What Will Flying be Like in the Future?

by Kashmira Gander, from The Independent, March 29, 2017

In what is sometimes perceived as the golden age of flying in the mid-twentieth century, air travel was an event, where – depending on the airline – planes had piano bars, inflight sommeliers, and waiters in white suits who dished out caviar. Now, airlines are ditching free food all together and nightmarish diagrams of cabins where passengers are packed in like sardines don’t bode well for the future of air travel.

But air cabin designers aren’t the bad guys, argues David Kondo, the Manager of Cabin Interior Development at Finnair. He insists they’re up not only against budgets, but also the laws of physics when it comes to making air travel pleasant for passengers.

Kondo has been working in the travel industry for seven years. Now based in Helsinki, he was born in Japan and grew up in Canada and Australia, meaning he was a frequent flyer when he was still in school. “I often joke I was raised on a Boeing 747-200,” he says. At Finnair, he’s introduced innovations including lighting that supposedly eases jet lag and lie-flat business class seats.

But even if you’re stuck in the cheap seats at the back, take heart: Kondo reckons the golden era of air travel is yet to come. Part of that will see the space above our heads and beneath our feet being used more efficiently; you can also expect technological upgrades, he says. And if you don’t believe him, remember that it really wasn’t that long ago that we were all watching films on a screen at the front of the cabin.

“Imagine boarding a plane and the seat recognising who you are and remembering exactly how you like to sit, in what configuration, and setting up your entertainment playlist based on your personal preferences and what you were watching at home before you came to the airport,” he says.

Not that Kondo wants us all to be attached to the world below. Although airlines are starting to roll out inflight wifi, he says his favourite aspect of flying is being cut off from the digital world and having time to eat, read, and watch films uninterrupted. His ideal plane wouldn’t isolate us from other passengers; it would give us more options for socialising. A passenger could then choose between shutting themselves off, or starting their holiday early at the sky bar.

“In a dream world, each passenger would have their own mini cabin, like a small hotel suite,” explains Kondo. “You would have different sizes and configurations to cater to different passengers – larger cabins for families, for example. The cabin would have everything you need, but there would be different social, lounge and dining areas available as well. It would be somewhat similar to what luxury rail or cruising is like.”

We’re still pretty far away from an Orient Express-style experience in the sky. Before Kondo and his peers can work their magic, aircraft manufacturers need to sort out the engineering complexity of getting all that gear into the air. And yet he’s not the only one with such high hopes. Anita Hawthorne, General Manager of Customer Experience for Air New Zealand, has a similar vision of the planes of the future. The digital revolution will “create personalised space for customers,” she says. And ANZ is already toying with innovation.

“We recently experimented with virtual reality headsets at our 75th anniversary exhibition,” she told The Independent. “Members of the public had the opportunity to sit inside an aircraft cabin mock up and wear a virtual reality headset to see what the future inflight experience might look like.” She remains tightlipped as to what that might include, but points out that Air New Zealand is already using biometric bag drop technology, allows customers in several premium lounges to order coffee via a mobile app, and has developed a tech-embedded wristband for children flying solo, allowing parents to track their kids’ journeys.

ANZ looked into bunk beds and pods when it developed its Skycouch (a row of economy seats which turns into a ‘bed’ for two) in 2010, she says, but they were too heavy. For her, the ultimate cabin would allow travellers to act exactly as they would on the ground – working, sleeping and entertaining in the sky. But because it takes so long to develop a new product, airlines take about five years to introduce any new innovations.

“The most annoying part I would say is all the limitations you face in designing a cabin, though part of the fun is working in such a constrained environment,” agrees Kondo. “The materials and design you choose are subject to stringent flammability and toxicity requirements and have to endure all sorts of extreme conditions like fluctuations in pressure, temperature and movement. It also needs to be extremely durable.”

Although we may lament sardine-style seating in economy, Kondo says you can thank regulations and legislation that it’s not worse. And anyway, he is swift to point out that those golden age photos you’re weeping over are probably from business class. In comparison, economy seats from 50 years ago weren’t that different. “Yes it’s slimmed up a bit but it’s not drastically different,” he argues.

And he believes seats will never get smaller than 29 inches. “We humans are not getting any smaller generally, so there comes a point where you physically cannot fit into the seat any longer. That’s obviously quite problematic.”

In the nearer future, Kondo just hopes to get a decent coffee onboard a plane and comfier seats.

