Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Seabourn's New Cruise Documents - A Real Touch of Class

I just received Seabourn's newest cruise documents which should start rolling out soon and am quite impressed both for their elegance and functionality.  It is refreshing to see that Seabourn is bucking the trend of cutting back on or eliminating cruise documents by creating new and better ones!

There is still a joy for many guests receiving a package which announces the true start to their voyage, but in this age of e-Tickets, apps and cost-cutting what is actually this very rich, and for more than you can imagine, a bit of an emotional experience is being lost.  (And, of course, Goldring Travel, makes sure the experience is even better including high quality jackets, backpacks, briefcases, tote bags, carry on bags, hats, or other gifts along with travel flashlights, umbrellas, wine tool kits or other fun, but functional, items.


Seabourn's new cruise documents are elegant, functional and
assures receiving them is an impressive first impression
of what is to come.
Would you like some detail?

Seabourn's Cruise Documents consist of a soft, padded, black matte finish, Seabourn logoed portfolio encased in a non-woven Velcroed pouch (useful by itself for later holding some of those Goldring Travel gifts and other small items!) along with luggage tags and and cruise documents.

The Portfolio is extremely well made (so you can use it for years) and nicely holds an iPad or Surface in the rear compartment with the front compartment holding your full color and richly printed Cruise Documents.  And there is a business card holder so your travel agent's information can be front and center and you can add your information in case you misplace the portfolio.

The Cruise Documents are much easier to read and are far more compact with all the essential information provided on two sets of side-by-side pages.  The Cruise Booking Pages have the basic information along with your suite number, layout of the suite and deck plan showing where your suite is located.  Also included is the exact pier terminal (you cannot imagine how many times that question is asked of me) as well as boarding and departure times.  The Your Itinerary Page gives you a concise itinerary setting forth not only any tender ports, but which nights are Formal Optional (another question regularly asked of me).  Facing that page is the Onboard Arrangements Page where an Onboard Credits, etc are shown.  After these pages are the expected checklists, ship contact numbers and safety information.

Finally are the Luggage Tags.  Each tag is sturdy and has a matching black matte finish with your Seabourn Club status and Seabourn logo embossed on the front.  The interior has a great picture of the Seabourn ship on one side and a place for your address or business card on the other.  They are the nicest luggage tags I have seen from any cruise line.  (One possible issue is the elastic to attach them to your luggage which I might suggest substituting for a stronger material.)

With Seabourn's new ships (the Seabourn Encore and Ovation) coming soon, Thomas Keller redesigning Seabourn's menus, Adam Tihany designing and redesigning Seabourn's ship interiors, a blossoming partnership with UNESCO and Seabourn's expedition-style experiences expanding these new cruise documents reminds you that so many times people forget, but what really matters, are: The Little Things.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Goldring Travel's New Luxury & Experiential Travel Video

I just finished production on Goldring Travel's first original video and am excited to share it here.


All of the photographs (other than of the cruise ships) were taken by me on my journeys around the world; clearly showing that having experienced so many areas of the world not only allows me to provide my client's with better and more accurate advice about destinations, but on travel itself.

Whether it is my recommending stays in unique boutique hotels or truly luxurious hidden gems (before, like some have, become not so hidden!) or cruising on particular ships rather than broadly recommending particular cruise lines, or understanding the best perspectives when visiting an exotic locale, you can be sure that Goldring Travel has both the experience and expertise to deliver your luxury.

I hope you enjoy the video!

If you are interested in booking your luxury or experiential holiday, please give me a call:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:            (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

Crystal Cruises - Have Patience and Don't Forget What Crystal Is...Because It's a Long Wait for Edie Rodriguez's Vision

I am excited by Crystal Cruise's announcement of new ships, a new yacht, a new charter aircraft experience and, possibly even, the river cruise addition BUT...hype is one thing, however remembering your roots and your current guests is critical to Crystal Cruises' success.

Crystal Symphony
These are some of the facts:

1.  Its a Long Time From Now to Then

Crystal Cruises will not have a new ship until almost 2019.  That means its product will not have a dramatic change for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  And, let's not forget that Crystal Cruises has not firmly committed to more than one new ship.  To the extent there is a commitment, Edie Rodriquez has admitted that Ships 2 and 3 won't be delivered until 2019 and/or 2020 at the earliest.


That is essentially 3.5 years with the same hardware (oceanview and veranda staterooms with a limited number of suites) and guest profile...which is upper premium to luxury; not exclusively luxury.  And then there is potentially going to be either a transformation over the following two to three years as (five years from now) with Crystal eliminating its mixed category older ships (Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony) or Crystal expanding to five ships and selling two different products. (I won't eliminate the possibility of a transformation of the Crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony so that they have more suites.) 

