Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Solo Travelers: Cruise Industry Says Your Ship Has Come In


Instead of punishing travelers who prefer to go alone with hefty surcharges, the travel industry is starting to woo them with deals that tickle their wanderlust without ravaging their wallets.

"The tour industry is making way for the single traveler," said Margie Jordan, spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Agents. "This is nothing that's going to go away. The single traveler is going to have as many opportunities as anyone else."

For years most travel deals were based on two people traveling together.

"Single travelers would see a price on line and we've had to break the news that if you're going by yourself, it's 150 to 200 percent more," said Jordan, CEO of ASAP Travel. "They were left high and dry."

But times are changing and Jordan said cruise lines in particular are stepping up. MSC Cruises is currently offering trips that waive the dreaded single supplement, which accounts for the price hike.

"And Norwegian Cruise Line is introducing 'Studio' staterooms built and priced solely for the single traveler," she added. "It is actually something new in the cruise industry."

Maria Miller, of Norwegian Cruise Line, said the 4,200-passenger Epic that is due to launch in July, is equipped with 128 studio staterooms designed specifically to give the solo traveler a room of one's own.

"This is a great opportunity for us to go after the solo traveler market," she explained. "We've tapped into an unmet need."

With research showing 35 million adults take solo vacations but only five percent opt for cruises, Miller said the potential is huge.

"There's a sizable market out there, but discontent around the single surcharge," she explained.

So, solo prices on the Epic will not include a single surcharge.

"And we're talking solo, not singles," Miller said, distinguishing solo travelers from the meet-and-mate crowd.

"There certainly is a place for singles cruises, but that's not what we're trying here. The solo traveler is independent. They're not looking for us to create an experience for them."

Kate Moeller, of Club Med North America, knows a thing or two about changing demographics.

"We used to be really a singles destination, but then we became more family oriented," she said.

Moeller said Club Med's Solo Savings program waives the single supplement to accommodate the solo traveler at certain resorts.

"We have these deals in specific theme weeks in specific resorts," she said. "Recently, Norwegian Cruise Lines had a Zumba week, food blogger week, food and a wine week."

Jordan said the cruise industry is likewise sensitive to change.

"Everybody is looking for the newest, most innovative thing. We've seen really creative things with cruise ships: bowling, surfing. Now we're looking for who else we can bring in."

She added that other cruise lines are waiting on the success of Norwegian's solo experiment.

"Now when refurbishing in dry dock, they add balcony state rooms. But I wouldn't be surprised if you saw Carnival Cruises or Royal Caribbean follow suit by introducing studio cabins," she predicted.

"My guess is that eventually the others will jump on board."

Repositioning Cruises on a Moderate Budget

LA Times

Reporting from The Norwegian Jewel - Colin Markland relishes the feel of an ocean breeze as it musses his white hair. The 80-year-old retired doctor lives in Charleston, S.C., not far from his beloved Atlantic Ocean, a sea he has crossed by ship more times than he can remember.

His first sailing -- from Liverpool to Boston -- was in 1953, when the young Englishman immigrated to America for an internship. Cunard charged him 50 pounds -- the equivalent of $140 back then -- for a bunk in steerage.

Fifty-six years later, I met Markland on another transatlantic crossing. We were among 2,110 passengers traveling from Miami to Dover, England, aboard the Norwegian Jewel. I was on board to report on my experiences, but Markland was there for a very different reason: to brag about how little the 11-night cruise had cost him.

"I paid $219," he told people. Of course, that's per person in a double-occupancy stateroom. But at less than $20 a night for a cabin -- with unlimited meals, an array of activities and, of course, transportation included -- this was a bargain worth boasting about.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," he said of opening an e-mail about a month before last April's sailing and reading the offer. "I never could have imagined crossing at this price."

Many people find repositioning cruises fit the bill for a vacation, because of price and because of what the cruise does -- and does not -- offer.

When I booked early last February, the going rate for an inside cabin was $389. NCL needed to move the Jewel from its winter home in Florida to a summer base in England. Rather than cross the ocean with empty rooms, the cruise line offered great deals to entice us to join the crew on this one-way journey.

A novice at this sort of trip, I found myself in a sea of "repositioning" veterans. For them, the ship is the destination.

"They've pretty much seen it all, done it all. They know what they want," cruise director Rick Schwartzenburg told me.

This isn't the typical many ports/many stops trip. "We like the transatlantics because it gives us more time to use the ship's facilities," said Pat Lonergan, who with her husband, Chris, was returning home to Britain. "On a normal cruise, you're on and off."

