Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seabourn Odyssey Video

CruiseReport.com has just posted a very nice video made during the Seabourn Odyssey's maiden transatlantic voyage earlier this month.

Take a look:

Seabourn Pride - Super Spring Sale...Seriously!

If you every wanted to visit Asia, but felt you couldn't handle the long flight and were unable or unwilling to spring for business class air, do I have some deals for you!

All Seabourn Pride sailings from 6/12/2010 through 8/22/2010 inclusive can be priced with business class air and transfers from 27 different gateway cities.

The June 2, 1010 and June 11, 2010 sailings include a 2 night Bejing land program.

The price starts at only $7,980.00 per person. Taxes and customs fees are additional and the prices are not combinable with air deviations or combo cruises (ie. back-to-back or grand voyages). Obviously, they are also subject to prior sale and may be withdrawn at any time.

These fares will not be available for booking until November 30, 2009.

Seabourn Spirit - First Photographs of Its Refurbishment

I just received photographs of some of the interiors of the Seabourn Spirit after her recent refurbishment. I think they are fantastic and have eliminated some of the older elements/design quirks while tying her decor in better with her big sisters, Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn.

Lobbies




Main Lounge

Main Restaurant

Horizon Lounge

A Thanksgiving Story That Is "Bull"

It has been a very hectic time for me of late.

I spent most of last week at the Global Superyacht Forum in Amsterdam, am in the middle of a trial on one of the weirdest and most troubling admiralty cases I have ever been involved in, am doing my "travel agent thing" with many clients either just returning or about to depart on Seabourn and Oceania cruises, enduring the frustration of my New York Jets (and swallowing the huge cost of tickets next year in the new stadium), completing some sort of ultrasonic cardiac stress test (which I passed with flying colors), engaging in various family goings on and preparing for the holidays.

My respite has been my breakfast with the local farmers. The farming life, with its dependency on weather, weeds, wildlife, etc. causes farmers to have a rather unique approach to problems and stresses. It is not that things don't bother them or stress them out, it is that they are required to live by the "What are you gonna do, cry? You just have to get on with it" approach.

My farmer friends afford me the honor of allowing me to partake in just a little bit of their lives and, therefore, just a bit of their lifestyle trickles down to the lawyer/travel agent come wannabe farmer. In that role, I dutifully am a participant in their annual NASCAR pool and, as such, I am invited to the parties held at my friend, Tom's farm, for the first race (Daytona 500) and the last race (Homestead) each year. This past Sunday was the end of season party.

I arrived and found myself in charge of setting up the mini-pool for the driver who leads half way and at the end of the race ($5.00 per car randomly chosen) and playing bartender. With the pre-race show on two televisions and football on the third, the cousin who owns an orange grove in Florida stops in, the woman who owns the local horse supply business arrives (her husband still out in the fields planting soybeans won't arrive until later), the guy from the General Store tells his stories, Tommy Jr. who is taking over more and more of Tom's farming starts drinking a Coke so that when the guy with the suped up Mustang arrives he can take it for a spin (but eventually gives up and tops his drink with cheap bourbon) settles in...and the rest of the regulars arrive as the race is about to start. It is, for me, a little slice of heaven and I feel truly privileged to be allowed to share this.

And then...(you are not going to believe this!):

Remembering that I live in New Jersey...you know the place with the reputation for being smelly and overbuilt...Tom, for reasons that I cannot comprehend (hence I am not a true "redneck"), is taking delivery of three full grown Longhorn steers weighting about a ton each (yep, 2000 pounds or more.) (Tom already has four.)

Why this is being done in the middle of a NASCAR party I also cannot figure out. (Again, I am not a true "redneck").

However, as the steer are offloaded from the transport, they essentially stampede, trampling Tom, breaking through a fence and are now loose in Colts Neck! With a call-to-arms we pile into various pickup trucks and a Chevy Tahoe to roundup the strays...wandering through the upscale residential areas picking up the tracks and then being questioned as if we were casing the mansions looking to break in.

We then get a call that Tom found two of the steers...or should I say the largest bull found Tom, horning him in the head, knocking him to the ground and then charging his pickup. So, with blood flowing, does Tom go right to the hospital? No, he continues the attempted roundup for another 30 minutes and then is escorted to the hospital. (Not to worry, he is sort of a super-redneck, so his head is stapled, his back is sore, his truck is gored...and he was at breakfast this morning.)

