Encore! For The Norwegian Encore

The following post is written by Amanda from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Amanda recently experienced the inaugural “docked cruise” of the brand new Norwegian Encore. The newest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, she can accommodate 4,000 guests.

For my first time on a ship, this beauty surely did not disappoint! I am not by any means a “cruiser”. In fact, I have never been on a ship in my life. After this inaugural though, I cannot wait to plan a cruise next year for myself! I think I really have been missing out on this on my entire life…

A few of my fellow Travel Specialists are avid cruises and made the experience smooth sailing for me, giving me great tips and tricks… Thanks Boscov’s Travel! Our Travel Specialists really know their stuff. With all the laughs and tears (from laughing so hard) we had while knowing that this was our mini-vacation, I know anyone will be able to go on this beautiful ship and make great memories – just like I did!

Some of Boscov’s Travel Specialists enjoying the ship!
Some of Boscov’s Travel Specialists enjoying the ship!

A little more about the ship… from the classy atrium to the bake shop, to the race track all the way to the mojito bar, this ship had something to offer for everyone. In addition to touring the ship and experiencing the entertainment, we had a chance to hear from Norwegian’s CEO. He shared his plans for the future and how the company is focused on the environment and issues surrounding cruising! HOW COOL!

One special perk of being invited to the inaugural is the ability to tour the entire ship to better inform each and every client. We were lucky enough to be able to tour The Haven which is their luxurious accommodations, and let me tell you they really are! With their own entrance onto the ship, their own private pool, and their own concierge, The Haven is most definitely worth the extra cost.

The Haven private pool

We were also able to experience the cuisine. The Encore has so many dining options so there is something for everyone! I am a very picky eater and I did not go hungry. The restaurants on this ship were absolutely amazing! I was fortunate enough to be able to experience various complimentary restaurants and one specialty dining restaurant. My favorite – the complimentary Manhattan Room (available on several Norwegian ships) – featured my favorite meal onboard, surf and turf. I must say, it might have been one of the best steaks I have ever had.

We also dined at additional specialty restaurants including Los Lobos,  contemporary Mexican restaurant with a modern twist. Everything our table ordered was spectacular and the views were even better. We sat adjacent to the floor to ceiling glass paneled windows and were treated to spectacular views. Paired with a delicious dinner and table-side guacamole, it is safe to say that this is a great specialty dining choice.

Food on the Norwegian Ecnore
Specialty dining, Los Cabos Salad!
Caesar Salad from complimentary dining restaurant, The Manhattan Room
Surf and Turf from complimentary dining restaurant, The Manhattan Room

I know I keep saying this, but this ship has so much to offer! Shows, the casino, comedy clubs, dance clubs, trivia, the spa, virtual games, an arcade, casino, laser tag and go cart racing you will never go bored on this ship. I was able to experience a variety of entertainment on board. First stop, the shows. Choir of Man and Kinky Boots are performed nightly in the theater and WOW let me tell you, everyone raved about these shows, especially Choir of Man. In fact, it’s the highest rated entertainment on all of Norwegian’s ships! And it’s all included – these guys perform at venues around the globe and tickets are in excess of $140/each (and worth it). Luckily, it will be complimentary for you onboard… just be sure to reserve your seats as soon as you can.

I was able to experience the Galaxy Pavillion – the virtual game room onboard –  which was nothing less than amazing! In one scenario you lay down and it feels like you are soaring through the most scenic places. I also tried a game called descendants which sadly I think I might have had the worst record on the ship but man was that game fun! Shout out to our Travel Specialist Tammy from Camp Hill who rocked it, as the worker reminded me (haha).

One thing I never got up to see due to the weather was the Encore Speedway. My colleagues who had a chance to ride it and said it was epic! This speedway hangs 13 feet over the side of the ship. Then once you’re done racing you can head next door to the laser tag on the same deck! How cool that you can have these experiences on a cruise.

My two favorite parts of the ship? The Waterfront and the Observatory Lounge for their views. Let me tell you these pictures do not do it justice. Floor to ceiling windows in the lounge, you will never have a bad view from wherever you sit. Hang by the comfy chairs and enjoy the scenery because that lounge is spectacular. When you’re done there head outside to the Waterfront for the most comfy chairs and views. They also have built in heaters in the ceiling for when it gets chilly. On a chilly Tuesday afternoon in New York, I felt warm with the help of the heaters.

This ship has so much to offer – I could go on for days, but I won’t. You should just go experience it yourself so you truly understand. I promise you, it will not disappoint. Scroll down for more photos from the ship!

 

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com 

Portugal… Add it to the Bucket List!

The following post is written by Ken from our Camp Hill and Colonial Park locations. Ken recently visited Portugal and shares his experience of this often undiscovered, yet treasure of Europe.

