Shopping for Cruises Online! How?

Are you planning a cruise vacation but do not know where to start? Have you shopped for a cruise vacation? How did you accomplish your shopping? Did you do your shopping for cruises online? Were you successful in getting the best cruise vacation for you?

I could continue with questions regarding cruise shopping and in particular on-line cruise shopping. But that would not accomplish much without some answers to some nagging questions:

1. Where do I start to find the right cruise vacation?

2. How can I find a cruise vacation itinerary that suits me, my family, my loved one?

3. What cruise line should I consider for my vacation cruise?

4. What stateroom category would best suit my vacation needs?

5. How can I compare cruise vacation deals?

More questions. Perhaps we can answer a few of these questions and help you plan the perfect cruise vacation and purchase the best cruise deal.

Planning a vacation can be an exciting part of the vacation experience as a whole. As you explore and research, the excitation buildings. You become more and more interested in finding information – without being overwhelmed – and can get great satisfaction that you will purchase the very best cruise vacation deal.

Where to Start Shopping for Cruises Online!

One can find information on cruise vacations in many locations – newspapers, friends, "brick and mortar" travel agencies and cruise travel agencies, and on-line. The best bet is to start researching for your self. Decide on where you would like your cruise vacation to travel – should it be a warm winter vacation, a fascinating and relaxing Alaskan cruise, an interesting European vacation cruise or an exciting adventure cruise. At a1-discount-cruises.com you can find merchant links, and more importantly at the start, articles about cruises, cruise itineraries, cruise lines, cruise ships, cruise wear and more to help you plan your special cruise vacation.

The Cruise Vacation Itinerary!

You have already decided on the destination of your vacation cruise. The internet allows you the quiet time needed with all resources necessary to research your cruise vacation destination. You will have no salesmen pushing a particular cruise on you because they get a special incentive to sell that cruise. You can investigate which cruise lines travel the chosen destination and find itineraries that intrigue you. A1-discount-cruises.com offers articles regarding many cruise destinations and itineraries.

What cruise line?

This question requires you to look at your lifestyle and what you would like and expect a cruise vacation to be. Different cruise lines offer different price points, different levels of luxury (although they all offer a certain amount of luxury), and different styles.

Generally speaking, the higher priced cruise lines offer a higher level of service, cuisine, and staff per cruise passenger. This does not mean that the "high end" cruise lines are right for everyone. We've all heard Carnival's advertising – "The Fun Ships". These ships and the "Free-Style Cruising" of Norwegian Cruise Lines tend to be more relaxed and less formal than say Radisson Seven Seas. It becomes a matter of preference at this point. Specific ships can also offer different levels of comfort, formality and service.

Which magnificent stateroom?

The question of what level of stateroom is a matter of taste, preference and of course cost. If you do not plan to spend much time in your room, sometimes an interior room would be suitable. These tend to be the best price point rooms as well. An "ocean view" room provides the passenger with a window from which to look at the day before getting ready for the day's events. Our personal preference is a stateroom with a private deck or veranda. We can sit early in the morning for a few minutes and enjoy each other's company taking in the fresh sea air. And later in the day, before getting ready for the fine dining aboard the cruise ships, we can again have our private time together sipping a glass of fine wine on our deck watching the islands drift by. Sometimes a suite is more suitable. On some cruise lines, the upper level of suites offers concierge or butler service. Whatever stateroom you choose, you will surely enjoy your cruise vacation in comfort.

How to compare Cruise Deals?

Now for the "biggie". How can I compare the cruise deals to get the absolute best value for me? If you have done your research well, it will likely be a simple task. "This cruise offers the itinerary on our preferred cruise line in the stateroom of choice at a price within our budget." However, you will want to compare deals with those exact specifications. At a1-discount cruises.com, we have a number of on-line cruise merchants who are waiting for you to send a request. Do not be afraid to offer your email address when requested. This will allow dialog without pressure so that you can ask questions or get clarifications in the privacy of your home or office. Check out two or three three – or more – of the merchants to see how their pricing is and what incentives if any they have to offer you. If you are still unsure about dealing with an on-line merchant, check out your specific cruise with a "brick and mortar" cruise travel merchant and compare the value.

