Saturday, April 26, 2014

46 Hours in St. Louis - The Last 22

The Old Courthouse Museum
This is a continuation post of this post, which covered our first day of a short weekend trip to St. Louis.  Here, we pick up where we left off on Sunday morning, to take in as much of the area as we could before we had to head back to the airport for our 8 P.M. flight.

Reminder of our itinerary for Day 2:

The Old Courthouse Museum
Missouri History Museum
Forest Park
The Great River Road from Alton to Nutwood, Illinois

You can read about Day 1 of our trip here.

46 Hours in St. Louis - The First 24

Gateway to the West
In honor of the end of tax season (I am a tax accountant by trade), my wife and I made a trip to St. Louis last weekend.  Why St. Louis?  My wife had never been and wanted to see the Arch and a couple of museums, and the Gateway to the West is usually a most pleasant place to be in late April.  This would be a short trip (10 P.M. Friday to 8 P.M. Sunday), but having been to the city several times over the past few years thanks to an ex-client located here, I know my way around and figured this would be enough time for what we wanted to see.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mr. Branson Goes to Love Field - Maybe?

I don't normally post on Fridays, but we here in Dallas received an announcement today that was important enough to pass on today.  Virgin America announced at a press conference this morning that they have reached an agreement with American on obtaining their two gates at Love Field and, therefore, will be starting nonstop flights from Love to San Francisco, L.A. (LAX), New York LaGuardia, and Washington National effective October 13.  Sort of (which I'll get to in a minute).

This all started when the U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of American with U.S. Airways, but on the condition that the combined carrier divest gates and slots at certain airports, including the two gates that American currently leases from the City of Dallas at Love Field.  Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all subsequently told the city and the DOJ that they wanted the gates, a battle that Virgin appears to have won, at least on the surface.

It appears we have a pretty interesting soap opera in the making.  Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News reports that AA was apparently told by the DOJ that only one airline was an acceptable recipient of the gates, and that airline was Virgin.  But hold on a minute - Virgin apparently decided to make their announcement and start selling tickets before the city actually approved the gate swap.  According to the same article, American presented the city with a plan to assign its leases to Virgin, a request that the city denied.  It has since resubmitted its proposal as a sublease of its gates, which the city council is supposedly going to discuss on Monday.  In fact, Maxon reported late last night that the city has made no decision on who will get the gates.  (As a side note, Delta has also been selling tickets from Love Field to several destinations outlined in this proposal.  Never mind that the DOJ announced in March that Delta was not an acceptable bidder for the gates.)

So what do I think will happen?  The Dallas City Council has a well-deserved reputation around these parts for the occasional bout of dysfunction, so it wouldn't surprise me if this drags on for a little while.  At the end of the day, though, if the federales tell Dallas that Virgin will get the gates, then Virgin will get the gates.  Personally, I think this is the best solution anyway.  Southwest already controls 16 out of the 20 gates at Love Field, and Delta's proposed service would have relied primarily on regional jets.  I don't know about you, but I hate regional jets.  Delta tries to spruce this up by noting that their RJs come with first class, and in some cases premium economy, but if you ask me, that's just putting lipstick on a pig.  Virgin will use real planes, and they have a reputation for low fares and excellent service.

Most importantly - Virgin has a major fare sale going on right now, with prices as low as $79 one way and half off of Main Cabin Select (premium economy) and First Class fares for flights between October 13 and November 20.  If you need to fly between Dallas and L.A., New York, San Fran, or D.C. during that time period, act fast and grab one of these fares.  You have about 28 hours left as of the time of this posting.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Panama Canal Railway and Panama City

Panama City skyline
Welcome to Part 2 of my report on our cruise to South America in December of 2012.  Our second port, on the 5th day of our cruise, was Colon, Panama, and today's report will cover our tour of the historic Panama Canal Railway and Panama City.  Incidentally, this is the second time I've been to Limon.  We took a Panama Canal cruise in December, 2005 that also stopped here, but the ship didn't go all the way through the canal.  We took a smaller boat through the canal to Panama City instead.

For a general overview of our trip and the trip report index, click here.

NOTE:  If you're looking for a report on the canal itself, you'll have to wait until the next installment, which will include a photo essay of our crossing of the canal on the Celebrity Infinity.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cartagena, Colombia

View of Cartagena from La Popa Monastery
After writing my post about my day in the Chilean Andes, I thought this would be a good time to finally blog about my first trip to South America (albeit now out of order, since Santiago was our last stop before flying home).  My parents, my wife, and I took a 15-night cruise on the Celebrity Infinity from Fort Lauderdale to Santiago via the Panama Canal.  There were three main reasons I wanted to do this cruise:  1) it was a lifelong dream of both me and my dad to go to South America; 2) this cruise included a full transit of the Panama Canal in the cruise ship itself, which promised to be an incredible experience, and 3) I had a bunch of United Airlines frequent flier miles that I wanted to burn, and a Christmastime flight from Chile back home seemed like a good use of them, especially since I had enough miles for 2 business class tickets.

This will be a multi-part trip report series.  Below is a full listing of the series, which I will complete over the next several weeks as time permits.  Unfortunately, I hadn't thought about starting a travel blog when I took this cruise, so this won't be a detailed review of the cruise ship itself (I didn't take enough notes or photos of the ship), and you plane geeks will be disappointed that I didn't take enough notes for a flight report. 

Cartagena, Colombia (today's post)
The Panama Canal Railway and Panama City
Transiting the Panama Canal
Manta, Ecuador
Lima, Peru
Arica, Chile
La Serena, Chile
Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile
A Day in the Chilean Andes

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Is a Travel Rewards Credit Card, and Should I Get One?

Waipi'o Valley, Big Island, Hawai'i
If you read this travel blog, then chances are you've either seen advertisements and/or other travel-related blogs talking about "travel rewards" or "affinity" credit cards, all with some kind of enticing offer like "50,000 Bonus Miles!".  If you read this blog, you probably also have points in at least one frequent flier/frequent hotel guest rewards program, and more importantly, yearn to use those points some day on a trip to a place like the one in the cover photo.  But do they really work, and should you go out and apply for one?  After the jump, I'll offer my take on these credit cards, and where I think it makes sense to get one.

Disclaimer Notice:  I do not receive a bonus or other compensation from any of the cards mentioned in this post.