For travelers like the Lonergans, the big waves -- much more common in the mid-Atlantic than in the relative shelter during Caribbean cruises -- are old hat. For first-timers like me, they were unsettling.

At dinner on the sixth night, television monitors reported "rough seas" of 7 1/2 to 12 feet. After eating a light meal, I clung to the handrails on my way to the Stardust Theatre for a show.

"I know why most of you are here," announced the cruise director. "[It's] because the seas are rough and you want to see how this will go."

Indeed, many of us were curious to see whether that night's performer -- a German juggler named Hilby -- could pull it off. He amazed us by keeping two clubs, a knife and a toilet plunger in midair while pedaling a unicycle across the stage.

Later, the shaking and the creaking kept me awake. I switched on the TV to discover we were in a Force 11 "violent storm." The winds were 58 mph. The sea was full of fury. Eventually, I lapsed into fitful sleep.

"I just want to get to Dover," a fellow first-timer said after that rocky night. Actually, she might have said, "I just want to get it over with." Either way, the sentiment was the same.

After nearly a week of gray seas and white foam, we see land on the horizon. We were approaching our first port of call: Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Living on islands more than 900 miles west of the European continent, the locals welcome visitors from the cruise ships that occasionally stop for a few hours. Sure, there are shops selling cheap souvenirs, but there are also delightful cathedrals and squares to visit. The Norwegian Cruise Lines passengers seemed to outnumber residents in the narrow streets.

After two more nights at sea, we arrived in Vigo, Portugal, a bustling port that, on a Sunday morning, was much quieter than usual. Having "been there, done that," many people chose to stay on board for an aerobics class or a poolside barbecue.

Underway again, there were whispered warnings about the typically rough seas as we approached the Bay of Biscay. Thankfully, on this trip, the waters were unusually calm.

When we reached Dover at the end of our 5,100-mile voyage, Chris and Pat Lonergan were just 150 miles from home. They had spent the trip reading, playing trivia games and catching up on sleep.

Colin Markland later told me the cruise was "the best holiday I've ever had." Then, he quickly added, "That's probably because it was such a steal."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cruise Industry Bucking the Recession

The Montreal Gazette

Despite the credit crunch, rising unemployment and swine flu, the cruise industry had a banner year in 2009 and the trend is expected to continue this year as younger travelers take to the high seas.

More than 13 million people took a cruise, an increase of 3.3. percent from the previous year, and the number is expected to hit 14.3 million in 2010.

"We are not recession proof but we are recession resistant," Richard Sasso, the chairman of the marketing committee of of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA, told a news conference.

"We keep reinventing in the industry."

CLIA, which represents 25 members ranging from riverboats carrying less than 100 passengers to a supership that can accommodate more than 5,400 guests, predicts demand will remain high in the United States and increase overseas.

Nearly 24 percent of cruise guests were from abroad and Sasso believes that number will rise as cruising becomes more popular with European consumers.

There is also an untapped market in the United States where only a fraction of the population has taken a cruise.

"Eighty percent of the people (in the US) haven’t tried us," said Sasso.

The Mediterranean, Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska cruises are still the most popular, but more people are opting for river cruises, according to Terry Dale, the president and CEO of CLIA.

Couples are the biggest demographic group traveling on the high seas but baby boomers, repeat cruisers and multi-generational bookings are seen as the biggest growth areas.

"Multi-generational travel will continue to be a strong part of our foundation in 2010," he explained.

And like most other industries, cruise lines are using Facebook and Twitter to advertise their services.

"It is an integral part of how we communicate with our customers," said Dale, adding that the average age of a cruise passenger has dropped to about 47.

He attributed the decrease, which is about 10 years younger than a decade or more ago, to an increase in family cruises and the popularity of themed cruises based around music, wine and food.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seniors on the Go in Small Ship Cruises

Baltimore Sun

Cruising isn't just about tooling around the Caribbean, Mexico, or Alaska in a floating city with 2,000 to 5,000 other cruisers. Although you can certainly do that, some very different cruise experiences are available if you're interested. Cruising in a small ship -- typically accommodating fewer than 500 travelers, with many carrying only 50 to150 -- can take you places those behemoths couldn't get near. On a small-ship cruise, you typically get to know everyone else traveling along with you.

