As the days really start to shorten, more people are thinking travel again.
Today's questions cover a range of issues on the minds of present and future travellers.
QUESTION: I have just returned from my first cruise, which I enjoyed tremendously. However, as a smoker I was dismayed I could not even light up on my own balcony.
It seems to me this is my territory and I am not hurting anyone but myself by choosing to smoke in that environment.
I heard not all cruise lines have that policy. Is that correct?
ANSWER: While smokers are becoming a disappearing minority in countries such as Canada and the United States, in other regions the battle is still on to convince people to quit the habit.
As a result, cruise lines are faced with the dilemma of what direction their policy on this matter should take.
While you can argue you are smoking only in your environment, the drift of tobacco smoke cannot be held in check on a moving vessel. And those who no longer smoke are often bothered even more by the slightest whiff of the weed.
A recent study from the British company CruiseCritic revealed just over half (54 per cent) of all cruisers would prefer cruise lines ban smoking on balconies. On the other hand, only 18 per cent disagreed that a ban should be imposed.
Even though it's a small majority, the cruise lines appear to have taken note. By the time you take your next cruise, finding a line that still allows such activity may be hard to find. Just last month, the Disney line banned smoking on balconies, while Royal Caribbean, in an interesting offset, has banned smoking on all its cruise ships except those that are based in Asia.
Seabourn and Canard have introduce bans following Regent Cruise lines, which has had this policy for quite some time.
QUESTION: I travel around the world with my company on a frequent basis. Up until now, my company has allowed me to travel business class on all of my overseas trips. A new policy has just come down from head office that insists all travel must be booked in hospitality class, no matter how frequently we travel.
While many may not identify with my dilemma, can you tell me about what is happening in the corporate world of travel?
ANSWER: Usually, these policies ebb and flow with economic circumstances in the company and in the world at large.
While most people may not have much sympathy with your situation, believing you must be lucky to travel to the countries you do, I genuinely appreciate your feelings. Corporate travel for road warriors such as you offers few of the pleasures most of us take in visiting foreign destinations. It's hard work and the extra room and quiet make working and resting much easier. A recent study from one large international travel company suggested there has been a nine per cent increase in its hospitality-class business travel bookings, with the same reduction in business-class bookings.
Airlines believe policies such as your company's will not be long-lasting. Many of them are starting to adjust pricing for business-class bookings, even as they add on-board services.
QUESTION: More and more of my friends have been driving to Grand Forks or Fargo to travel south with Allegiant Airlines. Is the airline any good, and are the savings for real?
ANSWER: For Canadian airports from east to west, low-cost airlines such as Allegiant are attracting converts in droves. It's a real dilemma only the Canadian government can address.
The fee and tax structure north of the border is entirely different than in the United States. While Canadian airports are partial contributors to the problem, with ever-rising fees, and airlines often still insist on charging too much, the bigger challenge lays at the feet of the federal government.
For years, study after study has suggested the path Ottawa refuses to take. As a result, the savings from driving south to access U.S. low-cost airlines are real.
While most of these low-cost carriers serving the Canadian market so effectively have extra fees that may come as a surprise to the consumer, the rise of similar fees by our own carriers has left travellers used to them. They have come to expect some form of extra costs attached to their travel, regardless of where it starts.
Allegiant is becoming a major player in all this, serving almost 100 U.S. cities -- supposedly more than any other low-cost carrier -- with flights to the most popular vacation destinations.
Allegiant recently announced a non-stop flight starting on Nov. 23 from Fargo, N.D., to Tampa, with a lead-in price of $99. It offers flights to Las Vegas that can connect to the airline's Hawaii route quite conveniently.
Unless the government steps in and addresses the issues in a more substantive way, the drain to our near-border airports across the country will only become worse. But there is nothing in recent pronouncements that would indicate Ottawa is hearing the cries from industry leaders.
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.