Saturday, October 1, 2016

Captain "Sully Sullenberger Wants the FAA to Implement Changes

The air traffic controller asked Captain Sullenberger on United flight 1549 that January day nearly eight years ago  "What do you need to land".

"We can't do it. We're going to be in the Hudson" Capt. Sullenberger replied.

Hearing Capt. Sullenberger repeat the refrain from that fateful flight in person gave me goosebumps. We were lucky enough to hear Captain Chester "Sully" Sullenberger speak at a travel conference last week.  He spoke about all he has learned since the Miracle on the Hudson, describing the circumstances and the luck of having the right crew and the right resources in place to allow a positive outcome of the plane crash.

If you have seen the movie "Sully" you'll learn about what happened after the crash the with NTSB. (We won't spoil it). The room was absolutely silent as over 500 travel agents listened to Capt. Sullenberger described in his amazingly calm voice his thoughts on that day. Capt. Sullenberger credited his training as an Air Force pilot to help guide his decisions that had to be made in that fateful 208 seconds.

"Sully" is now a consultant on airline safety as well as an airline expert for CBS. The NTSB and FAA spent 28 months studying his actions on that day and the NTSB made 35 recommendations of changes by the airlines to increase passenger safety.  Only six have been implemented. Why? Because the airline lobby in Washington is too strong and fights safety proposals to save money. Mandating the airlines provide life vests instead of a flotation device is one of the recommendations that hasn't been adopted.

Captain Sullenberger is frustrated by the inaction of the airlines.  According to a story from the Associated Press "Fourteen of the recommendations issued to the Federal Aviation Administration and its European counterpart, EASA, are marked by the NTSB as "closed-unacceptable," which means that regulators rejected the advice. One has been withdrawn, and the rest remain unresolved." (Click here to read the AP story.)

These are not impossible - here are a few from the report:

Require Airbus to redesign the frame 65 vertical beam on A318, A319, A320, and A321 series airplanes to lessen the likelihood that it will intrude into the cabin during a ditching or gear-up landing and Airbus operators to incorporate these changes on their airplanes. (A-10-77)

Conduct research to determine the most beneficial passenger brace position in airplanes with nonbreakover seats installed. If the research deems it necessary, issue new guidance material on passenger brace positions. (A-10-78)

Require, on all new and in-service transport-category airplanes, that cabin safety equipment be stowed in locations that ensure that life rafts and/or slide/rafts remain accessible and that sufficient capacity is available for all occupants after a ditching. (A-10-79)

Require quick-release girts and handholds on all evacuation slides and ramp/slide
  combinations. (A-10-80) 

 Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, Part 135, and Part 91 Subpart K operators to provide information about life lines, if the airplane is equipped with them, to passengers to ensure that the life lines can be quickly and  effectively retrieved and used. (A-10-81) 

Require that aircraft operated by 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, Part135, and Part 91 Subpart K operators be equipped with flotation seat cushions and life vests for each occupant on all flight s, regardless of the route. (A-10-82) 

Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, Part 135, and Part 91 Subpart
K operators to brief passengers on all flotation equipment installed on an airplane, including a full demonstration of correct life vest retrieval and donning procedures, before all flights, regardless of route. (A-10-83). Require modifications to life vest stowage compartments or stowage compartment
  locations to improve the ability of passengers to retrieve life vests for all occupants. (A-10-84)

 Revise the life vest performance standards contained in Technical Standard Order-C13f to ensure  that they result in a life vest that passengers can quickly and correctly don. (A-10-85).

You can read the entire report here.

What can you do to support these changes? Write to your State Congressman and Senators. Tell them you want the FAA and airlines to implement the safety recommendations made after this crash.  This is one of the few crashes that everyone survived and the investigators were able to speak to the pilots and flight crew.

When you are on your next flight - read the safety instructions and listen to the FA's during the demonstration.  I can tell you that on our return flight home, I actually did pay attention to the safety demonstration.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Florida's Space Coast - A Fun Place for Families

Florida's Space Coast -  A Fun Place To Visit

If you will be sailing out of Port Canaveral on a cruise, stay an extra day or two and visit the Space Coast of Florida.  It's a perfect opportunity to see all there is to do in a wonderful family destination.

