Cruising is like a box of chocolates

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forrest gump I was recently dealing with a customer who called me regarding a Canada and New England cruise. He contacted me and as always I got back to him very quickly because I know just how hard it is to get good availability on this type of cruise, especially just 6 months prior to the anticipated departure date.

That’s when I thought about a quote from Forrest Gump. His famous saying of “Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get” is just like booking travel.

Stick with me here with the chocolate analogy and cruises. You can go to any grocery store any day of the year and buy a box of chocolates. There is always plenty to choose from, just like Caribbean cruises. If your grocery store runs out of one box of chocolates, then there is always another box sitting right next to it. Again just like a Caribbean cruise, if the one ship and date you want is too expensive or sold out then there is always another comparable cruise to choose from, or you can go a week earlier or later. It’s your choice, no big deal.download (3)

Now let’s take a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates dressed up in a pretty heart-shaped box with a bow on it. These special chocolates are seasonal and are not available year round; they are only available for a very limited time.  For the people who plan ahead your grocery store has a large selection for you to choose from. They have small boxes, big boxes, inexpensive chocolates, and gourmet chocolates. Some boxes have limited flavors and others have a multitude of flavors. All these choices are yours when they are first put onto the shelf a few weeks prior to Valentine’s Day, if you are proactive. Now as Valentine’s Day approaches your choices start to diminish because others have beat you to the shelf. And if you wait for the last minute you will either have to choose from something bigger or smaller than you really wanted, or you might be left with something cheaper or more expensive than you really wanted. And then there is a very good chance that you might not get anything at all.

And once Valentine’s Day is over you have missed out. You’re too late and now you have to wait for next year. The question is, next year are you going to wait again and be left with limited options, or are you going to plan ahead and get what you want this time?

These seasonal cruises are the same way. Caribbean cruises are offered every single week of the year, but the Canada/New England (fall foliage) cruises for example are only available for a very short period between mid-September and mid-October. And since many of these cruises are 10-14 days in duration each ship might only offer 3 voyages in an entire season. Typically, if you are looking to book one of these cruises within 6 months of departure and you want a specific type of cabin and you’re not flexible on dates then you are probably too late and most likely will not get what you want. Even if you book 9 months in advance your selection will already be limited. These types of seasonal cruises should be booked at least a year in advance.

Other seasonal destinations that you should book well in advance are Australia/New Zealand, Asia, South America, the Baltic, British Isles, and Alaska.

On top of that there could be other outside reasons why these cruises could sell out way in advance. Take this year for example. Due to some turmoil in Europe the European cruise occupancy is weak. A lot of people are avoiding Europe and are instead going to Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean or Canada/New England. So this year these destinations are hugely popular. Availability is down, prices are up, demand is high, and many dates are already sold out.

So not only is life “like a box of chocolates”, but so are booking cruises. Plan ahead, and increase your chances of getting what you want.

download (4)By The Cruise Butler

Steve Rice

http://www.TheCruiseButler.com

Steve@TheCruiseButler.com

 

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Disney Cruise Lines – Cheap or value, which is it?

By Steve Rice; The Cruise Butler -www.TheCruiseButler.com

Disney Cruise Line – Cheap or value, which is it.

First off, I did not spend a lot of time looking up a bunch of pretty pictures to add to this blog. It doesn’t need it. If you spend the time to read my entire blog, you will learn the value of a Disney cruise.

Being in this business I hear the term “cheap” and “value” being thrown around as much as your luggage at the airport. Unfortunately, many people think it means the same thing…. Wrong!!!!! Just because something is cheap DOESN’T make it your best value. I have news for you, if the thousands of people who fill Disney ships on a weekly basis went purely on price all those ships would be empty every week. Yet, thousands of people on weekly basis flock to fill their ships, not based on price, but based on value. And I will tell you upfront that Disney is not cheap, but they consistently rank in the top 3 of customer satisfaction of all cruise lines, even with the real high end cruise lines. So if you want to go on Disney expect to dig deeper into your pockets, but then expect to receive more from your vacation in the end. This is where that word value will come into play. If you want the cheapest Caribbean cruise give me a call and I will get it for you, but Disney will not be one of the choices I offer you.

