Every year at this time I hear from readers asking why there are no new non-stop destinations out of Winnipeg when there are so many other options from other gateways.
This winter, however short in duration, Sunwing Vacations has opened the door for us with a new sunspot destination. People will have the opportunity to book flights to the Grand Bahama Island with departures Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
The two later dates especially should be successful since they are high-demand times for Manitobans wanting to escape some of our coldest weeks of the year.
With what I assume is a bit of a test, for them and travellers alike, Sunwing has created attractive scheduling times, which should help build demand for these trips. The flights will land in Freeport, with accommodation options nearby.
While the Sunwing Memories property is a star brand owned by the tour operator, a limited number of other property options are available.
Will these destinations be back next year?
As tour operator executives, I am certain they will be looking at how full these flights are as they leave Winnipeg before they decide to expand, reduce or eliminate options for next winter.
QUESTION: I have been seeing advertisements for one-way cruises from Europe to the United States for later this fall.
I have a couple of questions.
These cruises seem to be very well-priced. Since I can't arrange my schedule to take advantage of them this year, are they repeated annually?
Also, do they take anything away in service in order to keep the price as low as it is?
ANSWER: These sailings, known as repositioning cruises, do take place every year so long as the ships' itinerary for the winter season is not changed dramatically.
For example, a number of cruise lines are cutting back on their European sailings for 2014 and, as a result, previous repositioning cruises will be directed elsewhere. It could be to Asia, South American or even the northern U.S. and Canada.
Caribbean and Mexican itineraries continue to be in high demand for the winter months, so you have some assurance ships will be returning to their winter home ports from whichever waters they have been sailing next fall as well.
While the pricing for these repositioning cruises is very good, there was a time when they were an even better cruise value. Because of the extended number of days at sea, it did not seem to the cruise executives that many would be willing to handle the sometimes choppier seas or lack of ports of call on the original itineraries.
Two things happened. Cruise lines started to create more interesting stops at both the beginning and end of the cruise itineraries, and it was quickly discovered many people did not mind the couple of extra days at sea.
As for your second question, there should be no reduction in service. However, it is often at these times when crews change over and the contracts of the people who have been serving the original itineraries is completed so the crew can go back to their home countries for a few weeks.
Most of those coming on board are seasoned crew members, but there could be some new hires that might cause a minor hiccup with service issues. But cruise training is usually pretty complete and efficient.
I would not let that concern hold you back from booking your next repositioning cruise.
QUESTION: I travel a lot on business. I find the mini bars in hotel rooms the biggest ripoffs in the world. Prices are so high and often the hotels seem to be trying to entice me into buying by 'merchandising' the products in the most visible places in the hotel room.
And now you really have to check your invoice as a result of the new digital refrigerators that hold so much of the mini bar stock. If you just move an item a message is communicated to the accounting department that you have consumed the product, even if you haven't.
Are these a high-revenue source for hotel properties?
ANSWER: Interestingly, for some it is, but for many it is not. It takes a lot of labour to check each fridge every day and some properties have actually removed the stock in them because it does not offer sufficient returns. These hotels usually leave the refrigerators in place as a convenience for the traveller.
The new-style fridges do record purchased selections without the labour requirements, but hotels are flooded with complaints for just the reason you outlined.
The technology, to this date at least, has often been so sensitive even the smallest movements trigger supposed purchases, when none have been made.
The elimination of these units fromsome hotels has likely been a good thing for both the budgets and the diets of those who travel frequently.
While there is occasionally a heath option or two available from the mini bar, for the most part the contents usually contain everything we should not be consuming but somehow are hypnotized into buying.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 www.thattravelguy.ca.