From All-Inclusive to a La Carte – The New Reality of Cruising

Evolution or Intelligent Design?

In the beginning the Cruise Gods said “Let the customer pay only once.” Thus cruising was created as the ultimate all-inclusive travel package. And in the minds of the general public that is still the perception. But perception needs to catch up to reality. Cruising has become a fully a la carte undertaking – and the devil is in the details. Today you are truly on your own – especially once on board the ship. This is true even with the assistance of an experienced travel agent.

This transformation has been a gradual one, observed over the many years since the author was bitten by the cruise bug. While the last three decades have witnessed many pleasing developments in this wonderful industry – there have been a few disappointing ones – mostly to do with the continual addition of options at extra cost.

Originally one’s cruise fare covered everything, the cruise itself, airfare to the port of departure, transfers, all meals, most shore excursions, all beverages including alcohol, even tips were often included – plus there were only two simple accommodation choices – an inside stateroom or one with an ocean view.

Are these ships on steroids?

With less emphasis on itineraries/destinations and more focus on onboard experiences – the highly competitive cruise lines are now rolling out ships with outrageously “pimped up” interiors, exteriors and activities. The newest of these floating behemoths have literally become destinations unto themselves. Some of the newer ships coming on line in the near future are so large that they feature “neighborhoods” – and can carry up to 5,000 passengers.

Waiter, check please…

Unfortunately, this growth has added layers of complexity to both the booking process and the on board experience that can often be frustrating – making it near impossible to determine bottom line cost in advance. One can run up a huge end-of-cruise tab in the blink of an eye.

But there is good news in these developments. This gradual unbundling of services has created new opportunities. It is now possible to truly custom design a personalized cruise experience.

How to get personal…

A little online research goes a long way to ensuring a great cruise experience. Even if you are lucky enough to have a travel agent who is both a cruise specialist and a mind reader, if you have booked a cruise, are planning a cruise – or even just dreaming of one – take the time to review articles and postings on cruise related websites and chat rooms.

Most of these sites are operated and frequented by experienced cruise-a-holics with no particular agenda other than to inform and entertain. Detail obsessed cruise fans are more than happy to share tried and true techniques for maxing the experience while holding down costs – sage advice for the novice cruiser.

Already one of the anointed?

The same sites are also an opportunity for experienced cruisers to post stories and share their wisdom. Veterans tell what they – or someone else, crew, staff member, fellow passenger, travel agent – did that kicked their experience up to a notch in their bank of travel memories.

In subsequent articles we will explore how to “pimp up the particulars”…identify the best booking channel (direct, online or traditional agency), how to get the lowest fare, best cabin, free upgrades, best shore excursions, best dining room table, whether or not travel insurance is a good deal, etc.

Travel Israel!

Israel is the most sacred country in the world. It is sacred to the world’s three largest religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), but still greatly suffers from a poor image in the world.

Whenever I meet people who have never visited Israel, they always seem to think that Israel is a desert country with Camels as the main means of transportation, and Terror attacks occurring on a daily basis. Of course that in a world where the internet captures such a major place for many people – traveling to such a place is not an option…

In this article I would like to shed a different light at things, and make readers understand the things are not as you think they are, that the major news channels naturally show only sensations, and that there are great treasures to be found in this country for those who choose to travel Israel.

Let’s start from facts about geography and climate: although the desert captures large parts of Israel, Israel also has colder parts such as the Galilee and The Golan Heights with lakes and rivers, and even one skiing resort: The Hermon Mountain.

Because Israel is such a small and colorful country, when you travel Israel you may even plan a one day trip in which you will visit the Judea desert as well as the Jordan river and the Galilee lake “Kinneret”. So, during one single week on your Israel travel you can and probably will see the most vivid and diversified views of nature.

Another point I would like to mention is the political situation. It is true, Israel does have a situation in that sense, but so do many other countries in the world who do not suffer from such an image like Israel. A few years ago I traveled to Ireland, and I would have to note that the political situation there at the time was not much different, but still the bad image was not there for Ireland.

To put things in scale, the chance of getting killed by a bombing attack in Israel is still way lower than the chance of being run over by a car in Manhattan, or of being attacked and robbed in the Paris quarter of “Pigalle”. In the last couple of years there has been a significant decrease in the number of terrorist attacks in Isreal, and as a person living here, I would have to say that there is a safe feeling on the streets, and it is real.

As for Israel being a modern country or not – In the last 8 years or so, Israel has become a hi-tech nation, with many new skyscrapers and a great deal of incoming business tourism. Every other coffee-shop here operates a wireless internet hotspot, and in the three major cities (Tel-aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa) extensive areas have free wireless internet coverage.

By this time I do hope you are convinced that traveling to Israel is an option for you. If you still feel like you need endorsements, visit and see for yourself what this country has to offer!

Keep Everyone in Your Family Happy With the Purchase of Satellite TV

In today’s world, being a working parent can be quite stressful. Between taking the kids to soccer practice, swim lessons, ballet recitals, and football matches, one has to find the time to prepare tomorrow’s presentation and schedule a phone interview with the firm’s newest clients. Gone are the days when moms and dads worked from 9-5 and then leisurely spent evenings and weekends with the family. In today’s fast-paced society, it seems both children and parents are always on the go. In this busy era, it can be difficult to find quality time to spend together as a family. And with PlayStations, cell phones, Wii’s, and so much more, it can be difficult to pull children away from their daily routines long enough for them to even consider enjoying a family activity.

Luckily, modern technology has provided a solution that aids modern working parents, while also entertaining kids. With the purchase of one of today’s Satellite TV packages, parents can rest assured that they are investing in educational, entertaining, family-friendly fun that will last throughout the year. Gone are the days when watching television was synonymous with mindless, idle leisure. Today’s plethora of film and television options make Satellite television an interesting and truly educational entertainment option for the whole family. Kids and parents will enjoy the vast array of options both in daily programming and in movie and music channels. With the purchase of one of the variety of packages offered by today’s companies, you can finally spend your free time enjoying your family rather than stressing about how to entertain them.

Whatever your family’s interests, Satellite TV is sure to have options to more than suit your needs. For traveling enthusiasts, the Travel Channel in High Definition will transport you and your family to the southern tip of Chilean Patagonia just moments before leading you up a mountain in Kenya. The High Definition broadcasting of favorites like Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” will ensure that you and your family feel as if you are actually traveling alongside Mr. Bourdain, tasting the exotic foods and smelling the local scents.

For families interested in sports, Satellite TV offers more sports networks in High Definition than any cable counterpart. ESPN and a variety of other networks broadcast all of the latest in sports news, while a subscription to the NFL Sunday Ticket provides your family with access to all of the NFL games around the clock. For more adventurous kids and parents, the Discovery Channel and Discovery Kids are both also available through Satellite TV. With many of the programs broadcast in High Definition, not only will your family enjoy learning about interesting species and scientific phenomena, but you will feel as if you were actually a part of the research or experimentation process.

Finally, for nights when your family just wants to relax and enjoy a good film, you can choose from numerous great film channel options. Whether you like contemporary or classic films, comedies, thrillers, or dramas, Satellite has you covered. Thus for today’s busy moms and dads, this provides a great educational option for entertaining the family together.