Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NEW Lufthansa Premium Economy

We gathered some detailed information about the differences between Economy, Economy Plus and Premium Economy, so you can make an informed decision when buying your next airline tickets.

The Nonstop Travel Team was invited to an exclusive pre-launch event here in Los Angeles to experience the new class of service personally and hands on.

We believe that for the extra money you spend to fly Premium Economy, you are getting a lot in return. Especially when traveling with an extra suitcase, the upgrade almost pays for itself.

Here are the main advantages:

  • More personal space: New Seat with up to 50% more space
  • More baggage: Two bags, each weighing up to 23kg
  • More delight: Meals served on china tableware
  • More to look forward to: On board welcome drink
  • More entertainment: Larger 11 - 12 inch screen
  • More relaxation: Amenity bag with useful travel accessories
  • More refreshment: Individual water bottle at your seat
  • More exclusivity: Access to selected Lufthansa lounges for a fee

Please visit our website: www.nonstoptravel.net or call our office at (800) 949-6362 for discounted consolidator airfare on Lufthansa's Premium Economy.

Here are our FAQ - Frequently asked questions answered for you:


What is the difference between ‘Economy Plus’ and ‘Premium Economy’?
‘Economy Plus' offers passengers more legroom, but has the same seat as in Economy Class. It is often not considered to be a separate travel class and distinct product but rather as a special zone within Economy Class.

Premium Economy Class, in contrast, offers passengers an improved, larger seat – both in terms of a greater seat pitch and a wider seat. In addition, passengers are offered extra service elements, such as a higher free baggage allowance and an enhanced in-flight service. Premium Economy Class is regarded as a separate travel class on Lufthansa flights.

Check-in and baggage

What is the position with excess baggage charges in Premium Economy Class? 
The free baggage allowance in Premium Economy Class is two bags each up to 23 kg. The charges for excess baggage correspond to those for Economy Class.
Are Premium Economy Class passengers allowed to check in at the Business Class counters or are there special Premium Economy Class check-in counters?

No, there are no special check-in counters. Premium Economy Class passengers can use the check-in options for Economy Class passengers or those corresponding to their Miles & More status.

Lounge access

Are Premium Economy Class passengers allowed to use the Lufthansa Lounges?
Yes, Premium Economy Class customers can use almost all Lufthansa Business Lounges for a fee of 25 euros or 35 US dollars. Access to the Lufthansa Welcome Lounge in Frankfurt is also possible for a fee of 50 euros or 70 US dollars. For HON Circle Members, Senators and Frequent Travelers lounge access is free of charge.

Can lounge access be purchased in advance?
No. Access to the lounge must be purchased directly at the airport – depending on the location either at the Lufthansa ticket counter or in the lounge itself.

Do passengers have to pay for every individual lounge access or is the lounge voucher they purchase valid for their entire journey?

Customers must pay separately to use the Lufthansa Business Lounges and the Lufthansa Welcome Lounge at each airport.

Product and service details

Are there leg-rests at the seats?
The first row of seats in Premium Economy Class will be equipped with leg-rests. All seats will have footrests.

Will a USB port and a power outlet be available at each seat in Premium Economy Class?
Yes, each seat in Premium Economy Class will be equipped with both a USB port and a power outlet.

How great is the angle of the backrest recline?
The angle of backrest recline for the Premium Economy Class seat is 130° in full recline and 112° in the upright position (in comparison with Economy Class: 121° in full recline, 106° upright).

Can the central console be folded up?
No, the central console in Premium Economy Class cannot be folded up, it is a fixed part of the seat.

The Premium Economy Class seat in detail

Do the meals in Premium Economy Class differ from the ones in Economy Class?
Yes, compared to Economy Class, the meals will be upgraded and served on china tableware.

Is the in-flight entertainment program in Premium Economy Class the same as in Economy Class?
The content of the entertainment program on board is identical in all travel classes. The Premium Economy Class monitor, however, is significantly larger than an Economy Class monitor although slightly smaller than that in Business Class.