As darkness falls, with Tommy Jr. and Joey now out with their rifles, the police combing the neighborhoods and a police helicopter circling there is nothing we can do...so we go back to Tom's house, finish setting up the NASCAR pool, drink some beers and watch the race. (And no, I didn't win the pool or the mini-pool.)

At about 9:00 p.m. I receive a call at home that two of the steers were located and were shot. They were just too dangerous. The third, however was still on the loose and now probably more dangerous than ever. But it could not be found.

So last night, as I was driving home from my 8 hours of trial work, tired and stressed, I call Tom to see how is doing. He tells me he has to call me back because they just located the third steer...the one that attacked him. Later I am told he was put down as well.




So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? I mean three steer were put down, if only a few weeks before they were to be turned into roasts anyway. My friend was injured and could have been killed. The cost to the farmer is not insignificant as well.

Seriously, what does this have to do with giving thanks?

I am thankful that I have been enriched by so many things. While talking to billionaires may seem cool and being treated like royalty on Seabourn sounds devine, the next time I am in Greece taking in the Acropolis, pondering my heritage as I gaze at the Great Pyramids and Western Wall, or am in Italy enjoying some incredible wine and food, I have the joy of knowing that for me it is not about accomplishing those tasks, but savoring those moments as rarefied honors and thinking about the men and women that toiled to build the great monuments and to farm those ingredients were probably not so different from my farmer friends.

They were anything, but perfect, but they lived lives of "What are you gonna do, cry? You just have to get on with it". And they had the ability to look at the chaos and problems only to find a way to live with and appreciate them.

So rather than coddling Tom today and expressing such concern that his body is broken, his wallet is lighter and his pride is hurt, in true farmer fashion I asked the obvious, "So what the hell are you gonna do to top this?!"

I am very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. So you know this story ain't no bull, you can read about it here: http://www.app.com/article/20091124/NEWS/91124131/Roaming+longhorn+caught++destroyed+in+Marlboro

Friday, November 20, 2009

Global Superyacht Forum 2009 - It Is Not All Smooth Sailing...Referrals May Put Wind In Some Sails (err, Sales).

I just returned from four days in Amsterdam attending the Global Superyacht Forum sponsored by The Yacht Report Group and held in conjunction with METS, the world's largest marine hardware show.  It was a very interesting, if not terribly upbeat, few days.




Without boring you too much, the focus on the non-technical areas of the superyacht industry was basically the industry has changed significantly and will not be returning to the glory days of the bubble.  Owners are having concerns about shipyards being able to complete work properly, if at all, and shipyards are faced with owners who are defaulting on contracts, canceling contracts or delaying work (both new-build and refit). 

Also, the three to five year backlog of work bragged about just two years ago has all but disappeared.  New build shipyards are looking at completing most of their work by the end of 2010 or early 2011 and there really is not much in the way of new contracts forthcoming...and with some of the cancelled contracts having recently occurred, 2011 is looking sort of like tomorrow.

This problematic situtation is due, in large part, to the lack of bank financing (a concept we all understand....too well) which has not only affected the new-build, but the resale market that is now all but non-existent.  News of a significant superyacht being resold is, well, news.  During the forum discussions I raised the issue of why banks - during the bubble - looked at a silly ROI (return on investment) analysis and ignoring the common sense concept that yachts - like cars - are really depreciating assets, both of which assisted not only in hyper-inflating the prices, but which allowed people who could not afford a yacht to buy one...and now drive the prices down as they need to unload them.  (Sounds like the housing bubble doesn't it?  Now just add some zeros!)

One point raised by three superyacht owners (I understand two remain billionaires) is their upset with lack of service.  The concept of a new yacht having a 12 month warranty, while the television on the yacht having a 5 year warranty, seemed both illogical and greedy.  The failure to even offer a 10% discount on a servicing...and they are very expensive...was mentioned as a significant sore point.

