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.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mark Conroy - New Head of Silversea Cruises Miami Office. Huh? Does He Matter?

Mark Conroy and I have a history; and not a good one.  It has been a few years and things may have changed, so I enter this new era at Silversea Cruises (or is it?) with an open mind and the hope of improvements.

Mark Conroy
New Head of Silversea's Miami Office
To be honest, it was much of Mark Conroy's troublesome tactics at Regent Seven Seas Cruises that inspired me to begin this blog and to call things as I see them rather than to pitch to my clients whatever the cruise lines were marketing.  (Rather than rehash it, you can read my article, The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruises - Mark Conroy is Out as President, for a brief explanation.  (There are others you can search for on my blog if you are interested.)

But I do not believe that is wherein this story lies.  It lies, rather, with Silversea Cruises itself!  You see Silversea Cruises has two intertwined, but conflicting, story lines:

 - The revolving door...and reduced titles...Ken Watson, Chief Operating Officer then Ellen Bettridge (2012 President of the Americas), then Kristian Anderson (2014 Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas) and now Mark Conroy (2016 Head of the Miami Office, which has responsibility for the Americas).

 - The stability of a monarchy, Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, Silversea's Chairman, and his right-hand man, Enzo Visone, Silversea's CEO.

What interests me the most is Manfredi's consistent reduction in title in the first group and his ever increasing control through the second.  And, regardless of where this has led, and will lead, Silversea - as it relates to its luxury product - the obvious (at least to me) conclusion is that Mark Conroy will be essentially a pitchman with very limited authority.

Mark and I have had our differences, and in the past he has expressly rejected any effort on my part (or on the part of others), to move on.  Regardless, and in  fairness, I sincerely hope that what happened in his last year or so at Regent Seven Seas is not repeated, to wit:  Regent hung Mark out to dry.  Mark was told to pitch a new ship was coming...that never was; and, that things were "free" that were really buried in an ever increasing price, while the quality of many aspects of the Regent product suffered (like the "free" tours and culinary quality).

Silversea has a new ship, Silver Muse, which will have its Maiden Voyage in April 2017 while its most popular ship, the Silver Cloud, is being transferred to Silversea Expeditions (my guess is to not further overextend Silversea's classic fleet inventory). And, to me, both Silversea's classic and expedition fleets could use some fresh marketing assistance.

Hopefully Mark Conroy will be given the latitude and tools allowing him to do his job...whatever "Head of the Miami Office" is.

And, hopefully, Mark will bring a fresh approach to how he deals with those that disagree with him.  Frankness and arrogance are two different things.  And, of course, people can disagree without being disagreeable.

Again, hopefully, Mark Conroy's involvement with Silversea will end some of the marketing stagnation I have witnessed.

And, let's face it, my wish is purely selfish:  If Silversea performs I have more luxury product to confidently sell!