(1) Seating area up to 3 cm wider
(2) Adjustable backrest which reclines far back (130°)
(3) Generous seat pitch (97 cm / + 17 cm)
(4) Footrests from the second row or leg-rests with integrated footrests in the front row
(5) Always a separate armrest
(6) Adjustable headrest and wings for comfortable support during sleep
(7) Ergonomic seat and back cushions for optimal comfort
(8) Foldout table in the armrest
(9) Plenty of storage space for personal items
(10) Each passenger sits no more than one seat away from the aisle
(11) Separate power outlet at the seat


Is there a summary with the Premium Economy Class start dates for individual destinations?
The Boeing 747-8s will be the first part of the fleet to be equipped with the new seats and will be available from this December. From the end of January 2015 we expect the first retrofitted A340-600s to take off from Munich; from the end of April the A380s will already be flying from Frankfurt with Premium Economy Class. The retrofitting of Lufthansa’s more than 100 long- haul aircraft should be completed by late summer 2015.

The destination summary in detail:
From 10 December 2014 on the Boeing 747-8 from Frankfurt to:
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Washington, D.C.

From 22 April 2015 on the Airbus A380 from Frankfurt to:
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • New York
  • San Francisco

From 12 May 2015 on the Airbus A340 from Munich to:
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco

Friday, January 24, 2014

Travel Packing Tip - Packing Guide

Packing can be a challenge for many people so we surveyed our travel experts here in the office and compiled our very own list of unique packing tips. We hope these suggestions help you and your clients travel lighter on future trips.

1. Make a list and lay out your suitcase - This is a sure fire way to not forget anything. If you start your list the week before travel, you have time to add things as they come to mind. Laying out your suitcase several days before you start packing allows you to drop items into the suitcase as you see them around the house. Doing an audit before you begin packing is crucial to ensure that you don't end up bringing non-essential items.

2. Plan your outfits - If you're not hiking a mountain, you don't need hiking boots. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, you will often have an idea of what activities you need to prepare for. Go through each day and plan your ensemble based on your schedule; clothes can always be shuffled around or supplemented if plans change. This is an easy way to make sure that you don't return home with clothes that you never wore.
3. Prepare with layers - Traveling to several destinations, or during times when weather patterns are fluctuating, can be tricky. By planning multiple layers you can adapt your clothing throughout the day or as weather changes.

4. Limit your shoes, and don't bring new ones - Shoes take up a lot of space. Try to pick just a couple pairs of shoes that can take you through multiple outfits, and stay away from anything too flashy. It is less likely that someone will notice that you are repeating footwear if you're not wearing ruby slippers. Also, don't bring new shoes on vacation. Most likely you will only get to wear them once before they start hurting your feet and then they are only taking up valuable real estate in your suitcase.

5. Use carry on size toiletries - Packing only the essential cosmetics and toiletries can significantly cut down on luggage. Full size shampoos and conditioners can be bulky or messy, and you don't need a six month supply of moisturizer or shaving cream. Try bringing sample sizes or invest in bottles that fit the carry on requirements. These can be found at most drug stores and are inexpensive and reusable.

6. When in doubt, leave it at home - If there is only a chance you will need it, don't bring it. This sounds basic, but it's a mistake many make. Remember, the worst case scenario is you end up needing an item you didn't bring - don't forget that there are stores in almost any destination you will be traveling to. This is also a fantastic way to shed those last few items that won't fit in your suitcase. More often than not, you won't miss them!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hotel Regent, Berlin

Property Review by Yvonne Malka (yvonne@nonstoptravel.net)
January 2014

I just stayed at the REGENT Berlin and it left me speechless. Everything, really everything was great to a T. The location is superb. Its right by the Gendarmenmarkt and in my opinion the best location in Berlin. 
The Regent is right around the corner from an U Bahn station and within walking distance to many of the amazing sights. 

When you enter the hotel, everyone greets you with a smile. Everyone is ueber nice and it doesn't feel fake. The lobby is a dream and you feel the history and richness in every step through the hotel. They serve breakfast, lunch, offer a tea time and a very exclusive dinner at their restaurant Fischer's Fritz. This was the first 2 star restaurant in Berlin and they kept that for 7 straight years. A great tip is their lunch, even for non hotel guests, because the evening dinner is somewhat formal. They have one of the only 5 Lobster Press in the world at Fischers Fritz. The other one is in a museum in France and 2 in Belgium (forgot where the 5th one is). They press only the female lobster table side and the juice is supposed to be to die for. The restaurant also caters to food allergies, just let them know 24 hrs before arrival and the kitchen will be well aware of it. (This was probably the best gluten free breakfast I had in ages).

