Should I book now or wait, that is my question ??? What should I do ???

I have been asked this question so many times during my 22-year career in this business that I decided to write an article on it and to save it as a resource for each time I get asked this question.

Should I book now my vacation now or wait for a deal? While nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes what I am about to tell you is a given fact that you can take to the bank 80-90% of the time. Those are excellent winning odds, even in Las Vegas.

If you book in advance you will always get the cruise lines version of their “book early” discount. Most of the time as the ship is empty early in the booking process they will offer the bigger discounts. As the ship begins to fill up the discount they offer you will start to decrease. Most people think the cruise lines lowball the prices right before the cruise. WRONG !!!!!  It doesn’t work that way.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you wait closer to the sail date to book your cruise and there happens to be some kind of promotion going on be prepared NOT to get something that you were really hoping for. More than likely the dining time you really want will be on a waitlist. You might want a balcony, but there isn’t any left so now you have to suffice with just a window cabin, or an interior cabin. More than likely the last cabins available on the ship will be by the staircase, elevator, the front or back of the ship, next to the pantry area or under some very noisy and busy public area. So, while you may have saved a few bucks on your cruise you can now stay up even later at night since you won’t be able to get a good night sleep in your noisy cabin. On the flip side if you book early you will get the early booking discount, and will get to choose your specific deck and cabin, and will even have your choice of dining times.

Let’s do some math. Say I book a cruise a year in advance and my balcony cabin is $1,000 per person. With 2 people in the room that would be $2,000. Now 3 months before the cruise they come up with a Texas resident, a senior or a military promotion. You are so happy that you decided to wait and book this cruise now instead of doing it a year in advance like I did. You’re super excited because you got a deal by waiting and I did not. They are offering 30% off the first passenger and a $50 onboard credit per cabin. What you fail to realize is that your balcony price because you waited so long to book this cruise has increased to $1,300 per person or $2,600 for 2 people, and with a 30% discount off the first person (-$390) that brings it down to $2,210. And even if you take off the $50 of onboard credit that takes your price down to $2,160. You’re feeling proud of yourself because you took advantage of a good promotion and brought your $2,600 cruise down to $2,160. When I booked the cruise, there was no promotion except the basic early booking promotion and I paid $2,000. So, you ended up paying $2,160 and I paid $2,000. Let me ask you a question, “who paid less?”. And again, I got the dinner time I wanted and you are more than likely going to get waitlisted for what you want and probably won’t even get it. I also have a great cabin location right in the center of the ship in a nice and quiet area. Because you waited to book your cruise everyone else beat you to the prime cabin locations. Your choices now are probably underneath the cafeteria which has a crew working above your head 24 hours a day making noise, underneath the noisy pool area, or underneath the disco with loud music echoing through your walls until 3am.

If you book in advance you will also get to split up the deposit and final payment date helping you to spread out your payments and budget for your vacation. If you book within 3-4 months of departure you will have to come up with the full amount all at once.

This philosophy not only applies to cruises, it applies to all vacations including all those great all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. I will bet you money that any smart shopper will want the cheapest, shortest, and most direct airline schedule to begin and end their vacation with. Once the wise folks buy these seats up you will be left with the longer and more expensive flights.

So, there you have it.

Steve Rice
The Cruise Butler

Cruising is like a box of chocolates


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 (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


The “10 Commandments of Travel”


Due to all the bad advise that I constantly hear I have developed a new set of the “10 Commandments”. Please use this as a travel resource when booking your next vacation. Trust me……you will have a better overall experience and your money will go farther.

The Cruise Butler




Traveling to Europe – Money hints and suggestions


  • When traveling to Europe I would bring the equivalent of $100 per day, per couple in local currency. This amount will keep you out of trouble and more than likely you will even have some leftover Euro’s which you can exchange back into USD when you get back into the USA. This money can be used for a cheap cab fare, a tip, a cold beer, a small souvenir, a sandwich and soda somewhere or an admission to a venue, subway fare, etc. Anything over $20 per person I tend to just put in on my credit card.
  • Travelers Checks are almost a thing of the past and are considered “old school” by many.
  • American Express is NOT widely used in Europe. You might find some locations but they are limited.
  • I would suggest taking 2-3 credit cards with you, and different types, such as Discover, MasterCard, or Visa.
  • If you plan on using your credit cards at ATM’s for money withdrawals make sure you have a PIN number to do so.
  • Advise your bank and/or credit card companies that you will be traveling to Europe during this time so they don’t cancel your card due to suspicious activity while you are in the middle of your vacation. That really adds unnecessary frustration to your trip.
  • The best locations that I’ve found for money exchange are the money exchange companies located at the international airport terminals. From my experience they have the best exchange rate around and they will even buy back your unused Euro’s from you when arriving back into the U.S.

