Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fathom Travel: A Tug At Your Heart and Your Head and An Experience for the Generations

A Fathom Travel Experience to the Dominican Republic or Cuba is different; different in ways that try to make you think about yourself and the world differently.  It is, in reality, a “holistic experience” presented through a team of “impact guides”, messaging, interactive workshop experiences (both subtle and “in your face”), sophisticated scavenger hunts, wine and paint parties (extremely popular!), cuisine and more.  


In other words, while there are many elements that are similar to your typical cruise, the thing that strikes you…if you look…is that Fathom Travel tries to make the Experience less about you when you booked the trip and more about you leaving a better person after your seven-day journey from Miami, Florida to Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic (or Cuba) and back.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself!

To be sure, Fathom Travel is not about answering the question of whether a “cruise” actually is “travel”, but a prelude to the reality that just because you are on a cruise ship does not mean a Fathom Travel Experience is a cruise.  Rather, you should consider the Adonia as a “mobile retreat” that transports you both physically and intellectually to a different place.

Fathom Travel's Adonia:  Your Mobile Retreat
Fear not if such things make you uncomfortable…or if you think you are willing to try, but when on board you may not be coaxed into entering your Discomfort Zone!  If you want Fathom Travel to be more of a cruise surrounding some “social impact” experiences, it can easily be that.  And, if you simply want it to be a more typical cruise with some fun and sun, you can even make it that (though I think you will be missing out on some great stuff!).  Personally, I think the design of the Experience – which I promise you will be dynamic and every changing – is far more elegant and sophisticated than you might think.

You may recall that I piloted some of Fathom Travel’s social impact programs in the Dominican Republic in January with my 16-year-old daughter, which you can read about here, so I will not be detailing each of the social impact programs again.  However, now I have just finished the full Fathom Experience with my girlfriend and her twin 14-year-old boys.  I knew how my well-traveled daughter would immerse herself in the experience, but I wasn’t sure how other teenagers would react to “Think Good and Do Better” travel.  They, and the other children I saw, boarded the ship enthusiastic and engaged…and they stayed that way for the entire cruise.  It was almost as if the youth were communicating:

“Hey, someone thought about young people and how we want the world to be!

One really cool thing about a Fathom Travel Experience is that with its ability to be so many things…it can easily make a wonderful Multigenerational Experience with grandparents, parents and younger travelers (teenagers, college students and Millennials) enjoying a shared experience without requiring compromise.  (Of note, I am planning on taking my 83-year-old mother and my two children, ages 20 and 17, on a Fathom Travel experience to Cuba at the end of June.  My mother’s concern was that she might hold us back.  I confidently assured her she can do what she can or wants and we all be perfectly content because Fathom Travel is that kind of experience.)

Enough of the theory, what is the reality? 

To start with, the Adonia (your “mobile retreat”) is a beautiful ship; one of the original R ships with lots of wood, intimate areas and great flow.  It is, at least for now, still owned by P&O Cruises (another Carnival brand), but a lot of money has been expended bringing Adonia up to standard with significant upgrades to furniture, furnishings, carpets and other soft goods…and while on board I observed a significant amount of exterior painting and interior varnishing going on. The staterooms (there are only a few suites) are in excellent, virtually “like new” condition.  For a one week journey they are more than adequate; though the bathrooms are tiny…especially the showers.  (I dropped a washcloth and smacked my head on the faucet trying to pick it up small!)  My girlfriend commented that her initial impression is that the ship is almost too upscale for the experience!  (Who ever said doing good –for yourself or others – means you must endure a “roughing it” experience?)

Speaking of the staterooms, you know things are different before you even enter them. Rather than the ordinary message holders outside your door, Fathom Travel has placed dry ink boards and asks you to write down your Name, Spirit Animal, Special Power and Someday….  The purpose is really two-fold, open you up to yourself and to others.  (On a cruise, who lives behind the door is usually a mystery.)
Ya Gotta Have Fun!
When you enter your stateroom all is as you would expect, but I noticed two things:  The bath amenities are all Fair Trade and more eco-friendly (and are of good quality) and, because the ship has been British, there are tea kettles with teas, instant coffees and real creamers.  Both are really nice touches.  Also, the balcony furniture is new, good quality, aluminum and mesh.  You will also find plenty of storage for a one-week warm weather cruise (though storage in the bathroom is a challenge).

