Work-Life Balance

Seeking A Better Work/Life Balance? Cruise North To Alaska And Ask The Bears Yourself How They Do It.

By far, the best work/life balance in the world belongs to Alaskan Bears.  They spend an average of seven months of the year in complete hibernation, then spend their summers fishing in the beautiful Alaskan rivers and enjoying the freshest salmon in the world.

So here’s my advice:  If you’re looking to improve your work/life balance, go and see these Alaskan Bears this summer on an Alaskan cruise.

The majestic, breath-taking natural scenery of Alaska, the sumptuous food and plush accommodations aboard a modern cruise ship, the exotic forms of travel on your land excursions  (seaplanes, dogsleds, kayaks, narrow gauge trains), and the incredible wildlife (including bears, who will be very much awake) make for  a near-perfect combination of soul-enriching excitement and soul-soothing relaxation.

Three of Carnival Corporation’s four North American-based cruise lines – Princess, Holland America, and Carnival – sail multiple times each summer to Alaska. Each offers its own, distinctive itineraries and ways of showing off the magnificence of both the 49th state and their incredible ships, which are more accurately described as floating results.

Carnival passengers get an up-close and personal view of a calving glacier

Carnival passengers get an up-close and personal view of a calving glacier

Carnival ships sail north from Seattle and along the Southeastern Alaska coast all the way to Skagway and the nearby, famous Glacier Bay. Carnival’s Alaskan cruises typically include excursion stops at Juneau, KetchiKan, and Victoria, B.C., Canada. They typically sail through the scenic Inside Passage and the dramatic Tracy Arm Fjord.

Our premium Holland America line offers a variety of Alaskan cruise itineraries, each of which promises to take you deeper, and more slowly and relaxingly into the Alaskan way of life. In roadless Juneau you can go ocean kayaking or fly fishing, ride in a dogsled, or hike trails in the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest. In tiny Haines you can go rafting on the Chilkat River, hiking in the Takshanuk Mountains, or fishing on Chilkoot Lake. And while you do those things you’ll likely spot bald eagles, moose, bears, wolves, seals, and orcas before returning to the ship for an wonderful dinner and relaxing evening sailing through the land of the midnight sun.

Or you can sail northwest with Holland America to Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula. There, from the middle of College Fjord, you can see eight huge glaciers at once.

Our Princess Cruises line is the gold-standard of Alaskan cruising. And that’s fitting, because each itinerary not only takes you north, but also back in time to the late 19th century, when hardy adventurers journeyed into Alaska and western Canada to dig for gold in the Klondike. Whether it’s a seven-day cruise from Vancouver or Seattle, or a 10-day voyage from San Francisco, you’ll have lots of options to see the well-known, breath-taking sites along the Inside Passage and Southeastern Alaska, or to cruise all the way across the 500-mile wide Gulf of Alaska. There, on the rugged Kenai Peninsula you’ll see its untouched forests stocked with wild game and its chilly, fast-flowing rivers teaming with fish.

Princess also gives you the option to combine the very best of cruising with the very best of land adventure vacation through one of its land-sea vacation packages. In addition to seeing the glaciers and picturesque coastal towns, you can take the Alaska Railroad aboard domed Princess viewing cars to visit Anchorage, Fairbanks and the majestic Denali (or Mt. McKinley), North America’s tallest mountain, in the Denali National Park. You can choose to spend two or more nights in one of Princess’ own, private rustic lodges either in the Fairbanks-Denali area or on the secluded Kenai Peninsula. And Princess will let you experience Alaska the way you want; either as part of a guided tour or on your own.

And, in conjunction with Discovery Networks, Princess now offers the Discovery at Sea program that helps create new, memorable vacation experiences for the whole family. On Alaskan cruises that includes both onboard Discovery activities and off-ship Animal Planet excursions built around the themes of such popular shows as Deadliest Catch (which follows daring commercial fisherman doing their dangerous work in the icy waters off Alaska), MythBusters, and Shark Week.

If you’re not sure exactly how you want to experience Alaska by sea, or how you should go about from learning the secrets to a perfect work/life balance from those Alaskan brown bears you can learn more about that these and other cruising adventures at our World’s Leading Cruise Lines’ website.

And speaking of those bears. Here’s some interesting facts about hibernation – and how you can enjoy both the thrill of exploring wild Alaska and the deep hibernation-like relaxation on an Alaskan cruise.