“Yes, we have espresso machines but it just doesn’t taste the same as what you’d get at your favourite café,” says Kondo. “I think it has a lot to do with the fact that you physically can’t get water hot enough, as the boiling point at altitude in a cabin is about 80-85 degrees, and our taste buds also change at altitude.

“I also think we have a long way to go in economy class and think there is plenty of room to really fine tune the ergonomics and provide greater comfort to passengers. For example in headrest design, leg support, back and lumbar adjustment.”

On the whole, despite the nostalgia stoked by grainy images of planes from the 1950s where passengers had sofa-style seating and personal butlers, in reality we already have a lot to be thankful for, he argues.

“Generally, passengers have never had it better and also flying has never been more accessible. 50 years ago flying was reserved for the extremely wealthy. Today flying is for everybody.”

 

 

Weak Pound Brings more Visitors to Britian

British hotels, restaurants and shops are benefiting from a jump in visits from foreign tourists, who are coming to the UK to make the most of the weak pound.

The rise in tourism is a corollary of the improvement in exports that economists hope will support the economy through any turmoil in the Brexit process.

Sterling dropped by around 15pc against the currencies of the UK’s major trading partners following the referendum vote to leave the EU, making British goods cheaper abroad and boosting the profits of exporting companies.

Just this week the Bank of England said that the  businesses it speaks to were reporting stronger levels of demand from tourists visiting the country.

More than 2.8m overseas residents visited the UK in January, up 11pc on the same month a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said.

The average visitor also spent more in the UK than they did before the pound fell, splurging a total of £1.5bn, a rise of 15pc on the year. This equated to an average of £536 per person visiting, up 6pc.

“The data from the ONS indicate that the sharply weakened pound is encouraging more visits to the UK from abroad and more spend by visitors,” said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Markit.

“This is especially true of North America, which ties in with the pound’s fall being most pronounced against the US dollar.”

The vast majority of visitors to Britain come from Europe – 2.2m of the 2.8m in January – while 240,000 came from North America and 460,000 from the rest of the world.

Over the three months to January compared with the same period a year earlier, visits from North America were up 19pc and those from Europe up 13pc.

Holidays account for a large proportion of the increase in visitors, rising 22pc compared with a 5pc growth in business trips, above the numbers made in the three months to January 2016.

The number of British residents taking trips abroad continued to rise in line with strong consumer confidence and spending levels, despite the fall in sterling. A total of 4.6m Brits went abroad in January, up by 9pc.

However the impact of the weak pound appears to be making itself felt in the amount spent while on holiday or on business trips.

The average UK resident travelling abroad spent £561 in January, down almost 3pc on the same month a year ago.

A third of Cruisers Stay on Board at Ports

After being administered to the U.S. Internet population and receiving 1,529 answers, a survey conducted by Allianz Global Assistance concluded that a surprising 34.3 percent of cruise travelers prefer to stay on the ship the entire time or a majority of the time. Their main reason for not wanting to disembark? 36.2 percent said they had safety concerns with the destination. This was followed by a disinterest in the destination (17.7 percent), fear of not getting back to the ship on time (16.8 percent), inclusive food/drinks on the ship (9.4 percent), not having pre-booked an off-board activity (8.3 percent), having visited the destination previously (6.8 percent), and lack of Internet/mobile activity (4.8 percent).

The survey also posed questions about cruising trends, including themed, river and adventure/expedition cruises. 25.5 percent of Americans surveyed indicated they would be more interested in taking a cruise if it was themed -such as a music, food, or pop culture cruise –  while 26.6 percent stated being less interested and 48 percent remained unchanged.

In regards to the type of cruise, most respondents (73.9 percent) would rather sail on a river cruise than an ocean cruise (26.1 percent) for the following reasons: scenic view/ability to see the shore (22.4 percent), shore excursions included in the price (13.5 percent), lack of waves (12.3 percent), easier to disembark/being on land everyday (12.2 percent), smaller ships (7.6 percent) and more socializing opportunities (6 percent).

Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance through most major U.S airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies, other travel suppliers and directly to consumers.

Visit www.allianztravelinsurance.com

When not to tip on a Cruise

(This was recenly published on Cruise Critic)

1. You buy a drink.

Old salts know the drill: When you purchase a beverage — be it Bud Light, dirty martini or soda — mainstream cruise lines automatically add 15 or 18 percent to the bill. Many first-timers make the mistake of throwing a buck on top as they would onshore. (Though you don’t have to tip, some cruisers like to hand some cash to their favorite bartender, usually at the beginning of the cruise, to ensure good service throughout the sailing.)