I hope that helps with your planning.

Top 10 Free Things to See & Do in Paris

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 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?

“Springtime in Paris” cruise – April 2015 on Avalon River Cruises


This gallery contains 6 photos.

“SPRINGTIME IN PARIS” – GROUP CRUISE  APRIL 11-18, 2015 8 days Complimentary wi-fi, premium coffees, shore excursions in every port, sparkling wine with breakfast, soft drinks, bottled water, regional wines and beers for dinner, and open dining.   Hello friends, … Continue reading

What type of cruise line should I choose ?

February 11, 2014 at 10:47pm

by Steve Rice; The Cruise Butler

Choosing a cruise line to travel on is just like choosing a hotel chain to stay at. With hotels you have many inexpensive options, mid-range options and high end hotels to choose from. Well the cruise lines are no different. Some are very inexpensive, some are mid-range and others are on the high side. But it’s important to note just like with the hotels you get what you pay for! Even though the higher priced cruise lines will cost you more upfront they include a lot more than the mass market cruise lines do. Many times gratuities, specialty restaurants, wine, beer, sodas, bottled water, internet, alcoholic beverages, champagne breakfasts, gourmet coffees, teas, even shore excursions and more will be included. The majority of the inexpensive to mid-range cruise lines you will charge you more for all these extras.

If you are looking for a smaller ship with fewer passengers onboard then I would encourage you to consider one of these options. The mid-size to large sized ships can hold up to 3-6 thousand people. These smaller ships typically hold just between 120-1200 people.

Another huge benefit of these smaller cruise lines is that they can generally increase your sightseeing time in port. This maximizes your vacation time. Thinks about it, how long do you think it takes to board 200-500 people compared to boarding 3-6 thousand people?

Avalon SuitesSmaller ships like river cruises dock in the heart of town and you’re within walking distance to all the sightseeing attractions. Many other ships will drop anchor right in a cove of a gorgeous beach versus docking in a large and busy commercial dock area where it might take you over 30 minutes in a cab (another expense) just to get to a nice beach. Some smaller ships will even stay in port overnight giving you a whole new perspective of the town you’re in.

There really aren’t any cruise lines that are adult-only, but these smaller more upscale cruise lines don’t cater to children so you will find very few if any of them onboard.

So while these smaller cruise lines cost more their benefits and the over-all positive cruise experience far out ways the extra cost.

We are always here to help and guide you in planning your next great adventure. So why not give us a call and book your next cruise with us.

The Cruise Butler – 830-981-2445 – 

Cruise lines graded by passengers

Do Travelers Love These Popular Cruise Lines?


FEBRUARY 07, 2014



If you go on a cruise and enjoy the experience, what’s the first thing you’re going to do? If you’re like most people, you’re going to tell family and friends about your experience. You might also use social media to share the details. Therefore, not only are you likely to return for another cruise offered by the same cruise line, but you’re generating positive sentiment for that brand, which is likely to lead to new business for that particular cruise line. Of course, the same process holds true for cruise vacations that didn’t meet your expectations. That being the case, whether you’re looking to travel on, or invest in, Carnival (NYSE: CCL),Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL), or Norwegian Cruise Line (NASDAQ: NCLH), the following information should be of importance to you.



Below are the most popular Carnival cruise lines, followed by what percentage of customers stated that they loved their vacation on that cruise line at The number in parenthesis indicates how many people contributed to the vote. Below are the four most popular North American cruise lines for Carnival.

Carnival Cruise Lines: 74 percent (17,827). Best known for being fun and family-oriented. Ships are large. Prices are affordable compared to most cruises.

Holland America Line: 75 percent (5,173). A whopping $525 million was invested for fleet enhancement. Based on the pedestrian cruiser rating, this seems to be a necessary investment. Holland America Line offers Culinary Arts Centers for demonstrations and classes, and it owns a private island in San Salvador, Half Moon Cay.

Princess Cruises: 77 percent (5,173). Popular features include anytime-dining and movies under the stars. Princess Cruises are a good option for multi-generational groups. It also owns Princess Cays — a tourist resort at the southern end of the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

Seabourne: 84 percent (273). Seabourne isn’t nearly as popular as the cruise lines listed above, but notice the higher rating, which directly relates to service. Travelers have raved about the service on Seabourne cruises. The exotic itineraries are also popular. However, Seabourne cruises are expensive, and they’re most often frequented by experienced travelers.

Costa: 53 percent (1,065). Best known for an Italian ambiance and Samsara Spa. As you can see from the traveler approval rating, these features aren’t impressive enough. Ship refurbishments are planned.

