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American Airlines Introduces “Simplified” Boarding Process

American Airlines Simplified Boarding

On March 1, American Airlines rolled out a new, simplified boarding process that replaced the old method of boarding (“Concierge Key, First Class / Active Military, Business Class / Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro / Platinum, Gold / Priority, Groups 1-5”), replacing it with 9 groups designed to make the boarding process more transparent and efficient.

Pre-boarding through Group 4 travelers may board from the Priority Boarding lane, while all other groups must board through the main boarding lane.

Here’s the new group ordering:

Pre-boarding – Concierge Key members
Group 1 – First Class, Active Duty Military
Group 2 – Business Class, Executive Platinum
Group 3 – Platinum Pro, Platinum
Group 4 – Gold, Alaska Airlines MVP members, AirPass holders, Premium Economy travelers, Citi/AAdvantage Executive card members and those that purchased priority boarding
Group 5 – Main Cabin Extra, Eligible AAdvantage credit card members and travelers that work for a Company that has an American discount program established
Group 6-8 – All others
Group 9 – Travelers who purchase AA’s basic economy fare

I flew on AA a few days after they rolled out the new groups, and it was mass confusion among the passengers. I don’t really understand why they felt the need to change the boarding process like this, but clearly they saw a reason for it.

The Aftermath Of The Carnival Triumph Fiasco

Carnival Triumph Poop Cruise

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Carnival Triumph fiasco, which is being called the “cruise from hell” and the “poop cruise” in the press. The nightmare is finally over for the trapped passengers, and the first lawsuits have already been filed.

But according to Consumerist, passengers seeking to sue over the ordeal will likely be out of luck in the legal arena.

It looks like passengers will have to simply accept Carnival’s “gesture of goodwill”, which is a full refund for the cruise, a discount voucher for a future cruise, and $500 cash.

Carnival stands to lose nearly $100 million from this ordeal. If lawyers started coming after the company, it could spell disaster for CCL. For now, we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.

Priceline Cruise Promotions For February

The cruise lines have taken quite a hit because of recent events (The Costa Concordia accident, multiple Norovirus outbreaks, etc), and that’s great for cheap cruise prices!

Priceline is showing some of the lowest cruise prices we’ve seen in quite some time! Most people don’t realize that Priceline covers 20 U.S. ports, with all the cruise lines you could be interested in. They offer a 110% best cruise price guarantee, and also have great last-minute Cruise deals (cruises departing within 45 days).

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Cruise Line Cancels Sailing Due To Another Norovirus Outbreak!

Note to self: Don’t go on the Crown Princess for awhile.. 🙁

Last weekend, nearly 700 passengers on three different ships contracted the flu-like Norovirus, causing Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines to delay departure of this week’s sailing for extensive cleaning. Now, another outbreak on one of the same ships has caused its cancellation mid-trip, and an early return to port for even more cleaning!

Princess Cruises Crown Princess was on a seven-night Caribbean cruise when the outbreak occurred and will skip calling at the ports of Curacao and Aruba to come back two days early.

“In consultation with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who has informed us that there are widespread outbreaks of Norovirus occurring in the US, it was agreed that the best course of action to stop the spread of the illness is for the ship to undergo a two-day extensive sanitization,” said Princess Cruises in a statement on their website.

To make that happen, Crown Princess, scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, February 11th will come back two days early, ending the current sailing on Thursday, February 9th.

Passengers on the current sailing will receive a full refund, assistance re-booking flights if they had been booked through the cruise line, as well as hotel accommodations if necessary, and 25% of what they paid as a credit to use on a future cruise.

Norovirus Outbreak On Three Cruise Ships

Every now and then, you hear about a Norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship. Its a common ailment (which causes upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea), and it’s magnified by the closed environment of a cruise ship – But it’s avoidable for the most part with some basic precautions. So when three seperate ships have outbreaks in a single week, you have to wonder what’s going on..