Fathom Travel's Adonia Standard Balcony Stateroom
Comfortable and more than adequate for a seven day warm weather cruise
Soundings, the daily paper, has the tagline “There’s always more to discover” sets out the day’s schedule in a simple four-page format.  And, thankfully, you will not find flyers for sales in the shops (there are two), tournaments in the casino (there is none) or spa specials (though there is one). 

You will also receive in your stateroom an excellent Programming Guide which explains each Workshop and Tour, including appropriate clothing and precautions (activity level, length of activity, clothing, if you will get dirty, etc.)  It would be great if this was available on the website when you are considering a Fathom Travel Experience and when you are making your choices pre-cruise.

Internet is available in a variety of packages which you can sign up for on your laptop.  There are reasonable charges while at sea and, notably, internet is complimentary for your entire time while in port in the Dominican Republic.  I found the internet to be quite fast and reliable.

Fathom Travel Ever-Changing Curiosity Boxes
Before the sail away, a wander around the ship shows there are many subtle and not-so-subtle things to explore from curiosity boxes scattered about with ever-changing messages to a “confessional” (where you can make a short video answering the day’s question, which can be emailed to you) to a wall of postcards where you can send yourself a message (mailed by Fathom Travel) to be received in the future.  There are more surprises and more to come as the product is rolled out and developed in Fathom Travel’s constant drive to be better and more relevant.

Fathom Travel's interesting Note to (Future) Self Wall
The Launch Party (a/k/a sailaway) is a real high energy experience combining things to open you up (like writing on the Library’s windows what your next adventure will be or what your superpower is) or sending messages via a wire from the upper deck to the hot tubs to your more typical Carnival-eque group dances.  Complimentary hot and cold appetizers, as well as desserts, were passed; noting that overall they were really tasty!  (This is also where you are introduced to your Impact Guides –there are no cruise directors or assistant cruise directors – but more on that in a bit.)  You may not engage in all of it, but honestly the vibe is contagious. 


After too many appetizers, for the first night we opted for the buffet in The Conservatory (which I find to be a very interesting name for the venue that generally is known for wasting the most food on a ship).  We also dined there for lunch, having boarded fairly early, at noon.  Knowing there would be Dominican and other Caribbean cuisine rather than just the typical cruise ship food, it was interesting to see how Fathom mixed it in without pointing it out.  Subtle…which is not how Fathom does everything.  I was pleasantly surprised by how high quality the cuisine was.  Yes, I used the word “cuisine” rather than food.  An excellent thick cut pork chop, delicious liver and onions, jerked chicken, mushroom risotto, red beans and rice, plantains, and more were available.  While I passed on dessert, reports (and multiple trips by my girlfriends twin 14-year-old boys) established they were of good variety and tasty. Cheese plates are also available…which I did enjoy.

Note: Fathom does not have any beverage packages.  There is a limited, but certainly acceptable, menu of beer, wine and spirits; again with a number of Caribbean original available including the Dominican’s ubiquitous El Presidente beer.  Still being British, gratuities are not added to your beverage purchases so there is no 18% vig (but be kind to your servers, please).  One complaint:  Wines available in one venue are not available in another and/or cannot be purchased by the bottle…or only by the bottle.  This is frustrating, unnecessary, and should be an easy fix.

But then it was time for the Scavenger Hunt.  I figured it would be more for the boys, but it was truly an adult event that teenagers could also enjoy.  I won’t ruin it for you, but a couple of examples are “Go to the Library, find an inspirational quotation and post it on the Question of the Day board in the Conservatory” and “Find a Curiosity Box and take a photo of what you find inside”.  (Oh, yes, they place you into groups so you are coaxed into more interaction with your fellow travelers.  Great idea!)

After a long day, it was time head back to the stateroom and enjoy the sounds of the ship’s wash and look back fondly on the first day of what should be a great “experience” over the week to come.

Your first full day onboard is one where you can “engage”, “relax” or both.  After very early morning meditation and yoga classes (not for me!), there are workshops for learning some Spanish phrases and English tutoring, but the primary workshop is “Being a Fathom Traveler” where you will come to understand that you are not a passenger, or a guest, but a “traveler” …and what that means.  (When you board you are placed into Cohort Groups for these primary workshops.)  I was really impressed at how well Gil, our Impact Guide, was able to engage and make comfortable all different personality types…with everyone eventually really engaging in this 45-minute experience. 