Disney is the only major mass market cruise line out there that has nice sized boiled shrimp on the buffet during embarkation day. Most of the cruise lines can’t afford to put an expensive item like that on the buffet, but Disney does. Disney also doesn’t charge you $2-$3 for a soda or up to $70 a week per person for a soda card. It’s all included in the price of the cruise.

For the Disney fans who are not particularly fans of small children well don’t worry, Disney caters to you too. Each ship has a magnificent adult only restaurant. While it does have a small cover charge it is well worth it. Many cruise lines only have one lounge open at night for adults. Well Disney has a whole section of the ship just for the adults at night. You can go listen to a singer, see a magician, comedian, or go to a piano bar or a sports bar. It’s an adult oasis with no kids allowed. I was on another ship from a different cruise line recently and had a horrible experience at the pool. They had 2 pools. Both were classified as family pools. One pool had over 50 people in it standing around drinking beer. It was too crowded to swim. Then the other pool had a bunch of rowdy kids jumping, screaming and splashing. Disney has it figured out with a pool for kids, a pool for families and one for the adults. So the adults have an oasis to themselves during the day time and night time.

Cabins. Since so many families travel on Disney they have well thought out cabins. Unless you get the “cheapest” cabin on the ship you will have a very spacious cabin with 1-1/2 bathrooms. Again, this is a huge “value” when you have 4 people trying to get washed up, showered and dressed for dinner.

Even the sail away of a Disney cruise is unique. Unlike the typical loud ship horn on all other cruise lines, the Disney ship has a horn but it is programmed to several different Disney songs. “When you wish upon a star” seems to be very popular as I have probably heard that one the most.

When I was on the ship they had a very loud and festive party one evening with all the characters and families by the main pool. However, towards the front of the ship away from the noise they had a duet playing music under the stars with adults dancing and sipping on different assortments of brandy’s and cognac’s.

There are plenty of opportunities to mingle with the characters. And while there might be a line to get an autograph from a character it’s nothing like the lines at the Disney Parks.

Most cruise line have a small section of the ship dedicated to kids. Well Disney has half of an entire deck devoted to the kid’s program. And the programs are pretty remarkable. When I was on the ship when my kids were much younger they got to make flubber, the elastic material similar to Silly Putty from the popular Disney movie at that time. Another value (there’s that pesky word again) is that the kids program will issue you a complimentary beeper so you can leave the ship while your kids are having fun in the kids center. If your child should get hurt, or get sick, or just needs you very badly the ship will page you. And for the adults they will issue you phones so that you can communicate with your other family and friends on the ship.

Most ships these days have gone away from having a movie theater on board. Instead they have movies on the tv in your cabin. I don’t care what you say it’s always fun to get some popcorn (which Disney offers free of charge by the way) and enjoy a movie in a real theater. If you are lucky enough to be on a Disney ship when a brand new Disney movie is released, you will get to see it on the ship. I recently had come clients on a Disney ship when Star Wars came out. My folks got to see it on the big screen on the ship on the same night that it came out in your home town. Guess what, the movies are included too. All the other cruise lines have older movies on board.

Dining – Once again Disney offers a unique experience. They have you and your table mates along with your same waiter rotate restaurants every night. So on a 3-night cruise you will have dinner in different restaurants each night. On a 7-night cruise you will do 2 rotations and won’t eat in the same restaurant more than twice.

The Disney difference. Did you know that Disney is the only cruise line in the world that has the right to do fireworks at sea? They also have a very popular pirate night on the ship as well where the passengers are encouraged to bring their best pirate costumes.