Two cruise ships in Florida (Princess Cruise Line’s Ruby Princess and Crown Princess) and one cruise ship in New Orleans (Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Sea) all had outbreaks last week, causing nearly 700 passengers to become sick. Many of those passengers had to be quarantined, and subsequent sailings were delayed so that the ships could be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Passengers were informed of the virus and cleanup as they waited to board. I wouldn’t want to be one of those passengers, I’d be worried about getting sick all week!

The CDC says that norovirus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Careful handwashing with soap and water is key to the prevention of the spread of norovirus. Contaminated surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly to prevent continued spread of the disease.

Visiting Geneva On A Budget

Those of you who have been to Switzerland (yours truly included) know plenty about this fine city.  Great views of Mont Blanc.  Lots of famous shops selling quality jewelry and watches.  But there’s more to Geneva, Switzerland.  More than you think.

And don’t just limit yourself to mere window-shopping – although there’s nothing wrong with that at all.  Take advantage of the medieval center of “the city of peace”.  While you’re at it – and keeping in mind that you’re on a budget – take advantage of the free transit passes offered to visitors.  And those of you who are historically inclined, then you know that the United Nations and other organziations are headquartered there, hence the international ambience.  Now to the inside skinny:

GETTING AROUND: Just before leaving the baggage claim area at Geneva airport, look for a machine that dispenses free passes for area buses, trams and trains. The pass is valid for 80 minutes from the time you get it. The train to the city center takes six minutes.

Hotels give guests another free pass for the duration of their stay. You can take unlimited rides on city buses, trams, taxi boats across the lake and return to the airport by train.  Geneva is relatively small — population 188,000 — and most sights are within walking distance of Lake Geneva and the city center.

Bikes can be borrowed free at different locations — You only need to show your passport or ID card and leave a refundable deposit of $18.65 (about 20 Swiss francs).  A pleasant way to cross the lake is in the romantic little yellow taxi boats called Mouettes that stop at five lakeside docks —

CHEAP EATS: At Geneva’s street festivals you find grilled Swiss sausages and a variety of Latin American food under $10 (10 francs). There are many options walking distance from the main train station. The popular Lebanese cafe Au Parfum de Beyrouth at 18 rue de Berne near the train station has good kebabs and vegetarian falafels for less than $8 (8 francs).  Also:

  • The Paquis Baths at the small lighthouse on the lake has a cafeteria with a lake terrace that offers a menu of the day for $11-$13 (12 or 14 francs) at lunchtime and 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Try homemade cakes and fresh juice. It’s also the most popular swimming spot in the clean lake water. It’s free after 8 p.m., otherwise a little under $2 (2 francs).
  • Mandarin, 1-3 rue de Chantepoulet, offers dim sum delicacies on Sundays 12 p.m.-5:30 p.m. for about $4.60-$6.50 (5-7 francs) a small dish.
  • Mosaique, 31 rue du Mole, is a small Eritrean restaurant. The meat dish is $15 (16 francs) and the vegetarian dish $12 (13 francs). Eat with your fingers.
  • Across the Mont Blanc bridge over the Rhone River leaving the lake, you’ll find Au Big Sandwich, also called Chez Raffaele, at 10 rue des Eaux-Vives, with various sandwiches around $6-$8 (6.80-8.80 francs), homemade salads, pasta dishes and other Italian delicacies to take away.
  • Chez Ma Cousine at 6 Bourg-de-Four in the heart of the Old Town serves mouthwatering chicken dishes at less than $14 (15 francs).
  • Les Armures, 1 rue Puits-St.-Pierre, near the cathedral, is one of the most popular places for the famous fondue cheese dish and other traditional Swiss food. The restaurant is reasonably priced as Geneva goes. Fondue is $23-$26 (25-27.50 francs) per person.
  • Near a large open area known as Plainpalais back down in the city, there is Feuille de banane at 29 rue de Carouge, an Asian fast food restaurant where you can enjoy good Thai and Chinese specialties, if you can stand the occasionally rude waiters. Plates are $12-18 (13-19 francs).

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