Starting in “mid-2025,” Americans will need one more document in order to enter countries in the European Union.
To visit, you’ll have to apply for approval under the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). You will apply online, and the authorization, which will be linked to your passport, will account for short-term stays, including up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
This had been planned to be in effect till 2024, but in October, the European Union updated their page on ETIAS to indicate it won’t happen till the middle of 2025, confirming rumors of a delay. European Commission spokesperson for home affairs Anitta Hipper had told Kiplinger in late September, “The Commission
In addition to adding some hassle, this requirement will make a family vacation slightly more expensive. Applications will cost 7 euros, which right now is close to $8. However, applications for people under 18 or over 70 years old are free. There are also some exemptions for those who have EU citizen family members and “non-EU nationals who have the right to move freely throughout the European Union.”
The good news is that once you’re approved, the authorization lasts for three years. But if your passport expires within those three years, you’ll need to apply again.
Email is important to this process. You apply online, and then receive an email confirming your application. That email “will include your unique ETIAS application number: make sure you keep this number for future reference,” the ETIAS website says. You will get another email once your application is processed.
If your application gets rejected, the email will have the reasons for it. You will have the option to appeal a rejection.
To fill in the application, you’ll need some basic information. This includes your name, address, passport information, current occupation, as well as information about past travel to conflict zones and criminal convictions. You will also have to share information about your travel plans, as well as answer questions about if you have relatives who are citizens in Europe. The application will not require any health information or biometric data, like fingerprints.
One more thing to look out for: ETIAS warned this spring that many unofficial ETIAS websites have sprung up. ETIAS says these sites have incorrect information and some “already collect travellers’ personal data, which is concerning.” Protect your identity by only using the official ETIAS website.
This is a big change for Americans, since there hasn’t been a visa requirement to visit EU countries before. Keep this in mind before your big trip to Greece, Italy, France, or any of the other 30 Euro nations.
But, Cameron Hewitt, content and editorial director at Rick Steves’ Europe, told the Washington Post: “It certainly shouldn’t cause anyone to rethink a trip to Europe. From what we know, ETIAS looks like it’ll simply be a manageable bit of red tape.”
As a Travel Advisor, Joshua Smith knows what it’s like to help travelers maneuver through difficult situations, from pandemic restrictions to natural disasters and medical emergencies.
Those quick-thinking, problem-solving skills are coming in handy more often as travel professionals navigate turbulent times. Smith says his company, Global Citizen Journeys, has never been busier, both with clients seeking help with logistics as well as millennials craving unique adventures. His experiences are a microcosm of the trends emerging in the travel marketplace right now.
Turning to the pros in turbulent times
In this era of uncertainty, travelers are looking for stability. That’s likely one of the reasons why travel advisor and travel management company bookings are projected to account for 32% of all air bookings by 2024, according to the US Travel Market Report. In addition, 44% of travelers say they’re more likely to use a travel advisor after the pandemic, a study by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) found.
Google search trends offer a glimpse into travelers’ top worries. After Russia invaded Ukraine, searches spiked for questions like “Is it safe to travel?” and “Should I travel to Europe?” Earlier in the pandemic, Google searches for “travel restrictions” skyrocketed.
“The number one thing is security,” says Recep “Richie” Karaburun, a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. “They actually want to book the trip and they want to feel secure doing it.”
Before the pandemic, there was discussion about whether the travel advisory profession was fading away, but that conversation has completely changed, says Karaburun, a leading expert with two decades of experience in the travel industry. “People want to trust someone,” he explains. “They want someone who knows the trends. The travel advisors are the experts and advocates for customers.”
Source: Google Trends
In addition to providing a sense of stability, travel advisors build relationships with their customers. That personalized, custom travel experience is where Smith’s Global Citizen Journeys excels.
“The value of relationships is the biggest reason why travelers should use travel advisors,” Smith says. For example, Smith recently worked with clients who were interested in visiting Thailand, but he knew the requirements for entry were complicated, so he steered them to Colombia instead. Smith created a tailored Colombia trip based on their interests, and they raved about the unique experiences he curated.
Locating luxury and leisure
Relying on the expertise of a travel professional is, in itself, a form of luxury. Rather than scrolling through pages upon pages of online reviews to find the best hotel, Smith says he and his colleagues can recommend not just the best hotel in a particular city but the best room in that hotel. By drawing on their own experience as seasoned travelers, he adds, travel advisors can offer restaurant recommendations, suggest specific menu items and even share the best time of day to visit certain attractions.
