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SATURDAY, MAY 25TH, 3PM-4PM - "The All-Inclusive Regent Seven Seas Cruise Experience" Having recently returned from extensive Bahamas/Caribbean cruises, travel events and site inspections - I learned that the best value for upcoming summer and fall vacations may be the excellent discounts, particularly in the luxury travel brands. One of the best is the all-inclusive luxury cruise market and one of my favorites, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, continues to offer exceptional values on many worldwide sailings. Regent Seven Seas is an award-winning , all-suite , all-inclusive cruise line with three luxurious mid-sized ships (Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Navigator), carrying 490 or 700 pampered guests, to some of the most glamorous and off-the-beaten-path places on the planet. Some of Regent's all-inclusive experiences include roundtrip air, unlimited shore excursions, pre-paid gratuities, specialty restaurants, unlimited beverages plus open bars, lounges and in-suite mini-bar replenished daily…and so much more. Kate Otto, Regent Seven Seas sales director, will be my in-studio guest next Saturday at 3 p.m. on "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" on WHP-AM580. Before you settle for the "same old - same old" vacation, be sure to tune in and learn why a Regent Seven Seas cruise may be a perfect fit for you.
SATURDAY, JUNE 1ST, 3PM-4PM - "HOW TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE TRAVELING" Not much is worse than you or a family member getting sick while on vacation. What do you do - especially if you are in a foreign country or an exotic destination and the nearest medical facility is hours away? Can you prepare in advance? You bet you can. Since the early days of "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" one of the most popular shows continue to be the "How to Stay Healthy While Traveling" interview segments with Dr. John Goldman, medical director for Pinnacle Health Infectious Diseases and Travel Clinic. And to add some "reality show drama" - I was recently diagnosed with lyme disease (via a blood test) and had been referred to Dr. Goldman, who just so happens to be my in-studio guest at 3p.m. next Saturday on "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" on WHP-AM580. Lyme disease, especially during summer vacation months, is one of the most frequent travel medicine inquiries we receive. At this point in time Dr. Goldman has recommended I continue my antibiotic treatment and wants additional testing for other causes. In addition to a feature on lyme disease, Dr. Goldman will answer many listener questions - including what to pack in a traveler's first aid kit ; new virus threats ; food poisoning ; heat stroke and immunizations needed for exotic destinations. Prevention is key. When traveling, always wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent the spread of illness. And remember, if your travels take you to a Third Word country : If you can't cook it, boil it or peel it , then forget it.
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As I'm writing this feature, the capsized Costa Concordia continues to make front page headlines around the world.
And rightly so.
This is a tragic event that should never have happened.
None of us can imagine enjoying dinner on a modern cruise ship and suddenly find ourselves in a state of emergency surrounded by chaos, incompetence and panic.
So what happened?
As far as I can tell from the 24/7 evolving media updates, and some insider scoop - it is primarily the Captain's fault. Human error. However, I believe we won't know the whole truth until the investigation is complete.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates ship safety around the world, sets the rules on providing drills for new passengers and evacuating ships.
According to the I.M.O. - "On a ship engaged on a voyage where passengers are scheduled to be on board for more than 24-hours, musters of the passengers shall take place within 24-hours after their embarkation. Passengers shall be instructed in the use of the life jackets and the action to take in an emergency."
The muster drill (better known as the lifeboat drill) never happened on the Costa Concordia. This is very puzzling to me. Having been on 80+ cruises, I can not remember a mandatory lifeboat drill that did not happen before we set sail. (although my husband says we were on a couple in Europe)
I would imagine all cruise lines will now change this rule and they will be sure to drill passengers before they set sail and not within 24-hours. As it should be. I also suspect the industry powers-that-be will re-examine the rules and regulations on the safety of all large and small passenger ships once investigations are complete.
Over the years I've interviewed more cruise ship captains than I can count, and when I ask their top 3 priorities, number one is safety. Always.
So, are you safe onboard a cruise ship?
My answer is yes. According to CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), over 16-million cruise passengers sailed in 2011 with 2012 projected to exceed 1-million more. So yes, this type of accident is very rare indeed.
Cruise ships undergo rigorous regulations and inspections for both the vessel and the crew. In the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard conducts announced and unannounced safety inspections on every cruise ship that embarks passengers in U.S. ports. For foreign-flagged cruise ships trading in the U.S., the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires compliance with stringent vessel safety and crew competency.