Small-ship cruises fall into three main categories:

Ocean cruises
operate into ports too small or too remote to accommodate or attract the mass-market megaships. The range of options is extremely wide. Several lines explore Antarctica during the southern summer. Others explore Arctic areas during the northern summer, with itineraries that range from Alaska and Canada to Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen and the Kamchatka Peninsula. You can find small-ship cruise itineraries in Africa (coastal areas; the Seychelles), Asia (Indonesian islands, Indian Ocean islands, major cities), Australia-New Zealand (coastal areas; Great Barrier Reef islands), Canada cruises(West Coast Inland Passage; St. Lawrence areas; Maritime Provinces), South America (Coastal areas; Falklands; Cape Horn), and the South Pacific (various island groups). Cruises within the United States include several itineraries on the Great Lakes, as well as cruises in the Puget Sound area. Of course, some small ships ply the same Caribbean, European, and Mexico cruises as the larger ones, but stopping in less visited ports. Wherever they sail, small ships in these categories are fully seaworthy and, in many ways, replicate the big-ship experience, except with a vast range of new destinations and much less entertainment and organized onboard fun.

River cruises ply major rivers on all the continents. In North America, a few ships still do the Mississippi (although the line that once ran the Delta Queen and other similar boats is currently not operating). Several lines operate trips on itineraries that include Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence. American Cruise Lines operates itineraries on several East Coast waterways systems, including the Intracoastal Waterway, and with a paddle wheeler on the Columbia-Snake system in the West.

River cruises operate the full navigable length of the Danube and Rhine rivers of Europe as well as shorter segments on dozens of other river and canal systems. The Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze, and the river-canal stretch between Moscow and St. Petersburg see heavy cruise schedules, but you find others ranging from the Mackenzie in the Yukon to the Murray in Australia. A big advantage of river cruises is that you're never more than a few yards from something to see, with lots of opportunity for short stops. However, river ships are generally shallow draft vessels with only a few decks -- low enough to pass under city bridges along the way. Typically, they're big on sightseeing opportunities, small on entertainment.

Finally, you also find hundreds of options for barge cruises, in very small boats, and sailing ships just about anywhere in the world. If you want, you can even rent your own small barge and freewheel it through river-canal systems in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Royal Caribbean's Announcement To Aid Haiti

USA Today
Cruise giant Royal Caribbean issued the following announcement Friday on its plans to help Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake. The company is one of the country's largest foreign investors, having developed a private beach getaway in the north to which it brings thousands of cruisers per week.

MIAMI – January 15, 2010 – Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of Haiti's largest foreign investors for almost 30 years, today announced its plans to provide at least $1 million in humanitarian relief to Haiti in response to the catastrophic earthquake in Port-Au-Prince. Royal Caribbean will be partnering with charitable organizations – such as Food for the Poor, Pan American Development Foundation, and the Solano Foundation, the company's foundation in Haiti – to provide additional assistance to the people of Haiti. Royal Caribbean will also be delivering much needed goods and supplies to Haiti via their cruise ships.

 "The effect of the earthquake on Haiti has been catastrophic, leaving the country in need of not only immediate support, but assistance in their long-term recovery," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Royal Caribbean wants to do its part to help out not only the general response, but also our hundreds of Haitian employees and their families through this disaster."

"In addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee," Fain added.

Leslie Voltaire, Special Envoy of the government of Haiti to the United Nations said, "Given the terrible economic and social challenges we now face in Haiti, we welcome the continuation of the positive economic benefits that the cruise ship calls to Labadee contribute to our country."

The benefits start with Royal Caribbean Cruises' Independence of the Seas' call today to Labadee, Haiti, which includes much needed supplies for the country.  The supplies were loaded on the ship during its call in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and include items such as rice, dried beans, powdered milk, water and canned goods. In addition, 100 percent of the company's net revenue from the destination will be contributed to the relief effort.

In the next two weeks, the following ships are scheduled to call on Labadee with additional supplies: Navigator of the Seas on Monday, January 18; Liberty of the Seas on Tuesday, January 19; and Celebrity Solstice on Friday, January 22. When the supplies arrive in Labadee, they will be transported to an offsite location to be distributed by Food for the Poor, a long time partner of Royal Caribbean in Haiti.

In addition to working with Food for the Poor to distribute relief supplies, guests sailing onboard Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruise Lines will be able to make a donation to Food for the Poor's Haiti Relief Fund, via a charge to their onboard account. Guests who would like to contribute immediately can visit to make a donation. Royal Caribbean also plans to use a portion of the $1 million donation to augment the company's Crew Relief Fund, which can be drawn on by any of the company's more than 200 Haitian crew members for assistance, as well as to match employee contributions to the partner organizations.