That insider experience matters. More than half of travelers who have never used a travel advisor are more likely to use one if it means they have access to the travel advisor’s special relationships and insider access, the ASTA study discovered.
Luxury clients tend to have high expectations, Karaburun says, and travel advisors are wise to understand that. For instance, he says, a luxury traveler who doesn’t like their room is likely to call their travel agent to deal with it, rather than calling the front desk themself, because they trust the agent’s work.
Millennials, in particular, are eager to outsource the planning and benefit from VIP treatment, the New York Times reported. And 35% of millennials prefer upscale and luxury hotels and resorts, a Resonance report found.
But those millennial clients see luxury differently than past generations, the experts say. While older clients may want more deluxe accommodations, millennials are instead putting that money toward experiences, such as a helicopter ride or a cooking class, Smith explains. To millennials, luxury is about access and diving into different cultures.
Indeed, Karaburun says, for this generation in their mid-twenties to early-forties, experiences and Instagrammable moments matter.
Generally speaking, he notes, millennials care less about the hotel room and more about the public spaces of the hotel and its surroundings. Karaburun describes this generation as ‘prosumers’ meaning they’re not just consumers of information, but they also produce user-generated content. They’re sophisticated consumers because they’re constantly online reading reviews, researching destinations and talking to their friends about their experiences.
Marketing to millennials and generating Gen Z business
The first step in marketing to millennials and Gen Z, Karaburun says, is using technology such as programs like chatbots for 24/7 availability and virtual reality (VR) during trip planning. Adapting to this technology will build loyalty with millennial customers, he says, because it indicates that the advisor is not only trustworthy and available but also up to date on trends.
“My advice is to use technology,” he says. “These are digital natives. The phone is, for them, part of their body.”
The classic word-of-mouth referral still matters, too, it just might be more accurately called “word-of-Instagram-message.” Smith, for example, sees his younger clientele posting about their trip on social media, which creates a buzz. Then their friends ask how they can do something similar, and they turn into a referral.
In addition to running his own agency, Smith co-founded Millennials in Travel, a career development and networking organization for young, passionate travel industry professionals. The group started nearly a decade ago and has grown to 3,200 members worldwide. The group helped highlight for the industry that millennials travel differently and need to be marketed to differently. Ever on the cutting edge, Millennials in Travel is starting to focus on Gen Z as well.
The global group wants its members to understand that fellow travel advisors are not competitors; they’re colleagues. Smith delights in being able to call a colleague to ask about destinations he’s not as familiar with, and he’s glad to offer his expertise to others as well.
That broad intel is especially useful when young travelers don’t have a specific destination in mind. When beginning to plan their last trip, only half of Gen Z travelers already had a specific destination in mind, whereas among Gen X and older travelers, 57 to 92% already knew where they were headed, according to Phocuswright research. That means travel advisors can play a major role in molding consumer preferences.
Government officials in Cancun announced the destination has ended the need for arriving travelers to fill out customs (FMM) forms and granted Americans a fast-track entry process.
According to the Cancun Sun, many travelers who didn’t complete the Forma Multipla Migratoria (FMM) paperwork online were forced to complete the documents in person, causing delays at airport security and immigration checkpoints.
The Mexican Association of Travel Agencies in Quintana Roo’s executive president Sergio Gonzalez Rubiera said eliminating the paperwork would reduce the process from around an hour to just minutes.
Rubiera also revealed the new system would soon be available in other airports in Mexico.
The government will now issue travelers from the United States and other approved countries a stamp instead of the previously required card. The card would need to be presented as travelers departed Mexico, with visitors footing a $25 fee if they lost it.
Now, approved travelers will be granted a residence permit for 180 days. The government is working to streamline the entry process for tourists as part of an effort to ease the workload for airport employees, as staff shortages continue to impact the industry.
Earlier this month, Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism revealed that the country hosted approximately 25.4 million international visitors between January and May, more than 5.2 million more than 2021, representing an increase of 25.9 percent.
Last week, the U.S. Department of State released its annual update to the Travel Advisory for Mexico, upgrading three Mexican states—Nayarit, Estado de Mexico and Coahuila—thanks to improvements in security.