  • A black bear can gain up to 30 pounds a week during its pre-hibernation eating binge in the summer. Bears need the extra weight to make it through the five to seventh months of sleep.Similarly, you could gain up to 30 pounds during the week of your Alaskan cruise. The food onboard – and on shore – is that good. But don’t worry, our cruise ships are equipped with lots of state-of-the-art gym and exercise equipment. And you’ll be plenty active between all the onboard activities and active onshore excursions.
  • During hibernation the heart rate for many animals slows to less than 10 beats per minute. Breathing also slows. Taking an Alaskan cruise won’t lower your heart and breathing rates that much. But chances are that your Alaskan cruise will do wonders for both your heart, and your soul – lowering the real/figurative beats-per-minute rates of both to a healthier, more relaxed level.
  • A hibernating animal has internal controls that prevent its body temperature from falling too low. If you’re worried about being cold on your Alaskan cruise, don’t be. Alaska in the summer, when we sail there, is quite comfortable. A jacket or sweater is perfect for the daytime. And though nights can get chilly, our ships and our lodges will keep you cozy and dry. And both offer plenty of inspiration and opportunity for you to heat things up with someone special.

See you in Alaska!

How To Get The Biggest Bang For Your Vacation Bucks

Vacation time and money are precious, so why waste them?

Our annual vacation budget study once again concluded that the No. 1 vacation value in the world is – taking a cruise.  Run the numbers yourself; dollar for dollar you get more value for your hard earned money aboard a cruise ship.

Don’t believe me?  Or are you facing skeptics who don’t think a cruise offers the best vacation value? Read on. Then share this blog with those skeptics and your other friends.

We put a mystery shopping team to work booking the most popular vacation options.  We compared the costs of a seven-night vacation in three popular tourist destinations vs. a seven-night Caribbean cruise on one of our nine cruise line brands. Care was taken to compare trips involving comparable accommodations and activities from contemporary to luxury travel industry brands. We weren’t surprised by what we learned. But you may be.

THE NUMBERS

Figuring in typical spending on air and ground transportation, lodging, meals and beverages, plus entertainment we found that the cost of a trip to a contemporary resort in Nassau, Bahamas, was $5,481. The cost of a similar trip to Orlando was $4,899. And a trip to Las Vegas cost $5,332. Meanwhile, a seven-night Caribbean cruise in comparable accommodations aboard a Carnival ship cost $3,378 (or even less than that if you elect to drive to the port rather than fly).

On a per person/per day basis that worked out to $392 for Nassau, $306 for Orlando and $333 for Las Vegas vs. just $241 for the cruise.

Full disclosure: in our comparisons we used our April 2016 cabin prices vs. the land resorts’ April 2015 accommodations prices because we have no way of knowing what their actual prices will be that far in advance. To determine the cost of air travel in each case we used an average of current air fare prices on those routes included in our analysis. We did it this way because we think it’s important to make such comparisons on as much of an “all-in” basis as possible because that helps illustrate the real value available to those who chose a cruise vacation.

I mean, how many of us after a vacation are shocked when we add up all our incidental expenses for meals, attractions, resort fees, and so on? That doesn’t happen after a cruise. Certainly, you’ll buy souvenirs, and perhaps even some nicer items while on a cruise. And you may elect to spend additional money on certain premium excursions or food and drink options. But, unlike most land-based vacations, cruises continue to be priced as all- or nearly-all inclusive vacations.

Trip Compare 2

We also recently compared the cost of a seven-day cruise aboard a luxurious Holland America Line cruise ship with a seven-day trip from Chicago to any of five different Caribbean destinations. It’s important to note that Holland America is one of our more upscale cruise line brands in North America. So you might expect for its prices to top those for comparable land-based vacations – or at the very least that they would be about the same price. But if you thought that, you’ll be surprised by this:

When we searched the cost of a Spring 2015 trip for a family of four traveling from Chicago to Aruba (including air fare and ground transfers) the price was $7,568. Meanwhile that same family of four could have take a Holland America cruise for $2,702 less if they had chosen to stay in a premium Balcony Cabin. That family’s savings would have been even larger if they had chosen an Outside Cabin without a balcony – $3,107. And if they had opted to stay in one of our most affordable Inside Cabins their savings would have totaled $3,302 vs. that $7,568 Aruba land vacation.