 

 

Portugal had always been near the top of my travel bucket list even though I couldn’t exactly tell you why. After visiting Portugal this fall, I can now give dozens of reasons why this small country is worth a detour. No one visits Portugal by accident. Almost as big as Pennsylvania, it is located in far southwestern Europe with nothing beyond it but the big Atlantic.  You don’t see Portugal just passing through on a grand European adventure. This is actually good news because Portugal is worth a vacation all to itself! Sure you can throw in its neighbor Spain (which I LOVE), but Portugal can definitely stand alone.

Ken and his wife Bonnie

First of all, let me mention the wonderful Portuguese people. They love their country and are eager to share it with the world, which they are doing more and more as tourism to Portugal is growing rapidly. Except for the oldest generation, the knowledge of English is outstanding. Portuguese – very different from Spanish – is not a very widely spoken language so every student gets 12 years of English in school. Their younger people know all about American pop culture, music and movies. The older folk, often seen in traditional clothing, wore Portugal’s tough history in their tanned wrinkles but also in smiles that seemed to say, “At last, times are good.”

We visited 10 locations: Lisbon, Evora, Sintra, Palmela, Sesimbra, Obidos, Nazare, Aveiro, Porto and the Douro River Valley. Lisbon (“leash-bo-ah”) may have the grandest locations of any European capital city. It is often compared to San Francisco with its large bay, steep streets, trolley cars, beautiful overlooks and even its own “Golden Gate” bridge look-a-like (which is almost twice as long!). Lisbon also has the history of a devastating earthquake which destroyed almost the entire city in 1755. One area unscathed by the earthquake is the soul of Lisbon: Alfama. Today this is where you go to enjoy the local Fado music or stroll the narrow, winding streets looking for Portuguese or ethnic foods. On the waterfront, you will be find Belem.  This is where Portugal’s explorers left for new worlds. Go to Belem to be impressed by the Monument to the Discoveries, the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery. Lisbon is definitely worth 3-4 days. In addition, nearby cities are Sintra, Sesimbra, Evora and Obidos which are excellent day trips from Lisbon but equally worthy of an overnight stay.

Portuguese Food
Lisbon
Evora
Portugal’s own “Golden Gate Bridge”
Pamela

Sintra is a fairy tale town in a gorgeous natural setting among tall trees. Once home for the king, Pena Palace was built more for romanticism than for protection. This quirky, mountaintop summer palace has many styles and Crayola colors. On the neighboring mountaintop you can see and visit the imposing Moorish Castle from 711 AD. In the valley below, wealthy commoners built vacation homes to be near the king. One of these, Quinta da Regaleira, comes complete with enchanting gardens, towers, hidden waterfalls and many subterranean passageways.

Pena Palace

Just north of Lisbon you will find Obidos, a quaint medieval village with shops and restaurants serving local dishes like bacalao and caldo verde. ​Just to the west in a wine region, Evora has much to see. There are many well-preserved Roman ruins, a chapel lined with hundreds of human bones, and a Nativity Museum filled with scenes made around the world.

Portugal is also well known for its beautiful seaside towns and fishing villages–these come complete with beautiful sandy beaches, crystal blue water and fantastic seafood restaurants. At the bottom of Portugal, the entire Algarve region is worth an extended stay, but for those with less time Sesimbra, Cascais or Nazare will not disappoint a beach lover.

Lastly, it would be a shame to miss Porto, Portugal’s “second city”. Porto is not second rate by any means. The city is smaller than Lisbon but with tons of walkable charm. Porto’s emblem is the two level Luis I Bridge and it’s amazing day and night. Harry Potter fans will love the city’s influence on JK Rowling. Wine enthusiasts will love the city’s namesake port wine. If you think you don’t like port wine, wait until Porto! There are so many varieties. Then, go to the source of the port wine, the Douro River Wine Valley.  The scenery alone is fantastic, but wait until you visit one of the many quintas or vineyards! The Douro Valley is just incredible.

Bones Chapel

Porto City
Town of Porto
This Cafe in Porto inspired JK Rowling’s Harry Potter
Duoro River
Duoro River
Duoro River
So now you know how much I loved this little country and its beautiful scenery, delicious food and delightful people.  I really look forward to booking my clients to Portugal.   It will be my pleasure to share this find. ​

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

The Ultimate All-Inclusive Experience in Mexico

 

The following post is written by Amy Bressler from Boscov’s Travel Camp Hill. Amy is a Honeymoon & Destination Specialist and recently visited the TRS Coral Hotel and The Grand Palladium Hotel in Costa Mujeres, just north of Cancun, Mexico. 

If you’ve ever stayed at a Palladium hotel in Mexico and the Caribbean, then you will love the adults-only sister property – TRS Coral Hotel in Costa Mujeres. TRS Coral Hotel is their newest hotel that’s less than a year old and located a short 35 minute drive from the airport and 20 minutes from the famous Hotel Zone. This hotel will soon become a quick favorite to all!

Far from the bustling hotel zone, Costa Mujeres’s shores are natural dunes without seaweed/Sargassum, rocks, or reefs. Though the beaches lack natural shade from the palms, the umbrella covered loungers and Bali beds offer relief from the sun. The location gives you beautiful views of the beach, Isla de Mujeres and the Cancun skyline to the south. Palladium is fantastic for groups, families, wedding, honeymooners, and singles.

