Get Away With Fran

April 8, 2010

Oo la la, French dining on Disney Dream

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 11:53 am


When the new Disney Dream debuts early next year, one onboard restaurant will have a decisively French accent.

Remy, a nod to the diminutive star of Disney Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” will be an adults-only venue, with a cover charge (not yet determined but likely to top $75 p.p.). And you know what? Based on a sample meal prepared for couple dozen members of the press last night, it just may become the ship’s must-do attraction (well, along with the water coaster Dream is debuting for the first time at sea).

In creating the set menu, the cruise line turned to two top chefs. Impressively, Disney (more…)

April 6, 2010

See Fran on Fox – Flyers’ Rights

Filed under: Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 3:29 am

Ok, getting to the airport to find your flight is cancelled or you are otherwise denied boarding just stinks. But what should you do in this situation? And what are your rights?

Help, my flight has been canceled

Check the DOT website for consumer advice and regulations.

Contrary to popular belief, airlines are not required to compensate you for damages if you get to the airport and find your flight has been cancelled.

They do have to accommodate you on another flight. And often they will try to put you on another of that carrier’s flights. But depending on the reason for the cancellation (delayed flight crew, mechanical), you may also have the right to request going on another carrier, if that carrier’s schedule is better (while in line waiting to get re-ticketed, check your iPod or Blackberry for schedules).

If the agent doesn’t offer to put you on another, more convenient carrier invoke Rule 240. They may look at you like you have three eyes, but this old rule basically means they should put you on the next flight even if on another carrier. The website even recommends you carry a copy of the rule and your carrier’s policy on cancelled flights when you fly (the latter policy can be found at the airline’s website).

Also, if you get to your flight much later than scheduled and/or have to do a very different routing, call the airline’s consumer line and complain, and you may get some compensation (usually $100 in airline credit to be used for a future flight).

What is I get bumped because the flight is overbooked. Can I get money?

There are two kinds of bumping: voluntarily and the other involuntary. When a flight is oversold, the gate agents will ask for volunteers and offer you $200 or $400 and sometimes even more in air credit if you give up your seat. It’s your decision whether to take it. They then book you on that carrier’s next available flight (or occasionally on another carrier’s flight).

If you are involuntarily bumped due to an oversold flight, you are covered by DOT regulations (see If you arrive at your destination more than an hour late, you may be entitled for compensation up to $400, or the cost of your ticket. If you are more than two hours late you may get up to $800, or the ticket cost. But the airlines have several outs the way the rules are written. And the carrier probably won’t volunteer the cash unless you ask. You also, BTW, have the option of cancelling your trip for a full refund.

What if my flight is really late?

If your plane is late, especially due to weather or air traffic congestion, you won’t get much, if anything. For a mechanical delay, you may be offered meals and compensation for phone calls and maybe even a hotel stay if you are delayed overnight, but again, you have to ask. There is no federal rule requiring the airline to do any of this. Each carrier in the U.S. sets its own policy (check the airline’s website). But in Europe, airlines are required to compensate you for late flights, with meals, calls, hotels and sometimes cash, up to the amount of the ticket, but again there are exceptions such as weather delays.

What happens if my luggage is lost?

The question is, is the luggage lost or delayed. If delayed, the airline personnel will typically offer you a toiletry kit and send you on your way with a promise your bags should arrive in a day or two. If more than 24 hours, start asking for compensation to buy clean clothes and additional toiletries (check that airline’s website for their policy). If your luggage is really lost, and only about 2% of bags are, you are entitled to compensation based on the depreciated value of your items, up to $3,300 in the U.S. (substantially less in Europe).

What’s the deal with the latest security rules?

TSA is using random search measures (they announced this last week), but exactly what and when is secret. There are expected to be more pat downs, use of technology screening, dogs. You can, BTW, opt out of technology screening in favor of a pat down. And you still can’t carry large containers of liquid and do in the U.S. need to take your shoes off.

January 15, 2010

SpongeBob and singles on NCL

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:48 am


SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer will be making regular appearances on the Norwegian Jewel, on cruises out of New York beginning in April, and on the soon-to-launch Norwegian Epic, on cruises in the Caribbean beginning in July. And that will no doubt come as great news to family cruisers; those with kids. (Actually, I can name an adult or two who would probably like to pose with the costumed characters as well.)