Similar value was – and continues to be – available on Holland America trips from just about every major North American city when compared against week-long land-based trips to Cozumel, Punta Cana, Jamaica, and St. Thomas. And in nearly all cases similar percentage savings are available for two adults – traveling without children – who choose a cruise over a land-only vacation to those same vacation destinations.

And, the same is true if you choose to sail aboard one of our other North American cruise line brands like Carnival or Princess Cruise Line, or with one of our other brands serving other regions of the world like P&O, Costa, AIDA or P&O Australia.

Because travel prices change frequently and vary based on day of the week, season and competition, the prices you find when you do your own online shopping likely will be different. But we are pretty confident that you will find similar price differences however and whenever you do your comparison shopping.

Carnival ship 2 Carnival ship night   .

THE VALUE

But value goes well beyond just price comparisons.  So our team made sure that our comparison took into account those things that most matter to people on vacation – things like food, entertainment, seeing the best sites, relaxing, and experiencing new adventures.  A common objection we hear is that by choosing a cruise over a land-only vacation you would be missing some experiences you might have in a land-based vacation. However, because cruise ships move every night, you can have those experiences in multiple locations on a single trip.

So, for example, if you really want time on a great beach like those in Nassau, a Caribbean cruise will take you to several of the world’s very best beaches. The first cruise I mentioned above would take you to the outstanding beaches on Grand Turk Island, Half Moon Cay and Freeport, Bahamas.

Westerdam-Cruise-Ship-2

You want high energy activity like an Orlando theme park? Cruise ships can’t replicate the enormous scale of theme parks, but cruise ships do offer a huge menu of physically active adventures, and great recreation and workout facilities that include everything from volleyball and basketball courts to yoga studios. There’s all sorts of exciting water sports like scuba diving and snorkeling, jet skiing and parasailing, and more relaxing activities like clay shooting, mini-golf and even driving ranges while in port. On top of all that, today’s cruise ships are, in effect, floating world-class spas. And at night you can enjoy fantastic shows, entertainers and clubs that are the equal of anything you’ll find on land, even in Las Vegas.

Carnival fun 1Carnival fun 3

If you want to gamble there actually might not be a better place to do it than aboard a cruise ship. Vegas and Nassau may have lots more tables than any one cruise ship, but nothing beats the gaming tables-per-passenger ratio that you’ll find on cruise ships. That means cruise passengers can get in on more action than gamblers anywhere else.

Carnival gaming

And if sight-seeing, or exploring local culture, art and history is your thing, it’s hard to beat a floating resort that allows you to explore three or four breathtakingly beautiful and exotic locations in a single week.

cruise-destinations-alaska

Then there’s the food. If you’re like most people, when you’re on vacation one of your favorite things to do is eat really well. And you simply can’t beat the world-class food served – at all hours – aboard cruise ships.

My point is this: Vacation time is sacred time. We all need not just time off from work to rest, but time away, in a different, exciting environment where we can really relax and have our spirits revived through new and interesting experiences. But we all also want top value for our vacation dollars. For most of us it makes no sense to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than necessary on a vacation.

And the data clearly show that taking a cruise represents the best vacation value available. It’s how you get the biggest bang for your vacation buck.

See you on the seas.

An (Almost) Existential Question Before You Leave On Vacation or a Business Trip

“To Out of Office or Not to Out of Office, that is the question.”

For some people the answer is an easy “Yes,” or “No.” Either way, they know where they stand. But for more of us than you probably realize, the use/non-use of out-of-the-office messages (OOOs) borders on being an existential question.

The best OOO message I have ever seen features the perpetually handsome Sean Connery in the picture on this blog. Under the two pictures of the seemingly ageless actor dated 1989 and 2009 the email OOO message reads: “I am on vacation in an attempt to slow the speed of my aging process to that of Sean Connery. I will return in two weeks and I hope to look exactly the same.”

out of office photo 2

There actually is, however, a somewhat serious ongoing debate about whether using an “out-of-the-office” notice when you leave the office is a good idea.

One school of thought argues that OOOs should be turned on any time you are out of reach for more than a few hours. You do it as a courtesy to those trying to reach you and/or as a defense against losing business while you’re away. That equals good will won or maintained. And if you’re paid on commission, your customers may be more likely to wait patiently for your return rather than place a quick call to your competitor.

