How low can you go?
Airfares are plunging, and we’re talking round-trip fares to Paris that are down 33 percent from last year.
We’ve never seen this happen before. And, in many cases, those low airfares are extended through the rest of the year.
It is still a buyer’s market of unprecedented proportions and that includes places you didn’t think were affordable.
That includes Switzerland, France and London since the euro and pound are dropping against the dollar. The Swiss franc is kind of just hanging in there, which is good news for you. It used to be that you could get a really cheap fare to get there, but it wasn’t cheap to be there. Now, not only is it affordable, it’s accessible and there are not many crowds.
I know it’s a tough economy and even though the airlines are cutting airplane capacity, there are fewer of us traveling. As a result, the law of supply and demand is benefiting you directly.
The cruise lines are still discounting the Queen Mary 2 on the transatlantic crossings this summer. There are seven-night Alaskan cruises on Celebrity for $1,000, and they’re giving you goodies on board. Holland America also has one: a seven-night Alaska round-trip cruise for $699 plus onboard credit. Princess is doing two-for-one deals. The numbers are downright staggering.
By the way, speaking of cruise lines, I’m happy to report that our one-hour special on CNBC, Cruise Inc: Big Money on the High Seas, is the highest-rated program on CNBC—not just once but for the whole week when they repeated it. And speaking of repeating it, they are going to repeat it again on Tuesday, April 7, and Friday, April 10.
Secondly, a new bill being introduced in both the House and the Senate, which is basically about cruise vessel security and safety. It’s called the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2009.
As of right now, there is not really any statute or mandate for cruise lines to list crime on board. That crime could be a burglary, a sexual assault or homicide, so Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced this bill.
It will be interesting to see how they do it because one aspect of this bill is to come up with a database that will be readily available to travel agents and you. So when you’re booking a cruise you can go to the ship or itinerary and find out how many crimes were reported on that ship or on that itinerary.
I think that’s important information to have. Wouldn’t you want to know that kind of information before going to a hotel? Hotels aren’t required to report crimes either.
They are just classified by police departments as types of crimes, not that they happened in hotels. So if there is a burglary, a rape or homicide, it just goes in the city records as a burglary, a rape or homicide. You’d have to cross-reference each crime by address in order to find out which hotels have the worst crime rates.
Speaking of databases and crime, we heard about speed traps against tourists for years. Well there’s a rumor going around that in Michigan there is something called “Operation Yellow Jacket.”
The Michigan state police are supposedly doing a 31-day speeding ticket frenzy, and if you’re driving a rental car, the rumor is you are going to get pulled over and get a whopping ticket for something. The idea is that it will generate revenue because you are out of state, so chances it’s easier to pay it than come back and fight it.
The police want you to know that it’s a rumor and they say they are not doing it. But if you happen to be driving through Texas, this is no rumor. Police in Tenaha, Texas have pulled over 147 motorists on their way to casinos in Louisiana, and threatened to charge them with serious crimes unless they surrendered their cash, jewelry, cell phones, and in some cases, even their cars.
There is a class-action lawsuit against this entire police department. The police, of course, are saying they are trying to target drug traffickers, but in all 147 cases, no drugs were found. I would not want to be the attorney defending that police department. So if you’re driving through Tenaha, Texas, you may want to bring escorts.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com.
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