For those of you planning to do half the week at Disney World and the other half of the week on the ship Disney has even made that easy for you too. Once you arrive at the hotel in Disney World they will check you in and issue you keys for both the hotel at the resort and for the ship. Again this is a “value” because it saves you lots of time. When you arrive to the ship you don’t have to wait in long lines to check-in. You just walk onto the ship using the same key card that they gave you at the resort. How much easier can they make it for you!

So, if all you are looking for is a cheap cruise then I won’t even waste my time or yours giving you prices on a Disney cruise. However, if all these items I mentioned hold a “value” to you and you are willing to pay more for that “value” then give me a call. You won’t be disappointed.

ABOUT THE CRUISE BUTLER

Steve Rice has been a professional travel counselor selling travel dreams for 20 years. He has been on over 70 cruises on many different ships all around the world.

He is certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Assn.) as an Elite Cruise Counselor (one of the few in the country) and a Luxury Cruise Specialist.

He has received numerous industry awards, has achieved “Specialist” certifications to many destinations and has received the “Circle of Excellence” award from his parent company each and every year.

Steve Rice

830-981-2445

Steve@TheCrusieButler.com

www.TheCruiseButler

 

 

Top 10 FREE things to see and do in Paris

Presented by The Cruise Butler

Top 10 Free Things to See & Do in Paris.

A holiday in Paris doesn’t have to cost a lot. In fact, if you do a little bit of research you’ll be able to see much of the City of Lights for free! To save you some time we compiled a list of our top 10 free things to see and do in Paris. From visiting free museums to discovering the Eiffel Tower up close without paying a dime, we’ve got you covered!

1. Discover Free Museums in Paris

Picture of the Louvre Museum in ParisYou can visit the Louvre and other museums in Paris for free every 1st Sunday of the month

Fancy seeing the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay for free? You can visit all major museums in Paris for free on the 1st Sunday of each month! Understandably it can get quite crowded in the most popular museums of Paris on this day, so try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You can also choose to visit one of the slightly less famous (but still absolutely fantastic) museums in Paris such as the Musée des Arts et Métiers or Musée Rodin.

Are you a citizen of the European Union and under 25 years old? We have good news for you! You can visit all the museums in Paris free of charge. This applies to all major and small museums and even big attractions such as the Palace of Versailles. Do remember to bring proof of documentation such as a passport or identification card or you’ll have to pay!

Not from the EU or older than 25? There are still several museums in Paris that are free to the public. For instance, the beautiful Petit Palais next to the Champs Elysées has a wonderful permanent collection of fine arts that is always free to visit. The Maison de Victor Hugo in the famous Place des Vosges also doesn’t charge an entrance fee. These are just two examples of the many free museums in Paris. Check out Free Admission in Paris Museums for the whole list of museums that are free to visit.

2. Explore Paris’ Parks

Paris is home to many gorgeous parks that are absolutely free to visit. In the city center of Paris you have the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes. There are also several sprawling green parks in the outer arrondissements, such as the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc de Belleville, Parc Andre Citroen, and Parc de la Villette. You can even visit the Versailles Gardens for free off-season.

3. Take the Funicular in Montmartre

Image of the funicular of Montmartre and the Sacre CoeurThe funicular of Montmartre can take you up to the Sacre Coeur for free if you’ve got a charged metro card

Although technically this funicular railway charges an entrance fee, you can ride for free when you’ve got a charged metro card. The funicular runs between the foot and the summit of Montmartre, and is a great way to discover this Bohemian neighborhood. If you haven’t got a daily, weekly or monthly metro card you can also choose to climb up the hill through the park that runs up to the Sacre Coeur. From the steps of the church you’ll get amazing free panoramic views of Paris.

To find out more about the area, check out our video tour of Montmartre.

4. Visit the Churches & Cathedrals of Paris

You’ll find many beautiful churches and cathedrals throughout the city of Paris, and most of these are free to visit. The popular Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cité and the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre do not charge entrance fees.