But the other school of thought says that using OOOs is a sign of executive weakness, neediness or, worse, lack of commitment. C-suite executives, after all, almost never use OOOs. They have assistants who handle their calls and screen their emails when they’re away. Thus, your use of an OOO calls attention to the fact that you aren’t all that important within your organization, or you’d have a live person handling your calls and email while you’re away.

Too Honest OOO Message

As for me, if I really need to be out-of-pocket for a deep refresh, then I’ll put an out-of-the-office message on my phone and email. But normally I don’t because I am not a big OOOs person. I use them only when I know that I’m going to be really out of touch for more than one day in a row, or 12 business hours. If I think I’ll have e-mail access every 6 to 8 hours, even while on vacation, then I don’t use one.

Of course, having now said that, I think I’d like to see more people use OOOs. It could help foster more corporate cultures that understand, accept and support the need of workers to unplug, get out of today’s 24/7 business mindset, and escape into the amazingly beautiful and stimulating world that too often we overlook because of our preoccupation with work.

Now I’d like to know what you think. Do you use OOOs? Why or why not? And I’d love to see some examples of good – and some maybe not-so-good or just plain funny – OOOs you’ve used or encountered. What are your guidelines for when to use/not use OOOs? Does your company have a policy on the use of OOOs? And what tips can you share that could make the OOOs more effective, more engaging, funnier, or maybe just more acceptable as a way to protect our time when unavailable?

 

 

DON’T WASTE YOUR WEEKENDS

What would you think if your boss unexpectedly announced that you’d be getting 100 additional paid vacation days a year?

Surprise! Your boss already has done that. It’s called “the weekend.”

For most of us, those two days are Saturday and Sunday. But even for those who find themselves having to do some work on their weekends it’s important not to take for granted those days’ tremendous value. It’s equal to having another 104 days, or nearly 15 weeks of paid vacation each year.

Like most people, you probably think of those as “your” rightful days off. But properly understood in their historical context, those weekend days were never “our” days to do with as we wished until the mid-20th Century.

To be sure, some people have been taking one day off a week since at least around 3400 years ago. That’s when the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments, one of which was the charge to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. But the practice did not reach semi-universal status until sometime in the mid-1000s A.D., when Christians began taking Sundays off.

The very first instance of a two-day weekend did not occur until 1908. Owners of a New England mill began closing on Saturdays and Sundays so that all employees could have their day of religious observance off. For the first time everyone got both days off, giving people an unprecedented amount of something new called “leisure time.”

Henry Ford, whose trail-blazing ideas about labor greatly impacted Western business and culture did not begin shutting down his car factories on both Saturdays and Sundays until 1926.

Three years later the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union became the first labor organization to include a five-day work week in its contract demands. The standard 40-hour workweek, which makes the two-day weekend possible, did not become law in the United States until 1940, giving formal birth to the modern concept of “the weekend.”

So the question remains, what will you do with your 104 weekend days off a year?

Here are 8 ideas:

1. Drive to a nearby state and explore its charms and delights.

2. Go to the lake. A couple of water mattresses, an old inner tube, and a few Styrofoam “noodles,” plus a tent and a camp stove can turn a cheap get-a-way into a life-long memory.

3. Take an immersion course in something you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it’s a foreign language, or cooking, or a musical instrument, or photography. Just dive in up to your neck.

4. Become a tourist in your own city. Visit the museums. See the sights. Get a tourist brochure and do all the things it suggests out-of-towners do.

5. Get a list of the best day trips from your town (check online travel sites like tripadvisor.com) and explore all the great scenery and marvels within a day’s drive.

6. Visit the mountains nearest you. Take a hike. Pack a lunch. Swim in a cool mountain stream. Marvel at nature.

7. Drive to another town to attend a pro, college, high school or even little league game – or a concert or art exhibition. The “what” matters less than the “go.”
8. Take a 3 day/2 night cruise

Not all weekend “vacations” have to be elaborate, lengthy, or costly affairs. And you don’t have to travel half way around the world to see some amazing things. Nearly all of us live within a short drive of world-class destinations.

And, realistically, you probably can’t take a trip, even a short one, every weekend. Sometimes you have to use a weekend to run errands, work around the house, or pay bills. But my point is that if you begin to look at your weekends as something more than just “days off” you will get to enjoy many, many more great experiences each year- experiences that will create life-long memories and come back to your Monday feeling recharged and ready to go.

…Josh Leibowitz