As the initial response effort gives way to the long-term recovery effort, Royal Caribbean will consider further support efforts.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is a global cruise vacation company that operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. The company has a combined total of 39 ships in service and four under construction. It also offers unique land-tour vacations in Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Dubai, Europe and South America.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'Tis The Season -- WAVE Season!

USA Today

Add Cunard and Princess to the list of cruise lines rolling out sales for Wave Season -- the period between January and March when many cruisers make their plans for the year.

Princess today is touting a new "Balcony Bonanza" sale in which customers who pay for an ocean-view cabin on select summer 2010 sailings will get an automatic upgrade to a balcony cabin. Sailings in the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe are included in the offer.

Princess also is launching a "Denali on Sale" promotion for Wave Season that includes up to 25% discounts on select Alaska cruisetours (vacation packages that include both a cruise and a land tour). Princess is a longtime leader in Alaska tourism and offers a wide range of 10- to 15-night cruisetours, all of which include at least two nights in the Denali National Park area. With the discounts, Princess' Alaska cruises begin at $1,274 per person for 10 nights.

Both Princess sales will continue through Feb. 28.

Cunard Cruises' Wave Season sale, launching today, will last for just three days. The Three Queens sale, as it's being called, includes savings of up to $1,500 per cabin, onboard credits of up to $300 per person and reduced deposit requirements for 2010 European voyages on the Queen Victoria and trans-Atlantic voyages on the Queen Mary 2.

With the discounts, Cunard's 12-night Ancient Treasures voyages to Italy, Greece and Turkey are available for as little as $1,695 per person, based on double occupancy (for an off-season trip in early November; peak season rates are higher).

The new offers come in the wake of Wave Season sale announcements from Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Cruises, and more lines are expected to unveil Wave Season deals in the coming days.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Disney To Launch West Coast Cruise Options

Fresno Bee

Disney is a year away from launching a permanent West Coast cruise option on its liner the Wonder. The move gives Fresnans the chance to book a Disney vacation at sea without the hassle or cost of a cross-country trek to Florida.

A year sounds like a long time away, but local travel agents say it’s not too soon to book the Disney cruises, which will depart from Los Angeles and sail to the Mexican Riviera and Alaska cruises.

“Savvy travelers know that if they want to go on a Disney cruise, they have to book early,” says Wes Rowland with The Cruise Experts Agency in Visalia. “There’s really nothing that compares to the Disney brand. And there’s a huge Disney market in the Central Valley.”

The Disney cruise joins the likes of Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International in making Southern California a port of departure.

Travel experts say January-March is known as the “wave season” for cruises because the three-month period is when the majority of sea treks are booked. Selecting a cruise now will assure some travelers of the best price.

 “The cruise business was down a little last year, but we are seeing that the prices are going back up. That’s because the ships are going out full,” says Morrie Frazier, owner of the Clovis Cruise One travel agency.

The weak economy and the flu scare caused last year’s dip.

Frazier says cruises, in general, are popular because they offer such a broad range of entertainment and dining options — there is usually something to appeal to all ages.

What is making the 2011 move by Disney an attractive option for West Coast travelers is the way the cruise line is designed.

Jonathan Frontado, Disney Cruise Public Relations Manager, says each ship has areas of entertainment for the entire family or for specific age groups.

“We want to make sure that if the entire family wants to be together, there are places for them to go. But, if the children want to go off on their own, then we have special, supervised areas for them,” Frontado says.

The cruises offer a selection of live stage productions with Disney themes, including a musical version of “Toy Story” that can only be seen at sea. Disney shows the latest movies, opening all new films on the ships the same day that they open in theaters on land.

Disney has the only ships authorized to launch fireworks. The aerial display often complements deck performances with a Disney theme, such as “Pirates in the Caribbean.”

David Baldree, producer for Disney Cruise Line, has coordinated at-sea entertainment for five years. His duties range from youth-activity parties to deck shows to major production numbers in the ships’ massive Walt Disney Theatre. And his job is to make sure the entertainment fits all ages.

“We have activities for children, for families, for adults and … in-between with the teens and the tweens,” Baldree says. “The shows we do in the Walt Disney Theatre has to hit all those ages. So it can’t just be a show for kids. It can’t just be a show for adults.”

All of this entertainment is handled by about 200 cast and crew members.

For adults, there are many nightclubs and lounges, such as the Skyline and the Meridian Bar.