The appearances are part of a big partnership deal between Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodeon, the premier family entertainment brand. Look too for shipboard game shows like Slime Time Live! with, yes, opportunity to get slimed with the green stuff; live Nick performance shows; Nick-themed arts and crafts and games in the Kid’s Crew program, character breakfasts (for a fee) and more.

The announcement was made to press and 300 travel agents onboard the Norwegian Gem for lunch, while the ship was docked in New York, and there were hints the program could be expanded to other NCL ships as well.

But families aren’t the only cruising group NCL is hoping to draw in larger number with new offerings.

Epic studio

NCL also announced its block of interior cabins on Epic known as The Studios, would be marketed and priced for solo travelers. That means instead of paying double fare to occupy a cabin by yourself, those who “vant to be alone” can book one of The Studios cabins from $799 for a weeklong eastern or western Caribbean cruise. The cabins are tight, at 100 square feet, and all interior (no ocean views), but feature a very hip design that includes padded walls for leaning, a double bed, portholes into the hall and colored lighting that you can adjust to your mood – red for love, for instance.

Epic StudioLounge

The area is only accessible with a private keycard, and those in The Studios also get exclusive access to The Studio Lounge, a two-deck social spot with a bar, coffee service, plasma TVs, cushy seating and what’s expected to be a meet and mingle atmosphere (ie., singles hot spot).

December 17, 2009

“Ellen” audience goes cruise wild

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 12:58 pm

Norwegian Cruise Line made a surprise appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” today with four ship officers in uniform giving every member of the studio audience – more than 300 people in all – a certificate for a seven-day cruise for two. Much screaming ensued when the giveaway was announced – you can watch the whole thing at

The episode was Day 11 of a “12 Days of Giveaways” series on the show.

“We are thrilled to present Ellen’s audience members with a cruise on one of our signature Freestyle Cruising vessels as part of our ‘Year of the Freestyle Vacation’ promotion,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer.  “Ellen is one of the funniest, most engaging personalities on television today.”

DeGeneres introduced the prize by first announcing other prizes including an underwater digital camera. “You might be wondering why you are going to need all these things,” she said. After a canned plug for Freestyle cruising – “up to 20 dining options…” – she was hardly able to announce the cruise prize before the crowd went wild. A giant poster of the Norwegian Epic, NCL’s newest and largest ship, which debuts in July, was displayed onstage.

In conjunction with the “Ellen” appearance, and available to all, NCL has created a special deals page.

December 15, 2009

Best deal to China ever

Filed under: International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:24 am


I got a press release today that advertised “Best price on a China Package – Ever.” And the funny thing is I think it just might be. If you can leave, like, now, or even in the next few weeks, you can do China, complete with air and hotel, from under $1,000.

China Spree’s China Express – Bejing Free-style Travel package (say that five times fast) is a 7-day deal with roundtrip air on Air China and five nights’ accommodations at the 4-star Beijing Huabin International Hotel, described as a comfortable, 290-room property only a 10-minute walk from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (my Beijing photos, above and below). The hotel offers LCD TVs with satellite channels, broadband Internet access and minibars, hairdryers and coffee makers, so how bad could it be?


The operator is even throwing in airport to hotel transfers (by bus, not pedicab) and daily American breakfast. The tab? From $588 per person if you can get yourself to San Francisco; from $988 from New York’s JFK (plus airport fees and taxes from $299). Fares are available from other cities as well.

There is also a land-based price for those who have frequent flyer miles to burn. Reasonably priced tours and other add-ons are also available once you’re in Beijing – so you can get too to the Summer Palace and the Great Wall (from which I sent txts to friends bragging I was on the GREAT WALL). There are meal packages available too.

The low prices are available for departures in December and January.

December 1, 2009

Philadelphia is for Iron Chefs and Foodies

Filed under: Food,U.S. — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 6:50 am


My cousin prepared a great Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia. But I need to book a return trip because I’m an “Iron Chef” fan and Philadelphia now has two Iron Chefs now, practically next to each other – well-established sushi master Masaharu Morimoto and the latest winner of Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef,” Jose Garces.

photo_jose_garces What you probably don’t know unless you’ve been to Philadelphia recently to dine at Morimoto or Garces’ Chifa, opened last year (he also has four other restaurants in the city of Brotherly Love), is that the Iron Chefs have places practically next door to each other on Chestnut Street in the Market East neighborhood. I can’t think of another city where Iron Chefs share a street!

