Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why do all Alaskan cruises include a visit to Canada?

I get asked this question from time to time. This is about the best explanation of the Jones Act aka the "Merchant Marine Act of 1920" that I've found. This answer comes from Alan Fox of, a great web site for researching cruise options and itineraries.

Q: I am interested in an Alaska cruise. I am wondering if there are any cruises that don't stop in Canada. I want to find a cruise that leaves Seattle and goes to Alaska so that I don't have to get a visa for Canada (only non-US citizens need this visa).

A: All cruise ships departing from Seattle or San Francisco for Alaska are foreign-built. According to the Jones Act, foreign-built cruise ships are prohibited from sailing itineraries that are wholly within the U.S., requiring such ships to make at least one stop in a foreign port. For Alaska cruises, that foreign port call is almost always in British Columbia, Canada. The only foreign-built ship sailing wholly within the U.S. is Norwegian's Pride of America, which was granted an exemption to the Jones Act by Congress. The Pride of America sails in Hawaii.

Note: Norwegian's "Pride of America" mentioned above is the only Hawaiian cruise you can take that doesn't involve a long detour to a remote island to satisfy the Jones Act. It stays in Hawaii the entire time of your cruise. This exemption was granted when NCL agreed to buy the unfinished hull from a failed American shipbuilding venture and float the unfinished hull to Norway for completion.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saving for Retirement

Are you one of the lucky duckies with a guaranteed pension just waiting for you to get old? Probably not. Most likely you’ve been working for years and putting your own money away for retirement. And there is nothing more boring than the 401k and IRA statements that you get in the mail or online periodically. But you really need to become friendly with your retirement accounts. Can you answer these questions about something you’ve probably poured a large percentage of your hard-earned dollars into?

How much money is in my account? Where is the money invested? Is my money working for me, increasing in value over time? Am I receiving any matching contributions from my employer? Are fees being subtracted from my account? How does the money my account earns for me compare to other investments?

This is very basic and important information. You need to get up to speed on this. Don’t let life’s daily grind keep you from spending time with something that’s really important. No time you say? Make time. For example, some things you can farm out to others like fixing your car or remodelling your basement. If you have to, hire a plumber to replace that leaky faucet so you can free up a Saturday or two to learn about your 401k and IRA accounts. This could be life changing and result in decisions that involve large sums of money.

The first step is to gather up the statements that you’ve received either in the mail or electronically. You’ve saved them, right? No? Well the second step is to learn how to access your accounts on the web. Most likely copies of your statements are waiting there for you to print them out or otherwise save them. What’s the third step? Well let’s talk about that if anyone is interested!

Best Regards,

PS I can hear some of you saying “This doesn’t apply to me, I have a guy for this stuff. He or she stays on top of all these details and tells me what to do”. Well you should realize that the number one priority of every financial advisor is to earn a comfortable living off a slice of your money. They are masters at making it look like someone else pays them. But you pay them, and you pay them dearly. And truth be told, perhaps they’re worth every penny because they’re smart and honest and they can manage your money much better than you can. You can find advisors like that; many do exist, but good luck with that. So even if you have no interest in managing your money, learn all you can so you understand this very important aspect of your life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Greece, once the cradle of civilization, now a bankrupt socialist state? Is this where the United States is headed?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Well I've decided to reactivate and repurpose this blog. I was using it as a photo album of the North Country Trail in the Chippewa National forest. I think I'm going to change directions and use it as a blog was meant to be used. I will spew all sorts of interesting things and most of the world will ignore it. But maybe a few of you will be interested and we'll have a nice chat about things from time to time. Hope to see you around!