Ask T+L: Mediterranean Cruise, Biking Norh America, Affordable London, Business Upgrades
I want to take a Mediterranean cruise this year. Are there any itineraries that make stops in less-traveled ports of call?
—Billy Lawson, New York, N.Y.
The small-ship cruise operator Intrav (800/456-8100; www.intrav.com; nine-day cruise from $3,595 per person, double) sails along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, taking in the ancient Roman ruins in Pula and Split, and stops at islands like the densely forested Mljet. Silversea’s (877/760-9052; www.silversea.com; seven-day cruise from $6,295 per person, double) Rome–Monte Carlo cruise docks at Sète, on the French Riviera—a less-crowded alternative to St.-Tropez—before heading to the tiny Spanish island of Minorca.
Do you have any tips on using frequent-flier miles to get an upgrade? I always see available business-class seats online, but I can’t ever book them.
—Mark Jones, Lincoln, Nebr.
Although each airline has different frequent-flier restrictions, here are a few tips that are helpful across the board: First, you should aim for a higher level within your program for a better chance at upgrades (see "A to Z Guide to Travel Secrets You Need to Know" for two status-upgrade shorcuts). Always remember to be flexible: search flights out of various airports serving the same city, or consider changing your flight times slightly to get the business-class seat you want. And to broaden your search, ask if your program includes partner airlines. If all else fails, inquire about an upgrade again a day or two before your flight, when airlines make more unsold seats available.
My husband and I enjoyed a recent biking tour in Burgundy, France. Are there any similar wine-country cycling trips in North America?
—Jane Wilcher, Toronto, Ont.
For an especially challenging ride and a sampling of tasty Rieslings, there’s a 100-mile, six-day tour of New York’s Finger Lakes with Classic Adventures (800/777-8090; www.classicadventures.com; tours from $1,689 per person, double) that uses a 19th-century mansion overlooking scenic Cayuga Lake as a base. In British Columbia, book the South Okanagan Wine Country Cycle Tour with Monashee Adventure Tours (888/762-9253; www.monasheeadventuretours.com; one-day tours from $150 per person, accommodations not included) for a taste of the region’s Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The level, easy lakeside terrain is good for novice riders. And in California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, try the Classic Wine Country Weekend package from Getaway Adventures (800/499-2453; www.getawayadventures.com; three-day tours from $797 per person, double). The package includes stops at more than six area wineries, plus picnic lunches and spa visits.
Can you recommend some centrally located, affordable accommodations in London?
—Debbie Cook, Boston, Mass.
The new Hoxton hotel (81 Great Eastern St.; 44-20/7550-1000; www.hoxtonhotels.com; doubles from $155) is near Old Street—an up-and-coming neighborhood with a lively restaurant scene. The 205 rooms have dark wood interiors. On a quiet street in tony Belgravia, B+B Belgravia (64–66 Ebury St.; 44-20/7259-8570; www.bb-belgravia.com; doubles from $192) is a stylish 17-room inn within walking distance of some of London’s chicest shops. The 67 rooms at the Base2stay (25 Courtfield Gardens; 44-20/7244-2255; www.base2stay.com; doubles from $192) are done in beige, brown, and white and come in seven sizes, all with mini kitchens—great for longer stays.