And then it struck me:  The greediness of the past years caused the yachting industry to stop doing what, for example, The Yachts of Seabourn, has as its cornerstone:  Never saying "No".  It is, in real terms, the concept of making things as easy as reasonably possible for your client (yacht owner or yacht guest) and finding a way to make things happen.  As I then urged during a Q&A session, the luxury yacht business needs to follow the luxury cruise business which thrives on referrals.  Glossy ads may get some clients, but the real long-term clients are ones that were referred or refer others.

The moderator then turned to the three superyacht owners and posed a question, "How may of you have made a referral to the yard that built your yacht and, if you have, how many?"  The answer was what I expected, but was shocking to most:  A total of one referral had been made and that referred person lost interest within a year.  No referrals in hard times has meant no business.

So I now pose this to you:  How many of you actually refer clients to a particular cruise line?  Why or why not? 

And I also ask, "How many of you refer people to your travel agent?"  If you do not, is it because to you it is all about price (see above if you think that is a good answer!)?

Join the discussion at The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas- It's Here!

Love it or leave it, it really doesn't matter. While you may never want to step foot on her or you can't wait to play in Central Park and watch the Aqua Show high dive, the ship is really something to marvel.




OK, I compared the Seabourn Odyssey to the Silversea Silver Spirit, so I might as well do it to the Oasis of the Seas:



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bonnie Hunt Show: Fan-Tastic Voyage Contest

I was contacted by Warner Brothers marketing arm about a contest on The Bonnie Hunt Show, the Fan-Tastic Voyage Contest, where you can win a cruise for you and nine of your friends on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas...which makes its debut tomorrow.

If you would like to enter the contest you may do so here: http://www.bonniehunt.com/fantasticvoyage/ .

Please note Goldring Travel has nothing to do with the contest and normally I wouldn't post a contest...unless you want me to (or to have a section in The Gold Standard Forum posting them). I just happen to like Bonnie Hunt as an actress who appeared in "The Green Mile" and "Jerry Maguire" among other movies.

Another Cruise Ship Survey and Another "Why?": This Time Zagat

It has been announced to day that Zagat (of restaurant survey fame) is releasing a survey of cruise ships. the results, once again, make me ask "Why?" and "Who is actually surveyed?".

Preliminary information is that a mere 2,379 "frequent" cruisers (those who have taken 9.5 cruises on average). In a bit of irony that I just help but point out, considering the ships voted on, that hardly can be considered "a boat load" of votes. I am also fairly certain that there is no statistical validity to how those surveyed were chosen...if they, in fact, were actually chosen as opposed to voted (and said they had been on at least X number of cruises.)

Zagat used a 30-point scale measuring cabins, service, dining, facilities and shipboard activities. While it did break down the ships into various categories, the large ship/small ship ratings were merely a compilation of all of the scores. That said I would like to see the raw data because there are a heck of a lot of sub-category winners arising from those five categories.

For the large ship category (over 1,500 passengers) it was Cunard, Disney and Celebrity.

For the mid-sized ship category (200-1,500 passengers) it was Regent, Crystal and Seabourn.

While I must pause and ask, "Since when is a 200 passenger cruise ship 'mid-size'?" I must also ask with the results of most categories heavily focused on Cunard and Disney, "How many of these mere 2,379 have actually been on a Seabourn, Crystal or Regent cruise?"

The overall ratings were as follows:


.....................Large (1,500+)/Mid-Size (200 to 1,500)/Small (<200)

Top Rooms: Cunard/ Regent/ SeaDream
Top Service: Cunard/ Seabourn/ SeaDream
Top Dining: Cunard/ Seabourn/ SeaDream
Top Facilities: Cunard/ Crystal/ SeaDream
Top Activities: Disney/ Crystal/ Lindblad
Top Overall: Cunard/ Regent/ SeaDream

I am not sure how one is the Overall "best" cruiseline when it is not voted to have the best service, food, facilities or activities, but Regent "wins" that honor.

Similarly, I am not sure how Cunard "wins" for rooms, service and dining when the experience is markedly different dependent on which class of accomodation you choose.

That is, in part, why it is curious that Seabourn has been lumped into the mid-size category by 4 suites (8 passengers) which has never been the case in anyone's comparisons previously. But I guess you can make these things reflect whatever it is you want...which is my point.