Cunard: 70 percent (992). A good option for those seeking trans-Atlantic journeys and Golden Era luxury, including white-gloved afternoon tea service.

P&O Cruises: 68 percent (1,026). A family-oriented cruise line that caters to primarily British clientele.

Overall, these scores aren’t very impressive. Perhaps Royal Caribbean scores better.



Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International: 81 percent (14,653). It’s all about megaships. The highly anticipated Quantum of the Seas is set to sail in November 2014, and Anthem of the Seas is set to sail in Spring 2015. Royal Caribbean International also owns a private island (CocoCay in the Bahamas) and a port (Labadee on the northern coast of Haiti.)

Celebrity Cruises: 81 percent (7,068). Celebrity Cruises is spending millions to modernize its old ships. This could lead to the cruise line going from outperforming the majority of its peers to dominating the majority of its peers. Celebrity Cruises attracts a broad range of travelers, including Baby Boomers, LGBTQ cruisers, retirees, and honeymooners.

Azamara Club Cruises: 88 percent (656). Just like Carnival’s Seabourne, Azamara Club Cruises offers highly personalized service, which leads to higher traveler approval ratings. These are smaller ships, but they’re loved by most guests. They sail to Europe, Asia, South America, and the West Indies.

Travelers are more impressed with Royal Caribbean than Carnival, but what about Norwegian Cruise Line?



Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line: 70 percent (11,242). Best known for no set dining times and a casual dress code, the Norwegian Cruise Line owns a private island (Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.) Large suites and bright and colorful décor makes it an option to consider for families.

Let’s not leave out Disney (NYSE:DIS).

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line: 80 percent (1,023). Family-oriented, but enjoyed by adults as well. Disney films, a watercoaster, and Castaway Cay (Disney’s 1,000-acre private island in the Bahamas) are key features.


If you’re looking to go on a cruise, then you might want to consider Royal Caribbean or Disney first. If you’re an investor, the same theory holds true. If travelers prefer one company’s cruise lines over another, then word of mouth will spread, and those cruise lines will win more future customers.

For this reason, Royal Caribbean is an OUTPERFORM. That said, since it’s not as large or as diversified as Disney, it won’t hold up as well during economic downturns and throughout bear market environments.

Disney owns ABC and ESPN, it has seen phenomenal success in Filmed Entertainment (Frozen being its most recent big hit), owns the most popular theme parks in the world, and its future merchandising opportunities with Star Wars Episode 7 should go a long way. Therefore, while Disney might not present as much growth opportunity and upside potential as Royal Caribbean, it offers more downside protection, and it’s also an OUTPERFORM.

Norovirus Isn’t Just On Cruise Ships

Attention Media: Norovirus Isn’t Just On Cruise Ships


Attention Media: Norovirus Isn't Just On Cruise Ships

One of the major news stories reported on TV stations and news sites today is the suspected norovirus outbreak on Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas.

The cruise is ending two days early as the ship returns to its New Jersey homeport for a thorough sanitizing after 577 passengers reported gastrointestinal symptoms, which is almost 19 percent of all guests, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 4.2 percent of crew members also reported suffering from vomiting and diarrhea.

Of course, we’d never wish this kind of stomach bug on anyone, especially when they’re on a long-planned and highly anticipated vacation. I’ve never suffered from norovirus during a cruise, but I have had similar illnesses at home and it’s understandable why passengers get so angry in the moment. I’m just not sure it’s fair to blame the cruise ship.

Because it’s highly likely a passenger boarded the ship shortly after or even while suffering from a stomach bug. That’s why passengers are asked to fill out health surveys asking if they’ve had certain symptoms — primarily vomiting and diarrhea — within the past two days. And that’s why there usually are crew members holding a huge bottle of hand sanitizer as you board and enter restaurants.

But if passengers lie about their illness, can you blame the cruise ship? Some do. Now I know certain snarky websites intentionally write stories to attract attention, but here’s the lead in a post on The Wire:

“In the last two weeks, two cruise liners have seen their elegant guests turned into diarrhea zombies trapped aboard floating tins of squalor.”

And a headline on Gothamist: “Caribbean Cruise Ends After 600 Sail Into The Poopmuda Triangle.”

Sorry, not funny. Those kind of articles spread the incorrect impression there is a “cruise ship disease” that cruise lines carelessly allow to spread unchecked.

The Cruise Lines International Association has crunched the numbers.

In 2013, CLIA reports, there were seven norovirus outbreaks reported to the CDC, involving a total of 1,238 passengers. Approximately 10.1 million passengers embarked on a CLIA cruise ship from a U.S. port in 2012 (2013 data is not yet available). So the number of passengers suffering from a gastrointestinal illness is approximately 0.102 percent.