Gil, one of Fathom Travel's fantastic Impact Guides,
leading a workshop on why getting out of your comfort zone is so important
With plenty of time to swim, lie out, have a cocktail or explore, a nice Deck BBQ was followed by many other activities and workshops ranging from “Curiosity Advantage” to “Social Innovation in Action” to a cocktail making class, Merengue dance classes, and Wine & Paint Night.  (Also, each night there is a movie by the pool and this night there was also a Super Power Party.)

Another Enthusiastic Impact Guide
leading the Curiosity Advantage Workshop


We dined in the open seating, curiously named, main Pacific Restaurant which has very liberal 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm dining hours (and is open for breakfast as well as lunch on sea days).  We were, again, pleasantly surprised at how good the food was and the variety was more than sufficient.  You should note, however, that there is a very limited amount of beef offered throughout the cruise.  Chicken, pork and fish, as well as a vegetarian option, are really the focus.

Your third day has workshops and free time to sun and soak until you dock at Amber Cove, in Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic (which I will describe in a bit).  There is a second workshop for your Cohort Group this morning, “Getting to Know the Dominican Republic”.  Your Impact Guide answers all of “those” questions about what to wear, to never drink the water or ice, logistics, etc.  It is quite helpful.

Amber Cove, Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic
With everyone quite excited to engage in their social impact activities or more typical shore excursions the various groups meet up in the lounge before heading off.  I will not fully explain each of the activities, but invite you to read my description of a number of them in my prior article.  Heading off the ship that first afternoon was something for just about everyone:
  • Community English Conversation and Learning
  • Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship
  • Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative
  • Reforestation and Nursery
  • Deep Sea Fishing 
  • La Isabella Columbus History & Folklore
  • Playa Dorado Beach Escape

On this first afternoon, both the types of activities and what you will do during them is a bit modified due to there being a slightly shorter timeframe.  So, for example, in our activity:  Reforestation and Nursery, if you choose Tuesday you definitely will go to the nursery to prepare and plant seedlings rather than reforestation.  Other activities, like creating Water Filter Production (one of my favorites!) is not offered because it is a full day social impact activity.


Note:  For those with limited mobility or even just a lesser desire to engage, but are still curious, Fathom Travel has created an Impact Center at Amber Cove where mini-experiences can be had.

Our experience at the nursery was great.  We mixed compost, made up planting bags, planted sea grape, royal palm and orange seedlings and scavenged the forest near the nursery for royal palm seedlings.  Unfortunately, when it was time for our 20-minute hike through the rainforest, the rainforest did what it does best:  Rain!  And I mean really rain.  But there was not a single person who expressed any disappointment (unlike those you can generally find on a cruise).  We all had a great day even though we were tired, soaked and muddy.



That night we dined at The Ocean Grill (the $25 per person extra cost) specialty restaurant which focuses on Dominican and Cuban cuisine.  With two very hungry teenagers (especially after working so hard) we wound up ordering every appetizer, all but two main courses and every dessert.  The food was delicious and nothing was left…nothing!  I really enjoyed watching the boys trying and loving the new cuisine.  New favorite for them is one of my all-time loves:  Black Bean Soup.  Done well (and it was) it is a little bit of heaven with a wonderful blend of flavors, textures and spices.

In between mouthfuls, the boys, their mother and I talked about the Fathom Travel Experience so far and how much they were looking forward to more of it.  (The next day we chose Student English…which resulted in the boys asking if they could do it again…wanting to do a fourth social impact experience…after Thursday’s installing of Concrete Floors in a family’s home!)
By working with this Dominican woman and her family to install concrete floors
there will significantly reduced flooding, insects and dirt...
leading to less sick days missing school and work,
resulting in a better life. 

Literally working hand-in-hand with the locals installing concrete floors.
Great teamwork mixing concrete
I would be remiss if I did not address this point directly:  

-          I have heard a number of ignorant travel agents rather emphatically say that Fathom Travel’s Adonia needs more activities and amenities for younger people.  I found their comments to be offensive and wildly inaccurate.  Today’s youth are not so detached from reality that they “need” waterslides and discos.  Without being too preachy, parents need to listen a bit more and understand that the next generation is far more aware and concerned about the frailties of our world and wanting to make it a better place.  Dare I say those travel agents don’t know your children or how a Fathom Travel Experience will be appreciated by them.  Is this an experience for a six-year-old?  Not really.  I would say that most 12 year and older children would be able to enjoyably (both mentally and physically) engage in this experience.