In addition to the service, the atmosphere of a resort is one of the top qualities clients look for when visiting a new hotel. The TRS Coral Hotel is warm and inviting with modern furnishes. With infinity edge fountains and an open, airy lobby, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a lavish hotel in Dubai.

This adult only all-inclusive features huge suites with butler service available for every room. With 24-hour room service, free wifi, keyless wrist band entry into your room, large soaking tub, sitting area with leather sofa, giant flat screen TV, and mood lighting, these rooms feel like your oasis away from home. The rooms include a full minibar, bath products, robe and slippers. The resort rooms feature everything you could ever want in a hotel room and it is all yours! 

We all love to indulge on vacation and TRS Coral Hotel is sure to please. No reservations are needed whether you choose to the buffet, steak house, trendy bars and lounges, or healthy bar. Complemented with oceanfront views, Gaucho the Argentinian steak house was by far my favorite with their surf and turf fare. Or you can see the Chic Cabaret, a 3-hour theatrical dinner production. After dinner, there are endless trendy bars and lounges with entertainment where you can dance those calories away!

By staying at the TRS Coral, you can enjoy unlimited access to Zentropia Palladium Spa & Wellnesscenters every single day of your stay. Relax in the jetted pools, saunas, showers, salt room, and the best part feature – the ice cave!  The spa’s amazing amenities include a roof-top infinity edge pool.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort in Costa Mujeres, look no further than The Grand Palladium next to the TRS Coral. You’ll be greeted with an elaborate lobby – a literal art exhibit and definitely a sight to see! This resort offers family friendly rooms and facilities similar to the quality and style of other Palladium resorts throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. With modern amenities, the rooms are well equipped for even toddlers in the family.

Speaking of the entire gang, this hotel offers a bright, fun kids’ clubs and a fun splash park. Even babysitting services are available for families! This resort offers a special section called “Family Selection” – these ocean view split level suites have a Jacuzzi tub on the first level, then a full bedroom and second bath upstairs for mom and dad.  This category gives adults the same privileges as the TRS Coral guests on the adjoining resort property.

This resort features one of two worldwide Rafa Nadal Tennis Centres where you will find 8 clay tennis courts. Bearing the name of the tennis legend and recent US Open Champion Rafa Nadal, this centre offers classes for beginners as well as aspiring professionals.  Throughout the year, camps and classes are held and resort guests can play and will receive equipment for use. This feature is fun for the family and highlights the tennis star’s accomplishments! After a match, stop by the pro-shop and museum to see Nadal’s trophies and uniforms from the years.

This resort features a large convention center, a beautiful Catholic chapel for Sunday service and also capable of hosting ceremonies, the Village where you’ll find restaurants and theatre. Enjoy a 24 hour sports bar, coffee bar along with quaint shops! Make sure to check it out this area of the property as on some night’s vendors are out as well as entertainment.  The complex celebrates everything from Breast Cancer Awareness in October to the Super Bowl. There are endless activities at this well-rounded resort.

If this sound like it would be a perfect wedding destination for you, then you are in luck! There is a fantastic wedding team that will assist with any need a couple could have.  There are various Karen Bussen (wedding coordinator extraordinaire) inspired pre-packaged options or you can customize to make your client’s destination wedding totally unique.

I can’t say enough about this fantastic resort chain from the Palladium family! If you’re ready to book your Mexican getaway, we can make the process easy for you to show up and go!

Summer Trip Inspiration (Leave Your Passport at Home)

The following post is written by Amanda from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.

Need some inspiration for trips to take this summer but lapsed on your passport? We’ve got you covered. There’s still time to plan the perfect state-side getaway.

There’s so much to see in our big, beautiful country. Let us take the stress out of planning and get inspired by the relaxing, scenic, and picture perfect destinations right in your backyard.

IDAHO

It sounds bizarre to pick a state not traditionally known as a vacation spot, but this state is one not to be missed. Craters of the Moon National Park represents one of the best preserved flood basalt areas (column rock structure formed by rapid cooling of lava). The average elevation for this park is 5,900 feet above sea level.

Another beautiful sight to see is Shoshone Falls Park, a waterfall on the Snake River and two hours driving distance from Craters of the Moon. Some call this the “Niagara of the West,” and it’s within driving distance of Yellowstone National Park. Rent a car for the day and you can check off two states on the trip.

Travel tip: Idaho is known for its potatoes. Which become french fries (ironically invented by the Belgians) and the best snack ever.

UTAH

Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park are just some of the parks you can visit while on a trip to Utah. Need I say more?

Even with five national parks, not everyone is into an adventure hiking only vacation (me being one of them). So if you’re not into visiting all the parks you can easily split it up!

My ideal trip there would be two parks and two cities – Park City and Salt Lake City (and of course sitting at a resort staring at the beautiful views). Yes this is all possible to do in a couple days! Park City and Salt Lake City are only a half an hour apart giving you time to experience the beauty of nature and the culture of the people.