The rooms are very nice and the superior and deluxe rooms come in either a creme color or light orange color. The bathrooms are amazing, marble floors, beautiful mirror doors and nice amenities from l'occitane. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Regent also caters nicely to kids/families. My son enjoyed his kids size bathrobe, toothbrush/toothpaste for kids, along with Weleda kids products, sponges, organic soaps for the kids. They also put a teddy bear in the room to take home. The rooms have everything a business traveler needs as well, including free WiFi. Our clients can also rent free DVDs at the front desk. Some of the rooms do have a step out balcony, some don't. Just request them if you know your client would appreciate that. 
Their executive suites are a nice size and sometimes with our Signature upgrades from the deluxe rooms, well worth looking into. 
Their presidential suites have AMAZING views and are just beautiful. I left ueber happy and can recommend this beautiful hotel without a doubt in my mind.

Hotel Regent Berlin
Charlottenstraße 49, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Rates from Euro 340/night

Special Amenities through Nonstop Travel:
· Full Breakfast for 2 daily
· One Food & Beverage Credit of Euro 50 per room/stay
· Welcome Gift

The following amenities are subject to availability at time of reservation:
· Upgrade at Time of Reservation
· Early check-in
· Late check-out

Friday, April 12, 2013

10 most affordable cities in Europe for 2013

For the intrepid budget traveler, few frontiers offer as many challenges—and potential victories—as Europe. It may seem like sky-high prices, particularly in summer, are a nonnegotiable in Europe, but travelers willing to expand their frontiers will encounter dazzling affordability along with dozens of new reasons to love the continent.

To find cities offering exceptional value right now, we looked at five value indexes that measure everything from flight prices to average hotel costs to the amount you can expect to pay for a pint of beer in a particular city. Often, the cities featured on lists like these come with more expensive flights, so we also factored in average airfares by season. For the places where flights are pricier, we offer some suggestions for keeping airfare costs down.

What we found is that while there are deals to be found in Western Europe, for a truly affordable European experience, your best bet is to look east.

Bon voyage! Or, should we say (in Latvian), drosu braucienu!


Affordability lowdown: Topping Price of Travel's European 3-Star Traveler Index —which compares the cost of a centrally located, well-reviewed three-star hotel, plus the c
ost of transportation, some activities, food and drink—Sofia, Bulgaria, earns the title of Europe's cheapest tourist city for 2013, coming in at under $50 a day (all prices mentioned are accurate as of press time).

Budget-travel challenges: Airfare to Sofia is somewhat expensive, and there aren't a ton of good alternative options, though Sofia does have connecting service from other European cities on low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Wizz Air. If you're thinking of relying on train or bus service from another, more affordable European entry point, know that it will likely be a long, long journey.

Hotels in Sofia


Affordability lowdown: While they're not among the absolute cheapest spring and summer airfares, flights to Berlin from the U.S. are definitely on the cheaper end of the spectrum, in some cases beating out flights to gateways such as Paris and London. But it's not until you take a look at accommodations costs that Berlin's affordability really starts to shine. Healthy competition among hostels and cheaper hotels keeps budget accommodations inexpensive. According to CNN, Berlin is also home to some of the world's most affordable five-star hotels, a definite perk for budget travelers seeking something more upscale. Even when you factor in food and activities, Berlin remains a bargain; in fact, the city made this year's European 3-Star Traveler Index, with an average daily cost of $108 per traveler.

Budget-travel challenges: Right now, the euro is the primary challenge for budget travelers visiting Berlin. The Economist's Big Mac Index suggests that the euro is overvalued by about 12 percent, meaning the exchange rate isn't maximizing value for travelers converting U.S. dollars. But it's not all bad news: Due in part to recent eurozone struggles, we're seeing exchange rates that are at least decent, compared to the high rates of the last five years.

Hotels in Berlin
Sightseeing in Berlin


Affordability lowdown: In a country whose currency offers Americans an excellent exchange rate, Riga stands out as a city with plenty to offer even those on a tight budget. Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index rates Riga the second most affordable city in Europe for accommodations, with an average price of about $82 per night. The city also scored top spots on Price of Travel's European Backpacker Index for 2013 and European 3-Star Traveler Index.

Budget-travel challenges: Airfare to Riga tends to be more expensive than flights to other major European cities. If you're looking to save, you might consider booking a less expensive ticket to a city with connections to Riga via low-fare carriers such as Ryanair or easyJet. When you're pricing this out, however, be sure to factor in all the added fees (including steep baggage and check-in fees) you'll incur by flying these low-cost carriers. And note that you may have to change airports, since low-cost carriers tend to favor smaller airports, sometimes in inconvenient locations.


