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Economy Fares, 1st Class Service: Return Of Ocean Liners For Destination Travel

17/05/2017 16:33

The US Government is seriously considering banning laptops and computer tablets from airliners travelling from Europe to America due to ever increasing terrorist threats. This plus smaller economy class seats and the higher costs of trans-Atlantic flights may signal a return to ocean liners for destination travel.

Could Trans-Atlantic voyages once again become the way to travel in luxury across the pond, yet with fewer restrictions and at a fraction of peak season air fares?

As airlines cram more and more economy passengers into smaller seats, charge extra for desired seats as well as luggage costs and restrictions, for people with time to kill ocean liners may again become destination vehicles. The comfort and service you receive can be worth the extra money single or double. And you can take your laptops with you.

I frequently travel by air between London and New York. And as a senior citizen I realized it could be a choice between seven hours of near agony in an economy airline seat or seven days of first class luxury at less cost than the cheapest airplane seat.

How much less? Peak season economy air fares from London to New York run about £600 return, £500 one way, business class £1,500 to £5,000 return and first class is a whopping £4,000 to £10,000 return. Yet, a couple can have a week-long trip to New York on the Cunard's Queen Mary 2 for as little as £1,300 one-way or £2,600 return. One-way fares are as low as £500 each double occupancy or £1,000 for singles.

One tip... to possibly save some money put your name in for late booking space available reductions. For most of the year the QM2 operates almost as a ferry service between Southampton and New York so there's plenty of cabins to fill.

But the ship's master is more realistic about the week-long voyage. "Most people will always choose the speed of air travel," QM2's Captain Christopher Wells admits. "But for those who don't like flying, you can't get a better deal than what Cunard is offering on the Queen Mary2."

Being a single sailor I found the most unpleasant aspect of booking a cruise of any kind is realizing most fares are based of two sharing a cabin. Singles on their own are charged double the advertised fare. This is where last minute reductions can help, if you can wait to within a two or three weeks of the sailing date.

Cruise ship holidays have a special appeal to retired people. Considering many pensioners may be widows, widowers or just without a partner, the double occupancy requirement may discourage people on a tight budget in this growing market. It would seem good business for cruise lines to offer single cabins to tap into this market. Yet, with a few exceptions, that's not the case.

A puzzling case was on the Queen Mary 2 where the company attempted to serve this market by installing single occupancy cabins, yet still are charging singles double the lowest double occupancy fare.

As for the cruise itself, it's a lovely experience. That's because of the extraordinary quality and quantity of food on offer, the high standard of accommodation, and the amount of professional entertainment booked for each sailing, offered to guests free of charge.

Your basic ticket entitles you to a cabin of various sizes and prices, all meals and snacks including beverages such as coffee, tea, milk and juices, use of most ship facilities, and all activities. Not free are soft drinks, bottled water, alcoholic beverages and Internet access. And buying time on the Internet is one of the most costly services on the ship.

The old class structure of ocean liner travel has been abolished over most of the ship. For most passengers there's the elegant evening meal, included in the basic fare, at the two story Britannia Restaurant, which alone for a week would easily be worth more than half the cruise fare price when compared with a swish Midtown Manhattan or Central London restaurant. More informally there's King's Court endless buffet dining for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

If you don't have loads of money and aren't in a hurry, taking a liner such as the QM2 to or from America is a fun and elegant way to get to where you're going. And you can take your laptop, too.

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