Monday, June 29, 2009
Goldring Travel is a Top Selling Seabourn Travel Agent - Not Just a Resource for Travel Agents That Want to Sell Seabourn
While I have voluntarily provided this information for my clients and forum members and others who are looking for information about the Seabourn Odyssey, I am shocked by the number of travel agencies who have been visiting this blog. It is a very nice nod that the cruising world has identified Goldring Travel as one of the definitive sources, but it raises a very interesting question.
The question is: Do you want your cruise to be handled by someone who knows the answers and has the philosophy of "treating you as you will be treated onboard" the Yachts of Seabourn or someone who is relying on that person's knowledge to answer your questions?
Oh, and by the way, you need to ask that "other" travel agent what extra services and amenities and discounts they are providing. Goldring Travel actually doesn't consider the added values "extra" because, honestly, it is how we always do things.
However, if there is something "extra" that is needed, it is our pleasure; not an obligation. We love to exceed your expectations!
"Absolutely, we can do that," the staff member said. He jotted down my multiple requests on his note pad before wishing me -- a formerly low-maintenance traveler -- a happy anniversary. By name, of course.
Once again, you can see that on Seabourn it is not about giving a passenger what they want, it is providing the guest with what they actually desire.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
So what does this mean?
One thing it doesn't mean is that the ship will not sail. I understand that it will, but with Silversea chartering it from Fincantieri Shipyards, who will create a holding company supported by the Italian government, to own the ship.
IF, repeating "if", this is true, I am very concerned about what it means in the way of operations. Regent Seven Seas has very successfully chartered the Paul Gauguin, so the chartering thing doesn't phase me as much as you might think.
My concern is the lack of funds will cause a deterioration of the product and of the service. As I said about the Seabourn Odyssey, if the service wasn't at the level it was, that outstanding ship would be nothing but hardware that provides a disappointing experience.
Unlike Seabourn, Silversea has already shown a slippage in service and a cutback in cuisine. With it ships sailing at a reported average of less than 50% of capacity, reduced cash flow and rather static operating costs, coupled with the huge expense of launching a new ship, makes me very nervous.
I hope Silversea will be a bit more forthcoming with information. I know the "old school" approach is to keep it all secret, but these are new times with new economic concerns. Being upfront rather than secretive would go a long way to comforting potential guests.
Silversea's survival is important not only because variety is the spice of life, but competition keeps everyone at the top of their game. With no competition, even the most successful will have a tendency to...well, I just don't want to go there.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I have tried to explain that Host Dan has a personal vendetta because I outed him about some less than appropriate conduct by him on a Seabourn cruise which was reliably reported to me. (Host Dan gave a different version as a way to 'justify" the situation.) As I have said, it is CruiseCritic's sandbox so it can make its rules and let its host do as it wishes...even if it degrades the message boards and prevents good and useful information to be provided to its readers.
While that approach has actually driven more people to my blog, yesterday I received the following email:
Hi, Eric Goldring.
Cruise Critic (CruiseCritic) is now following your updates on Twitter.
I guess my information is good enough for Cruise Critic to use on its site, but for some reason giving me credit for providing it with the research...or even mentioning my name...is forbidden. To me there is just something dishonest about it all.
So, rather than being frustrated, consider it a compliment...and a very strong message that for you or your friends to find accurate information and straight forward discussion of luxury cruising, visit my blog or the Gold Standard Forum. (I might even let Host Dan post!)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Patio Grill is to the left, the Patio Bar is to the right and the Sky Bar is centered one deck up and centered between the two.
The Patio Bar:
It ended at the airport in Venice where I ran into one of the Regional Sales Managers flying back to the United States after the Maiden Voyage celebration. She was exhausted but in high “spirit”. She told me how the ship was 10% better at 2:30 p.m. yesterday than it was when I disembarked at 8:30 a.m. and how fantastic the naming ceremony was with human Italian statues, fireworks and people beaming with “pride”…guests and crew. It seems the naming ceremony was “legend-ary”.