Seabourn sun deck

2. You’re sailing luxury.

When sailing with upscale small-ship lines like Seabourn and Silversea Cruises, tips are neither required nor expected. If service is exceptional, no one’s going to stop you from pulling some cash out of your pocket and handing it to your cabin steward.

3. You’re dining at the specialty restaurant.

Paying $30 for surf-and-turf at the for-fee restaurant usually means there’s no need to tip on top. Gratuities are almost always included in that rate or, on some lines like MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, automatically added on top of your final bill. (If you’re unsure, do some research before you dine.)

4. It’s already on the spa receipt.

Not every onboard spa automatically includes gratuity, but it pays to check the receipt. When your spa bill on a line like Norwegian or Royal Caribbean includes an 18 percent gratuity, do not feel obligated to add an additional tip. Spa treatments are pricey enough to start.

Kids club

5. Your kids spend all day in the kids club, letting you have adult time onboard.

What wouldn’t most exhausted parents pay for a morning at the spa or lounging by the pool? But on a cruise ship, kids club fees are included, and you’re not expected to tip the counselors who have entertained your offspring all week long. However, if you’re feeling especially grateful to youth staff who have gone above and beyond, you are certainly welcome to express that sentiment in cash.

6. The plumber fixes your shower or toilet.

It can be tempting. The man who restores the whoosh of the vacuum toilet or hot water in the shower is, in a way, restoring balance in the universe. But these onboard engineers don’t work for tips.

7. The captain keeps you safe or the cruise director makes milk come out of your nose.

While we’d very much like to see the look on the captain’s face when you slip him $20 at the welcome party, cash-handshakes are not necessary. He will not linger in port or let you steer the ship. The Australian or British cruise director, whose hilarious morning briefings have you believing, once more, in laughter, should also never be the recipient of a tip.

Five Star Hotel Opens in Cuba

 

 

(this was recently posted in Travel Agent Central)

Kempinski Hotels has announced that it will open its first hotel in Cuba in the second quarter of this year.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana will have 246 rooms and suites and is located within the historic Manzana de Gomez building in the heart of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

“We are very pleased to be opening this outstanding hotel in the spring,” said Markus Semer, CEO of Kempinski Hotels, in a written release. “The opening is a continuation of our pioneering spirit as the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana will be Cuba’s first modern luxury five-star hotel. And its location within a famous historic building currently makes it the most exclusive hotel project in Old Havana.”

Guests can choose from 246 luxury rooms and suites, ranging in size from 430 feet to the presidential suite’s roughly 1,600 feet. Other hotel highlights include a rooftop terrace and swimming pool with views of the city.

There will also be a spa managed by Resense, three restaurants, a lobby bar, a cigar lounge, and a business center.

Visit www.kempinski.com

Five Days in Prague

 

(Recently published in Travel Central Post)

Prague, known as “the golden city of a hundred spires,” is one of Europe’s best preserved cities. The art and architecture alone are enough to recommend it to Europe-bound clients. Travel Agent recently spent five days in the capital of the Czech Republic. Here’s the lowdown on our trip.

Most of the important sites are in the historic Old Town, settled in medieval times. The centerpiece of Old Town is the magnificent Charles Bridge, named after King Charles IV and built during his reign in the mid-14th century. Crossing the Vltava River to connect Old Town and the Prague Castle, the current bridge was constructed in 1870 and runs 2,037 feet long. Decorated with 30 magnificent Baroque-style statues, the Charles Bridge is the gateway to Prague, an inspiring introduction to the city.

The next day we took a tour of old Jewish Quarter, provided by Wittman Tours. The three-hour, in-depth experience traces the Jewish population back to almost 1,000 years. We visited the Spanish, Maisel, Pinkas and Klausen synagogues, which now serve as exhibition spaces for the Jewish Museum with historical artworks, artifacts and documents. The high point of the tour was the visit to the Jewish cemetery, where we viewed the ancient, decayed tombstones in a peaceful garden.

The Spanish Synagogue is part of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s old Jewish Quarter.

Alphonse Mucha is the most celebrated Czech artist and his art works are considered national treasures. Born in 1860, Mucha rose to fame when he moved to Paris and designed theater posters for actress Sarah Bernhardt. His decorative Art Nouveau style of depicting beautiful female goddesses became world famous and graced paintings, murals, posters, advertisements and book illustrations plus jewelry, carpets and wallpaper. Mucha moved to Prague to pursue more serious artworks and his most accomplished work was the Slav Epic, a series of 20 gigantic paintings, each measuring approximately 20 X 26 feet and illustrating the history of the Slavic people.