After you have done this, you can book your cruise knowing that you are getting the best cruise vacation. You have planned for your needs, interests and lifestyle. You have compared pricing with a number of qualified cruise merchants. All that's left to do is book your cruise on-line and get excited!

Check out some of the other informative articles relating to cruise vacations at a1-discount cruises.com. You may just find the cruise vacation deal that's best suited to you!

Real Estate SEO for Beginners

The world of real estate is going through dramatic change and I don’t mean the current market upheavals caused by the change from a Seller’s market to a Buyer’s market.

Independent of price level there will always be buying and selling of homes going on. But the way people search for and find homes is in the middle of a dramatic change. The Internet is the great equalizer but also the great differentiator.

People searching online are not aware of your achievements, everybody is equal at first. If your website does not offer the design and services people appreciate they will not stay long enough to find out. This is where you can differentiate yourself.

But design and functionality are a secondary issue to the problem of how to get found in the first place. Use the analogy of websites being online business cards. New business cards are deposited not at the top of the pile but at the very bottom. Customers are picking up business cards from the top of the pile. SEO or search engine optimization deals with efforts to move ones business cards further up the pile so that customers can find one’s site through popular search engines.

So you have a new website. So you basically just had your business cards printed but nobody knows how to find them. Or even more dramatic you don’t even know if somebody is picking up your business cards and you don’t know if your business cards are in the big pile yet.

I would define SEO as the efforts to purposefully move ones website to be placed higher on the results page in response to a search query at a range of search engines.

But there are thousands of search engines out there. True. But all but 3 are irrelevant to your optimization efforts. Google, Yahoo and MSN control about 98% of all searches performed on the Internet. Focus on the three big search engines and the rest will take care of itself.

What is there to optimize? The aim is to be found by people searching for things that you offer on your website. When people search they do this textually by querying a search term or phrase. For you to optimize your site you first have to understand for which keywords or key phrases you want to be found. As I am practicing real estate in Aspen, Colorado and appropriate search term could be “Aspen Real Estate”.

Make sure you repeat your keywords and phrases on your homepage. Make the most important key phrase a headline and type it in a bold font.

It is important to understand that search engines are automated computer systems programmed by humans to evaluate the webs content without human interference. This means that search results are based on what is called a computer algorithm. This is basically a set of instructions for the computer on how to evaluate certain criteria and translate the results into a sequence of importance. Most important website first, least important website last.

The art and science of Search Engine Optimization is to try to understand what the search engines are looking for in a good site and then giving the search engine just that. The Google search engine algorithm probably looks at hundreds of different criteria. It is so complex that not even the engineers inside Google know the whole picture. Well you might say, how should none Google employees then know what to do?

Basically the most important fundamentals of what makes a good websites are known. Google for example uses a patented mathematical concept they called “Page Rank” at the root of their systems. Links are seen as votes. The more links are pointing to one website the more important that website must be. The more important the website is that votes for another website the more weight that vote caries.

So, try to get people to link to your website. It is important to know that links from website that have the same topic as your website seem to be more important than links from website that do not fit the subject. Links from other real estate related website are more important to my website then links from websites promoting toys.

Search engines like content rich websites. The more pages with useful content the better. Blogs are a great way to accumulate great on-topic content over a period of time. This is all the more important as search engines like website that have fresh content on a regular basis.

DMOZ.org is a human compiled directory of websites. Read their instructions carefully and submit your website to a relevant category. Yahoo and Google use this directory and it helps to be listed.

Generate a site map and place the xml file on your web server. A site map is basically a long list containing all your web pages in a format that is readable by computer programs employed by search engines to browse the web. These programs are called “bots” or “spiders”. This will help the search engines to find all the pages on your website. Remember, the more web pages the search engine knows about the better for you.

Search engines cannot read certain content. Graphical content is one such thing. If your site consists of mainly pictures the search engine will not understand what your site is about and therefore will not offer it as a result of a search. Make sure your site is text rich.

Real Estate website can have pages for the different subdivisions in the area serviced. Write a blog on the property of the week. Incorporate a section of “Frequently Asked Questions”. Write about yourself and give people a bio on you. Explain the buying and selling process. Offer sales statistics. The list goes on.

