Cruise News

Hey, I Own This Ship

It's getting easier (if not wiser) to buy a chunk of your favorite cruise line now that Norwegian (NRW) has joined Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean (RCL) on the New York Stock Exchange. (Princess's parent company, P&O, is traded on the London Stock Exchange.) But aside from bragging rights, investor-cruisers get few perks like upgrades or discounts.

"It's always been an issue with shareholders," says Scott Barry, a cruise analyst with St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James. Carnival does offer modest (sliding scale) on-board credit for shareholders that are good for trips on any line it owns, from Holland America to Carnival to Seabourn. But analysts don't foresee a trend.

"Theoretically, any of these lines could give shareholders a $50 discount," says Robin Farley, a cruise line analyst with Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, "but the alternative is the company can apply [that $50] to the bottom line -- a much greater benefit to the shareholder." -- Carolyn S. Brown

Policies vary among smaller lines trading on NASDAQ, such as Commodore (CCLN) and American Classic Voyages (AMCV), which owns Delta Queen and American Hawaii Cruises. Commodore offers shareholders a 15 percent discount and soft perks like in-cabin champagne, fruit and flowers. American Classic, despite numerous shareholder inquiries, offers no special benefits.

Trouble in . . . Belgium?

It's not every day the State Department issues a Public Announcement about travel safety in a stable European democracy. But on July 15 State issued a notice that an Algerian terrorist group has threatened to carry out attacks in Belgium. They are not targeting tourists, but if you're headed Belgium-ward, go to http://travel.state.gov, or call 202-647-5225.

A Family Way

Lighten Your Load (& Wallet)

So you've decided to take a vacation. And you've decided to take the kids, including your 10-month-old daughter. Seems like a great idea.

Then you start to pack. First, the portable crib. Then the car seat. The stroller. Gotta bring the backpack. And the monitor. Some food and diapers to get you through until you find a store. . . You look at the pile and you think: Kosovo Refugee shipment. And you haven't even thought stuffed animals yet.

Happily, if you're able and willing to pay, a growing family-travel service can cut your load. Baby's Away, in over 30 U.S. and Canada cities, rents everything from cribs and car seats to those nonessential godsends like bouncy seats, swings, baby videos and toys. Most locations, franchises operated by parents, are in ski or beach areas, although some are in big cities like Chicago and Las Vegas.

So what's the damage? Take a four-day ski trip. You bring your own stroller and gate-check it. But you rent a full-size crib with linens, a high chair to make meals bearable, a car seat, an Exersaucer and a laundry basket full of right-age toys. Oh, and a baby backpack. In Aspen, that's $151 for four days, including delivery and pick-up at your hotel.

Baby's Away is national, but several regional business have sprung up -- including A Baby's Best Friend, which serves families visiting Orlando.

-- Jennifer Frey

Baby's Away, 1-800-571-0077; babysaway.com

Traveling With Kids, Sans Spouse? Read, or Weep

We'll spare you the heartbreaking, potentially litigious details, but suffice to say that reader Diane Pohanka of Fairfax Station learned the hardest way that parents traveling with kids but without spouse to Mexico or the Caribbean need to get notarized permission from the non-traveling parent (or other approved documents). Same for minors traveling solo. This is disclosed in the fine print of travel documents. But: How to put this gently? Any travel agent who books such a trip and fails to make this "detail" utterly clear to a client whose trip to Cancun, say, may be at risk -- and who hides behind a "it's in the fine print, you signed it" excuse -- should be fired and scorched in Hell.

Hit the Beach, Not the Road

Love the water, hate the drive? Did you get a late start, and want to avoid spending the next three hours staring down the tailpipe of a '74 Matador? The Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, which opened July 1, offers a funky, close-in alternative. It's hard by the bay, about 45 minutes from downtown, just past the Bay Bridge. There's a clean, sandy (small) beach with wait service; a casual, open-air restaurant/bar overlooking the bay (but no crabs! Ack!); live music Friday-Sunday nights and Sunday afternoon; catamarans, sea kayaks and inner tubes for rent; and clean, spacious bathrooms (no public showers, pal, and shoes and shorts after 5 p.m.). Coolers aren't allowed, but you can just plunk yourself on the beach gratis. On a recent Sunday, families, couples and beer-tilting singles commingled smoothly to a torpid reggae band.