SOUTH CAROLINA

One of the most charming southern states, head to Charleston for some real southern hospitality.  Known for their fun nightlife, food, and history you cannot go wrong here.  You can ride a carriage on a historical tour,  head to a plantation or tour a historic mansion like Wentworth Mansion. Charleston also has boat tours, walking tours and even ghost tours! Enjoy a long weekend trip in this beautiful location.

NAPA VALLEY

Oh the wine country! This is the place to go for either a girl’s trip, romantic getaway, or just some time really enjoy views and the good life. We recommend a tour package with four or five days to enjoy the views, vineyards and savor the harvest of the west coast.

Whether you want to just spend all your time at different vineyards or wine and dine on a train through Napa Valley, we can help you achieve it.

Ready for us to plan your next trip? Ask about packages with trusted tour operators to any of these stunning locations and see the best this beautiful nation has to offer!

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?

Do you need travel insurance? It’s the age old question. Travel protection isn’t fun to think about. Who wants to consider what could go wrong when you’re planning your big trip this year…

Here’s the truth. There’s a really good chance your vacation will go off without a hitch; you’ll have Insta-worthy pics and memories to last a lifetime. But with all things, there’s a small chance it will not go as planned. We’ve seen it all – families with a child who breaks their foot in a pool and needs to fly home on a different flight, hurricanes that delay vacation plans for days or weeks, and even a client who needed weeks’ long medical attention in Europe while his partner needed a hotel and to change flights. Luckily in all of these cases, the clients purchased travel protection to protect their travel investment.

So what’s the cost? Here’s an example.

As you can see, the brothers purchased the same trip and everything else even, by spending less than 4% in travel protection, Marvin was able to safeguard his investment and focus on the fun. Meanwhile, Mark’s trip hit a snag early, making the trip start off on the wrong foot knowing that he would be responsible for the additional expenses.

Ultimately it’s up to you, but we highly recommend travel protection. We can help you navigate the options and coverage to find the plan that’s right for you. In the meantime, you can get an idea about cost and coverage by using our handy travel protection calculator here.

Whatever you choose to do, we’re here to help.

 

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

 

Royal Caribbean Sails into the Future with New Technology and Guest Experiences

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. She recently attended an event hosted by Royal Caribbean Cruises where they announced enhancements for future travel and what cruisers can expect in the years to come.

(Photo by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images)

During a presentation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 9, Royal Caribbean’s Chairman and CEO Richard Fain introduced what Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara, envisions as the future of cruising by offering guests more interactive and seamless experiences both before they leave home, as they board the ship, and then as they enjoy their vacation on board.

Your phone will power your vacation all from the Sea Beyond app
With the Royal Caribbean Sea Beyond app, which debuted this past August on the Allure of the Seas, and is expected to be rolled out to 30% of RCL’s fleet by the end of 2018, you’ll be in control of your cruise experience from planning excursions, to making dinner reservations, to dimming the lights in your cabin. Royal envisions unlimited possibilities with the app, such as once you load your booking information, you can take a selfie, attach a payment method and start crafting your cruise experience, such as seeing 360 degree views of possible shore excursions. Once on board, use the app for practical purposes, such as tracking your luggage’s delivery to your room, or unlocking your door. Best part of all—the app even allows you to order drinks directly to your lounger, no matter where you are on board!
The app will also power more hi-tech encounters, allowing you to experience the ship like never before, such as discovering hidden games, information and experiences simply by pointing the camera on your app at designated spots. Posters will become games once the app is pointed towards it, and pieces of art will unfold to reveal hidden surprises.
If you don’t have a smartphone or if you’re looking for a more “disconnected” experience on your cruise vacation, don’t worry. Royal Caribbean will allow passengers traditional methods and services for making the most of your trip, allowing you to leave your chargers and phone at home or in your cabin.

Driverless cars will shuttle you to the ship in the future

Directly out of your favorite futuristic movie, Royal eventually plans on autonomous vehicles to shuttle you from parking to the ship.

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Once in the terminal, facial recognition technology makes the check in process easy and efficient reducing your wait time in line, allowing you to get to the fun faster and enjoy more of your well-earned vacation time. Speaking of terminals, expect a beautiful new terminal from Royal Caribbean in Miami in fall of 2018.

Robots will shake (or stir) things up at sea
Royal envisions their bionic robotic bartender arms can do more than just stir your favorite cocktail! Already outfitted in the popular Bionic Bars on the

Harmony, Quantum, Anthem and Ovation of the Seas, the bionic arms, which craft and deliver cocktails to guests, brought an entertaining mix of visual movement synched with lights and music. Royal envisions that their robotic arms could be harnessed in the future for entertainment and more aboard your favorite ship.