(I heard the fireworks last evening at about 9:50 p.m. while dining in a little local restaurant in Venice. Oh, how I wanted to be there, but alas it was time for Seabourn to care for its guests; not travel agents. It brought a tear and a bit of pride and wonderment if everything was going as planned…plans that were a tightly guarded secret.)
It started out many months ago when I was told that I was invited to the Pre-Inaugural (it was technically the Inaugural, but I believe that was best left for the Maiden Voyage guests so I will forever refer to it as the Pre-Inaugural). I felt privileged to be invited and questioned, right through the sailing, what the heck it was that I did that garnered the honor. (Seabourn insists that my efforts and my sales earned me the honor, but maybe I am too humble or naïve; I still don’t see it.)
But as I was literally one of the first guests ever to board the truly incredible Seabourn Odyssey I wasn’t going to do anything but soak it all in. And soak it in I did. It will, quite assuredly, stay with me for my lifetime. But it is not the ship that has causes this special place in me. As it always is with Seabourn, it was the people.
Whether it be the crew cleaning more than humanly possible in 50 knot winds during the journey from Genoa trying to overcome a month-delayed turnover, or regional sales managers unpacking lounge chairs literally a half hour before I boarded, or Jochim greeting me at the Colonnade as if it was just another day on Seabourn, or Pam Conover being literally everywhere…and always focused, but with a smile…assuring everything was better than good or, possibly, the young lady (I wish I recalled her name) in the Seabourn Square who was obviously brand new but “got it” and I could see a transformation from “Can I do it?” to “I can do it…and do it with Seabourn style” in a matter of less than 24 hours, it just kept coming up with more inspiration and belief in the Seabourn family.
You have read, and will read further, about how fantastic the ship is, but it really is just hardware. It is, without question, the most luxurious hardware at sea, but without the 335 crew members for the 450 guests functioning at such a high and personal level the Seabourn Odyssey would be a disappointment.
OK, enough with the romantic and philosophical stuff. From a design standpoint, as some of my prior posts have, and future posts will, reveal the Seabourn Odyssey does so much so well.
She pays homage to the triplets in so many ways, but not without purpose or reason. There is a comfort for the guest that comes immediately. Whether it is the Sky Bar design or the glass railings leading down to the Restaurant or the spiral staircases or, frankly, the standard suite layouts, the fact is past guests will feel like she is a relative. Not one of the three sisters, but a close cousin. For first time guests, the very same design elements will either work or be irrelevant…until they try one of the sisters (and I am confident many will) and then they will, too, feel at home.
The Seabourn Odyssey has changed cruising-life with the Seabourn Square. It is not a giant television screen over the pool, or an ice skating rink or climbing wall. It is not something that simple or “in your face”. It is so Seabourn: It is subtle and works better than you can imagine; you need to experience it.
Pizza ovens and patio grills are nothing new, but to have designed them in a way that flows both horizontally and vertically, visually and operationally, with the ever popular Sky Bar is pretty cool (and I will discuss this in a later post).
Having elevators that are not cruise ship elevators, but rather ones that seem more hotel-like with leather and wood panels and with marble and wood lobbies, and with the forward elevators not being centered on the ship, gives the ship a different feel.
Extra wide balconies in the suites, the classiest pool area on the high seas, lots of tucked away places to do things or do nothing, the list just goes on and on.
I think one thing I will always remember was the kind, gentle and confident smile of Captain Buer while dining with him at the first ever formal night on the Seabourn Odyssey. His ability to admit imperfection, but to be so confident that those issues actually make the good appear so much better, is so Seabourn.
Seabourn must have told me fifty times in two days how much they appreciate all that I do. I still don’t get it. Seabourn has given me the ability to do that which I love and to make it so easy for me to sell the ultimate in luxury and exotic cruises to people all over the world.
As I have been saying every day, “How cool is that?!”
Seabourn: Thank You.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Can USA Today's Gene Sloan Do Something Other Than Stir Things About the Seabourn Odyssey to Boost Readership?
