Thursday, 6 December 2012

Travel and Cruise News

 December Newsletter,  Vol. 1, issue 10
Travel and Cruise News  
Items of Interest 

A newsletter from Rosswin Travel, 
Courtenay, BC

 Santa arriving in Courtenay, BC  

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year

Bus Tours
Cruise Tips
Artist of month


Are you planning on taking a bus tour?

Here are a few comments from our 19 day European tour

  Taking a Organized Bus Tour

 Alex and I waiting for the shuttle at the beginning of our journey
Notice we practice what we preach and travel light.
There are pros and cons on taking a bus tour. It depends on your likes and dislikes. Taking a bus tour lets you travel without having to worry about all the details, you know in advance where you are going, someone else has handled all the details on where you are staying, your meals and the details of your sightseeing.  
If you do not like to travel long distances on a bus then a bus tour is probably not for you although there were not to many long journeys as we often stopped and toured areas we drove through. 
We were allowed beside our larger bag, one carry on item and they gave us the dimension but I noticed that many passengers had exceeded the size limit.
We had the same bus the whole trip so were able to leave some of our extra items on the bus, like an extra sweater or jacket ( do not leave any valuables) 
19 Day Tour
We took a 19 day bus tour of Europe and we loved it. We started out in England and the first two nights were spent in London, the first day we toured London on a hop on hop off bus, that was our choice as there were other excursion’s available.  The second day we were taken by bus to Dover to board the ferry, crossing the channel to Calais France, once into France we were directed to our tour bus. We were very lucky and had a guide who spoke perfect English and was very knowledgable. I won’t go into much detail about our tour but just what we especially enjoyed and did not enjoy on our trip and some facts that might be of interest. 
We had plenty time to sightsee at any of the stops we made, and the guide gave us many tips on what to do and not do. 
 Sara our tour guide and one of our bus drivers
The tour was almost fully booked, and we were asked each day to change seats (seat rotation) so that everyone had a chance to sit in the front. We had a group from Sri Lanka on board and they spoke quite loudly to each other but they were very pleasant and sat to-gather as a group when they were able. We also had traveler’s from Australia, New Zealand, the US, the Caribbean and of course Canada. 
Yes, we did have a couple of long days of driving but we stopped every couple of hours and had enough time to grab a snack and use the washrooms. The washrooms on the bus were used only for emergency’s as they have very few dumping stations in Europe and they are expensive to use, at least that is what we were told. I believe in our 16 days only one person had to use the washroom and that is when we were stuck in a traffic jam in France on or last day of touring.

A note on washrooms, Toilets were another education for us as Canadians, in some stops we had to pay to use the facilities, no toilet seats in some cases, a hole in the floor, (hopefully this was for the men), as in this case we left to find other facilities elsewhere. 
The tour guide keep us informed of points of interest as we passed them. 
 We stopped at most of the tourist attractions, such as the Tower of Pisa, Pompaii, and of course the Eiffel Tower and in Rome we toured the Vatican. In Rome and Paris we had the day to tour so we took the Hop on and off bus to get a general view of the city and attractions that we might be interested in. We also had 3 or more evening excursion’s.

One person had her wallet and passport stolen when we were in Germany and when we got to Switzerland while we spent the day sightseeing, she had to spend the day going to Bern to get a replacement passport.
 Some of our group at supper
Another person left some clothes at the previous hotel we were at and there were no other tour buses scheduled to stop that would catch up to us and return them, to mail the clothes to her home would have cost more than they were worth. Other than that I do not think there were any major issues, except for the last day we were in France and got stuck in a traffic jam for 2 hours as there was a special event downtown that the driver was not warned about consequently we were not able to make it back to our hotel in time to get ready to go out for our final supper to-gather so it was arranged for us to eat at the hotel we stayed in. 
We were on a budget holiday and the hotels were not always in the center of town but by the time we got to the hotel after a day of touring and sitting on a bus and had supper we were usually too tired to plan on a big evening.  
At the hotels the driver and valets from the hotel would take the luggage off the bus and to your rooms. In the mornings the luggage was usually out in the hall to be picked up by 7 or 7:30 am. In some cities they frown on the bus parking on the street and blocking traffic so in a couple of cases we had to be ready to board as a full group and in double quick time or walk a short distance to board the bus. 
  A budget tour differs from a higher priced tour in the choice of hotels. In some cases they use the same hotel but in the budget tours we usually stay further away from the main attractions and the downtown core. A little research will let you know if you can take a local bus into downtown.   