Affordability lowdown: Lisbon stands out among European destinations for its comparatively low spring and summer airfare prices. In fact, from San Francisco, average summer airfares were about half as much to Lisbon as they were to London. And according to Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index, year-over-year accommodations costs dropped by seven percent in 2012, bringing the average nightly price of a hotel down to $115.

Budget-travel challenges: As with Berlin, the biggest challenge in Lisbon is the euro itself, which doesn't offer as much value as some of the other currencies on this list. However, eurozone troubles have driven the euro down enough that travelers exchanging U.S. dollars will still find decently good value.

Hotels in Lisbon
Sightseeing in Lisbon


Affordability lowdown: Kiev is the affordable capital of a country we recently named one of our 10 Places You Should Go While They're Still Cheap. The European Backpacker Index for 2013 puts the daily cost of accommodations, food and drink, and some activities and transportation at a mere $26. And according to The Economist's Big Mac Index, the Ukranian hryvnia is undervalued by nearly 50 percent against the dollar, giving travelers even more spending power.

Budget-travel challenges: Its off-the-beaten-path location offers a lot of benefits, but it also equates to higher airfare prices. A lack of service from low-cost carriers means that savings options are limited, so if you're looking to save, keep an eye out for airfare sales from larger carriers serving the country.

Hotels in Kiev


Affordability lowdown: Spring and summer airfare prices from the U.S. to Istanbul are consistently among the lowest to Europe. While this might seem surprising, given that a flight from the U.S. to Turkey is much longer than a flight to, say, Madrid, it actually makes a fair amount of sense: Istanbul has become a worldwide air hub (and earned itself a top spot on our Destinations to Watch in 2013 because of it), with plenty of competition to keep costs low. And attesting to its wealth of budget accommodations, Istanbul secured a place on the European Backpacker Index for 2013.

Budget-travel challenges: Unless you're willing to fly between cities, Istanbul is pretty far off Europe's beaten path, so combining a trip there with stops in other European cities isn't a simple matter of a Eurail Pass or a bus ride. And while Istanbul is wallet-friendly for those who are cost conscious, it's a trendy destination full of restaurants, bars, and cafes, so it can get expensive quickly if you decide to live it up.

Hotels in Istanbul
Sightseeing in Istanbul


Affordability lowdown: Its popularity over the last decade has caused prices to rise somewhat, but Prague can still be an impressively affordable city, particularly for backpackers willing to settle for modest accommodations. The European Backpacker Index for 2013 puts the daily cost of on-the-cheap lodging, food, drinks, and activities at just $41 per day. Even those not willing to scrimp to save should be able to find good deals: Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index puts the average price of a hotel in Prague at $107 per night. And everyone can still toast the appealingly low cost of celebration—PintPrice.com reports that the price of a pint of beer in Prague averages $1.06.

Budget-travel challenges: If the last time you visited Prague was more than a decade ago, you might find prices much higher than on your last visit. The key is to keep it in perspective: The city may no longer be a total steal, but it's still a great deal. And with so much to offer, it's still more than worth the uptick in cost.

Hotels in Prague
Sightseeing in Prague


Affordability lowdown: There's a lot that stands out to make Budapest an affordable European destination. Its currency, the forint, offers solid value to Americans abroad. It's easy to eat, drink, and sightsee on a budget. And at the end of the day, you won't have to spend much for a decent place to stay: Budapest receives high affordability marks for backpackers and budget travelers, and even when you factor in more expensive hotels, the average cost of a night's stay in Budapest still comes in under $100. Plus, many of the thermal spas that make the city famous are affordable enough to work into any trip. For instance, at Dandar Bath, discounts on Wednesdays drive the admission price down to about $4.

Budget-travel challenges: Airfare to Budapest is often (though not always) on the expensive end of the U.S.-to-Europe airfare spectrum. However, Budapest is about three hours by train from Vienna, which in a spot check had slightly lower fares for spring and summer flights than Budapest. And the city is well connected to other European cities by low-cost carriers, including airberlin, easyJet, and Ryanair.