A locally prepared authentic Dominican lunch:
Delicious and well-deserved after a hard morning's work! 
-          These were the same travel agents saying they weren’t comfortable having a local lunch prepared in the Dominican Republic due to some sort of fictitious health concern. I have dined locally in the Dominican Republic on numerous occasions with Fathom Travel and each meal has been wonderful.  (Fathom Travel goes to great lengths to assure this!)  My daughter now loves Okra…but only as the Dominican’s make it.  And the boys have a second new favorite food:  Red Beans and Rice.  They, in fact, compared the quality of each…but regardless of which was their favorite, they went back for heaping second helpings!

Student English was a lot of fun and the children were so enthusiastic!
Now a bit about Amber Cove.  This brand new facility is not my favorite.  It is simply another cruise line created port with a number of shops and dining venues with a large pool and a zip-line.  During our time in port, two Carnival ships came for a day and really used it.  We, frankly, were pretty much too busy to use Amber Cove much, though on Friday before departing we did have a bite and a drink.  
A drink at Amber Cove.  Did I mention there is a pool????
What Amber Cove does do well is give you a very clean, safe and secure port in a pretty setting for your stay over the four-day period.

Power Snorkeling is a typical shore excursion during a
Fathom Travel Experience
After a power snorkeling shore excursion on Thursday afternoon it was free time to engage in more Fathom Travel workshops such as “Lifehack Bootcamp” and “The Story of You” and/or enjoying some really flavorful Dominican Burgers from the Patio Grill with a margarita.  On Friday we also took a long walk trying to get to a gazebo at the end of a point you will see.  Let me save you the 2+ mile walk:  You cannot get there unless you pay $65 per person for a day pass to the resort that owns it.

Baseball is extremely popular in the Dominican Republic
so I don't think this is what they mean by the phrase Duck On The Pond
(seen during our walk to find the gazebo)!
With a day and a half at sea as we returned to Miami, Fathom Travel continues your experience with yet more workshops and activities.  On Saturday morning (but not too early) there is the final workshop for your Cohort Group “Fathom What’s Next”.  It was a really nice way to have some small group discussions about what inspired you, what stories did you gain, what you felt you accomplished and more.  And, once again, Gil our Impact Guide did a great job of, well, guiding us through the process.

Overall the Fathom Travel Experience was a great experience for me, my 16 year old daughter, my girlfriend and her two 14-year old sons.  Each one of us came away feeling just a bit better about not only what we did, but what we can do.  And Fathom Travel has, quite extraordinarily, done this by putting together an incredibly friendly and soft, but extraordinarily complicated, combination of many different options and activities.

Trust me on this:  

Disney may seem like a great gift to your children or grandchildren, 
but Fathom Travel is an extraordinary one that will tug at both of your hearts 
long after those Mickey ears are tossed in the trash.  

Interested in a Fathom Travel Experience to Cuba or the Dominican Republic?  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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Seriously Great Deal: A June 11, 2016 Seabourn-On-Sale Cruise With an Awesome Exclusive Event...And More!

You want a great deal on a last minute luxury Seabourn cruise?  

Tallin, Estonia
Goldring Travel has one for you!  We are combining a Seabourn-On-Sale cruise on Seabourn Quest June 11, 2016 (seven day sailing from Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden) with a complimentary Exclusive Elite Ensemble Experience in Tallin, Estonia and a Goldring Travel discount of at least $300!  (Hint:  Book a Penthouse or better and the deal is even sweeter!)

Before we get to what you will be doing other than exploring some really interesting cities, including three days in St. Petersburg, Russia, let's talk about how inexpensively you can do it! 

Short answer: As little as $10,000 for two, including airfare, from most major cities.

Seabourn Quest's 7 Day Cruise
Copenhagen, Denmark to Stolkholm, Sweden
Seabourn is offering an assigned Veranda Suite for $3,999 (+ $252.67 taxes) per person based upon double occupancy.  Goldring Travel can offer you the same suite PLUS the Exclusive Elite Experience in Tallin for $3,799 per person (+ taxes).  And, of course, the higher the category the greater the Goldring Travel discount.  (Note:  Oceanview suites are available at an even lower cost!)