FYI, the winners in the various large ship categories are as follows:

Top Fitness Centers: 1. Celebrity Cruises 2. Cunard Line 3. Royal Caribbean
Top Nightlife: 1. Disney Cruise Line 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Cunard Line
Top Onboard Shopping: 1. Cunard Line 2. Disney Cruise Line 3. Royal Caribbean
Top Live Entertainment: 1. Disney Cruise Line 2. Cunard Line 3. Royal Caribbean
Top Spa Services: 1. Cunard Line 2. Disney Cruise Line 3. Celebrity Cruises
Top Casinos/Gambling: 1. Cunard Line 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Celebrity Cruises
Top Excursions: 1. Princess Cruises 2. Celebrity Cruises 3. Cunard Line
Top Itinerary Choices: 1. Cunard Line 2. Holland America Line 3. Celebrity Cruises
Best for Kids: 1. Disney Cruise Line 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Best for Families: 1. Disney Cruise Line 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Best for Seniors: 1. Holland America Line 2. Cunard Line 3. Celebrity Cruises
Best for Singles: 1. Carnival Cruise Lines 2. Royal Caribbean 3 Norwegian Cruise Line
Best for Romantic/Honeymoon Cruises: 1. Cunard Line 2. Celebrity Cruises 3. Princess Cruises
Best For Weekend Getaways: 1. Disney Cruise Line 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Best for Budget Cruises: 1. Carnival Cruise Lines 2. Costa Cruises 3. Norwegian Cruise Line
Best for Expedition Cruises: 1. Celebrity Cruises 2. Princess Cruises 3. Holland America Line

I could go through each of these subcategories and "colorfully" express the obvious flaws in many of them, but that just might give this, yet another, survey some sort of credence.

You can read the survey at: Zagat Cruise Survey.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn - After and Before

Today the Seabourn Odyssey arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It is great to finally see this new ship arrive in the United States.


And, for some contrast, here is a recent photo of her sister, the Seabourn Sojourn. OK, she needs some work, but see above to see how great she will look.





Silversea's Silver Spirit - Some New Photos...And A Warning About Ralph Grizzle (The Avid Cruiser).

One nice things about having a ship built at Fincantieri is that you have great confidence it will be delivered on time.  Regardless of any other issues, Silversea is blessed with having the Silversea Silver Spirit being delivered as it should be...and, it would seem, in a properly cleaned condition.  This stands in stark contrast to the horrid mess T. Marrioti delivered the Seabourn Odyssey in...and should give Silversea every opportunity to start off on the right foot - with delivery of an excellent right from the start (giving, of course, some leeway for the expected - and unexpected - glitches immediately after any delivery).

There has been some discussion on The Gold Standard Forum about the Silver Spirit appearing to be someone front and top heavy.  (You can read and join in the discussion under "Luxury at Sea - The Hardware").  To my eye she doesn't have the most sleek lines, but the efforts to stack as much as possible on this ship have not ruined the lines to the extent of the Norwegian Epic. 

Compare, however, the lines to the Seabourn Odyssey and you will see what I mean.




To my eye it is as if an additional 2 decks were added midships and forward.  Would this determine if I liked the ship or not, or if I would recommend her or not.  Absolutely not!  It is just comment.

What might make a difference is how she handles in wind and heavy seas.  With today's truly remarkable technologies both through engineering design and equipment it is possible to counter many forces (top-heaviness, wind loads, etc..)  Knowing that Fincantieri makes good ships is one thing, seeing that the client's design as implemented by the shipyard works is another.  We shall soon see how she handles.

Silversea has also released some photos of some of the public spaces (albeit sans furnishings - to be expected this far from delivery).

The Reception Area appears attractive, but to me looks very hotel or banquet hall - esque.  I do have a bit of an eye for new construction work (having managed a superyacht yard for a while).  What I see appears to be very well executed, but not intimate.  It is a concern for me, and guests, that as luxury ships get larger they may just get too impersonal...losing the very character that makes them attractive in the first instance.




It may be that with the addition of the furnishings, this area will be broken up into more intimate areas.  It is why, to me, releasing this particular photo is curious.  (Sorry if I sound negative.  I just have to call it as I see it.  And I don't see why these particular photos were the ones chosen to be release.)

La Terrazza is the causal dining area.



I don't have much to say about this area because it doesn't show much.  BTW, the shiny areas on the carpet is carpet protectors that are put down during construction and taken up as the space is completed.