Hotels in Budapest
Sightseeing in Budapest


Affordability lowdown: Krakow has affordability all sewn up. Its currency offers U.S. travelers good value right now. It ranks high on accommodations-affordability rankings. In fact, it's the third-cheapest city on the European Backpacker Index for 2013 and the fourth-cheapest on the European 3-Star Traveler Index, with daily average lodging and travel costs of $25 for backpackers and $58 for budget travelers. And here's another thing Krakow has going for it: The Polish airline LOT has been running periodic fare sales for flights from New York or Chicago to Krakow. These sales tend to run for a short time only, but they offer some really impressive deals on airfare (for instance, $712 round-trip, including taxes and fees, for a May flight).

Budget-travel challenges: If you want a really great airfare to Krakow, you'll likely have to work for it by keeping tabs on sales and even thinking creatively about connecting cities. If you've traveled around Poland before, you might consider Krakow a bit pricey in comparison to the rest of the country. But the city offers such a rich density of historic buildings (it was spared much physical damage in World War II) and attractions that it seems only fair.

Hotels in Krakow
Sightseeing in Krakow


Affordability lowdown: It's a city Lonely Planet colorfully calls "eccentric and soulful," and one that offers the best overall hotel prices in all of Europe. According to Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index, Vilnius in Lithuania has an average per-night hotel price of $80, putting accommodations costs within reach of budget travelers. Sweeten the pot with a favorable exchange rate, quirky attractions, and Europe's largest baroque old town, and you've got an intriguing and affordable destination.

Budget-travel challenges: We found a few exceptions, but in general, airfare from the U.S. to Vilnius tends to be a bit more expensive than to bigger European airports. However, since low-cost carriers, including Ryanair and Wizz Air, serve area airports, it's worth doing some comparison shopping before resigning yourself to a higher fare.

Hotels in Vilnius
Sightseeing in Vilnius

Saturday, March 2, 2013

10 Coolest Small Towns in Europe

Paris, London, Rome…the big cities require no introductions. But have you heard of the foodie haven of Tremolat, France or the pristine Alpine hamlet of Binn, Switzerland? In our travels, we've discovered that some of Europe's most divine towns are also some of its smallest.


One of the oldest villages in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is set in a valley in Bohemia south of the Blansko Forest and circled by the Vltava River. The village grew up around the 13th-century Gothic castle of the Lords of Krumlov, which has 40 buildings and palaces, gardens, and turrets and today is a major performing arts location. The cobblestone streets of Cesky Krumlov's Old Town are lined with Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings housing art galleries, cafes, and quaint B&Bs. One of the best ways to experience the town is to take a ride down the Vltava on a wooden raft ($24, en.ceskykrumlov-info.cz).


Founded in 1593 as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic, this UNESCO World Heritage town was built in a unique, 18-sided octadecagon shape. When viewed from above, the fortress community looks like a delicately made paper snowflake, with streets radiating out of the structure like sunbeams. Tucked into a valley with a lagoon running into the Adriatic Sea, the land surrounding Palmanova yields high-quality Chardonnay, while the local waters are stocked with mullet, sea bass, and other delicious fish. In town, look out for the symbol of a leafy bough, or a frasca, hanging outside of restaurants to pinpoint ones serving regionally sourced food, such as the classic Venetian dish baccalà, made with dry-salted cod. At night, the city's earth-and-stone defensive works are lit up like a movie set.


Germany's so-called Romantic Road—which slices north to south through the southern German state of Bavaria—earned its name for its string of stunning castles. But most of the region's bastions are stand-alone tourist attractions, not thriving municipalities. A charming exception is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a red-walled town set up on a hill above the Tauber River. It has all the pastoral views and scenery of the Romantic Road's other castle stops yet has a strong civic pulse, too. Walt Disney was so taken by the town, in fact, that he used it as inspiration for the village in the movie Pinocchio. An earthquake destroyed the castle's main tower in 1356, but the town's red-roofed medieval and Renaissance houses have endured for centuries and were fully restored after World War II. Visitors can tour the castle's stone towers—protected beneath covered walkways—and stop by its base, where crafts shops sell everything from antique clocks to handmade garden gnomes. Cuisine is celebrated here in a way it isn't in larger German cities like Frankfurt or Berlin, let alone in castle canteens elsewhere. You may come here for the shining armor—but you'll return for the delicious renditions of Bavarian comfort foods (more spätzle, anyone?).