Some of the best examples of Mucha’s works are at the Mucha Museum and The Municipal House. The former is home to more than 100 exhibits of paintings, photographs, charcoal drawings, pastels and lithographs, as well as personal memorabilia. Mucha was among several prominent Czech artists of the day enlisted to decorate the interiors of The Municipal House in the early 20th century; he was commissioned to decorate the circular salon of the Lord Mayor’s Hall.

Prague is also an important European center for classical music and opera, with dozens of venues selling affordably priced tickets. We lucked out and scored two tickets to Don Giovanni and felt even luckier when we were told the opera house was the same one where Mozart premiered it in 1787.

Hotel U Svatého Jana is a neo-Baroque-style hotel in Prague’s New Town.

Other must-see attractions are Prague Castle, Strahov Monastery Library and the Old Town Hall. The latter, according to Prague City Tourism, is one of the city’s most popular sites with more than 638,000 tourists visiting during the first nine months of 2016.

Instead of staying in the commercial chain hotels in Old Town, we opted to stay in New Town, away from the crowds. Set in a quiet neighborhood, 10 minutes away by tram from Old Town, Hotel U Svatého Jana is a neo-Baroque-style hotel and the former priests’ quarters of the St. John of Nepomuk church next door. Even though it’s a three-star hotel, our accommodations were very comfortable with spacious rooms, excellent front desk service and a hearty buffet breakfast. We paid less than 100 euros a night. We also appreciated how inexpensive food (we never spent more than 25 euros per person for a meal), transportation and attractions were in Prague.

There are also many fine four- and five-star Czech properties in Prague, and if your clients prefer a more familiar name in accommodations, several top brands are represented here, including Barceló, Four Seasons, Hilton, ibis, Luxury Collection, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott and Radisson Blu.

Read more on

Viking Debuts Two New Ships

 

(the following article was recently published in USA Today)

KOBLENZ, Germany — At the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Germany, near the French border, Viking River Cruises on Tuesday debuted its latest river cruise ships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, just below an imposing fortress dating to the 12th century.

The two vessels, patterned from the same mold that the line introduced in 2012, were christened by a pair of godmothers for the occasion.

Rainy skies gave way to a brief bout of late afternoon sunshine as the event started, just long enough for award-winning British composer and conductor Debbie Wiseman to let loose a ceremonial bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne on Viking Herja. It crashed efficiently against the bow of the ship.

Viking Hild’s godmother, Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, cut the cord to a bottle poised to smash against that vessel, but not a drop was spilled on the first try. A crew member climbed outside the railing to hoist the bottle again, and on the second try the bubbly splashed on cue.

The 190-passenger Viking Herja and Viking Hild are of the “longship” design that Viking unveiled in 2012. The longships feature some of the largest suites on river ships in Europe, as well as cabins with balconies, made possible by offsetting the main corridors. In just six years, 48 Viking longships have been built — an unprecedented number in the history of river cruising (scroll through the carousel below for a deck-by-deck look at a Viking longship).

Viking Hild will begin sailing the Rhine River this spring on a new Paris-to-the-Swiss Alps itinerary. Later this year both new ships will sail Viking’s Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway itineraries.

This year also marks Viking River Cruises’ 20th anniversary. While best known for its European river cruises, in 2015 the company started a line of ocean cruise ships. The third ship for that line, Viking Sky, launched just last month and an identical fourth ship, Viking Sun, arrives in November. Two more ocean-going ships are on order and will arrive in 2018 and 2019.

“By 2020 we will be the largest small-ship ocean cruise line and we will have the youngest fleet,” Viking’s founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said at a press conference Tuesday aboard Viking Hild. “That is a claim we will be able to make for many years.”

However, no new orders for river ships were announced on Tuesday.

“Our growth has continued, but we’re slowing down on the rivers,” Hagen said.

Hagen did reveal that Viking has acquired an existing river ship in Egypt — the ink was still drying on the deal, he said. Hagen said the ship would be extensively refurbished and will “feel at home” to Viking regulars. The ship was tentatively named Viking Ra, after the ancient Egyptian sun god.

“One thing the Vikings have in common with Egyptians is that we have many gods,” added Hagen. “Maybe we’ll have several ships in Egypt.”