Get a program Like “Advanced Web Ranking” to search the search engines for search results containing your keywords. Optimization is fun when you start to see results. But manually looking for your website in search results is labor intensive and a good job for an automated program.

Read web forums and a couple of books on SEO once you are past the basics. The field is constantly evolving and there us tons more to learn.

Differences Between a Dive Bar and Club

In the United States, 21 is the magical age. Once a person turns 21, the world is practically opened up to her, and there aren’t any more age restrictions to worry about. One of the first things that a new 21-year-old typically wants to do is bar hop. However, there are a lot of different bars out there to choose from, and it can be a bit intimidating the first time around. Knowing what to expect from certain types of bars is handy and helps a person feel more relaxed.

Dive bars are popular among the younger age groups for various reasons. Dive bars tend to be much more relaxed, meaning they don’t require a cover charge and don’t have dress standards. For example, a Nob Hill dive bar might have a crowd full of college-age students wearing jeans and t-shirts. Dive bars also tend to have fairly cheap drinks and have a community feel among them. Although rare today, some dive bars might be so casual that they only accept cash for drinks.

Beer bars are a type of specialty bar. These bars specialize in offering a wide variety of beers for patrons to try. While most of them also serve cocktails, the main drink to try is a beer from their extensive list. This is a place to go for beer-lovers, and the age crowd at beer bars tends to be a little older.

Clubs are bars that also offer dancing and entertainment. Clubs are popular for their exciting nightlife, good music, and attractive customers. Clubs, unlike beer bars, rarely offer a wide variety of beer, but usually offer an extensive list of cocktails and hard alcohol. Most clubs have a dress code, so it’s important to know what to wear before trying to get in. Additionally, clubs usually require a cover charge in order to get in for the night.

Successful Investing – Helping Investors Avoid Common Investment Mistakes

The Top Mistakes made by Investors

In my dozen plus years of advising individuals and businesses I have found a number of common mistakes that have derailed even the best laid financial plans. I thought by sharing them I might be able to help others sidestep the pitfalls and the negative impact they can have on your portfolio and long-term financial plans.

1. Failing to establish a time horizon and investing accordingly -

If you have expenses that need to be funded in 3 years or less, you should not be investing the cash for them in the stock market or other risky investments. These monies should be carved out of your investment portfolio (the money earmarked for long-term investing) and invested appropriately in liquid assets such as money market funds or term-certain fixed income offerings. If the money is not going to be needed for 3 years or more, an investment plan should be established based upon specific a time horizon and risk tolerance for these funds.

2. Failing to thoroughly diversify your portfolio -

Many investors know about the concept of diversification and think that by owning different investments, they are diversified. Diversification of an investment portfolio makes good sense on an intuitive level. However, it wasn’t until Harry Markowitz published his model of portfolio selection that this concept became a formalized part of sound investment practice and formed the basis of today’s Modern Portfolio Theory. Beyond this basic concept of diversification, the key to Markowitz’s premise is the revelation that the risk of any investment can be reduced and/or performance increased by forming a portfolio of diverse and non-correlated assets. That is, it is important not just to seek a diversity of asset types, but also to seek assets that have low or near-zero correlations to one another. It’s not about owning different investments; it’s about owning different, non-correlated investments.

3. Letting potential tax implications rule your investment decisions –

Many investors delay selling an investment that has done well regardless of how good or bad the future looks for the holding. Their response is, “I will have to pay taxes if I sell.” By not selling, they set themselves up for not having to pay taxes at all – usually because the investment starts on a decline and their concern switches from “having to pay taxes” to one of “hoping for a turnaround.” Don’t be afraid to take some profits off the table. While taxes are an unpleasant result of investing, I prefer to look at them as a positive sign as it indicates you are making money and your investment plan is working.

4. Buying a stock based upon a “hot tip” -

Too many investors listen to a friend’s advice because he or she always seems to have the next “great” money making idea. They don’t take the time to assess the idea personally and jump in because it’s only a few thousand dollars they are investing. Unfortunately this is not investing – it’s gambling. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas and at least get free drinks, dinner, a show and a room for the risks you are taking. Any investment that is being considered for your portfolio should be thoroughly researched and have passed a comprehensive financial screening scrutiny.