Have you ever been interested in trying out what I believe is the best suite on the Seabourn Quest: The Penthouse Spa Suite?  How does $7,500 per person (+ taxes)  sound?  What if I were to add to that great discount and Exclusive Elite Experience a $1,000 Per Penthouse Suite or Better Onboard Credit?  And, of course, you will receive  the expansive views of St. Petersburg, Russia from your enormous balcony while enjoying all the spa amenities that come along with it.

Worried about airfare?  Don't be!  Goldring Travel can arrange for you to fly from a number of cities (some with one stop in Iceland, and you can spend a few days pre- or post- cruise there at no additional air cost) for under $950.00 per person.  And if you regularly read my blog, you know I love Iceland.

OK, so the price is right. What exactly is this Exclusive Elite Ensemble Experience?  


We have arranged for an intimate group, escorted by a host, to explore the medieval Tallinn with Trivimi Velleste, Estonia's former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN Ambassador.  Mr. Velliste will greet your at the pier for the drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town for a short walk to the Estonian Parliament Building (in Toompea Castle) where Mr. Velliste to share his special insights on the function of government and Estonia’s fight for independence.  (This should be especially interesting if you love politics and intrigue  as your next three days will be spent in St. Petersburg, Russia!)  After visiting the Old Town and its historic sites, with free time of course, it is a short drive to the breathtaking Viimsi Peninsula, where the forest meets the sea, passing the ruins of the 15th-century St. Bridget’s Convent and modern Olympic Sailing Center before your your arrival at the seaside Villa Mary restaurant where you will enjoy a three-course lunch before returning to the ship.
 
There is no better way to experience the Baltic then on Seabourn.  When you consider this luxury experience comes with all of these added amenities, reasonable airfare and, of course, even the possibility of visiting Iceland for a few days....and you can do it all for only $10,000 including taxes, it is hard to pass up this offer!


Interested in booking this, or any other Seabourn cruise? Give Goldring Travel a call at:

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

Or email us at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Monday, March 21, 2016

What's New and Exciting at Seabourn? Thomas Keller, Mixology & a Champagne Spa Retreat

Seabourn continues to work to makes it's product better and, in typical Seabourn fashion, it has been doing this rather quietly and without hype.  And, of course, while everything cannot be identical with Seabourn having two classes of ships, it is working to assure a consistent product across the fleet; something unique to Seabourn.  

Details of the new Seabourn Encore which sets sail in December 2016 continue to trickle out.  (I will be onboard for her "Shakedown Cruise" December 1, 2016 as she leaves Venice for Athens - and her first public cruise - on December 4, 2016.)  But Seabourn's holistic approach means that subtle (and not so subtle) improvements will be made fleet-wide.  Here is a breakdown of what you can look forward to; some now and some in the very near future.

The Grill by Thomas Keller

For me, probably the most notable improvement is The Grill by Thomas Keller which will be a dinner-only Classic American Chop House alternative dining venue.   

The Grill by Thomas Keller
Left - Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest                                                                                         Right - Seabourn Encore
On the Seabourn Encore it will be located on Deck 8, one deck below the Colonnade, with a separate bar area when you walk in, along with both indoor and al fresco dining seating 94 guests (with plenty of tables for two).  With dining times from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. approximately 150 guests should be able to dine there each evening.


On the Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest it will be replacing Restaurant 2 after each one is drydocked. The Grill by Thomas Keller will make its first appearance on the Seabourn Quest this May, then the Seabourn Encore and, finally, the Odyssey and Sojourn in later 2017.  A smaller venue, with seating for 44 (all indoors), approximately 66 guests should be able to experience The Grill by Thomas Keller each evening.

As with Restaurant 2, Seabourn wants to assure every guest has the opportunity to enjoy this alternative dining, no additional cost, experience.  Each guest will be able to reserve one night.  If, during the cruise, a guest would like to dine a second time it will be made available (again at no cost).

A Thomas Keller Menu offered in The Restaurant
is decidedly different from that offered in
The Grill by Thomas Keller
Those that have recently sailed on Seabourn have had the chance to enjoy Thomas Keller's fare in The Restaurant, which will continue. In The Grill by Thomas Keller, however, the focus will be more on tableside preparations (from Caesar salads to ice cream sundaes) and expected steakhouse fare...though from artisan purveyors and with Chef Keller's unique culinary perspectives.

By the way, in the Colonnade on certain evenings (again, on all Seabourn's ships), a popular concept introduced in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, are Family Style dining experiences.  (The very popular themed dinners on other evenings will, of course, continue for those not enjoying this very American style of casual dining.) 