Oh, the Seabourn Odyssey has engine problems. No, it had an issue with a boiler that was identified and corrected. Oh, the Garden Villas are but a shell. No, they are pretty close to completed...and you aren't going to put out the soft goods when the hardware isn't complete. Oh, the signs aren't up and lounges are stacked up. Folks I walked the ship from stem to stern and pretty much every sign was up (and who cares anyway) and, yes, there were "some" lounge chairs not out just yet, but as I will show you later, the lounge chairs are out and about in abundance.
So, not being done, Mr. Sloan asks, "Can a vessel that holds 450 passengers be called a yacht?" Trust me on this, I know a heck of a lot more about yachts and what type of service and amenities are provided than Mr. Sloan does. What the question shows me is two things: (1) It is a stupid question (sorry, but it is); and, (2) It is an irrelevant question.
Let's get into it now. How is Mr. Sloan defining a yacht? Is he speaking of a 40 foot Sea Ray or a 120 foot Hatteras or how about a 192 foot superyacht or what about a gigayacht? (You don't know what a gigayacht is?!) Is the yacht a private yacht or a charter yacht. Is it one where you charter the entire vessel (and don't get me started on the types of charters) or one where you book a cabin?
Pam Conover, Seabourn's President quite nicely responded to this absurdity. As Mr. Sloan quoted her, "The Odyssey 'is in fact not even the largest yacht today,' she said. 'Not only is it a yacht in terms of size, it's a yacht in terms of the experience that you get on board. We believe that (the yachting experience) is really a differentiating feature for us.'"
Mr. Sloan, if you were being honest and fair, you would have possibly defined what the expectation is...not ask "What is a yacht?".
Would you like to comment on the service levels being far superior to those on Regent Seven Seas or Silversea...and on a ship which was at least a month late coming out of a shipyard with crew boarding only days ago?
Would you like to comment on the elegance in taste and presentation of the cuisine? Tell me on what yacht you have been on where the dinner service was as flawless...and it was the first meal ever coming out of that galley.
Would you tell me what amenities you received on the yacht that was superior to Seabourn's exclusive Molton Brown products, Hermes and L'Occitane soaps.
Or what of the free flowing caviar and champagne?
BTW, did you take a picture of the superyacht docked about 200 yards from the Seabourn Odyssey's first location or the other superyacht docked slightly closer to the second one?
Folks, when the Seabourn Odyssey was first announced I was in a fairly exclusive meeting where I said to Pam Conover, "We need to be sure Seabourn provides provide the service and cuisine. It would be disastrous for Seabourn to say it was providing a "This is My Yacht" experience and fail."
Mr. Sloan, admit it. Seabourn has provided you - and everyone else on the Seabourn Odyssey - with an extraordinary level of service, cuisine and amenities...and it did it with virtually everything pointing to it being unable to do so due to the failures of T. Mariotti Shipyard.
Or would you like to crack open a cold one on a 40 footer?
I don't have many photos of the Spa because I didn't feel it was right to photograph the guests who were already having their hair styled, but it is all up and running. Here is, however, a photo of the Nail Bar (I thought tables were used, but what do I know?!):One thing that hasn't been completed (yes there are a few thing not completed, but not that far off, such as The Relaxation Room though its heated loungers and herbal steam/sauna rooms are in place) there are two Garden Villas which can be hired for hours or days. If you hire it for the day you can have your meals served in your private space as a break between your private al fresco treatment or a soak in your private whirlpool. Just to give you a flavor of it:
For all those spreading rumors that there are some big problems or issues with the ship (not true!), let me make this simple observation: If all hell was breaking loose, Captain Buer would not have taken the time to have dinner with me on the night before the Maiden Voyage. In fact, not only did he have dinner with me, he was charming, funny and appeared relaxed. (I also ran into him this morning and he was, again, all smiles and took the time to chat for a minute or so.) But I digress...