Transfers from the Orlando Airport to the ship pier are expensive. It can be more economical to rent a car for a day for the trip to the pier. Drop it in Port Canaveral at one of the local car rentals and have them shuttle you to the pier.  They will pick you up after the cruise and bring you to pick up another car for your return to Orlando, but it's a perfect time to stay a few days and have some fun. Or fly into the Melbourne Airport and rent your car, it's closer than Orlando.

 I recently joined a group of travel agents on the Space Coast for a conference to see hotels and learn all about what there is to do in this area and was quite surprises with the variety of activities that are so family friendly.

I was not a space geek and when I learned that my day was going to be from 8:30 AM until 4 pm at the Kennedy Space Center, I groaned a little. Until we passed the rocket display where the Atlantis Space Shuttle building was as we approached the entrance.  Seeing the size of  the rockets filled me with excitement!. Once you enter the center you will see are various rockets in the "Rocket Garden".  There are narrated tours throughout the day.

There are several fabulous IMAX theaters with various 3D movies. There is a theater that allows you to meet an Astronaut (as well as a Lunch with an Astronaut program). There are only about 300 people in the world that have ever been in space and their stories are fascinating. Did you know when astronauts land, the first thing they are given are bottles and bottles of water because their bodies are dehydrated from being in  space?

The highlight is the Atlantis Space Shuttle. When you walk to the building housing Atlantis, you'll stand directly under the huge rockets that brought the shuttles into space. Once inside, you'll see two short movies about the shuttle experience and then be presented the shuttle in a jaw dropping fashion. There are more than 60 interactive displays in just this building. There is also a free Shuttle Launch experience that immerses you in the sights, sounds and feeling of a shuttle launch. Strap in and go vertical for a launch!

After our Lunch with an Astronaut, we were off on the bus to the Apollo/Saturn V launch center. You'll enter the Firing Room where you'll sit before the real consoles used during the Apollo launches. You'll see a presentation on just how dangerous those first launches were. When the program is finished, you are set free under a actual Saturn V moon rocket, one of only three in existence today. It is 363 feet long and 33 feet wide - as long as a football field. In addition to the rocket, you can touch an actual moon rock (it is TINY).

Besides the Kennedy Space Center, there are other great things to do and place to visit on the Space Coast.

A new attraction is Exploration Tower near the cruise port. This is a seven story tower that has some interactive displays where you'll learn about the origin and environment of Port Canaveral and all of Florida. On the roof you will get an amazing view of the cruise port. There are various interactive displays for kids and grown ups. Pilot a cruise ship into port. If there is a rocket launch scheduled, get to that 7th story observatory and watch.  There is a huge display inside the building of various sea animals all made of our garbage and litter pulled out of the water! Learn more about it here. 

Visit the largest RonJon surf shop in Cocoa Beach, the world's largest surf shop. See the Dinosaur Store Adventure Zone. Go kayaking or enjoy paddleboard, boat, JetSki and CraigCat paddleboat rentals with Wildlife Watersports. Visit the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge or  the Brevard Zoo. Take a ride to Historic Cocoa Village, a cool bohemian area with some of the most amazing artist shops and restaurants. (Go on a Sip and Stroll outing, held several times a year.)

Now why wouldn't you stay a few days to experience all there is to see in the Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area?  Call us to help book your vacation. 516-608-0568.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fathom Impact Cruises - Travel with Heart

Do you want to make a difference to someone less fortunate than you? Would you like to teach your kids to engage in  side by side activities with local residents in the Dominican Republic to help improve the lives of those less fortunate?

If you do, then consider taking a Fathom Cruise. These cruises combine your love of travel with making a difference in the lives of others. Fathom offers cruises from  Miami to the Dominican Republic where you will participate in cultural exchanges that can be a life changing experience for you.

You'll sail for one week on a totally different type of cruise than you have ever experienced. 40% of the residents of the Dominican Republic live below the poverty line. You'll attend workshops on the ship while sailing that will get you ready for what you'll experience when you arrive in the DR.

You'll depart from Miami for Puerto Plata where you'll spend days one and two on the ship in classes and workshops.  On days 3 - 6 you'll enjoy activities on the ground with the locals and have some free time to enjoy the beaches and pool at Amber Cove. Then you'll sail back to Florida with the friends you have made on the ship - and some will become friends forever!

Some of the workshops and experiences: "How to Create and Tell Amazing Stories", tutoring training sessions to engage with students while teaching them English, an interactive festival with panel discussions and workshops with leading social impact partners and  more.

