Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

ASK JOURNEYS: Demand for extended sun destination season

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As travellers begin planning for overseas trips that will start in earnest over the next couple of weeks, today's questions are a mix of old and new, as well as near and far.

QUESTION: I have never understood why most of us here in Manitoba think that the only time to go south is during our coldest months.

While I understand the desire to escape the winter, most of the countries we visit then are exceptional places to visit now, with fewer crowds and lower prices.

Why are there not more extended options for packages from Winnipeg?

ANSWER: Over the past two or three years I have been surprised by the increasing numbers of people who want to continue travel to sun destinations after non-stop flights have ended from Manitoba. The travel season to these destinations is much longer from cities like Montreal and Toronto, where sun destination packages are often available into the summer.

Before spring even hits, cruise lines have completed their repositioning itineraries offering passengers some of the best deals for one-way cruises from these sunspots to European and other ports where they begin the next season's offerings.

This year we did see some expanded service out of Winnipeg but there is simply not enough current demand for tour operators to extend the season much later.

But at least one cruise line has concluded that a summer market to Caribbean destinations can pay dividends.

Princess Cruise lines have returned to the practice they abandoned a few years ago of offering a number of Caribbean options out of the Florida port of Ft. Lauderdale over the summer months.

Using the Caribbean Princess, they will alternate between short four- and five-day getaway cruises to longer, 14-day itineraries taking in eastern and western Caribbean sailings.

No doubt some Manitobans will appreciate these new opportunities to vacation in the comfort of a cruise ship while visiting sun destinations.

QUESTION: I was dismayed to read an article that reported Carnival was not willing to reimburse the United States government for the cost of hauling the crippled Carnival Triumph back to shore with its long-suffering passengers.

Can they get away with that?

ANSWER: Carnival's responses to just about every event its ships have gone through over the past months have turned out to be a public relations implosion of mythic proportions.

Only recently has the Carnival Corporation finally begun to take steps on the road to winning back consumer confidence.

After the Concordia disaster and the later perception that they did not satisfactorily compensate the Carnival Triumph clients who spent five days in the slush of raw sewage, their image suffered immensely.

Then, when the organization insisted they would not reimburse the U.S. Coast Guard for the millions of dollars spent to haul the ship back to safety because of the international agreements that obligated the U.S. to help in such circumstances, its image went into the same toilet overflow its Triumph passengers experienced.

Suddenly, U.S. lawmakers were ready to create legislation that would introduce significant demands on any ship that touched their shores; not an action the industry would want, considering the many major ports so many of the cruises originate from.

With its shares having already dropped 10 per cent, Carnival changed its tune and agreed to reimburse the U.S. for its costs.

Then in a major reversal, Carnival Corporation committed to spend up to $700 million to upgrade its power sources and fire-equipment technology in all 10 of its brands.

They say these actions are being done to ensure the comfort and security of its clients by improving air conditioning and washroom facilities.

This will be welcome news for those who still may wonder if Carnival really cared for their clients' needs.

QUESTION: I totally agree with those in the survey you reported that concluded hotel customers expect free Wi-Fi when they pay for a room in properties of any class.

I understand that airlines will be offering Wi-Fi very soon. What will they be charging?

ANSWER: Your question is a perfect follow-up to that previous column where I reported there was a growing trend towards patronizing only hotel properties that offer free Wi-Fi.

If there was an expectation implicit in your question, you are again not alone. It appears the expectation extends to the service in the air as well.

As airlines have been completing plans to offer Wi-Fi access on flights, a recent survey underscores the same feelings for air service as they do for land.

In a survey of over 4,000 passengers by the firm Holiday Extras, they reported that almost 85 per cent of the respondents underscored that they would not be willing to pay extra for the on-board service.

They articulated that Internet access is becoming a human right and any charge for what is becoming an essential service is not appropriate.

Even though respondents felt it would make their flight time more productive, the resistance to pay could be a stumbling block to an industry whose ancillary fees have helped pave the road to airline profitability over the past number of years.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com.

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at wwwthattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 D2

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