Don’t believe CLIA? The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) tracks such outbreaks. Cruise ship medical staff are required to send gastrointestinal illness reports to VSP 24 to 36 hours before arriving at a U.S. port from a foreign port — even when there are no cases to report.

Separate notification must be made when 2 percent or more of the passengers or crew are ill with gastrointestinal illness. The VSP staff conducts an investigation and makes a report public when the number reaches 3 percent or more.

So, for 2013, my research found nine CDC gastrointestinal illness outbreak reports from cruise ships, affecting 1,505 passengers. Seven of those outbreaks were judged to have been caused by norovirus, which affected 1,321 passengers.

So put that into perspective: the CDC says norovirus, the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S., causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses each year. An infinitesimal percentage catches it on cruise ships, so n no way is it only a “cruise ship illness.” You can look up these statistics up yourself here.

It spreads when people are in close contact, so sure, it moves quickly on a cruise ship. But it also is easily contagious in schools, hospitals and other places where large numbers of people gather in close confines. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

You’ve heard it before: The CDC says the best way to prevent norovirus is to wash your hands often and properly.

A friend and professional colleague, Doug Parker, who hosts Cruise Radio and Weekend Travel Show from his home base in Jacksonville, Fla., recently suffered a bout of norovirus on a cruise ship. He informed the ship’s medical team, was put in isolation in his stateroom and given a special room service menu offering white rice, broth, Jell-O, toast, bottled water and the like.

He started to feel human again after 48 hours of vomiting and diarrhea, but even he would not blame the cruise ship. In fact, he met a country musician shortly thereafter who cancelled a week of his tour after suffering from norovirus at a resort in Ohio.

“That just goes to show you, it’s unfair to say you can only get it on a cruise ship,” Parker said. “If you think about it, when you’re eating or staying at a hotel, you don’t know who was in the room before you. I think it’s easier to blame the cruise lines, especially after all they’ve gone through past couple of years. But it’s not fun; I don’t wish it on anybody.”

Stewart Chiron, a major Miami-based cruise retailer known as The Cruise Guy, said travel agents should use facts when addressing any fears from clients.

“Don’t be dismissive,” he said. “Once people understand this is the stomach flu they say, ‘all I have to do is wash my hands and not stick my tongue on a railing, and I should be OK?’ It sounds funny but it’s that’s all there really is. The most important thing to do is better educate the consumer on what norovirus is, how to prevent it, and that this is not a cruise-borne illness.”

Follow me on Twitter @cruiseapalooza.


River cruises versus large ship cruises.

Last week I wrote an article of “Me versus the internet”. Well this week my article is “River cruises versus large ship cruises”.

So many times I try to convince people to try a river cruise. The main reason is that they constantly complain that the itineraries of the big cruise lines do the same old thing, or that the ships are too big, with too many people, the lines are long, and they nickel and dime you all day long. Well folks it doesn’t have to be that way.

What I try to tell people is that you need to look at the overall big picture of a river cruise. That means knowing ALL the extras that are included. Not only is it nice to have these extras included, it also makes your vacation more relaxing and enjoyable.

Check out the chart below:


large ship vs. river cruise comparison chart

So if you are tired of 800 unruly kids running all over the ship, or waiting in long buffet lines because somebody can’t decide on which tomato slice to choose from or if you’re tired of the constant peddling and nickel and diming of the cruise then don’t do it anymore !!!!

These river cruises don’t cost that much more than your typical Princess or Celebrity cruise line. Plus the overall cruise experience is so much better.

A river cruise is a destination-orientated, immersive and culturally-rich experience. These ships sail right into port and drop you off just steps away from all the attractions filled with history. The destinations are really the heart of this product.

Some of the inclusions include shore excursions in every port, specialty coffees and teas, bottled water, sodas, wine and beer for dinner (and sometimes lunch too), free wi-fi, wine and cheese tastings and more.  Your bags won’t be confiscated and you won’t have to go through x-ray machines if you would like to buy a bottle of wine in port to enjoy while on the cruise.

Most of the ships hold less than 200 passengers which means they are smaller intimate ships with spacious rooms and every cabin has a window for the daily changing river view. And since you are slowly cruising on a river there is no such thing as sea- sickness. With less than 200 people onboard there are never longs anywhere, especially during the embarkation and disembarkation process.

River cruises have a 99.6% average passenger satisfaction level. That is huge !!!! And did you know that 80% of people who have taken a river cruise have taken a large ship cruise in the past.

So I urge all of you to expand your horizons and graduate to the next tier of cruising.

Happy Trails.