Floating on bubbles will deliver a smoother and more efficient cruise experience

A view of a virtual Royal Caribbean ship sails on hulls coated with precisely sized micro bubbles to improve fuel efficiency and reduce propeller noise.(Photo by Diane Bondareff/ Invision for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd./AP Images)

With a focus on energy-efficient solutions to minimize environmental impact, Royal also highlighted their new fuel cell technology and “air lubrication system.” According to their website, fuel cells reduce ship emissions with minimal negative effects on the environment while the air lubrication system coats the bottom of the ship with microscopic bubbles leading to less resistance with the current.

In the future, technology will create the perfect environment inside your cabin
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity’s vision of a future cabin comes complete with a digital sky, floor and artwork, bringing guests closer to nature. Stuck in an inside cabin? Turn on the channel showing the weather outside and local scenery. Weather a little less than stellar in your balcony cabin? Switch to the channel with the rainforest or switch back to the sunny weather from yesterday. Ready to mix it up? Fall asleep to the pitter patter of rainfall on lush leaves in the rainforest.

It’s impressive to see where the cruise industry is headed. By the end of the experience, it became evident that Royal wants to deliver an experience allowing each guest more time to relax. The company will begin rolling out these features this year and guests will experience increased integration with technology fleet wide by 2019.
To check out more details from the event, please visit: http://www.rclcorporate.com/rcl-seabeyond/

If you’re ready to start planning your next cruise, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Seven Ways to Get Upgraded to First Class (For Free)

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen’s an avid traveler and shares tips for getting upgraded. 

pixabay-plane-691084

Picking up my stuffed and heavy rolling carry-on and glancing at my seat assignment on my boarding pass and then the long, unmoving line of people ahead of me, my excitement about vacation immediately dwindles: The first leg of my journey is to the back of the plane, and judging by the already-filled overhead bins and the slow shuffle of people ahead, it feels like it’ll take just as long to get to my seat as it would take to walk to my vacation destination. Immediately, taking a look at the few front rows of people already comfortably seated, buckled in, and relaxing with a drink in hand and their valuables comfortably stored directly overhead, I start to think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad investment to pay the extra, well, paycheck, it would have cost to fly first class.

If you’re like me, and flying as inexpensively as you can is as much of a goal as flying first class, and you’re trying to figure out whether it’s better to be financially practical or cave into your indulgent #YOLOfirstclassbaby!!! whims on your next flight, here are a few tips to try to do both and get upgraded to first class for free.

1. Join your airline’s rewards program and secure their credit card. In truth, most upgrades are now done arbitrarily at check in, not at the counter, often rewarding those who show elite status and loyalty to an airline. Additionally, seasoned travelers who are recognized by their home airport’s gate crew as being a frequent flyer are more likely to be handed an complimentary golden ticket to the front of the plane over someone who may be traveling with that airline for the first time.

2. Dress neatly.  As much as we want to travel in comfy clothes, airlines are more prone to put people who look like they belong in first class in first class.

3. Arrive or check in early—and sometimes late. Being among the first to check in online may increase your chances of being upgraded when it’s done electronically. It also helps to be the first to the counter to put in a request—especially when the staff isn’t stressed or rushed and is able to consider your request in calm circumstances. But in some cases, those types of decisions aren’t made until closer to the time of departure when the airline knows that they’re likely not selling any additional seats, which is when it’s sometimes beneficial to check in and arrive late for your flight.

4. Ask. While most upgrades are now done by computer, it never hurts to ask the counter staff in a very polite and nice manner without demanding one, and without badgering them. Be willing to nicely accept their answer, and accept the seat you originally paid for. Additionally, if you ask about the availability of getting upgraded, you may find the airline presenting you with an offer to pay for the upgrade with cash or airline miles at a greatly reduced rate over what you would have paid had you bought the seat outright.

5. Have a problem and be a good sport about it. While no one wants to deal with travel delays or overbooking issues, if you’re willing to give up your seat to another traveler in distress on an overbooked flight or if you encounter issues on the plane, such as a faulty armrest or tray table, you’re more likely to be compensated by receiving a complimentary upgrade on your next flight. While the hassle may be maddening, do your best to be kind and nice about the issues to the airline staff, who may not have any control over the situation, but have control over how to compensate you when you do finally get on your way.

6. Celebrate something. Airlines want to earn your repeat business and want you to associate happy memories with your event and their service. It certainly doesn’t hurt to slip into conversation with your gate or flight attendant that it’s your birthday, honeymoon or milestone anniversary if the opportunity arises.

7. Use a travel agent. Our Travel Specialists have established relationships with the airlines and can view upgrade availability. Airlines are also more likely to reward those who paid full-price (e.g., a refundable fare) and paid them directly, rather than booked through a discount travel site like Orbitz or Expedia, who take a cut of the fare. Travel Specialists may also be able to make comments on your reservation noting your special celebration or needs.

To temper expectations, know that free upgrades to first class are now very infrequent, and it’s always best to select and pay for a seat that you’ll know you’ll be happy with rather than expect you’ll receive something for free.