Additionally, some of Thomas Keller's preparations are also being introduced into The Patio Grill for those that enjoy dining al fresco pool side on occasion.  These offerings are closer to those presented at Keller's Bouchon where, as I often say, I just need to mention the restaurant and the flavors from the "simple" roasted chicken I ordered when in Napa, California flood my brain. 


Mixology at Its Highest Level

Continuing Seabourn's theme of consistently being consistent (and its Thomas Keller relationship), it has retained  Brian van Flandern to not only assure consistency from ship to ship, but bartender to bartender, while elevating the ingredients used in Seabourn's cocktails...and offering some of the most outrageous (and expensive) cocktails imaginable.

Brian van Flandern
has literally written the book on
the ultimate in luxury craft cocktails
Brian van Flandern, who has worked with the likes of Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, and Michel Richard at their restaurants (such as Per Se) and luxury properties such as The Plaza and The Carlyle in New York and The Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas, and many others, is considered one of the world's top mixologists.  As Mr. van Flandern wrote in one of his articles:
Today when I am asked the difference between the two, my short response is: A mixologist is to a bartender; as a chef is to a cook. Like a bartender, a mixologists keeps their money (and inventory) straight, maintains a clean bar, knows their basic recipes and cultivates a bar clientele by engaging with their guests. A good mixologist should be doing all these things and more… 
Like a chef, a mixologist sources out local farm-to-table ingredients, balances the acids and sugars, innovates new recipes, makes their own syrups/tonics/tinctures/infusions from scratch and pays great attention to presentation: from the ice, temperature, garnish, glassware, texture, color and flavor. Additionally, mixologist are delving into spirits education and fully understanding the histories, distillation techniques and flavor profiles of the products they’re working with.
So what does this mean to the Seabourn guest?  Essentially three things:
  • The quality of your drink, whether a gin and tonic, mojito or Pimm's Cup, is going to have the highest quality ingredients and will be prepared properly.
  • Your drink will be prepared consistently from ship to ship and bartender to bartender; essentially eliminating choosing a venue or bartender because that's where they make the best X.
  • There will be offerings of "Over the Top" cocktails made available to you with extraordinarily limited and expensive liquors (costing up to thousands of dollars a bottle) and ingredients.  van Flandern literally wrote the book when it comes to these extravagant cocktails, which will be available for extra-cost (ranging from $25 and up)...which is consistent in approach to Seabourn's always charging extra for truly ultra-premium spirits and wines.
The Seabourn Retreat

Seabourn Encore's The Retreat
Cabanas, Lounges, Whirlpool with Champagne
plus Full Bar and Dining Options 
Seabourn Encore is going to introduce a new and improved concept in relaxation experiences:  The Retreat.   It will be located on Deck 12 forward, essentially where the putting greens are located on the Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest.  It will consist of a number of cabanas (available for an estimated $350 per day) and lounges set around a whirlpool with champagne, full bar and food service.

While this is a significant improvement over the previous Garden Villas that were never used (and where the Penthouse Spa Suites are now located) on the Odyssey-class ships, I am not sure how many guests will be willing to pay for this experience.  What is clear is that Seabourn is targeting a new, younger, demographic while fully supporting and honoring the present Seabourn guests' expected experience.

By the way, do not expect the Retreat (at least in this form) to be installed on the Odyssey-class ships as the same area is too small to accommodate it.


Interested in booking a Seabourn cruise? Give Goldring Travel a call at:

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


Or email us at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seabourn is on Sale With Two New Promotions: Special Solo Traveler and Air-Inclusive/Reduced Air Rates on a Limited Number of Sailings!


Seabourn has a number of promotions right now on a number of this year's sailings that are well and truly great values.  But before I get to them, you are probably asking, "Why?"  The answer is simple:  Across the industry sailings in Europe are softer than expected this year and, thus, for the first time in a very long time some truly great bargains are available.  So for all of you who have said "I would love to try Seabourn, but it is too expensive." or "I wish Seabourn would do something about those single supplements." here are some great opportunities...and you don't have to wait forever to enjoy them!