The Captain and I spoke of the challenges in building the Seabourn Odyssey, the 82 steps up to his apartment in Genoa, the plans for him to stay with the ship until (oh, I guess I shouldn't say that!) and then shifting over to the Seabourn Sojourn for its final construction stages, etc.
When I asked him if there any things he would like to have done differently on the Seabourn Sojourn or the third ship, he was rather certain to say nothing. But when I said, "I bet you have a wishlist...don't you!" Captain Buer gave me that smile he gives and might have even blushed a bit. It was all good fun, but more than that. It was such a source of pride for the Captain not only as to the hardware, but the crew as well.
Once again Seabourn outdid itself in both cuisine and service. I won't bore you with the entire menu, but I must mention two things:
First, if you ever have the chance to order the Nigerian prawns with truffled gnocchi and mushrooms order it. (And for those that want a little "Don't have red wine with fish" thought in their head - it screams for a red wine to play off the earthiness and richness of the gnocchi and truffles. And Seabourn had a great selection!)
Second, and this is going to cause shudders everwhere: Seabourn did not have breadsticks! Yes, the waiter offered to swim to shore to get them for us, but I reminded him that those breadsticks would not be Seabourn breadsticks. It was the single greatest disappointment of my cruise. (Heck, I might even write a letter to the President about that one!) I was assured breadsticks will be available tonight.
Congratulations, Captain. You are the master of the most luxurious and innovative cruise ship in the world.
The Sojourn of the Seabourn Odyssey Pre-Inaugural Cruise - Seabourn Got It Wrong!!! (The Seabourn Square)
You can, among other things:
Relax overlooking the ship’s wash in very cool and comfortable lounge chairs, or
Enjoy a gelato or pastry, or
Check your email, or
Meet friends for an espresso while seating in beautiful and comfortable chairs or sofas, or
Read a book from the library in a very comfortable chair, or
Sit at the coffee bar for a cappuccino and see who stops in, or
Arrange a private shore excursion, or (as I did) ask the concierge for a creative solution to a problem with your wife’s dress (and on Seabourn they can’t say “No”…so I was in luck!), or…
Well you get the idea.
Now, does the Seabourn Square look or feel like “an innovative concierge lounge inviting guests to access every shipboard service”. I think not.
In fact, I believe it is a space that some people (possibly those that think they would be more comfortable at a Four Seasons hotel rather than on a cruise ship) could easily spend the majority of their day. It is definitely a “You’ve got to experience it to understand it” kind of place.
So the cruise world is being shaken up. No tour desk lines. No standing around waiting for the purser. Who should I speak to when making a dinner reservation? No call to housekeeping. Can you imagine such a thing? You don’t need to. It exists on the Seabourn Odyssey.
As I just kept saying to myself over and over again on the Seabourn Odyssey, “How cool is that?!”
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
As with the triplets, the A, A1 and V1-V6 are identical save the balconies.
There is a seperate vanity area in the hallway next to the bathroom. The space is great for two reasons: It gives the person using it privacy and it give the person not using it the ability to use the rest of the suite without getting in the way. The mirror is, quite nicely, framed so it does not look like a vanity, but more like an entry nook for keys and such when not in use. One problem is that it is too close to the suite door, so if it is opened the person sitting at the vanity is in full view of whomever is entering...or passing by. Alas it is a great, if imperfect, improvement.
Next up: Bathrooms and Balconies.
Dinner, entitled, Odyssey Inaugural Dinner, was:
Smoked Salmon & Malossol Caviar
White Plum Tomato Cappucino (a long favorite of mine!)
Warm Potato Ravioli with Tuffle Pan Sauce (incredible!)
Citrus Sorbet (with champagne poured over the top, so do you eat or drink it…or both!)
Butter Sauteed Lobster or
Fillet Mignon & Seared Foie Gras (the size of Portobella mushrooms)
The President’s Favorite Chocolate Cake (if you see this order it!)
So after the show I went to the Sky Bar (still a work in progress, to be honest). But again Seabourn blew me away...again.