-- John Briley

Directions: Route 50 east; cross the Bay Bridge ($2.50 toll, eastbound) and go right on Route 8, toward Romancoke. Take the first right onto Pier 1 Road and follow the signs.

Travel Tip 106

Shell Game

"I like to collect shells from all the beaches I have visited," confides tipster Mary Adams of Ellicott City. "The problem is getting them home without breaking them. Two years ago, when I was in Maine, I bought a cheap bottle of water that had a wide mouth (they also sell juice and milk in these types of bottles). I filled the bottle with shells and stuffed the rest with toilet paper from the hotel room, and they made it home in a duffel bag that was checked!"

And for extra padding, Adams can always wrap her bottled shells in her new Travel section T-shirt, which we're sending her as thanks for sharing her resourceful tip. Picked up any expertise in your own travels? Pack it up and send it in, according to the fine print below.

Travel tips (100 words or less) may be sent by e-mail (travtips@washpost.com); postcard (Travel Tips, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071); or fax (202-334-1069). Include your name, address and phone number. One tip per postcard or e-mail. Winners receive a Washington Post Travel section T-shirt. No purchase necessary. Tips submitted become property of The Washington Post, which may edit, publish, distribute and republish the information in any form, including paper and electronic media. Weekly winners are chosen on the basis of utility and novelty; decisions are made by the editors of The Washington Post Travel section and are final.

Air Jamaica: From Mo Bay, Mo Service

It's not the breakthrough in Caribbean service local budget-hounds are waiting for, but Air Jamaica is moving gradually into a void created by American Airlines' partial withdrawal of island service earlier this year. Air Jamaica, which flies out of Baltimore/Washington International, has added to the roster of islands it serves through its Montego Bay hub, providing some new choices and increased competition for those headed to the islands.

The carrier added service from Mo Bay to Grenada on May 27 and to Bonaire on June 27; in November it will revive service it formerly provided to the Turks and Caicos islands. It's also doubling its seats to St. Lucia. The additional routes -- which join the carrier's existing flights to Nassau, Bahamas; Barbados; and Grand Cayman -- boost departures from Mo Bay from 16 to 25 daily. But there's no increase in flights leaving BWI to access these connections.

So what's this mean to local Caribbeanists? Another choice for flying to these places (all are currently served by other airlines from this area). The chance to avoid American's often swamped connection points at Miami and San Juan. And -- maybe, eventually -- some price competition for island fares (though fares have not yet moved downward). Air Jamaica is price competitive but not precisely the Southwest Airlines of island travel. Round-trip fares to Nassau in high season are $434; they are nudging $600 to Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia. A Web search of fares on Expedia and Travelocity revealed comparable prices on other carriers for most of the routes -- except Nassau, where numerous carriers beat Air Jamaica by $100, and Grand Cayman, where Air Jamaica holds a $36 advantage over the next lowest price.

Frequent-flier note: Air Jamaica flights earn Delta SkyMiles -- perhaps giving mileheads a new reason to shop around for a good price. -- John Briley

MONDAY, 2 P.M.: THE LESSONS OF THE ROAD During this week's Travel chat on www.washingtonpost.com, we're soliciting the most important lessons you learned on your last trip. It could be a restaurant tip, a sly way to avoid lines, an unusual path to a great deal, a great place you discovered. Travel staff will offer their lessons, too -- plus, as ever, answers to your travel questions. You'll find a link to the discussion on the front page of Monday's washingtonpost.com; send your lessons or questions early. To visit the Travel section on the World Wide Web, any time, go to www.washingtonpost.com and choose "Travel" from the far-left column.

Comments? Questions about today's stories? E-mail us at travel@washpost.com.