I do, however, have a bone to pick with the Observation Lounge.




Why would you place a bar so close to the windows...and then orient it so that you are looking away from the windows (and into the bar)?  This is just bad design...from what I can tell from one photo. (I am not sure what is in the distance, but it does seem like it is better.)  Again, comparing it to the bars on ships from the Royal Caribbean Viking Crown Lounges, to the Celebrity Solstice-Class ships to the Seabourn Odyssey, the concept is to have a centralized bar with no real obstructions above bar height, so people can sit and, well, "observe" (something other than the bartender). It doesn't have to be the same old thing; my point is that this is a design topic long ago visited by many designers with some very good results.

The Warning

I would like to make one point clear:  I have absolutely no economic motivation to say anything negative about Silversea.  I have clients that book Silversea.  I have other clients that have booked Silversea with other agencies.  The fact is Silversea has some of the best itineraries out there.  I want it to be a great product (and it ain't bad!), because the more cruises I sell, the more money I make (and it is not like everyone I meet is going to both love and purchase a Seabourn cruise).  But I have to be honest. 

In that regard, I have taken issue with some of the comments Ralph Grizzle - The Avid Cruiser - has posted as "journalism" or "news" tauting how wonderful Silversea's new ship is and how it is better than the Seabourn Odyssey.  (Remember my post about his claiming the Reception Area was as good as the Seabourn Square?) I have listened to him criticize the size and sound of the Seabourn televisions and the crowd he observed on the Marina the very first day it was in operation and wondered, "What's up with Ralph Grizzle?"  Read my post "I Hate Stupid Comparisons:  Seabourn Odyssey vs. Silversea Spirit!"

Now I know why.  The Avid Cruiser (Ralph Grizzle) is, without question, being paid by Silversea to spread positive comments about the new build.  Check out Silversea's blog and check out who produced its video interview of the chef, the video of the Silversea staterooms, etc. It is Ralph Grizzle.  He has become nothing other than a walking infomercial! 

The problem is that he has never disclosed this in his "journalistic" pieces which are distributed around the internet.  (How many times have you heard CNN note its relationship with an entity it is reporting on?  Regularly, right.)  Why has he not disclosed this?  The answer is unavoidable:  It is to mislead you into thinking you are receiving impartial information regarding whatever it is he is reporting on.

Is there anything wrong with being paid to promote a product?  Absolutely not.  Is there a law against doing what Mr. Grizzle is doing?  Probably not.  But the ethics of it to me just stink.  Folks you want all the information you can get and you want it to be reliable.  But, more importantly, you want to be able to honestly and fairly weigh the information.

I make no bones about my being one of the world's top sellers of Seabourn cruises.  While I may be that because many factors, it clearly has been seen by some as causing a bias in my comments being favorable to Seabourn (or anti-Silversea).  I clearly disagree with that (and don't even understand how a travel agent makes more money being critical of a particular cruise line), but at least you have the information available to you to make your own decision.

Now, if you will, go back and read Mr. Grizzle's "news" reports and, in fact, re-read this post.  Let me know what you now think.  Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Forum!






Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celebrity Cruises - Some Incredible Close-In Deals

I was looking for some inexpensive cruises and found that you can sail on Celebrity in late November on a 7 day Mediterranean cruise or a transatlantic cruise for as little as $399 + taxes,with verandas just breaking the $1,000 mark.

If you are looking for a great deal on a cruise vacation on the line I consider to be "the best bang for the buck in the business" now is most definitely the time to act.

Call Goldring Travel at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email eric@goldringtravel.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The NEW Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum

After too many months of frustration, courtesy of the "geniuses" at Ektron (the developer of the forum software Goldring Travel was using), totally new forum software has been installed and the new forum is up and running.

There will be a bit of lag as I transition over all of the prior posts, so please be patient if you are looking for the older content.  I must say, however, that in starting the transition over I have come to realize how much great information and insightful comments are actually available on the forum.

So for those of you who found your posts going into never-never land and pounding your fists onto your keyboards, please come and post without worry. 

Visit The Gold Standard Forum... and Thank You for all of your patience and support!