Sail around Cuba

AdventureSmith Explorations is giving travelers another way to see Cuba with the launch of eight-day cruises along the country’s western and southern coastlines. Most of the sailing is done at night, leaving plenty of time for escorted people-to-people tours.

Highlights include Havana, for a bus tour and an exchange with musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club; Maria LaGorda, for an excursion to Guanahacabibes National Park, one of Cuba’a largest nature reserves; and Cay Largo, for visits to a local medical clinic and a sea turtle breeding center.

Other highlights include the Spanish colonial town of Trinidad and visits with local artists, and Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Panorama, a three-masted sail cruiser, can accommodate up to 49 passengers in 25 cabins.

Dates: Dec. 19-26 and Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Additional tours in January, February, March and April.

Price: From $4,799 per person in a double cabin. Includes round-trip airfare to Havana from Miami, visa and all required licenses, all meals from arrival in Cuba to breakfast on departure, mandatory Cuban medical insurance and transportation.

Info: AdventureSmith Explorations, (800) 728-2875

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Retire on a Cruise Ship

Lavell Mayo cruised more than 100 days last year, opting to leave his single-family home behind for life at sea where, for a small premium, household chores and amenities are all handled.

“I looked into moving into a garden home connected with a nursing home and found that the average rental is about $2,000 a month,” said Mayo, who had just returned from a trip on Norwegian Cruise Line. “And of course, then you have to cook your own food, where on a ship everything is done for you.”

Meanwhile, 70-somethings Jack and Willi Ross swapped their Vancouver, B.C., single-family home for a smaller apartment so they could travel more, including an upcoming month-long cruise and periodic 180-day voyages with Oceania Cruises.

“The cost of living was, in some ways, cheaper,” compared to home, said Jack Ross, 73, citing medical care, meals, laundry and the internet that were all included. (Rates for Oceania’s around-the-world cruise that began Jan. 6 were about $40,000, but that was a two-for-one fare with first class, roundtrip airfare.)

New itineraries

The Rosses and Mayo aren’t alone.

More people are cruising now than ever before, with 25 million passengers expected to set sail this year compared with 15 million in 2006, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

Depending on their home city and income level, retirees may find living aboard a cruise ship makes financial sense when compared to other retirement living options, especially in expensive locales.

Willi and Jack Ross on their Oceania cruise ship during a 180-day voyage.

Source: Willi and Jack Ross
Willi and Jack Ross on their Oceania cruise ship during a 180-day voyage.

“Snowbirding” aboard ship is becoming popular enough that Oceania Cruises has created two new itineraries geared specifically at this population next winter, particularly to a wealthy client with an average household income of about $250,000 or more. A 74-day “Snowbird in Residence” sailing to the Caribbean costs about $240 per day per person, and includes airfare and either a $6,800 shipboard credit, 68 free shore excursions or a free beverage package, along with laundry service.

“Some of the comments we’ve seen were, ‘Wow, you can’t stay home for this price,'” said James Rodriguez, Oceania’s executive vice president of marketing. He said many of the well-heeled guests on long-term cruises are in their 60s and think seeing the world by boat is a better opportunity than spending the winter in a Florida condo.

“We intentionally design these ships to feel like [home],” he said.

When considered over a 20-year span, “cruises were priced similarly to assisted living centers and were more efficacious,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, though land-based assisted living can vary greatly by facility, location and needs.

“It’s like living at home, but I don’t have to worry about renewing my driver’s license.”-Jack Ross

Karin and Bill Pollak have taken more than 100 cruises since retiring in 2000, some years spending as many as 240 days at sea. Last year, the couple, 62 and 76 respectively, were at their Arizona home base for less than six months.

The range of amenities and experiences available on cruise ships for various budgets is vast, Karin Pollak said, noting she and her husband could live aboard a cruise ship for half of what they do if they compromised their balcony state rooms and other comfort add-ons.

These include packages with housekeeping services, entertainment and educational programs. There’s 24-hour meal service and inclusive amenities like fitness centers and pools.

More marketing coming

A reservation on Princess Cruises, for example, averages $135 per day with long-term and senior discounts, not including medical care or excursions, said Geraldine Ree, CEO of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a travel agency specializing in cruises. About 2 percent of the company’s cruise bookings are for 180 days or more, the majority of which are retirees.

By comparison, it costs about $229 daily for a private room in a nursing home and $3,293 per month for a one-bedroom in an assisted living facility, according to LongtermCare.Gov.