If you’re ready to start planning your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

MSC Divina Review (and Why You Need to Stay in the Yacht Club)

The following post features a review of the MSC Divina from Lisa at Boscov’s Travel. Lisa is the Director of Training and Professional Development at the company’s headquarters, and has over 40 years of travel industry experience.

The MSC Divina Ship

MSC Cruises recently became one of our preferred cruise partners (they deliver great value to clients, are a reputable company and work closely offering training and support to our specialists) so I was eager to experience the cruise line. Our MSC Cruises rep, John, highly recommended the Yacht Club, a specific category of cabins. 

Here’s how MSC describes the Yacht Club:
“The epitome of elegance and luxury at sea, The MSC Yacht Club offers a cruise experience like no other. Lavishly appointed suites, exclusive 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge are only the start. All-inclusive private restaurant, unlimited drinks in all venues or from your minibar, complimentary beverage selection in all onboard bars and restaurants, and exclusive access to The One Pool Bar & Grill Deck and Top Sail Lounge are just some of the other privileges.”

In early May 2017, my husband, son, daughter-in-law, infant grandson, and I sailed on the MSC Divina. We took John’s advice and booked the Yacht Club by taking advantage of one of MSC’s annual promotions. Needless to say, John’s recommendation was on point and I definitely felt it to be worth the price based on the service and perks we received!

The Divina is a very attractive, clean, well-maintained ship; we had a relaxing cruise and many times did not realize we were moving.  The Swarovski Crystal staircases are spectacular, especially at night with the lights shining on them…it looked like thousands of sparkling diamonds!  Our sailing was sold-out with a mixture of passengers from the US, Canada, Europe (especially Italians) and South America. 

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MSC Divina

Itinerary

May 6 – Miami, Florida
May 7 – At Sea
May 8 – Ocho Rios, Jamaica
May 9 – George Town, Cayman Islands
May 10 – Cozumel, Mexico
May 11 – At Sea
May 12 – Nassau, Bahamas
May 13 – Miami, Florida

Embarkation (Departure for those new to cruising)

Embarkation was a breeze, there was a separate check-in for Yacht Club guests. Because we were in the Yacht Club, we were escorted by a butler to a private lounge at the pier with cool towels, champagne, juice, and light hors d’oeuvres and cookies. We then bypassed the long lines and were taken directly to the Top Sail Lounge and Concierge on the ship to complete our check-in (we registered our credit cards and met our personal butler who explained how the Yacht Club works, etc.).

Living the Dream at the Yacht Club

Our butler escorted us immediately to our cabin and explained how the elevator system worked with our Cruise Cards. There is a separate bank of elevators at the front of the ship that works magic for Yacht Club guests. You insert your Cruise Card in a slot, push some buttons and the elevators come immediately to your floor. You can also insert your Cruise Card in a slot inside the elevator and make it an express elevator to whatever floor you want.

Our cabin, a Yacht Club Family Suite, was in the front of the ship with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in both rooms. The cabin was 547 sq. ft. and had a separate living room with sofa-bed, a bedroom with a vanity area and walk-in closet, a large bathroom with double vanities, a full-size tub and a separate shower with an amazing shower system (I want one of these for my house!). We had two safes, two flat-screen TV’s, two phones, a small fridge (fully stocked daily with whatever we wanted), a snack cabinet, a double closet in the living room and lots of storage space (we didn’t use it all). We also received 4 bathrobes/slippers, lots of toiletries in the bathroom, and a choice of 4 types of pillows for the beds. Travelers should be aware that most of the outlets were European (our butler brought us a couple adapters). The only two US outlets were at the vanity in the bedroom (I guess this goes back to their European roots).

The Yacht Club Facilities

Anything you would normally take care of at the Guest Services Desk could be done at the Concierge Desk outside the Top Sail Lounge for Yacht Club guests. There was a full-service bar here which also served coffee beverages plus there was always a light buffet spread throughout the day and into the evening.  

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Top Sail Lounge

The One Pool Bar & Grill on the 18th deck is exclusively for Yacht Club guests. It has a small pool, two Jacuzzis, lots of chaise lounges, a private bar and a small grill/buffet with some cooked-to-order specialties. This quiet area was never full and noisy like the main pool areas on the rest of the ship and the staff was very attentive.

Dining

We had most of our meals in the Le Muse Restaurant which is the exclusive restaurant for Yacht Club guests. For lunch we tried the One Pool Bar & Grill, the Sports Bar, the Eataly Pizza, the Main Buffet and lunch on our two excursions. I was a little anxious about having a 10 month old infant in Le Muse every evening but no worries. My grandson was great and the staff here was very welcoming…the hostess and our assistant waitress loved him and used to entertain him every time they saw him! This restaurant had a special children’s menu for different age groups including toddlers (they don’t carry commercial baby food). Luckily my grandson is starting to eat table food and they also made some special fruit smoothies for him. He enjoyed his meals very much and I don’t think he’ll want to go back to eating baby food after this trip (LOL)!