Regent Seven Seas - Shake Up and (Hopefully) Shake Out of the Navigator

When Prestige Cruise Holdings purchased Regent Seven Seas Cruises from Carlson it really had no idea how bad things were on one of the ships, the Navigator.  And since that day it has struggled with pretty much unthinkable conditions ranging from "little things" like brown water to defective air conditioning, to total losses of power (known as a "dead ship" condition), pipes falling apart, etc.  And then there is the shaking...aft on the ship presently shakes so badly that you can literally watch the bar counters flex, your drink walk across a table and feel your teeth shake.

That, however, is planned to be a thing of the past.  The Navigator is shortly going into an extended drydock for an extensive "stem to stern" mechanical makeover.  Folks, laying up a cruise ship for a month or more is very expensive, but in the case of Navigator it is long, long overdue.  And, as a result, I do have a concern that - as happens all too often in the boat biz - when you open things up expecting X you find X, Y and (how can that be?) Z.  But with such a long drydock I think PCH and Regent have anticipated there are going to be some unanticipated surprises.

Clearly PCH and Regent have taken the problem head on and shows there is now a long term commitment to make something good out of this ship and, therefore, it signals (at least to me) that Regent may be looking at expanding rather than contracting its fleet.  But that is another topic for another day!  (Maybe not a too distant day.)

Now, what is it that is going to be happening? 

First, there has been a new stern designed for the ship, changing it to extend out and create more of a ducktail (think longer, tapered and rounded) with sponsons (underwater structures, port and starboard,  projecting out and back to change waterflow).  In addition, Navigator will be getting two new screws (propellers).  By the way, there is tremendous engineering that goes into the design of propellers so that a certain amount of water is pulled through, at certain velocities, without creating the wrong kind of turbulence and without various harmonics wreaking havoc.  The design is, hopefully, going to eliminate the seriously debilitating vibration issue.  Even if it does not totally eliminate the vibration (and remember it is a ship, so no matter what there will be some vibration) there is going to be a vast improvement.

Second, every system from air conditioning to plumbing to electrical are going to be throughly inspected and corrected.  As many of you may know, Regent has already identified quite a number of issues and has put some stop-gap measures in place (to prevent things like going "dead ship") and has been using the time up to the drydock to put a plan of action into place.  To me this is a far greater challenge than the vibration.  With the vibration issue you can engineer a solution and simply fabricate and weld on the solution.  With these sort of old systems, you essentially are going to war with a beast!  (Can you tell this sort of stuff gets me excited?!)

Third, and there has been a bit of misinformation on this posted around the internet on this subject, the interiors are going to be getting makeover, but really nothing of huge note other than the installation of Prime 7, Regent's signature steakhouse.   And the rather drab interior is going to be getting a bit of a colorful uplift.  More specifically:

Prime 7 will have a similar palate as do the Voyager and Mariner with green and golden hues, leather, polished granite and burnished woods.

Compass Rose (the main dining room) is going to get new armchairs, deep color carpets and draperies, and new china, silverware and glassware.  (There is no mention of increasing the number of tables for two, which is a bit of a disappointment.)

La Veranda will remain La Veranda at all times (no more Portofino) and will serve a varied menu in the evening.  It will remain the casual dining/buffet experience for breakfast and lunch.  I am unsure if it will have waiter service in the evenings, but presume it will.  It will receive new furniture (I am not sure if it is just chairs or if the variety of table sizes will be increased), carpets, drapes and dinnerware. 

The Pool Grill will be expanded to become a legitimate grill with, you guessed it, a legitimate grill.  (Note there has been published comment that this will be a new installation on Deck 11, which is incorrect.  It will (ironically?) remain by the pool on Deck 10.)  I am not sure if there will be expanded seating (which has always been in short supply).

The various bars and public spaces will also be getting facials (if not facelifts).  The terribly underutilized Stars Lounge will no longer be a designated "disco", but will be given an upscale "estate" feel with new  furnishings, carpets and curtains.  (I am thinking akin to Celebrity's Michael's Club - a compliment).  Galileo's (my favorite lounge if the vibration is eliminated...will be similarly updated and the deck aft of it (which is the best spot on the ship will be made more into a outdoor living room with sofas and chaises.  The Navigator Lounge will also be similarly buffed up, as will the remaining public areas.