Located on the River Coln in hilly west-central England, Bibury was described by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England"—which is saying something in a country known for its watercolor views. Honey-colored 17th-century stone cottages, the Saxon Church of St. Mary, and a still-working 1902 trout farm are some of the ancient village's must-sees. The most photographed spot is Arlington Row, a collection of 14th-century stone buildings that were converted into weavers' cottages in the 1600s.


On the banks of the Danube, in the shadow of a castle from the Middle Ages, Dürnstein is one of those impossibly quaint towns where everything, from the red-tiled roofs to the baroque clock tower to the winding cobblestoned alleys, seems lifted straight from the Brothers Grimm. Just an hour downriver from Vienna, Dürnstein is an under-explored retreat and a gateway to the surrounding Wachau valley, a grape region prized for crisp, dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. To experience the area like a local, take a seat inside a Heuriger, a cozy tavern that sells only indigenous wines, namely those from the most recent harvest. Authentic establishments hang fir branches above their doorways to welcome the thirsty, while Schrammelmusik (traditional fiddle-and-accordion folk music) plays from within. Although the Wachau is known for its grapes, it is the Marille (apricot) that sets the region apart. In early April, the valley erupts in pale-pink blossoms, and the fruit begins showing up in strudels, pork dishes, and Marillenknödel (apricot dumplings rolled in butter-toasted bread crumbs). Wieser Wachau Shop & Café, with locations throughout the valley, sells apricot soap, schnapps, and marmalade (wieser-wachau.at).


Life moves slowly in the village of Binn—and that's by design. Years ago, the residents of this tiny Alpine town (pop. 150, two and a half hours from Bern) decided to stave off development by preserving the surrounding valley as a park. Today, instead of the posh ski resorts and multilane highways in much of southwestern Switzerland, Binn remains a time capsule of village life. Gravel lanes wind between neat pine chalets. Flower boxes filled with geraniums hang from every window. The town's 16th-century bridge is traversed by hikers and goats instead of cars. Up the Binna River, visitors will find even smaller hamlets and picture-perfect meadows, where they can spread out a picnic of local wine and raclette cheese and listen to the cowbells ring down from the high pastures. About a mile from Binn along mountain trails, the riverside Restaurant Imfeld is a timber chalet at 4,983 feet with a terrace overlooking the Alps. Hikers can stop in for fresh trout and Valais air-dried beef—prepared by rubbing salt, herbs, and spices into raw beef and leaving it to dry in a wooden barn for at least six weeks (011-41/27-971-4596, entrées from $9).


While Provence is justifiably famous for its rosé and rustic gîtes (holiday rental homes), that celebrity comes at a high price. Nearly a straight shot across the country, close to Bordeaux, the cluster of market towns known as Périgord Noir offers weekly cottage rentals at nearly half the cost—and the small-town experience is no less picturesque. One of the quaintest towns in the area, Trémolat sits on a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Dordogne River and is dominated by a fortresslike Romanesque church that dates back to the 11th century. But the highlight of the town is farm-to-table restaurant Les Truffières. Yanick Le Goff oversees a classic ferme auberge—a working farm that serves the food it grows (011-33/5-53-27-30-44, six-course family-style meal with wine $34, reservations required). Plates like barbecued duck, garlic-and-goose-fat soup, and house made foie gras are paired with local wines like a lavender-tinged aperitif or a rosé. The surrounding area is best known for its dark oak forests, hillside vineyards, medieval châteaux, Stonehenge-like megaliths, and, of course, the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux with haunting images of bison, horses, and traced human hands estimated to be an astounding 17,000 years old.


The city walls of the seaside resort town of Tenby might have kept attackers out during the Middle Ages, but today they can't quite contain the pastel Georgian buildings spilling right out onto the sand. The view from the harbor is rightfully renowned, but you can get an even better taste of Tenby's medieval past by taking a ramble down one of its narrow, winding alleys—like the quirkily named Lower Frog Street, a canyon of color. (No amphibian greens, though—Tenby's hues skew lighter.) The town is always popular with holidaymakers, but it's getting an extra boost this year with the recent opening of the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile meander along the country's edge that includes Tenby on its route. Trekkers can enjoy shades as sweet as the seaside treats sold by candymaker Lollies.


With its cobblestoned streets and tiled buildings, Ericeira looks like a quintessential Portuguese fishing village. But north and south of the village center, scalloped cliffs give way to white-sand beaches and—much to surfers' delight—consistent right-hand reef breaks. Thanks to its seaside location, Ericeira is also well-known for its seafood. Though the town's name is said to come from the Portuguese word for sea urchins, the regional specialty here is lobster, which are bred in nurseries along the rocky coast. 