Last year, when son, Eli, was graduating from Temple U., in Philly, we decided to have his graduation dinner at Chifa, then newly opened and highly recommended by a pal in the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. We couldn’t resist Garces’ concept of Peruvian and Cantonese fusion, (more…)

November 20, 2009

The giant awaits – first look at Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 9:03 am


My pal Michele and I got up real early to catch a JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale at 6 a.m.. But that’s the kind of sacrifice you make to be among the first to get on the newest world’s larges cruise ship.

Oasis of the Seas is five times the size of the Titanic, a whopping three football fields in length. And the Royal Caribbean ship will carry more than 6,200 passengers (when you include families with kids, which will no doubt be attracted by features that include an onboard amusement park).

Heck, I’m really looking forward to trying the onboard merry-go-round myself and maybe the zipline across the top deck too (if I can get up the courage).

The ship has a Central Park with grass and trees, and I expect my credit cards to start buzzing in the Royal Promenade, outfitted with a bunch of shops.

We’ll be boarding with other invitees on the pre-inagural, two-day sailing to nowhere this afternoon. So stay tuned for reports.

November 18, 2009

Godmothers are a WOW for World’s biggest Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:29 pm


OK, I know my draw will drop on Friday when I’m one of the first to see the world’s largest ship, the 5,400-passenger, 225,282-ton Oasis of the Seas on a pre-inaugural cruise from Fort Lauderdale. And it’s in fact it’s dropping already over Royal Caribbean’s just-announced list of the ship’s godmothers – yes, godmothers, as in seven, representing the seven “neighborhoods” on this mammoth, aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship. And what a seven they are!

We’re talking Gloria Estefan – the Miami-based diva herself (who was also godmother of Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas years ago); Olympic skating medalist, figure skater Michelle Kwan; Emmy-winning actress Jane Seymour (who I have actually met before at a wedding of an actor relative, but that’s another story); Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres; Shawn Johnson, four-time Olympic gymnastics medalist; Aaa Knight Pullman (Rudy on “The Cosby Show”); and TV personality Daisy Fuentes.

The ladies will take their posts to smash the champagne bottle (or maybe it will be bottles) during a one-night inaugural celebration/fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, I’ll be onboard this weekend checking out the Central Park with real grass and trees, the Boardwalk with the first merry-go-round at sea, the super big interior Royal Promenade, the high-diving acrobatics at the deep-water pool and all the other WOW features of this ship. So stay tuned for reports.

November 13, 2009

Carnival Dreams Big

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 6:32 am

hardenchristening[1] Tony- and Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden used an official Yankees bat, signed by A-Rod (Alex Rodriquez), to offically launch Carnival’s newest and biggest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream in New York.

But where was A-Rod himself? He was at the Miami Heat game according to Carnival Chairman Micky Arison, a friend of the Yankee (Arison also owns the heat).

Still, the festivities in New York were fun, fun, fun, including a troupe of blue jogging suit-clad breakdancers flipping and jumping and flying across the stage, and a saga told by Carnival’s favorite cruise director, John Heald, about his love affair with a champagne bottle, a six-foot tall champagne bottle, which he posed with in the streets of New York and which made an appearance onstage during the naming ceremony

In fact, it was Heald’s “love interest” that got the bat that godmother Harden swung, spewing confetti onto the theater crowd as real champagne spewed from a real smashing champagne bottle out on deck (yes, the real bottle was on a wire and smashed fabulously).

November 12, 2009

Dream a little Dream

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 10:54 am

It’s cloudy yucky in New York today, but from my friend’s 26th floor apartment I can see a bright spot, the Carnival Dream. I’ll be onboard the newest and largest Carnival ship later today for the official naming ceremony – featuring the ship’s godmother, actress Marcia Gay Harden, and some sort of mysterious “exhilarating dance” performance (not by the Tony- and Academy Award-winning actress I don’t think). But then again, this ship features a Pink Floyd -accompanied laser light show at night, so who knows.

The 130,000-ton, 3,646-passenger ship leaves tomorrow for a sampler two-night sailing, and I’ll be onboardfor that too (the ship earlier debuted with a series of cruises in Europe).

BTW, you can see the champagne smashing and other naming ceremony festivities live around 4 p.m.

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