Independent living or retirement communities range from $1,500 to $3,500 a month, according to HelpGuide.org.

More adults retire on a cruise ship

More adults retire on a cruise ship  

“There’s a huge value add,” said Ken Moraif, a certified financial planner and radio host of “Money Matters,” but “you need to be able to afford it.”

Cruise lines may be marketing to more well-to-do customers.

Crystal Cruises will put into operation by 2018 “Residences at Sea,” 48 suites across three new ships. Those who buy in early can customize their floating apartments, which range from 600 to 4,000 square feet.

Though Crystal would not reveal the cost of a unit, CEO Edie Rodriguez said it’s targeting an affluent customer looking for a “new kind of second, third or even fourth luxury home.” Ree said there’s likely more demand and resale potential in China or London than in North America, however.

The Pollaks said they prefer to use several ships as their temporary summer homes rather than purchase a land-based one that binds them financially and geographically, as it has with many of their friends.

“On a cruise ship where the officers know you, they just treat you very well.”-Donna  De Florio

There’s always room for negotiation when it comes to a lengthy cruise.

It’s possible for long-term guests to persuade a cruise line to let them bring their own furniture or decorate their cabin at their own expense, said Jo Kling, owner of cruise travel agency Landry & Kling. And guests who book early, particularly through an experienced travel agent, can negotiate better prices.

Guests also value the relationships they develop with crew, who remember their names and offer personalized attention.

Oceania Cruises' Regatta

Source: Oceania Cruises
Oceania Cruises’ Regatta

“The crew adopts them,” Ree said.

That’s a big part of the reason retirees Al and Donna De Florio of Plymouth, Massachusetts, were enjoying 41 days on two Azamara Club Cruises this year.

“On a cruise ship where the officers know you, they just treat you very well,” said Donna De Florio, noting cruise staff remembered them from two years ago. The couple has taken 50 cruises together since 2001.

Consider your health

Older people should also consider their health before long-term travel on a cruise ship, despite some lines offering well-equipped medical centers with nurses, doctors, X-ray machines, ICU units and pacemakers, Ree said.

“While I would love to [truly live aboard a cruise ship all year], it wouldn’t make sense given my situation,” said Al De Florio, who sees doctors regularly for a health issue.

Lavell Mayo aboard ship.

Lavell Mayo aboard ship.

The Pollaks purchase a separate travel insurance policy that covers medical services and air transportation from anywhere in the world, since their Medicare plans do not cover expenses on their long-term trips outside of the United States. One of the reasons the couple was enticed on a 180-day Oceania cruise recently was that the company offered complimentary medical care as part of the package.

“When people are past a particular age … it’s important and critical because things do happen,” Karin Pollak said.

Mayo has used medical services on a ship three times, and said his wife fell on a ship while cruising to Hawaii and had to be evacuated, the cost of which was covered by their medical travel insurance policy.

Use an agent

Ree recommends working with an experienced travel agent to find the most suitable option based on price, amenities and feasibility, while Moraif suggests “practicing” the cruising lifestyle before diving in full time.

The Rosses said they arranged for their accountant to intercept mail and bills to take care of while they were gone, disconnected their television cable and telephone services, and reduced their collision auto insurance to third party liability. Mayo turns off the water at his home before departing on a long cruise, turns the heat or AC up or down low, and puts the mail on hold at the post office.

When asked whether he and his wife would sail for good, Jack Ross said it was a real possibility as he heads into his 80s and 90s.

“You just bring your suitcases and unpack them. It’s like living at home, but I don’t have to worry about renewing my driver’s license,” he sa

Where are People Happy

Norway is the happiest place on earth, according to this year’s World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The report is shared annually to mark World Happiness Day on March 20. It determines “life satisfaction” among 155 nations by using Gallup poll data to rank, as its overview explains, “the factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.”

We’d add that happy locals create a welcoming environment for visitors, too, so one idea for your next vacation is to get to know the residents in one of the world’s happiest countries. Norway tops the list, jumping up from the number four spot last year. It’s followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland; the U.S. is number 14. Here are the top 20. For insider info on planning your trip to many of these cheery destinations, click through to our Insider’s Guides or Ask Wendy.

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden
  11. Israel
  12. Costa Rica
  13. Austria
  14. United States
  15. Ireland
  16. Germany
  17. Belgium
  18. Luxembourg
  19. United Kingdom
  20. Chile