Thursday, August 14, 2008

US Airways "stingiest airline"

A Time Magazine article describing the myriad fees airlines have recently imposed on the public has named US Airways the stingiest airline in the industry. We are not surprised. Not only do they charge for the first and second checked bag, but they also charge you for a soft drink in flight. They've also increased their fees for issuing tickets by phone, change penalties, and escort fees for kids traveling alone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sailing the South Seas

You must add Bora Bora to your list of places to see before you die. One terrific way of exploring French Polynesia is by ship, and there are lots of choices.

Nomade Yachting Bora Bora

This is my first choice for cruising in Paradise — superb cuisine, contemporary Polynesian d├ęcor and lots of special touches make this the ideal way to experience Tahiti. A maximum of 40 lucky guests are pampered in style by a crew of 43. (That’s me enjoying the sunset aboard the Ti'a Moana in the photo above.) Classic six-night itineraries are available from Bora Bora sailing Mondays year-round, which combine nicely with a few nights stay in an over-water bungalow.

Instead of flying, why not cruise to paradise? Holland America has my favorite South Seas itinerary aboard the ms Ryndam. This unique 30-day cruise starts and ends in San Diego, sailing to Hawaii and French Polynesia on Jan. 4, 2009. It’s perfect for snowbirds looking for a more exotic experience than a condo in Florida! Visit Maui, Kauai, both sides of the Big Island, and spend two days in Honolulu. (Be sure to explore the Polynesian Cultural Center.) Continue to Tahiti where you’ll enjoy Raiatea, Papeete, Moorea, and spend two perfect days in Bora Bora. The last port of call is Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas before sailing back to California.

Silversea has just announced that their luxury expedition vessel, Prince Albert II, will be cruising the most isolated and remote islands of French Polynesia with roundtrip itineraries from Papeete. From March through October 2009, there are 10 to 15 day itineraries exploring the Marquesas, Tuomotus, and Australs. Up to 132 passengers will go where very few tourists have gone before on what is sure to be a fabulous cruise experience.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is my favorite cruise line, but they sold the Paul Gauguin to another company and now merely manage ship operations. That means the cuisine and service are still first-rate but the accommodations may not be maintained to Regent’s usual high standards. Nevertheless, this remains a top choice for a classic itinerary on a luxury cruise. The ship’s 330 guests can enjoy ocean-view staterooms and suites (more than 50% of which have balconies), three restaurants, a watersports platform and spa. During school breaks, they feature a wonderful youth program for kids 9-17 through Jean-Michel Cousteau (and he occasionally sails aboard as a guest lecturer).
Special offers on Paul Gauguin

I have an exclusive promotion available aboard the Clipper Odyssey, a 110-passenger expedition vessel. These special Fall 2008 departures are hosted by Abercrombie & Kent’s superb guides.

Star Clippers
The Star Flyer is based in Papeete, cruising French Polynesia year-round with 7-, 10- and 11-night itineraries. These tall sailing ships are the real deal, and guests can help hoist the sails or climb the mast if they desire. The rest of the 170 guests can enjoy a relaxed adventure. This is a unique experience and a very good value, but cabins are small. Free air promotions are available for pre-holiday December sailings. They also have great deals for honeymoons (brides sail at 50% off; restrictions apply).

Princess Cruises
From October to December, Tahitian Princess sails 10-night itineraries roundtrip from Papeete. Pacific Princess takes over in 2009. These are Princess’ “small ships” with 670 passengers and most of the amenities of a larger vessel. Staterooms are small (and bathrooms are very small) unless you book a suite.

Charter your own yacht (with or without crew) for a completely private adventure with Tahiti Yacht Charters. I enjoyed a delightful afternoon on one of their four-bedroom catamarans and inspected several others and heartily approve. Swimming off the ship anchored in an isolated lagoon was absolute bliss.

Hop on a freighter to Paradise aboard the Aranui (much more exotic than back-packing across Europe).