Drink Package

MSC just started offering the free drink package to Yacht Club guests for everywhere on the ship starting in April. Prior to that, you could only get free drinks in the Yacht Club area. For the IMG_0908most part this worked well, but there were a few times in the non-Yacht Club bars where we got charged for drinks. When this happened, we told the Concierge who immediately removed it from our account. They said their staff is still in a learning curve because of this new program for Yacht Club guests. This free drink package also included specialty coffee drinks and gelato (which is excellent!).

Port Service

Whenever we were in port, our butler escorted us to the gangway (the ramp connecting the port to the ship) where we were taken to the front of the line. When we returned to the ship, we would show our Cruise Card and immediately be taken to the front bypassing the long lines. We had our own entrance to the ship at most ports and priority tender tickets for Grand Cayman. We were always greeted upon our return with cold water and cool towels.

Entertainment

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Theater

We went to one show, “Pirates”, which was good…it was a mixture of singing, dancing, acrobatics, juggling and magic tricks. They were heavily promoting a Michael Jackson show which we wanted to see but they didn’t schedule it until the last night. We didn’t have enough time to see it with packing and preparing to go home. I wish they would have scheduled it earlier in the week because the previews on TV looked very good. They have a decent size Casino (non-smoking) with slot machines (mostly penny, a few $1.00) and several table games.

Disembarkation

We had a few glitches with disembarking the ship but from what I understand MSC is building a new ship terminal in Miami so hopefully once that’s completed , the process will operate more smoothly.

Overall, we had an excellent vacation on the MSC Divina and I highly recommend the MSC Cruises Yacht Club experience to my clients and colleagues. img_0907.jpg

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

A Week at the Excellence Playa Mujeres

The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Adam recently vacationed at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and shares his insight into the resort and his overall travel experience booked through Boscov’s Travel.

DSCN0145.JPGAfter spending a week in Mexico two years ago, my wife and I decided to spend our yearly vacation in the land of guacamole again this year. During our previous stay in at the Secrets Silversands resort in Mexico, we enjoyed the beach but it wasn’t ideal for going into the deep waters of the Caribbean. When deciding where to go this year, the beach had to be priority. After much research, discussion and competitive “the resort I found is better than yours” banter we decided on the Excellence Playa Mujeres. And by we, I mean her.

After the flight and breezing through customs we were picked up by AMStar Tours for our private transfer to the resort. The resort was about 20 minutes from the Cancun Airport. Our guide, Carlos, did a fantastic job of providing an update of the Cancun area since our previous visit. During the drop off at the resort, he also provided his contact information in case we needed to change our pick up time or schedule any excursions we wished to take with AMStar Tours.

If you are going to an all-inclusive in Mexico, I would highly suggest using AMStar for airport transfers from the airport to the resort. They are dedicated to providing world-class services and their team is staffed by nothing less than travel professionals. And besides, when you’re stepping into a private vehicle at the airport, it makes you feel like a celebrity. Treat yo self!

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After making it through the city, we finally arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres. As always, it’s nice to be greeted with a cold towel and “Complimentary champagne, Sir?” Once inside, it’s always a sight to behold at how large the lobby can be at an all-inclusive resort- three floors and decorated to the nines. After checking in, we were escorted to our room right away. This year we decided to splurge a little more on our room and stayed in a Terrace Suite with Plunge Pool.

This Terrace Suite offers an expansive (807 sq. ft.) private terrace with Plunge Pool, comfortable lounge furniture and an open-air shower. If you decide to spend a vacation at this Excellence resort, stay in this suite. It was nice waking up in the morning and being able to lounge or swim when the sun was coming up. Also, my wife and I would enjoy a cocktail before going down to dinner each evening.

Excellence offers gourmet dining in ten international restaurants and eleven bars; no reservations needed. All meals, unlimited beverages, snacks, and 24/7 room service are included, plus all of the restaurants feature healthy menus and vegetarian dishes.

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We ate at a majority of the restaurants for dinner, the only ones we didn’t eat at were Basmati (Indian), Spice (Asian), and the Flavor Market (Tapas). And the only reasons why we didn’t eat at those places was because we wanted to eat at Chez Isabelle (French) and Agave (Mexican) more than once. I really believe that the menus in the restaurants at the Excellence are designed so that you are able have an appetizer, a salad, the main course, and dessert, and leave satisfied. The meals are portioned well and never disappoint.

Lunch was another experience all together. The Excellence had your standard buffet for breakfast and lunch. In addition to that, the Lobster House and the Grill offered a la carte menus for lunch. But the one we visited the most was Las Olas. Las Olas is located on the beach and has a selection of fast food, salads, wood-oven pizzas, and grilled favorites. The main course they offered was different everyday. One day we ate Seafood Paella, which was prepared in a giant wok, and another day we had Jamaican Jerk Chicken. It was fresh and served buffet style. It was by far the best place to eat lunch.

During our stay in Cancun 2 years ago, we went on a snorkeling excursion that gave us the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. This excursion is no longer available because the sea turtles habitats are now protected, which is a great because it helps the species from becoming extinct. So this year we decided to buy our own snorkeling gear and bring it with us.