There are also many historic churches in Paris displaying ingenious architecture and striking stained-glass windows. You’ll find that when you walk around the arrondissements of Paris you’ll bump into amazing churches when you least expect it!

5. Visit the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Picture of the National Library of France in ParisOne of the book-shaped towers of the National Library of France in Paris

The National Library of France, better known as the BNF, is an amazing modern building located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. Built in 1996, the library is made up of four large glass and chrome towers shaped as books. These towers hold the library’s permanent collection of over 14 million books. In between the towers is a central garden with beautiful old pine trees. The library is completely free to visit, and whether you come for the architecture or to peruse the historical books of the permanent collection, the BNF is sure to make for an intriguing visit.

6. See Paris’ Most Famous Monuments For Free

Image of the Arc de Triomphe in ParisThe Arc de Triomphe near the Champs Elysées in Paris

Like the museums of Paris, you can visit Paris’ most famous monuments for free on the 1st Sunday of every month. Do note that this only applies off-season between November 1st and March 31st. Among the monuments you can visit for free are the Arc de Triomphe, Chateau de Vincennes, the Panthéon and the Conciergerie. For more information about the Arc de Triomphe, see Visit the Arc the Triomphe. You can also climb the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral for free. Be aware that the entrance for the tower visit is located outside the Cathedral on the left side of the façade. The Cathedral itself is always free to visit.

7. Discover the Arènes de Lutèce

The Arènes de Lutèce is a Roman amphitheater, and one of the most important remains of the Gallo-Roman area of Paris. Built around the 1st century AD, the amphitheater consisted of a sunken arena with a stage and surrounding terraces that could fit up to 17,000 viewers. The amphitheater was used for both theater performances and combat. Today you can visit what remains of the amphitheater for free in a small park called the Place Emile Male close to the Jardin des Plantes in the Latin Quarter.

8. Watch the Eiffel Tower Light Up at Night

You don’t have to pay a fee to see the Eiffel Tower at its most beautiful. Every night the Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes each hour after sunset (until 2am). It’s absolutely beautiful to see the tower light up the sky, and the closer you are the better you’ll be able to see the individual lights flicker on and off like tiny diamonds. You’ll get some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower at the Champ de Mars, which is free to enter. You can even pack a picnic at home to bring to the park and have dinner beneath the sparkling Eiffel Tower!

We have many vacation rental apartments available in Paris that come with fully equipped kitchens, which makes it easy to prepare your own dinner picnic basket. And if you can’t get enough of the Eiffel Tower, consider staying in an apartment like this 1-bedroom apartment in Invalides that has spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower!

9. Pay a Visit to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Picture of the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise Tombs at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery

The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is Paris’ most famous graveyard, and a hauntingly beautiful peaceful park in the middle of the busy city. The huge graveyard is free to visit, but at most of its entrances you can opt to buy a map of the graveyard for a small fee. This is recommendable if you want to visit a particular grave, as it can be quite difficult to find even the famous graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Visit the cemetery on a sunny day and stroll up and down the cobblestone streets beneath leafy trees. The elaborate tombs are quite a sight to behold.

10. Attend a Free Fashion Show at the Famous Galeries Lafayette

Paris’ famous department store Galeries Lafayette is a must-see for any lover of fashion. The department store features many designer brands and has a beautiful domed ceiling made of glass. Every Friday at 3 pm you can attend a fashion show on the 7th floor of the Galeries Lafayette. The show is completely free to attend, though seats must be reserved ahead of time. You can reserve a spot by sending an email to welcome@galerieslafayette.com. Also be sure to pay a visit to the neighboring department store Printemps after your visit to Galeries Lafayette. The top floor of Printemps has an amazing rooftop terrace that’s also free to visit and has 360-degree panoramic views of Paris!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of our top 10 free things to see and do in Paris! What’s your favorite free place in Paris?