The ships offer a variety of dining choices, including restaurants with specific culinary themes where you can eat elaborate meals with American, French, Caribbean and Pacific Rim influences.

Christine Weissman, Disney Cruise Executive Chef, and the teams on each ship work to make dining a universal treat.

“Everything is planned from the morning until evening, and it is always a work in progress,” Weissman says. “We really look at new food trends while paying attention to what are guest favorites.”

Travel agents say the Disney cruises are popular because they’re kid-friendly but make an effort for all ages.

“The fact the Disney cruises will be available on the West Coast will be great and really help our business a lot,” Frazier says.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Top 10 Travel Trends For 2010

USA Today

As the Great Recession kept more travelers tethered and a thwarted Christmas Day terror attack ramped up security concerns, 2009 was an annus horribilus for the travel industry. What's on the horizon for 2010? USA TODAY's Laura Bly dusts off a crystal globe.

1. Terminal confusion

Thanks to last month's bungled bombing attempt aboard a U.S. airliner, travelers will have to "expect the unexpected, and tolerate a certain degree of risk," says airline security expert Richard Bloom of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

In the near-term forecast: more airport delays and hassles as airlines, screeners and passengers cope with evolving, inconsistently applied rules, and more widespread use of whole-body imaging scanners that use X-rays or radio waves to detect objects under clothing with what critics call "virtual strip-search" accuracy.

2. Let's make a deal

If you thought last year was a buyer's market for travelers, just wait: Even as airlines, hotels and other suppliers talk "cautious optimism" for 2010, a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed only 16% of respondents plan to fly more or stay more often in hotels this year than they did in 2009 — with about 30% saying they'll travel less often.

"Prices have never been this low, and cruises will offer the best value for the travel dollar in 2010 by far" 
John Figone, 

The probable upshot: stable or lower prices, increased willingness to negotiate, and more online auctions from companies trying to unload unused inventory.

3. Rise of the real-time Web

"In the still rapidly expanding online world, instant gratification is even easier to obtain: 'Digital' has become synonymous with 'instant,' " says Reinier Evers of the trend tracking site With nearly half of U.S. adults using social networking sites, expect more time-sensitive "flash sales" offered via Facebook or Twitter, more real-time postings of travel experiences, and faster response from companies and institutions fearful that negative opinions will go viral. (Are you listening, TSA?) One wild card: Google Wave, a much-hyped but still little-used online tool for real-time communication and collaboration that could set a new direction for trip planning.

4. Appetite for apps

Thanks to a global rollout of high-speed data networks and robust sales of GPS-enabled smartphones, look for an explosion of travel-related apps for everything from airport security (On the Spot System's new iPhone app lets users rate TSA screening checkpoints) to ordering hotel room service before you check in (just-released apps for Hilton, Embassy Suites and Doubletree)."Traditional travel services will meet geo-location and social networking to make travelers' lives easier," predicts Alan Warms of review site

5. Wi-Fi breaks free

McDonald's offer of gratis wireless in more than 11,000 of its U.S. restaurants starting this month is the latest example of making Internet access "part of the plumbing of our lives," says tech columnist Larry Magid. Expect more upscale hotels to join their economy and midpriced brethren in letting guests surf for free. Amtrak, meanwhile, will launch free Wi-Fi this spring on Acela Express trains.

6. A la carte airlines

Odds are good you won't have to pay to use an in-flight toilet in 2010, despite Irish discounter Ryanair's repeated threats. And "we're probably already at the limit" for checked-bag fees, says airline analyst Darryl Jenkins. But, adds Jenkins, look for more charges for "perks" like aisle and window seats, and greater traction for the "plane as retail store" model of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which sells everything from travel pillows to show tickets on board.

7. Betting on Vegas

With gaming revenue and visitor arrivals down, recession-ravaged Sin City is counting on last month's debut of the glitzy CityCenter to generate new buzz — and enough bodies to fill the complex's nearly 6,000 hotel rooms. But bargain-hungry visitors will still be hitting the jackpot in what's Bob Diener declares the USA's "No. 1 value." This winter, says Diener, weekday rooms are as low as $15 a night at a just-opened Hooters and $99 at the high-end Trump International Hotel & Tower. Other sure bets: Orlando (where Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens this spring) and cruises in the Caribbean, where Cruise Week's Mike Driscoll says passengers can set sail this winter from a "record low" of $349 a week.

8. High scores for Vancouver and South Africa

Both locations will be front and center in travelers' consciousness this year, thanks to the Winter Olympic Games (held in metropolitan Vancouver and nearby Whistler from Feb. 12 to 28) and the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament (held in nine South African cities, June 11-July 11).