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The beach at the Excellence provided more than enough space and ocean for us to explore the waters. We snorkeled at least twice a day and saw Bluefin Trevally, Starfish, Batfish, Sea Turtles, and a Manta Ray. Because of our decision to buy snorkeling gear, we decided we didn’t need to leave the resort to experience an excursion. We also took advantage of the free water sports offered by the resort and took the Stand Up Paddle Boards into the Caribbean a handful of times.

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Overall, our stay at the Excellence Playa Mujeres was by far the best vacation at an all-inclusive we have ever had. The service of the staff, the accommodations, the food, and the overall experience exceeded our expectations and was nothing short of amazing.

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Travel Cheaper by Knowing When to Book: How to Get the Best Prices on Your Vacation


_0024_Melissa-Wentzel-SeamanThe following post features advice from Melissa at Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at Reading Mall. Melissa has been giving expert travel advice for the past 9 years with Boscov’s Travel and has almost three decades of experience in the industry (she was previously a flight attendant). She has the scoop on the best time to buy air tickets, when to book a cruise and how you can make the most of a European vacation. 

When should I book my honeymoon?
Sandals-Whitehouse-European-beach-coupleHoneymoons should be planned 6 to 9 months in advance of your wedding date. We offer a honeymoon registry which allows your guests to contribute to your honeymoon. Because vacations typically need to be paid in full at least 45-days in advance, we recommend that you plan your honeymoon early, then distribute the complimentary “Registered with” announcement cards with your engagement party and/or bridal shower.

How far in advance should I plan my destination wedding? 
Sunscapes-WeddingYou should plan at least a year in advance to secure the space you want, determine the officiant, decide if it will be a symbolic ceremony or nuptial service, and give friends and family ample time to book their trip. Some resorts allow you to book a few years in advance, so the sooner you choose the resort, the better. If air schedules have not yet been released, you can book your resort now and purchase flights at a later date. Luckily we have Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Specialists to help you to navigate every last detail.

How far in advance can I book a European vacation?

Prices for flights to Europe have been historically low in 2017. Summer is the peak for visiting Europe, so you can typically save a few dollars by booking in the late spring or early fall. Typically we recommend you book 9-months out from your departure date.

How far in advance should I book a river cruise?
Rhine_Cologne_Sunset_Twilight_014Because inventory is lower than other categories due to the small sizes of the ships that need to navigate the canals and rivers of Europe and beyond, we recommend that you book a year in advance to get the cabin and dates that you want.

How far in advance is airfare available to purchase? 
The major airlines typically release pricing 330 days in advance, but the prices are incredibly volatile. If you’re not booking for a flight near a major holiday, we recommend that you book 6 to 9-months out from your departure date. Flight prices are relatively high when they are released, then drop around the 6 to 9-month range.
If you’re planning on traveling around a holiday, expect to pay 2 to 4 times the normal rate. Demand is high during these periods as students and families typically travel during national holidays. In this case, book your trip as soon as you can.

Southwest Airlines is the exception. They release their rates in increments. Right now in April 2017, they have dates available to book 7-months out, or the beginning of November.

How early can I plan a Walt Disney World vacation?
Disney-Mine-TrainTravelers typically book Walt Disney World 6 to 9-months in advance. As of the beginning of April 2017, rates for tickets and resorts at Walt Disney World for 2018 were not yet available. There are a few options for booking Walt Disney World vacations with with us due to our Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World package.  If you are just booking a Walt Disney Travel Company land package (meaning tickets and resorts), you can book in the 6 to 9-month time frame then call us to see if you can take advantage of a future sale or offer through Walt Disney Travel Company.

How early should I look into booking an all-inclusive resort?
Beaches-Turks-&-Caicos-poolWe recommend booking an all-inclusive resort 6 to 9-months from your departure date. It’s also the ideal time to book air, so we can help you purchase it as a package with transfers from the airport to the resort.

How far in advance should I book an ocean cruise like Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, or MSC Cruises? 

Booking opportunities typically become available more than a year in advance. The average lead time is 6 to 9-months for booking a cruise. You may be able to get a good last minute deal if you’re flexible with the accommodations, though you may diminish the difference if you need airfare as rates typically increase for last minute bookings. If you’re driving to a local port like Manhattan, Bayonne, NJ or Baltimore, MD, a last minute booking may help you save a few bucks. Luckily, the cruise industry has changed dramatically over the past few years and almost every cruise line offers exceptional values throughout the year.

When should I plan a Disney Cruise Line cruise?
Disney-Cruise-Line-ShipDisney Cruise Line cruises are a different animal as spaces fill up relatively quickly since there are only four ships (to give you a point of reference, Royal Caribbean International has 25!) in the fleet. Since the ships sell out in advance, we recommend you book at least a year in advance. As space sells, the prices increase. As of April 2017, the 2018 schedule is available and several 2019 itineraries can also be booked.

If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.