In the one of the hotels they used for both the budget & first class tours, we were put in a different room for our breakfast and were served a very light breakfast as the first class had I believe a hot breakfast. The breakfast’s varied, some were a plain Continental Breakfast, at others more lavish so it all balanced out. 
Some hotels were very reasonable if you wanted to buy bottled water or wine if it was available but some were a rip off. When we were in Italy on our Venice stop we discovered a very cheap grocery store and most of us stocked up on bottled water and snacks at a very reasonable price. 
I must say if we had a small cramped room at a small hotel one night we usually made up for it at the next by being in a larger and more luxurious room.  
 Everyday was an adventure and a new learning experience. We have a wonderful time and I am looking forward to repeating it again soon.
10 Money-Saving Cruise Tips
Posted by Elissa Richard  
 For the first 5 cruise tips see the November Rosswin Travel Blog
Cruises can really be one of the best value vacations around, effectively bundling your lodging, meals, entertainment and activities, and transportation into one tidy, upfront rate. Like anything, the costs can add up if you don't cruise smart, so we put together 10 cost-cutting tips so you can maximize your cruising dollars. The best tip we can give you, though, is to make sure you budget in all the little things that aren't included, but that are still necessary—shore-side expenses and flights to and from port are two good examples.

6. Choose your cabin wisely. At first glance, a tempting way to save money is to nab the lowest rate, which is usually quoted for an inside—or, interior—cabin. Only in rare instances do we recommend actually doing so, as being deprived of natural light and ocean views in potentially claustrophobic-inducing conditions isn't worth the savings. At the same time, considering the little amount of time that you'll spend in your cabin, the most spacious, priciest suite is rarely worth the splurge either.

We recommend paying a small premium for an outside, or, ocean view, cabin, and, if you are going somewhere with fabulous weather, and at least a day or two spent sailing at sea, to go ahead and spring for the balcony upgrade. Those oceanfront breakfasts and sea-misted champagne sunsets, set just steps from your bed, will pay for themselves in no time.

7. Book your own excursions. Cruise line-sponsored shore excursions offer convenience and certain assurances (like guaranteeing the ship will be held for you if your tour bus gets stuck in traffic), but they are often priced at considerably higher rates than what can be arranged independently. Do your research, and get some price quotes on tours or private guide services in port—you might be surprised to find that you can see twice as much at half the price (with a fraction of the people in tow).

Note that if you are sailing on one of the luxury, adventure, or river cruise lines, chances are that most of your excursions are already included in the upfront rate.

8. Sail an older ship. Cruise lines charge a major premium to sail aboard their latest and greatest ships, and will reduce rates on the older vessels in their fleet as they are pushed out of the spotlight. If you're willing to skip out on newfangled frills, sailing aboard line's older ships can be a real money saver, without necessarily meaning you'll have to sacrifice comfort, amenities, or itineraries. Do, however, read up on reviews and ask questions when booking to be sure that the ship has been well maintained, or, as is the growing trend, even extensively refurbished to feature some of the more popular features of the line's newer ships (like dining venues or attractions)—effectively offering very similar experiences at lower fares.

9. Demonstrate brand loyalty. Like airlines with frequent flyers, cruise lines consider repeat passengers their bread and butter, and are in the habit of luring past passengers back for more. The more you cruise with your preferred line, the more return-trip booking incentives you can expect, with past-passenger discounts and promotions offered through special cruise membership clubs. Plus, you can expect special onboard perks like invitations to captain's dinners or cocktail receptions. Note that you can also nab discounts by booking a future cruise while still aboard your current sailing.

10. Buy travel insurance. Booking a cruise vacation is a big-ticket investment, and one that's worth protecting. Reasonably priced travel insurance policies can easily be purchased from third-party insurance companies (like Travel Guard—read our Q & A), which will reimburse the costs of your cruise, airfare, and more should unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel or interrupt your trip. Plus, policies will often include medical travel insurance, too—a vital asset when heading outside US borders, where coverage for most American medical policies ends. Just be sure to read the fine print, to ensure the policy is right for your particular needs. Insurance costs are minimal, typically a nominal percentage of the total trip price, and the policies easily pay for themselves in peace of mind alone.

 Artist of the Month
Sharon Lennox - Mute Swans

16 by 20
Oil on Canvas

 Sharon Lennox

I an a student and producer of fine art.  I grew up in a rural community and have loved anything to do with nature and animals all my life. In my paintings all my loves come together, animals, birds, nature, flowers and artistic craft.  My medium is oils, I like the ease of mixing and the buttery texture which allows the paint to flow smoothly onto the canvas. I paint from photos mostly, sometimes many photos for the development of one painting.  The research, planning and set up of a painting can take as long if not longer than the painting itself.
I guess the main thing is that I absolutely love what I do, hope to still be learning and painting when I am ninety.

I will be glad of any comments or corrections or if you wish to see something that is of interest to you please let me know. Thanks, Rhoda
If you liked this please pass it on 

Rosswin Travel,  
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420 Harmston Ave, Courtenay, BC, V9N 2X2

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