There will be leisure time between the classes to enjoy the pool or gym and great food and beverage too.
Typical Home in DR

On land, you'll arrive at Amber Cove and be able to participate in such activities as working with local students to share your knowledge of English, having lunch at a community center, and ground activities such as building cement floors in homes (most still have dirt floor), planting trees, or engaging in music, arts and sports with local kids.

Would you like to visit a woman's cooperative that is involved in cultivating organic chocolate to products that they can sell and create their income from?  You'll learn  about the production cycle from planting to packaging the product for sale.

 Learn about another cooperative that recycles paper and makes arts and crafts for the group to sell. You'll be able to assist in production and see the fruits of your efforts.

But it isn't all work! Amber Cove was built for Fathom cruisers to be able to enjoy the afternoon after their work is finished. You can rent snorkels and fins and other water sport equipment to enjoy the beach, or just hang our at Amber Cove's own pool complex that includes a lazy river and private cabanas you can rent.

Anyone who has been on a Fathom cruise will tell you that they came back changed forever.

Fathom also alternates cruised to the DR with cruises to Cuba for cultural exchange. You'll have 3 -1/2 days in Cuba on excursions to learn about Cuban history and be able to experience the vibrant culture. (Please note - tourists are still required to be on excursions that offer cultural exchange while in Cuba - you can't go off on your own to explore the country).

Interested? Call us at 516-608-0568 to book your Fathom cruise.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hotel Review - Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach

The Space Coast in Florida is a perfect place not only to stay for a couple of days before or after a cruise from Port Canaveral but a prime spot for a relaxing beach vacation. There are plenty of hotels throughout the area.

One of those is the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach. Less than an hour from the Orlando Airport and half an hour from the Melbourne Airport, Hampton Inn is a great choice. This hotel and the Courtyard by Marriott right next door have the same owner and it's reflected in the quality of employees at both hotels.

When we arrived at the hotel we were late for a conference at the Marriott next door and it was too early for check in but I was concerned about parking my car without a hotel sticker in it. Terry was at the front desk, confirmed my room (oceanview king) hadn't been cleaned yet but assured me my car would be fine without the sticker. I told him I'd be back to check in later.

When I went back at 4:30, not only was my room ready but Terry had checked me in and all I had to do was sign my receipt and pick up my parking pass. And he assigned me to a room number that was my birthdate so I couldn't forget the number.

I was on the sixth floor in an oceanfront room. The room was good sized with the bathroom immediately to the left with a tub and shower combo. Across from the king sized bed was a credenza with 3 drawers, a microwave, a single serve coffee pot with coffee packets and a good size refrigerator. There was also a small closet with an iron and ironing board.

There was a sofa that pulled out into a bed, a coffee table, desk and arm chair. The room also had a small balcony overlooking the pool below and the ocean. There is a path to the beach from the hotel.

The room was well stocked with Neutrogena soaps, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and mouthwash. The entire room was extremely clean. There were two things missing that should be added to every room- a room safe and a second garbage can in the bathroom. It is inconvenient not having them.

The hotel serves a free breakfast from 6-10 am with hot eggs, bacon, potatoes and waffles. There was also cereals, bagels and muffins and fruits. You know you are on the Space Coast because Tang was one of the juices served!

There is coffee out in the lobby all day and it was good coffee, not burned bottom of the pot bitter grounds.

There is a pool outside open from 9:00 a.m. until 11 PM.

The staff truly makes this hotel special. There wasn't a time I walked through the lobby that I wasn't greeted by whoever was working the front desk. Rose was another excellent employee. We spoke at the front desk and as a former Long Islander she immediately recognized my accent and we had some nice conversations over the days I was there.

The only glitch I had was on my last day, my room was never cleaned. I was in and out of the room several times, making sure that there was never a Do Not Disturb sign on the door. I saw the cart several times two doors down from my room when I went to breakfast at 8:30  but for some reason, they never came in and cleaned. When I got to my room at 7 PM and found the room with an unmade bed and towels still on the floor, I called the front desk. The sent up a very nice man named Brian who changed the towels and emptied the garbage, but the room wasn't vacuumed nor was the bed made. That was the only glitch in what would have been a perfect stay. 
BUT - when I mentioned it at check out, the clerk refunded the charge for the day. The fact that they are empowered to make a decision to make a client happy says a lot about management at the hotel.

