Cruising from the States – While Miami and Fort Lauderdale are the main ports for Caribbean cruises, it is worth remembering that cruises also operate from New Orleans. Norwegian Cruise Line has two ships based in New Orleans that make cruises to Mexico and the Caribbean. To reach New Orleans, you need to fly via another US hub, but there are plenty of flights available with Delta, American Airlines and Continental. The cruise terminal in New Orleans is a great deal quieter than those in Florida, and the city makes an interesting stop at one end of your cruise. Another option is to look at cruises from Los Angeles, because flights in the winter are fairly cheap. Mexico is the main destination.
Winter shopping trips to Canada – Every autumn, we warn that New York is not the best place for Christmas-shopping bargains, partly because of the high price of hotel accommodation in the city. Toronto might not have quite the style of New York but, with the low level of the Canadian dollar, is actually much better value both for hotels and most purchases. The best deal we have seen is for flights and two nights in a four-star hotel for less than £300. One rather strange complaint we sometimes hear about New York is that it “isn’t cold enough”. The weather is actually very changeable, and even in December you can get away with shirtsleeves one day and be freezing the next. For a more-authentic winter atmosphere we would suggest Montreal or, even better, Quebec. In Montreal the temperature hovers just over zero for most of the winter, and Quebec is colder. Both cities have a genuine French feel to them and are close to skiing areas. They could both be a good choice for a winter break that feels rather more genuinely wintry. Of course, when the sales come in January, there are bargains available in all the cities. Montreal is easily reached by both Air Canada and hotel prices are reasonable.
Avoiding Miami as a gateway airport – We have been asked for suggestions about avoiding Miami Airport. If your destination is southern Florida, it is hard to escape Miami. Fort Lauderdale is an excellent airport and very popular with passengers but does not have regular flights from Europe. It is easy to reach from other US airports, though, and has a good network of domestic flights to the Caribbean and some Latin American destinations. Quite apart from the hassle of using Miami, it is also a very expensive airport to fly to. It is around 4,400 miles from London, but Economy fares are completely out of line with prices to say, New York, which is 3,600 miles. When flights are being offered to New York for a little over £200, fares of £400 (from London) or more to Miami seem disproportionate. The problem is that New York (and other East Coast destinations) has high loads of expensive Business Class passengers, which allows airlines to offer much more competitive Economy fares. Miami is a very seasonal destination with a high demand for Economy tickets and much less demand for Business. Airlines could fill several extra jumbos to Miami during the peak winter months but will not add extra flights just to sell bargain Economy tickets.
Fares might be slightly lower to Orlando, but, if you are flying there, do be careful to see which airport you will be using, because only the main Orlando airport has a range of connecting flights; Sanford, which is used by many charter airlines, does not have connecting flights. The only other option is to fly to another US gateway and maybe buy a cheap ticket to Fort Lauderdale with one of the budget carriers, but this is likely to increase the overall price. Some US airlines try to sell seats to Miami via their East Coast hubs: we do not recommend this, but it might be worth looking to see if the carrier offers a similar fare to Fort Lauderdale, which might make the extra stop more acceptable. Passengers who have to make one connecting flight anyway could consider flying to a US hub and then connecting to Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami. Passengers in the North of England now have direct flights to Miami this winter as American Airlines has started a service from Manchester. Suggested prices are from London and not Scotland.