It is a long time from now to then and I am concerned that the hype may well cause people to balk at sailing on Crystal now because of the intimidation factor, the dislike of such bold hype or a feeling of downgrading while they are excitedly waiting for the new ship(s).

Personally, with only one ship truly committed to and a long wait for that one, I believe a significant amount of focus needs to be made on the present excellent Crystal Cruise product.  The reality is that there are some tremendous deals for late 2015 and early 2016 because sales are a bit soft.

2.  Crystal Esprit Yacht Is Nice, But...

Crystal Esprit
With Crystal Cruises selling over 4,000 cruises (1,000 staterooms with two berths per stateroom) on average every ten days, a 62 berth yacht sailing on average seven day cruises is not exactly going to radically change Crystal Cruises' bottom line.  Yes, it is sexy, but there is more to it.

As I previously wrote, the acquisition of the Crystal Esprit from another Gentling HK enterprise that held it as a burdensome asset provided two solutions:  Ridding one company of a problem and giving Crystal Cruises, which had had a bit of a stodgy reputation, a bit of flash.

However, and I know Edie Rodriguez loves the charter market, I predict this yacht is not going to be primarily for those individuals wanting a quite yacht-like holiday, but for the incentive market where corporations can charter  the entire yacht.  And that is where the practical problem lies.

I, personally, love the SeaDream Yacht Club ships and the overall product.  However, because these small, 100 guest ships, are small, groups (family, partial charters, etc.) can radically change the individual cruiser's experience.  On the even smaller Crystal Esprit the issue may be even more serious.

One other note, I recently had clients booked for a March 2016 cruise on Crystal in a Penthouse Suite with Veranda and another couple in a Penthouse.  Crystal chartered out the entire ship...and cancelled their cruise with minimal compensation to the guests no less.  Unless Crystal installs a "no cancellation for charter" policy and also has a proactive notification of partial charters (with the ability to cancel without penalty if that were to occur anytime after booking the cruise) I would be extremely cautious about booking this product for your quiet yacht holiday.

3.  Crystal River Cruises May Be Interesting, But...

While I understand the concept of not losing guests to other cruise lines, I also understand that (1) the river cruise product is significantly different than the ocean cruise product, (2) the river cruise market is - to my mind - probably at or beyond its saturation point (as soft sailing now exist that never did), (3) the onshore experiences are far more important overall than the onboard experiences; and, (4) those onshore experiences are quickly becoming degraded because there are just too many river cruise ships coming into these small, quaint, towns to the point that tourists are overwhelming the local populations.

And, of course, there is another factor:  Most people that take a river cruise in an area are not going to be repeating it anytime soon so with a very limited number of river cruise ships in a very limited number of areas, the concept of keeping the Crystal guest with Crystal when they river cruise may be a one shot deal (though some may be better than none).

There are some great luxury products out there already. I enjoy both Scenic and AmaWaterways, with AmaWaterways having far more diverse itineraries.  And there is Tauck, Uniworld and a few others. I am very interested to see what Crystal Cruises is going to be doing to differentiate itself or if it is planning to just rely on similar formula, brand recognition and guest loyalty.

Yes, if you want to get into the river cruise business you have to start somewhere, but this a relatively small investment with plans that do not, as of yet, seem to speak too much into the future.

Conclusion

Crystal Cruises presently has a wonderful product that people need to experience to appreciate.  I have sailed on Crystal Cruises and I regularly book my clients on Crystal.  It has the best overall Onboard Education and Lecture Programs, Ballroom Dancing, a fantastic Cigar Lounge, Volun-tourism shore excursions, Nobu at Sea and other great Dining Experiences, a well-trained and enthusiastic staff and crew all in an inclusive (beverages and gratuities are included in your fare) experience.

So while all of the recent hype has been about the Hardware, I will continue to focus on the Software and cruise experience that presently exists and not chase away those who are not of the "suite or better" economies.

There is plenty of time to see how this all plays out.  But there is a time to take a Crystal Cruise right now!

Interested in a Crystal Cruise? Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:            (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

Seabourn's "Dirty Little Secret" - It Blocks Suites and Sailings to Make Longer Sailing More Expensive, Appear Almost Sold Out...and Then Offers Less Desirable Suites

This post pains me to write, but I must be honest and maintain my integrity.



While I believe Seabourn provides one of the best cruise experiences out there, Seabourn engages in a practice that I find incredibly troublesome and, to my mind, one that seems to be - when the evidence is put together - by design.