By the way, if you have never sailed on Seabourn  Goldring Travel will provide you with at least a $400 discount in addition to these great deals as part of its Referral Program. (You will have just referred yourself!)  That's right, and even for those who have sailed on Seabourn before, there are a number of benefits booking with Goldring Travel rather than directly with Seabourn.  Hint:  If you book directly you will be paying more and will not be getting the best service for your entire vacation!  (Don't you want independent and knowledgeable advice on all the other things that make up your vacation such as air, hotels, transfers and tours - and with better pricing!)

So call Goldring Travel at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com quickly! Remember:  All of these offers are for a limited time, capacity controlled and may be withdrawn without notice.

Solo Traveler Deals

Northern Europe



May 14, 2016 - 7 Day Baltic and St. Petersburg  (Copenhagen to Stockholm)- Starting at $3,799 + tax for an Oceanview Suite
 
May 21, 2016 - 7 Day St. Petersburg and Baltic (Stockholm to Copenhagen)- Starting at $3,799 + tax for an Oceanview Suite
   
Mediterranean



April 24, 2016 - 13 Day Rivieras and Aegean Spring (Barcelona to Istanbul) - Starting at $4,999 + tax for an Oceanview Suite
 
May 28, 2016, June 25, 2016 and July 23, 2016 - 7 Day Treasures of the Aegean (Athens to Istanbul) - Starting at $3,499 + tax for an Oceanview Suite

June 4, 2016, July 2, 2016, July 30, 2016 - 7 Day Aegean Sunsets  (Istanbul to Athens)- Starting at $3,499 + tax for an Oceanview Suite
   
June 18, 2016, August 13, 2016 - 7 Day Adriatic and Greek Isles (Venice to Athens) - Starting at $3,499 + tax for an Oceanview Suite
   


August 11, 2016 - 11 Day Mediterreanean Isles (Monte Carlo to Barcelona) - Starting at $6,299 + tax for an Oceanview Suite

October 17, 2016 - 10 Day Rivieras and Spanish Splendors (Barcelona to Monte Carlo) - Starting at $5,699 + tax for an Oceanview Suite

October 29, 2016 - 10 Day Autumn Isles (Athens to Monte Carlo) - Starting at $4,999 + tax for an Oceanview Suite

Note: All fares are in U.S. dollars, cruise-only, for new bookings only, per guest, and subject to availability. Some suite categories may not be available. Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses of $115.75 to $323.37 per person are additional. Fares are not combinable with any other offer, may vary by sailing date, are capacity controlled, and are subject to change without prior notice. All savings amounts are included in fares shown. Certain restrictions apply. Seabourn reserves the right to correct errors.
 

Air-Inclusive/Reduced Rate Deals

Complimentary Business Class Air



September 17, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a Penthouse suite or higher. Starting at $10,399 including taxes.

October 15, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a Penthouse suite or higher. Starting at $10,399 including taxes.


Complimentary Economy Class Air

September 17, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a V1 to V6 suite. Starting at $6,399 including taxes.

October 15, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a V1 to V6 suite. Starting at $6,399 including taxes.

$999 Economy Class Air

June 25, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a V1 suite or higher. Starting at $6,399 including taxes.

July 23, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a V1 suite or higher. Starting at $6,399 including taxes.

August 20, 2016 14-day Round-trip Athens when booking a V1 suite or higher. Starting at $6,399 including taxes.

Note:  The promotional air is valid only from these North America gateways: ATL, BOS, BWI, CLT, DEN, DFW, IAD, IAH, LAS, LAX, MCO, MIA, NYC, ORD, PHX, SAN, SEA, SFO, SLC, YVR, YYC & YYZ.  This offer is not combinable with any other air, shipboard credit or other offers. Pricing listed above includes taxes, fees and port expenses per DOT regulatory rules. Air arrangements are limited to air carriers and routings of Seabourn's choosing. Air offer is available through Seabourn’s Flight Ease program, is based on promo RX, and is available on select flights and gateways; economy class and business class only. Offer is available to guests 1 & 2 sharing a suite, is non-transferable, is not combinable with any other fares. Certain restrictions may apply. Discounted and complimentary fares available on limited flights. Seats are limited and may not be available on every flight. Taxes, fees & Port Expenses are included. Fares include one complimentary checked bag, additional fees for baggage and other charges may be directly assessed by airlines or airports; please refer to the applicable airline website for further information. Fares are not combinable with any other air or shipboard credit offer, may vary by sailing date, are capacity controlled, and are subject to change without prior notice. Goldring Travel and Seabourn reserve the right to correct errors.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Travel Agency Service Fees - Why Goldring Travel NEVER Charges Them

Over the past years I have heard all the arguments for travel agencies charging service fees, which apparently 81% of travel agents now charge.  The rational for these fees come down to three basic reasons:
  1. Travel agents should be compensated for his/her time;
  2. There are people that want to have an agent do all the work and then steal it and book it with someone offering a lower price (or, at least, seemingly so); and
  3. Because they can.
There are reasons for Goldring Travel earning this accolade
and those reasons still exist!
Travel agents should be compensated for his/her time...But how and why?