Are you someone that has never tried a cruise because you think cruise ships just aren’t for you?
I have friends and family that have felt this way for years out of concern that ships are overcrowded, isolated in the ocean, or otherwise bored. Regardless of the reason, they haven’t tried a cruise yet because they believe it would not be a fun vacation.
Royal Caribbean (and the entire cruise industry) has worked for years to undo those beliefs, and one of the best ways has been to design and build new cruise ships that defy the notion of what you can do on a ship.
When I hear from new cruisers, many are astounded by how much there was to do onboard. Any fear of not having enough to do or feeling “trapped” are almost always brushed aside after they get home.
If I had to pick a cruise ship for a non-cruiser to try, Wonder of the Seas is that ship because I think it has so many amenities onboard that they never expected. If your idea of a great vacation is heading to a sandy beach, laying out by the pool, enjoying high-class entertainment, and plenty of food and drink options, then I think Wonder of the Seas may be the perfect first cruise ship for you.
The best suite experience in the fleet
If you elect to book a suite, you can look forward to the best end-to-end suite program on any Royal Caribbean ship.
When you book a Royal Caribbean suite, you’re not just getting a large cruise ship cabin. You’re also getting access to a number of services that other passengers do not have. Suite guests have access to their own complimentary restaurant, suite lounge, and entire suite sun deck.
Known as the Suite Neighborhood, this area is at the top of Wonder of the Seas and is where you’ll find the suite lounge, Coastal Kitchen restaurant and pool area.
I think the sun deck is particularly compelling, because it is a sprawling space with loungers, bar, plunge pool and sweeping views.
Someone that hasn’t cruised before may be drawn to booking a suite because they tend to stay in suites in hotels for bonuses that come with those rooms. Similarly, a cruise ship suite is about rewarding guests with added service that make the entire experience easier to enjoy.
Dining and food galore
Regardless if you’re on a cruise ship or your hometown, everyone can enjoy a great meal.
Someone that has never cruised probably imagines a dining hall and buffet as what the cruise dining experience is like, similar in some regards to an all-inclusive hotel. While there is a buffet and main dining room on cruise ships, there is so much more than just that.
Royal Caribbean designed Wonder of the Seas so that there was a wide assortment of dining choices. First and foremost, they cannot have everyone onboard the ship eating at just a couple of restaurants. Moreover, Royal Caribbean knows they are competing against land resorts that have a variety of food.
On Wonder of the Seas, you have over 40 restaurants, bars and lounges to choose from, which means you can can visit six different places each day of the week. There’s Japanese hibachi, custom-made salads, New England style seafood, and a new Southern American restaurant that has barbecue pulled pork, fried chicken and crab beignets.
This isn’t microwaved and/or pre-prepared food. Rather, chefs prepare all the food each day.
Fears that you will be stuck eating just at the buffet will quickly disappear once you discover all the choices on a ship like Wonder of the Seas.
If you enjoy a cocktail or two, Royal Caribbean offers over 400 different cocktails, wines, beers and zero-proof cocktails available. Of course, the bar staff can create almost any drink you like that isn’t on the menu, so you just have to ask.
Teens will love the fact there are zero-proof cocktails available in their own teen club area of the ship.
Known as Social100’s Patio, teens can check out the bar there that includes jumbo-size games, a private whirlpool, loungers and nooks.
The places you’ll visit
Another fear new cruisers have is that they will feel trapped. Friends usually say, “I’d hate to be stuck at sea” and the reality is a cruise on Wonder of the Seas will take you to some gorgeous places.
On a 7-night cruise, you can expect to visit at least three ports of call, if not more. That means on most days of your cruise, you’ll have to opportunity to disembark for the day and explore ports of call in the Caribbean.
When I first started cruising, I loved days we were in port because you would wake up and be somewhere new each day.
You could enjoy the sandy beaches of Cozumel, Mexico, or walk the streets of Old San Juan. You might be able to drive an ATV, snorkel with marine life all around you, or learn about the history and culture of the people that call the port you are visiting home.
In short, there are a lot of amazing things you can do during your cruise while in port. Having more than half the days of your cruise include a port visit substantially helps reduce the feeling that you’re relegated to the ship only.
No cruise aboard Wonder of the Seas is complete without a visit to Royal Caribbean’s private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay. Other cruise lines have private islands, but none compare to the amazing upgrades Royal Caribbean has invested at CocoCay.