From their base in the capital city of Reykjavik, most visitors to Iceland will follow the usual tourist circuit of the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall, and thermodynamic geysers. The Westman Islands, a wild volcanic archipelago off Iceland's southern coast, feel a world away. The 15 islands are named not for the Norse settlers that conquered these parts but for the Irish they enslaved; the Norse referred to the Irish as Vestmenn, or Westmen. The inhabitants on Heimaey—the only inhabited island in the bunch—and the main port town of Vestmannaeyjar are still mostly a mix of Norse and Celtic descendants. The principal industry is commercial fishing, and the wharf is lined with unassuming seafood restaurants. The just-caught fish—cold-water species like cod and halibut—are usually prepared in a traditional European style, sautéed in brown butter. Adventurous travelers can explore the islands by hitching rides with local fishermen. If a professional operation is more your speed, go with Viking Tours (boattours.is, 90-minute island circle tour $40). The 90-minute ride circles Heimaey, yielding picture-perfect vistas of rugged sheer cliffs, with killer whales splashing offshore, plus a healthy population of puffins. Venture inside Klettshellur, a sea cave formed by crashing waves; a crew member will likely play a tune or two on a saxophone to demonstrate the dramatic acoustics.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

6 Smart Ways to Save on a Cruise

The high cost of a dream cruise vacation can leave you feeling a little queasy before you even set sail. (And let's not mention the add-ons!) Here, our Trip Coach's sage advice about how to save big before boarding.


By reserving six to 12 months ahead of your cruise, you can lock in an early-bird rate that's 25 to 50 percent lower than the published "brochure" rate most lines advertise. You'll also have a wider selection of itineraries, dates, and cabins, and possibly get better deals on airfare and hotels. If prices go down after you book, a good travel agent—or the cruise line itself—should help you get the new lower rate.


Yes, it runs completely counter to what we just said about booking early, but if you wait 60 to 90 days before you want to sail, cruise lines often drop prices significantly to fill any remaining spaces on their ships. If you're willing and able to white-knuckle it, this is when you can nab a weeklong Caribbean cruise for under $500. But of course, you won't have as much choice of itinerary or cabin, it may be tricky to find a low airfare to your port, and last-minute fares are typically nonrefundable.


Asking the right questions can work magic. If you're a return customer, mention it when booking and politely inquire whether you're eligible for a discount—it can shave 5 to 15 percent off your fare. Since cruise prices are based on double occupancy, a third or fourth person in your cabin should get a 30 to 60 percent discount. If you're 55 or older, don't be shy about asking for a 5 percent discount; likewise, active and retired servicemen and women should always ask if the line offers them savings.

USE A TRAVEL AGENT (like Nonstop Travel!)

Sites like Kayak and Expedia have put you in the driver's seat—sometimes literally—but don't underestimate the role a good agent can play in finding you the right deal. Many have reserved spaces they can sell you at a discount, and they can explain whether an advertised "free" upgrade or all-inclusive package is for real or just a ploy. They can also advocate for you if rates drop after you've booked your cruise.


Large groups—like family reunions at sea—can be complicated to pull together, but they can also knock big bucks off the price of cabins. A group of 16 people in eight cabins, for instance, can sometimes get a steep discount on the 16th fare, or in some cases a free berth. For large groups, booking a year in advance is advised to ensure you get the block of cabins you want.


You won't save a ton, but sailing when most folks stay home can nab you a modest bargain—maybe 10 percent off typical high-season rates. Here are the best times to find deals in four highly popular cruise regions:

  • Caribbean. September and October, the non-holiday weeks in December, and early January to Presidents' Day.
  • Europe. Mid-March and April, September to December
  • Alaska. May and September
  • Bermuda. April and October 


The end of a beautiful cruise can be stunning in all the wrong ways—if the bill tacks on a bunch of extras you weren't prepared for. Ask in advance what activities, food, drinks, and sundries are included in your fare and which will cost more. In general, be ready to pay the following:

  • $2+ for a can of soda
  • $3+ for a latte
  • $5+ for a mixed drink
  • $10+ for a photo shot by cruise staff
  • $20+ for a bottle of wine
  • $10 to $75 per person for alternative dining
  • $10 to $15 per person per day gratuities