I still recommend Hampton Inn here as a good value on the Space Coast and a hub to visit all the area has to offer.
Room Tip: Book An ocean front room. The views worth it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Travel Insurance

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Travel Insurance

Our clients know the importance of purchasing travel insurance to cover any unexpected expenses that can come up if you have to cancel your vacation after making payments (especially final payments). In addition it  provide medical insurance when traveling outside the country. Most U.S. health insurance  companies do not provide medical coverage internationally.

Did you know that there is a big difference in how a claim is handled depending on whether your policy is a primary or a secondary policy?

The majority of travel insurance purchased is secondary insurance. What this means is that if something happens medically when you are traveling and you have to go to a hospital or doctor, you have to pay the doctor or hospital out of your pocket, save your receipts, and send them in to your travel insurance company to be reimbursed.

There are policies that are primary policies. With a primary policy, if you get hurt or have to be hospitalized, you call the travel insurance company and they take care of everything, including payment. There is usually no reason that you have to pay out of your own pocket - the insurance company takes care of that right from the start.

A secondary policy, which is frequently called "excess" medical coverage provides coverage in excess of all other valid health insurance. If your U.S. health insurance pays any part of your claim, the travel insurance will reimburse you for anything not covered. Or, if your health insurance totally rejects your claim, the secondary policy picks up the costs.

What is the difference?  The main difference is price. A primary policy will always cost you more than a secondary policy. However, some travel insurance companies allow you to upgrade a secondary policy to a primary for a nominal price (we use a company that can do so for as little as  $25 pp).

Second difference is convenience.  With a secondary policy you must first pay out of your pocket. A foreign hospital will often tell you that you have to give them a credit card with a certain amount of available credit ($2,000 and up) before they will treat you. We knew of a passenger that had his credit card stolen while in Rome and then had a heart event on a ship. He was evacuated off the ship but the hospital he was taken to would not treat him until someone was able to provide a card with $40,000 of credit available.

This can entail having to use multiple cards or calling your credit card company while you are at the hospital asking them to add more credit to your account for the emergency.

With a secondary policy you will also have to submit any medical bills to your own health insurance company, have the payments rejected, then you file the claim with the travel insurance company.

In most cases, you may only need a primary policy if you are traveling outside the U.S. A secondary policy is usually enough for traveling within the U.S. and would cover charges that are over and above what your health insurance covers.

It is important to understand these differences and ask your travel agent or insurance company what type of policy you are purchasing so you don't have any surprises while you are traveling.

Call us to book your travel insurance and make sure you are covered for any unexpected circumstances that can happen before and during your travels. 516-608-0568

Friday, April 1, 2016

Magical Peru

Having the ability to travel is a gift.  Instead of going to the same places over and over, why not branch out and put some places on your bucket list?  One of the places on mine was Machu Picchu and I was blessed to be able to take advantage of a trip there recently.

Being able to visit such a mystical place made me realize that there are experiences you can never replace. Peru is one of those. The Peruvians are amazing people and being able to see how advanced these people were 700 years ago makes you realize we are a small cog in a huge wheel and also wondering what kind of world our ancestors will find we left them in 700 years.

I didn't have a pre-conceived ideas of what to expect in Peru. If anything, I was expecting a similar experience to Costa Rica but I was totally wrong. Let me tell you what I discovered.

The country itself is beautiful.  I've never been in an area so high with such beautiful mountains. Seeing colors from bright green to purple to even snow capped not too far in the distance was breathtaking.  You can go from Lima, which is situated on the Pacific Coast with beaches (very cold water) to Cusco, which stands at 10,800 feet above sea level (and is not the highest point in Peru) to Lake Titicaca at 12, 400 feet.

The people are friendly and there are some fantastic tour guides. Our tour guides gave us very detailed information on everything we were seeing.

The food was outstanding. I had heard a lot of praise about Peruvian cooking but experiencing it was a whole new level of culinary experience.We had chicken prepared in wonderful dishes, great steaks and some of the most impressive desserts. Plus the famous Pisco Sour.

Hotels can go from 3 to 5 stars.  We stayed in two Marriots and a lovely Casa Andina Private Collection  and couldn't have been more pleased with our experience.

Peru is a country rich in history and full of buildings from the 1400's that still stand and are a wonder in architecture.  You'll be shocked at how forward thinking the Incan's were in cutting stones that were placed together like Lego's and have withstood time and earthquakes.  They even had advanced drainage built in the homes in Machu Picchu that will leave you wondering how they did it.