Perfect Day at CocoCay is not just a beach reserved for cruise ship guests. There’s a water park, upgraded beach club, giant freshwater pool, and island food you actually want to eat.
And after a day of fun ashore, you get to come back to the cruise ship (just like a hotel) and enjoy evening dining and entertainment.
All this fun onboard and on shore means the time will pass quickly, and you’ll find the week-long cruise flying by.
The best selection of activities on any cruise ship
I’m going to make the bold statement that Wonder of the Seas has the best variety of entertainment and things to do of any cruise ship right now.
Royal Caribbean has a reputation for being the cruise line that packs their ships with the most “I can’t believe you do that on a cruise ship” sort of activities.
Families can choose between water slides, an open-air play area for younger children, 10-story dry slide that has lights and sound effects, and aqua park.
At night, there’s three different venues performing various shows that are included with your cruise fare.
Studio B has professional ice skaters that perform 365: The Seasons on Ice. Using projection technology, the cast tells the story of Earth’s changing seasons.
Moving to the AquaTheater on the back of the ship, you’ll be able to see an all-female cast perform inTENse that includes acrobatics, slacklining, high diving, tumbling, and synchronized swimming.
The Royal Theater has two shows that have Broadway-style performances to enjoy.
If that isn’t enough, there are comedy shows, a piano bar, live musical performances around the ship, and even movies by the pool to watch.
The takeaway here is that there is so much to do onboard, and it’s up to you how much (or little) you do. If you’re worried a cruise ship means you’ll be bored because the expectation is you alternate between sitting by the pool and eating, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much more there is to do.
Kids? No problem: Lots for adults
Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line for families, and whether you have kids or not, there is lots to enjoy for adults on Wonder of the Seas.
If you do have kids, there is supervised kids programming in Adventure Ocean that is available for children as young as six months old, all the way up to 17 years old.
The nursery is available for kids between 6 and 36 months old for an addition cost. As a parent that has used the nursery extensively, it’s worth every penny.
Kids between 3 and 17 have their own supervised space, where they can play, dance, draw, and have fun with other kids their age. It’s not just an enclave for children, it’s an opportunity for them to do what they want, while you enjoy time alone to do what you want.
Besides the amazing restaurants you can choose from for date night, there’s lots more you can do without any children on Wonder of the Seas.
First and foremost, there is an entire area of the pool deck reserved just for adults. The Solarium is an enclosed pool area with upgraded loungers. Because it’s climate controlled, it’s always the perfect temperature!
You’ll also find arguably the best wine bar across any Royal Caribbean cruise ship with Giovanni’s Wine Bar. Located in Central Park, Royal Caribbean revamped its wine bar experience with a new motif, and the added bonus of being able to enjoy many of the same foods you’d find in nearby Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen without getting up from your seat.
You can visit the casino throughout the day or night, where you’ll find plenty of slot machines, poker tables, blackjack, roulette, craps and more table games. For a lot of people, the casino fun is another way Royal Caribbean caters to parents while the kids are away.
If you prefer to pamper yourself, why not take a visit to the Vitality Spa, where you there are some truly amazing treatments to choose from, along with a full salon.
While not adults only, if you’re cruising without kids, you might consider buying a pass to the Coco Beach Club at Perfect Day at CocoCay.
The Coco Beach Club is an upgraded beach day experience, complete with its own restaurant and infinity pool. Kids are allowed here, but most families end up elsewhere for the variety of things to do around the island. This means a great spot to spend your day and splurge a bit.
If an adults-only beach area sounds like heaven, don’t worry, because Royal Caribbean has your back.
Scheduled to open in late 2023, Hideaway Beach will be a new expansion area that will only allow adults in and offer yet-to-be-announced things to do.
If you gravitate towards booking a beach vacation or prefer to stay in a new hotel, and have not tried a cruise yet, Wonder of the Seas might be the perfect cruise ship for you.
Wonder of the Seas has the latest and greatest innovations and things to do, which rival much of what you can find on a land vacation. Better yet, a cruise includes much more in your base cost than a land vacation.
You’re going to find plenty for everyone in your family to do. Other lines tend to cater to either mostly kids or mostly adults, but Royal Caribbean is far more even keeled at a price families can afford.
If you are one of those people that never considered a cruise vacation, Wonder of the Seas is the ship that could change your mind.