The Spa is being taken over by Canyon Ranch.  Other than a new operator (and I was not impressed with its operation on the QM2 - not that any at sea spa operator does much for me) I am not sure that much will change, though I anticipate some new equipment even if only because it is proprietary to Canyon Ranch.

If all this goes according to plan, Regent may well have a ship that I can - as far as hardware - begin recommending rather than advising to avoid.  I sure hope so...and I see no reason that should not be the case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Iamboatman's Legal Imperfect Storm - When Will The Cruise Be Over?!

As many of you know I am not only a travel agent, but a lawyer whose practice is focused in large part on superyachts and the maritime industry. On Friday, the New Jersey Appellate Division announced a decision ruling, for the second time, in favor of my client in a rather complicated (and frustrating) estate matter.

The New Jersey Law Journal published an article today about the case. Read it and you will see while I smiled when I read it and, when I got to the end of it I had to post it here:

An Imperfect StormEric Goldring devotes so much time to marine law that the Web site of Goldring & Goldring in Red Bank is called yachtlaw.com. But he has been on a rough voyage in a nonadmiralty matter — an estate case afloat for three years and still far from harbor, even after an appeals court ruling on Friday.


As the estate's lawyer, Goldring defeated three plaintiffs' claims that they were entitled to bequests under a codicil. Even so, the claims were reasonable enough to entitle the plaintiffs to $15,000 from the estate to pay their lawyer, Jeffrey Knapp of Basking Ridge, Essex County Superior Court Judge Renee Weeks ruled last year. But her opinion didn't explain why she picked that amount, so an appeals court remanded the case for more math.


On Friday, the Appellate Division ruled that Weeks got it right the second time around in the Matter of the Will of Richard XXXX , at least about the amount of the fee. But Judges Mary Cuff and Alexander Waugh Jr. say the record remains murky about whether Knapp has already been paid. If so, the $15,000 should go to the litigants as a reimbursement. If not, it should go to Knapp.

What's more, there is some suggestion in the case that Knapp might have been paid by a nonparty — a son of the decedent who was disinherited. If that's true, the estate is off the hook for the fee, the court says. So the case was remanded again.

Knapp did not return a call, but Goldring says it is frustrating trying to explain to the heirs — the decedent's daughter and grandchildren — why the cruise is taking so long.

By Michael Booth, Charles Toutant and Henry Gottlieb

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seabourn Cruise Line's Use of the Press - It's Not To Write Fantasy, But To Assure Delivery Of It.

You have read my articles complaining about cruise lines sucking up to the press with free cruises and another benefits so that unrealistically glowing reviews and awards are pushed upon the public as if they were both accurate and news. 

I have recently been very harsh as to Silversea's use of the press during the seatrial of the Silversea Spirit; with a lack of proper accommodations or any service being spun as something good, discussion of spaces being wonderful when they are incomplete and not a single word of concern or issue mentioned.

On October 30, 2009 the Financial Times (the preeminent London business newspaper) had an article written by a journalist invited on the Seabourn Odyssey for her initial run after delivery on her way to Venice, Italy.  Claire Wrathall wrote, in part:

All credit, then, to the upmarket US brand Yachts of Seabourn, part of the cruise giant Carnival, that rather than try out the latest addition to their fleet, M/V Seabourn Odyssey, on eager-to-please friends, family and staff from head office, they decided to test it on an international party of people conditioned to find fault. Though it would be naive not to see it as a PR exercise (no one was paying and they treated us royally), the point of the trip was to elicit criticism of the sternest sort...

Our views were canvassed relentlessly, never formally, but in 48 hours I must have been asked about everything from what I thought of the bed linen to the after-dinner entertainment.

This did not surprise me to read.  Seabourn has no problem admitting it isn't perfect.  In fact it is almost scary how readily it admits it is not.  Every glitch is recognized...and if the head office hasn't heard about it before a guest comment is received it wants to know why...and quick effort is made to correct it. 

Seabourn is obsessively self-critical and welcomes comments of concerns, issues and complaints. And then it acts upon them in many ways, from why it happened to how a guest perceived it, to how to make it right both from an operational standpoint and with the guest.  It is how Seabourn consistently provides outstanding service and cuisine.

And now you know, in part, why I don't have much tolerance for the glowing reviews when they are not earned.