Sunday, January 26, 2014

the state of comfort travel in 2014

The idea of this comfort travel at less blog, is not only a how-to from my personal experience, but I'm featuring what's new that my readers can use for their benefit.

First of all, watch your back when you take a Carnival affiliate company cruise—they own most of the major cruise lines and use the same passenger contract that signs away the right to sue of unwitting cruisers.  According to Ashly Fantz  when you get sick or anything else happens when you cruise it's not so easy to sue, says this CNN travel reporter, also, a one person undertaking cost $$$, and the CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin advises it's best to get on with life.  The more bad cruise news happened just the other day, another outbreak of severe illness of a cruise line .

Do ask yourself why Congress is so uninterested in protecting the rights of US cruise passengers, yet doesn't hesitate to cite airlines and cause potential bankruptcies on the consumer behalf.

As for what's available in technology this year— I'm offering what my readers can derive at old standy Internet sites like Airbnb  that can set filters to show private rooms and houses.  For those of you that still want a hotel there are Internet sites to book re offer a refund if you discover that a comparable hotel nearby is available for less .  There's another hotel booking site on the Internet with a twist of sorts which guarantees help to locate a hotel where you want and says it does alert you if the price drops so you can rebook.  Though it seems to me it may be too late when you get an alert if you are too late to cancel and rebook.

Ho hum, perhaps the above will bring some $$ savings, but I'm partial to my old standby of "do it yourself" investigation.  You can
rely on what I recommended in my previous blog, re what I did to find comfort hotels at less $$ when I prepared for my 2013 24 day travel adventure.  And I did pass along the results, all excellent with a proven value that compared better against local comparables, and contented my comfort zone.  Also, I gave my readers the truth about my ill fated roundtrip transatlantic disaster on the Cunard. 

Keep in mind that I advise all my readers who want to cruise, not to do it because of that pesky signing away your rights when you purchase the tickets.  Though I'm not aware of any cruise travel agency, or CLIA (the travel agency cruiseline Association that promotes the cruises lines), will even admit that what is in the passenger contract is necessary to alert clients about "before they purchase."

Don't expect accuracy with some travel help offered by the venerable New York Times "Travel" section—in a recent roundup of 2014 travel offerings the mention of a Google app at "" brought up an app featuring a field manual for guns, not an alert that you have on your Iphone or Android phone re attractions plus historical sites as you are traveling.  I did my usual careful research and found out that Google's apps are for the most part no longer free and cost $$.  Another peeve against major newspapers with travel sections, like "The New York Times" that feature articles by travel writers who anoint certain individuals as master detectives, for instance, of "hole in the wall" restaurants—that too, is less than accurate. My accurate research did find a wikipedia listing for a food critic that no longer works for "The Village Voice."

Yet you can trust this blog for researched and accurate reports that are not sponsored, which in this day and age is a rarity.  I encourage you to contact me to suggest future blogs that will be a benefit to all the readers of this comforttravel at less $$ blog.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

places and people to remember are travel treasures

The photo you see of the Le Havre rocky port side beach with its azure colored water so clear that it is possible to look down into the rocky depths below is one of my most recent travel treasures, which keeps me from the doldrums during this east coast USA winter of frigid cold, constant snow, and cloud filled days without the sun.

Yet the beginning of 2014 leaves me with travel angst about staying in the US and spending my money in my country this coming year—when compared with prices in the US for similar priced properties, I found that as usual, 3rd and 4th class European chain hotels offer more bang for your buck, even when  you figure the Euro conversion—the cleaning staff are hardworking and consider what they do as integral to the reputation of their employer, and they really know how to clean a hotel room. 

I've stayed at some major US chain hotels with franchise owners that are not representative of the product they franchise, but I know when I go abroad, sight unseen, with a tourism class distinction I can count on receiving what is expected, because there are consequences for not offering the requirements listed.

When I was looking through the notes of  I kept about my recent challenging 24-day travel experience, I found the names of the crew at the Mercure Le Havre Centre Bassin du Commerce—Christophe, Peggy, Gwen, Domineque and Mathew, who were there to help with any problems, also actually cared about my well-being—these are the people I remember in Le Havre who were genuinely devoted to giving the best service, and worthy employees of  the hotel that they strived to make a place of refuge for this weary traveler.

My choice of 4th class chain hotel properties to book during my stay at Red Hook just a few blocks away from the Cunard Brooklyn Port, Germany, France and the UK was a good one—the value of chain hotels is multifold—advance bookings during the off season are usually offered at special prices, also the employees are solicitous and aiming to please.

The Choice Hotels and Mercure properties I stayed at had loyal employees who were well-trained, they granted all the requests that I made, which included additional heating, more pillows, more coffee and tea packets, plus maps and other guides to the surrounding neighborhood—as well they were hotel efficients, and made sure that I was given a paid in full printed bill prior to my departure, better yet, I had no unpleasant surprises re charges for items that I did not authorize.

It's been my experience that chain hotels care more about their reputation, and are interested in maintaining good consumer relations, while the independent small property in Europe may not be as responsive regarding their guest's complaints. 

In a foreign country the laws and cultures differ.  Also what is a complaint to an American may be a slur to another culture, and if there is a dispute about payment and overcharges, the owner of an independent property may be absent which means no immediate solution.  Command of the language is necessary to explain what happened, yet there too it's necessary to contact the right person.  If you are traveling on a schedule, it's best to stay at properties that are reliable, shop in department stores, and eat in restaurants that display menus with set prices for each item, then if tourism classified that will be noted too, which will offer you more quality control.

Then if you are not satisfied because you did not receive what you expected, you can complain to the tourism bureau by letter citing specifics (by e-mail in English). 

For chain hotel complaints, you should always ask for the General Manager of the hotel property, and if they are not available ask for the Manager on duty.   Be persistent, but polite, and don't be intimidated, or accept anything but an immediate meeting to discuss your concerns.  Get the corporate address, which is easily obtainable on the Internet, then contact the chain corporate management, usually the VP of Consumer Relations.

Do be aware that taking a tour in a foreign country means finding out if the tour operator is locally recognized and is tourism accredited—taking tours with independents means you have no guarantee as to what you will be receiving for the price you are paying—and using small independents may also involve transport in substandard vehicles which can be can be hazardous.

Expectations can ruin any vacation, but as I noted above these are the ways to guarantee that at least you can expect no more not comfortable hotels...and in 2014,  I'll discuss more about the ins and outs of traveling with comfort for less dollars.