5. Attempting to time the market -

Waiting an extra day, week, or month to try and buy in at the “right price” just doesn’t work. No one can predict the future. If they could they most likely wouldn’t be sharing this knowledge with you for free. Successful investors use time, patience and a disciplined approach to increase the likelihood of maximizing their investment returns – not trying to time the market. If you have done the research and the investment is sound and meets your criteria then buy it, regardless of timing.

6. Failing to regularly reevaluate your investments -

Over time all investment styles, strategies and types fall out of favor. So, like timing the market, it becomes virtually impossible to know what is going to be “hot” in the next bull market and what isn’t. For this reason it is always prudent to stay up-to-date on your investments to insure they are still the same investment that you originally purchased (segment drift and manager changes can be one reason they may have changed). If your investments consist solely of mutual funds then an annual review is a good place to start.

7. Basing investment decisions on emotion -

Maybe the stock market is going through a bad time because of a short-term geo-political or economic event. Stay calm and make an educated, well thought out decisions about what, if anything, to do. Assess whether the event will affect the economy long-term or if it’s just a short-term blip. The best move is often no move at all. If it is a short term incident, many times the smart, prudent investor will make additional investments because the current decline provides them with an excellent buying opportunity. The key to successful investing is to have a disciplined strategy and to stick with it.

8. Cashing out gains and dividends rather than reinvesting -

Once you’ve realized gains or had distributions and dividends paid out, insure they are reinvested back into your portfolio. If you pull out your capital gains, dividends and interest, your money won’t compound as quickly, thereby leaving you with a smaller chunk of change down the line. Letting your investments compound is one of the major tenets of successful investing.

9. Owning too much employer stock -

Many people get over-weighted in employer stock because of options and stock purchase plans made available in today’s competitive compensation packages. While these are great supplements to their annual salary they can put an employee in a position of having too much money invested in their employer’s stock. Additionally, it is quite common for people to invest in “what they know” and what do you know better than the company you work for? To compound the problem many people will add more employer stock to their 401k holdings and individual brokerage accounts. Not only does this create a diversification problem in their portfolio but it also subjects them to excessive single stock risk. A good rule of thumb to follow is to insure that no more than 5-10% of your entire investment portfolio is in any one single stock. If you find yourself in this situation the importance of creating a well thought out reduction strategy cannot be overstated.

10. Following the herd -

The most successful of all investors are moving in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing. They buy when most are selling and sell when everyone else is buying. By following this simple plan you can preserve your capital and potentially sidestep the next bubble (can anyone remember real estate, internet stocks, and technology growth funds?).

11. Not investing at all –

Somehow in today’s society that Mocha Cappuccino Latte seems to take precedence over saving for the long-term. We are a society who wishes to satisfy the “here and now” rather than the securing our future. The important fact here is that those two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, BALANCE is the key in any long-term endeavor, but by always keeping an eye on the end goal you can make sure it is not out of mind while satiating the here and now.

12. Investing without a plan -

Investing without a plan and lacking the discipline to follow it is a sure way to lower your chances of success. The chances of obtaining any long term goal can be greatly enhanced by creating a strategy, following it and regularly reviewing it frequently enough so it reflects any changes that have taken place since implementation. Many investors start off with a small amount of money and start putting it to work without a plan. As time progresses they find they have a mish-mash of investments in their portfolio with no clear strategy or direction. It’s never too early to invest but it’s even better to invest early with a plan.

13. Taking too little risk -

Some people don’t want to take any risk and cannot stand the volatility involved with risky investments. While it may seem like you are keeping your money safe and secure by not taking risk, it is more than likely you are not because of inflation. If your time horizon is greater than 5 years it is recommended that you have no less than 25-30% in growth investments (i.e. stocks) in your portfolio to ward off the effects of inflation. The actual percentage to own is dependent upon many factors including but not limited to age, time horizon before money is needed, current financial situation, etc. A good general rule of thumb to use as a starting point for the percentage of equity you may include in your portfolio is “120 – your age.”