Here are some safety, security and well-being tips I believe you can easily follow the next time you get onboard your cruise ship :
*When you first enter your stateroom, read the safety instructional brochure which is generally located on the back of your door.
*Locate your life vests and your assigned muster station. Walk to your assigned muster station so you know exactly where to go when the lifeboat drill occurs - typically 30-minutes prior to the ship's scheduled departure time.
*Monitor your alcohol intake. Many onboard personal injuries have occured because of excessive drinking - with guests of all ages. Forget the hangover, I'm talking about broken limbs from falls and yes, even some bloody noses from fights. (remember, you are on a gigantic city at sea, so whatever happens on land, can also happen at sea). Over the past few years, cruise lines have become much better at cutting off passengers who have obviously had too many drinks and strict policies are enforced for underage drinking.
*Be aware of your surroundings. Definitely enjoy yourself. Indulge yourself. You've earned it and you're onboard a fabulous cruise ship. It's your vacation, but you know the rules. Don't accept drinks from strangers. Don't walk down darkened hallways alone. Don't wonder off into "crew only" areas. Keep your distance when tempers flare. If you are uncomfortable, and something just doesn't feel right or look right to you - leave the situation. But don't keep it to yourself. Speak to a ship's officier or notify the Purser's office the minute you suspect trouble.
*Watch what you eat. Onboard dining is one of the great pleasures of cruising, but if you have allergic reactions to shellfish on land, you will still be allergic on the ship. When you are in port and decide to try the local fare from a random street vendor, you may find yourself with some stomach ailments that you will surely regret. Whenever you tour a foreign country, particulary a third world port, a good rule to follow - if you can't peel it, or boil it - then forget it. And always drink bottled water - with a sealed bottlecap. ( Although shipboard drinking water is perfectly safe to drink.)
*Use your cabin safe for valuables - however for big ticket items that would cause you great distress if lost or stolen, such as very expensive jewelry - use the ship's safe.
*Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives updated inspection scores for all cruise ships. You can check out your ships rating (plus additional onboard prevention tips) by going to the CDC website. - www.cdc.gov
*Wash your hands. Often. It is the number one preventive measure you can take to cut your chances of contracting any gastrointestional illness onboard. (Remember the Norwalk virus?)
*Medical care. All cruise ships have some kind of medical facility with a doctor and nurse onboard to treat broken bones , seasickness and respiratory ailments. Although medical care differs from line to line, it is safe to assume the newer (and larger) the vessel, the more modern and comprehensive the medical facilities will be.
*Smoking. Many cruise experts claim fire is the most dreaded emergency at sea. If you are a smoker, never smoke in bed. Never throw a lit cigarette overboard and only smoke in designated areas on the ship. And never light candles in your cabin. (A few years ago we were on a Caribbean cruise and some woman in the cabin next to ours brought an aromatherapy candle with her, lit it, forgot about it and went to dinner. Thankfully her steward came to the cabin for turndown and blew it out. He told his superior and she was visited by the Hotel Manager and the candle was taken. Leave your candles at home.
*Bad weather. It happens to the best of us but it doesn't need to spoil your cruise. Be sure to pack rain gear and comfortable rubber-sole shoes that won't slip on deck. When the Captain cautions against going outside, listen to him. Go to the movies, read a book, take a computer course, go to the spa or play cards. There are more inside activites, lectures and entertainment than you can even imagine. Enrichment programs are very popular and there is something for everyone.
*Travel agents. A trusted travel expert is worth their weight in gold. In the event of a missed flight or a full-blown emergency your travel agent provides critical, timely and valuable assistance. You're not alone, and to me - that means everything.
*Travel insurance. Once again, this is when your travel agent has the best information and advice on how much - or how little - you need.
As tragic, senseless and sad that the Costa Concordia is - please don't let this affect your current or upcoming plans to take a cruise vacation.
With all the cruises I have personally experienced, there has never been an incident where I felt unsafe or scared. Ever. I love cruising. And like many of you, I feel it is the best all-around vacation for the money, the ease and the comfort. Yes, we've had rough seas, a couple hurricanes and even went "dead-in-the-water" - but the enjoyment and excitement of cruising the world in luxury is all I ever remember and look forward to.
LISTEN UP -
Because of the recent Costa accident, are cruise lines going to offer major discounts? How will cruises to Europe and the Meditterean be affected? What onboard changes are going on now? Next Saturday, Beth Widhson from Holland America Line will be my in-studio guest and we'll be talking all about cruising news - including Alaska cruisetours , the stunning Norwegian fjords itineraries and special savings on popular summer sailings.