I totally agree that travel agents should, and need, to be compensated for their time.  I identify this compensation as "commissions".  If a travel agent's commissions are not high enough to provide sufficient compensation then there is a problem with their business model or their suppliers. Trying to correct it by charging the consumer extra doesn't seem to be a "correction", but more of a "passing the buck".  

In my opinion, if the agency cannot work efficiently, or cannot make enough money (commissions) selling a product then the solutions should lie within the travel agency or the supplier of the product...not the consumer.  Of course, if you want that Carnival cruise that sells for $299 there is really no money in it for the travel agency unless done on huge impersonal volumes. That is why Goldring Travel never charges as service fee...ever and avoids booking those sorts of cruises/trips.  I mean why pass the cost of doing that business onto my other, already profitable, clients? (OK, there is a single exception:  Booking airline tickets, which takes time and is actually a cost since airlines do not pay commissions.)

There are people that want to have an agent do all the work and then steal it 
and book it with someone offering a lower price (or, at least, seemingly so)

I also understand that there are some people out there that believe it is perfectly fine to have me do all the work, explaining the differences between cruise lines and ships, tour operators and hotels, the best time to go, the reasons why some itineraries are better than others, etc....and then go shop prices having taken all that information.  (Ever go to Best Buy for an electronic device, talk to a salesperson and then price shop for it on Amazon and Costco and find it for less?)  And, let's face it:  Writing this blog takes a lot of time.  Thousand of people read it and use the information...and then book their travel elsewhere.  While I find it frustratingly curious that people read my articles because they know I am an expert and accurate, but then book with another agency (or heaven forbid make the horrible mistake of booking directly....which will cost them extra money!), it is just part of doing business.

But what I also know is one can never tell if the person asking all the questions will be your client for life, working you over or - as has happened - will come back to Goldring Travel after booking their trip with that cut-rate agency and not getting the service they really desired or, in the end, it cost them more than they thought because the agent didn't advise them of x or y.  

Goldring Travel truly values every single booking. To show its clients, Goldring Travel provides added value on literally ever booking, whether it be a direct discount, onboard credits, a refund, hotel amenities (free breakfast, upgrades, etc.) or preferred limited upgrades at highly discounted prices closer in to sailings (that those discount agencies do not have access to) or leverage to have my clients placed in better suites when they book guarantee accommodations rather than assigned suites. And, of course, if something goes wrong during the trip and I find out about it, if possible I have it addressed then and there; not upon your return.  I also provide post-trip support for any issues that arise later. [Literally as I am writing this I received a call from a client that doesn't use a computer and needed assistance obtaining a Turkish visa. No problem at Goldring Travel.  It is what we do!]

Personally, I do not want the client that insists on paying what they perceive as the lowest price because they will probably be the ones that will demand the most when there is a charge at a hotel they don't recall or want to engage in the "I deserve a free cruise because..." and expect me to handle that for them even though it really has nothing to do with my services.  Yes, Goldring Travel turns away business so that it can properly service those folks that actually want and appreciate service!

Because they can

The last category is the one that really bothers me.  A very recent article basically stated that since consumers are getting used to being charged by the airlines for baggage, food, changes and more and many cruise lines charge for pretty much everything from room service to soda, the travel consumer has been trained to accept fees as part of travel.  Huh?

Goldring Travel spends its time trying to assure its clients receive the best travel value and avoid all the extra charges (whether it be NCL's "free" whatever slogan as it charges expand and increase or Regent Seven Seas "free, free, free" when you are paying for all of it). So I am supposed to do exactly the opposite of what is the very basis of how I do business by charging you a fee just because I can?  There is one thing in life you can never regain once lost:  Integrity.

If you are interested in booking a cruise or land vacation without any travel agency fees and with the comfort of knowing your travel agent actually insists on earning your business, give Goldring Travel a call at:

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


Or email us at eric@goldringtravel.com.