And while Bob Whitley of the U.S. Tour Operators Association notes that Americans have historically shied away from such high-profile events over worries about overcrowding and jacked-up pricing, "the aftermath brings a huge benefit," thanks to infrastructure improvements and a barrage of free publicity.

9. Healthy outlook for medical tourism

As Washington lawmakers continue to grapple with health-care reform, more Americans — an estimated 1.6 million by 2012, according to Deloitte Center for Health Solutions — will combine foreign vacations with carpal tunnel surgery, dental crowns and other short-stay, outpatient procedures that cost 30%-70% less than U.S. prices. Driving the trend: more coverage of overseas medical care by major U.S. insurers, an increase in individual insurance policies that typically carry a high deductible, and a marketing push by companies that combine travel and medical services.

10. On a wing and a prayer

With more than 300 million people traveling each year for religious and pilgrimage reasons and with annual revenues that exceed $18 billion, faith tourism has become a significant global industry that extends from cruises to volunteer vacations. Fueling extra interest in 2010: the 375th anniversary of Germany's once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play, a rare exposition of the Shroud of Turin in Italy, and Spain's Camino de Santiago. The ancient route to Galicia, whose cathedral reportedly shelters the remains of James the Apostle, typically draws more visitors when the saint's Feast Day, July 25, falls on a Sunday, as it will this year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Escape To The Sun

Beloit Daily News

Travel agents say business is brisk

“Enjoy each day the best you can.”

That’s what Roger Allen, 76, of South Beloit said about leaving the Stateline Area to enjoy the warmth of Lake Havasu, Ariz., on Saturday for his annual weather respite. He, like many other locals, are flocking to warmer climates to escape the frigid weather.

According to local travel agents, business is better than ever. They say people have reached the point where they just want to enjoy themselves, seize the day and take a vacation.

That’s something Allen knows quite well. After a long career owning Village Cleaners of Rockton the retiree started traveling to Arizona about 10 years ago with his girlfriend who has since passed away. Allen, who rents out condos, said he likes to lay out, get a tan, golf and do some more gambling in California and Las Vegas during his trips.

He added the weather is usually in the 60s or 70s.

“I don’t like the snow and the cold,” Allen said.

Allen will stay in Arizona until April 1. He said one of the highlights of his time out there is reconnecting with friends he’s met during his Arizona winters. Then other friends and family often travel down to stay with him. To Allen, the investment is well worth it.

“I always look forward to this time” Allen said. “You never know what the next year is going to bring. “I wake up in the morning and try to take every day by itself.”

Nancy Dix, owner of Action Travel Agency, 644 Broad St., Beloit, knows a lot of people like Allen.

“We are busier than we were last summer and fall. People have decided they are going. They work hard all year and want to take vacation time and go somewhere warm,” Dix said.

Florida, Texas and Arizona seem to be the most common destinations to settle in for a few months. Cruises to Mexico, Jamaica and the Caribbean are also popular. People sometimes prefer cruises where all the food and beverages are taken care of ahead of time.

“There are no surprises,” Dix added.

She said it’s usually the retired generation doing the extended stays.

“They have gotten to point in life where they can get away,” she said. “Once it starts getting cold and ugly they remember why they did it other years.”

Jeannie Fischer, owner of the Travel Connection, 593 Berkshire Court, has also seen business pick up. She said a few customers are even planning South American and Mexico cruises as well as to Ireland, Hawaii, Jamaica and Alaska. She said people have gotten to the point they are ready to travel and aren’t being deterred by the economy.

“My business has increased, and I’m very happy about. I already got 20 bookings for Alaska cruises for next summer. It’s pretty good to be booked that far out,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the only thing a little different this year is the heightened security. When she was leaving Milwaukee for Arizona, she said the rivets on her blue jeans alerted security. Guards were also pulling people out of lines and rechecking their carry-on bags.

Dix advises her customers to pack their patience if traveling. While she typically advises clients to arrive 90 minutes ahead of time, she tells them to go a minimum of two hours ahead of time for domestic flights and three to four hours ahead of time for international trips.

It’s also important to pack liquids, gels and aerosols in three-ounce or smaller containers.

All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Other liquid items must be packed in contained in the checked-in baggage, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site,

Dix added that mascara, deodorant and lipstick count as the items which need to be in the storage bags. People who don’t adhere to the rules may have to throw it away.