; also available as a business card) and the AAdvantage Executive card ($450, but includes an Admirals Club membership). Barclays has six choices, featuring the popular Aviator blue, Red and Silver Mastercards ($49, $99 and $199 respectively).

Delta: American Express is the exclusive issuer of Delta mileage cards. The lineup starts with Blue (no annual fee), Gold ($95, waived the first year), Platinum ($195) and Delta Reserve ($450); Gold, Platinum and Reserve also come in business versions. The Platinum and Reserve cards are heavy in benefits, including the opportunity to earn Medallion Qualification Miles.

United: Chase issues all four United Airlines credit cards. The quartet includes a prepaid Visa, the TravelBank card (no annual fee), the Explorer card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year; also available in a business version) and the Club card ($450, including a United Club membership).

Bottom Line: Obviously, your choice of preferred airline will largely depend on which carrier flies the most out of your home airport. Beyond that, consider the destinations of partner airlines before choosing a frequent flyer program.

 

[Featured Image: Delta]

Source: frugal travel guy