Seabourn's "dirty little secret" of which I speak can easily:

  • Cause you to unnecessarily pay more for your cruise; 
  • Create a false sense of urgency to book when there is none by giving you an inaccurate impression that there is high demand for certain of its cruises; and,
  • Limit your choice of suite to the less desirable ones.
This would, of course, increase Seabourn's revenue and keep the most desirable suites available to make sales easier for the shorter, higher profit, cruises.

I have been, without success, asking...then begging...then fighting to have Seabourn fix this for quite a while. Seabourn's brass first told me that it did't happen, so I kept providing examples of it.  Then I was told that is a limitation within its reservation system.  But then today I was told, Seabourn expressly refuses to fix what supposedly is an innocent programming error or software limitation. Seriously?   One would think that Seabourn would, if it was a problem and not by design, FIX IT; not refuse to!

So how does this work?  Let me give you an example:  

Sunday a client emailed me in a panic.  They want to sail for 21 days in August 2016, but there is no a 21 day cruise (only a 7 day and the following 14 day) and there is very limited availability for the 14 day segment.,,even though  the cruise is over a year away.  So how is it that over a year way a 21 day cruise in the same suite cannot be had?  The reality of it is, it can be...but it is not easy and if done wrong it can cost you thousands of dollars.

Because it is Goldring Travel, also on Sunday, I log into the Seabourn reservations system and see the 7 day cruise is wide open with the very best suites remaining available.  But when I go into the 14 day sailing I see limited availability, and almost none of the better suites in the category can be booked; and those pretty much do not match up with what is showing as available on the earlier 7 day cruise.

But what I also see is that Seabourn is offering the cruise as a 21 days sailing, but it is not shown in its brand new brochure (mailed just this past week).  And as a 21 day cruise it qualifies for a Grand Voyage discount; making it almost $1,200 less expensive than booking the 7 day and 14 day cruise back-to-back.  As I look at this significant savings for my client I see that there are only two suites, and most certainly, not the better ones, available to book as a 21 day cruise.  And those suites are not available for either of the 7 or 14 day cruises!

I then manually take an inventory of suites that are available if I booked the cruise in the most expensive way: Three seven day cruises.  Low and behold:  EVERY SINGLE OF THE BEST SUITES IN THE CATEGORY WERE AVAILABLE FOR THE FULL 21 DAYS.

Now, having booked my clients at the lower Grand Voyage fare I attempted a number of ways to secure the desired suite through the reservations system.  The result:  "Invalid Entry".  Huh?

Not satisfied (I do the best I can for my clients), first thing this  morning I called Seabourn Reservations and asked for that prized suite to be placed on the reservation.  Nope. Can't be done by Reservations.  "Permission" from another department....which was eventually had....was required!

Wait a minute.  There is a system in place to have suites that are blocked from being unblocked, but only at the discretion of someone in a back-office department!  That is not a software limitation or programming error.  "Permission" should not be a factor.

In the end Goldring Travel's client received the best suite at the best price (along with a discount and onboard credits), but only because I know about Seabourn's "dirty little secret" and how to protect my clients from it.

Do I still believe Seabourn is one of the best cruise experiences out there?  Yes.  But am I sincerely disappointed that Seabourn is doing business this way?  You better believe it.

Interested in a Seabourn Cruise? You know I will make sure you get the best suite at a great price! Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:           (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Seabourn One Week Sale - Great Deals on Antarctic, South America, Asia, Canada, Mediterranean and Caribbean Cruises

Seabourn Cruises is holding another of its One Week Sales.



This sale offers some deals such as purchase a cruise at the price of an  Oceanview Suite and receive a Veranda Suite and even seven day Mediterranean cruises for as low as $2,499 + tax per person.

Below are only some of the offerings.  But when looking at the prices, remember that Goldring Travel will provide you with even better prices and on certain sailings added amenities such as onboard credits or shore excursions.

The Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn have suites on sale on many sailings from late August through October including an October Black Sea cruise starting at $2,499 + tax per person, a Veranda Upgrade on its August 22, 2015 sailing for 11 nights starting at only $4,499 + tax.

The Seabourn Quest's beautiful Montreal to/from Boston sailings are now being offered at prices as low as $5,499 + tax per person with a Veranda Uprade.

South America...even the November 29, 2015 Antarctica sailing...have some attractive prices. How about Antarctica in a Veranda Suite for only $10,999 + tax.

Interested in an Asia cruise?  There are a few included as well.

Seabourn has even include a limited number of Caribbean sailings.  And if you want to sail Seabourn in the Caribbean now is the time to do it, because it won't be until 2017 that Seabourn will return to the area!

Interested in a Seabourn Cruise? Call me:

United States:      (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:             (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com