Twelve people traveled with us and it was amazing to hear the ooh's and ah's as we rounded buildings and found mountains with buildings built into them, saw stunning landscapes in colors from green to purple and stood thousands of feet on top of mountains asking how anyone every found these places to build.

Getting to Peru is not the easiest as there will be flights within the country that you'll need to take to get to Machu Picchu and Cusco but they are certainly well worth the work for the experience you will have.

We are going to put together a group for August of 2017 - we hope you'll join us to experience this once in a lifetime destination.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The NEW Nickelodeon Hotel and Resort in Punta Cana

One of our favorite family resorts, Azul Resorts from the Karisma Family of resorts, is opening their first Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana. The Nickelodeon Hotel and Resort in Punta Cana is scheduled to open in May and will continue the Karisma tradition of providing excellent value and gourmet food in a family friendly setting. 

This beachfront resort will have 208 large suites with the following categories: Jacuzzi Pads, Jacuzzi Swim Up Pads, Jacuzzi Flats and Jacuzzi Swim Up Flats. There will also be four two and three bedroom villas, including the Pineapple Villa, a take off of Sponge Bob's home in Bikini Bottom!

The Jacuzzi Pad features 1 king or two double beds, a pull out sofa bed, dining room, t.v., play area, marble bathroom with double sinks and a jetted jacuzzi tub and a balcony with sitting area. This room will accommodate either 2 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids.

The Jacuzzi Swim Up Pad has the same features plus a terrace with lounge and direct access to the resorts pool from your terrace.

The Jacuzzi Flat is your own little apartment that holds two adults and three kids. You'll have a dining and living area, master suite, marble bath with jacuzzi tub, and a separate room for the kids. The kids beds convert into a sitting area. The living room has a pull out sofa, TV and dining room area. Your private balcony has a round day bed with drapes for privacy.  The Jacuzzi Swim Up Flat is on the first floor with a terrace you can step right into the pool from. 

The Swank Jacuzzi Suite has  wrap-around  terrace with steps right into the pool. Enjoy a private master bedroom with a king size bed, smart TV, and an oversized marble bathroom complete with an indoor shower, double sinks, and  Jacuzzi tub. The Swank Suite’s living room has a TV, pull out sofa bed, dining table for four, and access to the private wrap-around terrace which features a sitting area furnished with sunbathing beds and a round daybed.

Need more room? The Pool Super Villa can accommodate 2 adults and 6 kids, or 4 adults and two kids.  With 1,500 square feet of luxury on 2 levels, your 2-bedroom/3-bath Super Villa is your family will have plenty of room to spread out and relax. 

When it is completed, the Pineapple is a 1,500-square-foot villa and the resort’s signature villa. The 2-bedroom/3-bath villa features all of the modern amenities and luxurious accommodations found in the Super Villas,but in a Bikini Bottom theme. There are indoor and outdoor living areas, indoor AND an outdoor shower, and two bedrooms, one a private master and the second the top level of the loft living room with two single beds, TV and bathroom. 

The living room features a pull-out sofa bed, dining room, TV, play area, storage space, a private bathroom and access to the Suite’s sublime private gardens and patio where the Pineapple’s signature infinity pool, sun-bathing beds, dining and living area can be found. And of course a private butler is included!

Karismas' partnership with Nickelodeon offers the Nickelodeon Experience at Azul Resorts in Riviera Maya. The Nickelodeon Experience offers interaction with Nick characters, customs kid's check in, a Nick Toy lending program, character dining and a kids club.

One thing that sets Karisma resorts apart from other family resorts (and their adults only El Dorado Resorts) is their gourmet inclusive experience.  Not only do Karisma resorts have just about the best food in the Caribbean, they also offer premium liquor, in room mini bar, 24 hour room service, concierge, hospitality desks and more. 

What you'll find at the Nickelodeon Hotel and Resort in Punta Cana, besides a spa, 10 restaurants, four bars and lounges will be the Aqua Nick Playground with water slides, splash pads sprayers and a lazy river. There are supervised activities for ages 4 - 12, meet and greet with characters, a kNick kNack shop that will sell Nick  movies, toys, and vacation items and a sports and entertainment center for everyone. 

As huge fans of Karisma resorts, we're sure this experience will leave your entire family with a smile on their face and asking to come back every year. Call us to book - 516-608-0568.