Saturday, February 27, 2010

Peter Cox - THE Man Creating Exotic Itineraries Retires

If you have ever been on a cruise to an exotic port...or one that used to be exotic...the chances are that it was discovered, examined and, truth be told, sometimes created by Peter Cox. 

For the past 17 years of his long career, Peter Cox has been the genius behind Seabourn's offerings of small ports that normal cruise ships cannot visit. 

Listening to Peter can be overwhelming and inspiring at the same time.  He speaks not only with an encyclopedic knowledge, but with the passion of a child that just found his new favorite toy (port).  And, truth be told, speaking or just listening to Peter Cox humbles a guy like me, who many think has vast travel experience.  This soft spoken, incredibly polite, gentleman has such incredible experience that he easily reminds me that I have but scratched the surface of visiting our world. 

He taught me that there is so much more than finding an off-the-beaten-path place.  There not only needs to be infrastructure for the ship, but a diversity of opportunities for the guests and reliable ways to get them there, feed them and provide a safe experience.  Oh, yes, and also be able to tie it into an itinerary that provides for ports to fly into and out of.  In July 2008 I wrote It's Like a Sandwich! Seabourn Spirit - New Ports for 2009 which was inspired by a talk Peter Cox gave for the top Seabourn travel agents.

Pamela Conover, the President of Seabourn said of his retirement, "‘I can't overstate the important role Peter has played in shaping not just Seabourn's itineraries, but those of many other lines as well...He has literally created an inbound travel business for quite a number of ports that had never been on the radar for cruise companies until Peter showed them to us. Peter is the complete package: intelligence, humor, deep knowledge and a passion for helping people explore the world. He started as a guide, and in a sense he has never stopped being one...He is a true gentleman and will be missed by us all." (You can read more at Seatrade Insider free subscription required)

Seabourn's 2011 Itineraries Are Almost Here!

As Seabourn is seeking out a significant increase in Australian guests as its demographics shift, its ships are going to be seeking out more destination as the number of ships (with the imminent introduction of the Seabourn Sojourn) and travel experiences of its guests increase.

I cannot tell you when the itineraries will be announced and open for booking, but let's just say I wouldn't be writing this if it wasn't going to be very soon.

Remember, wherever in the world you are located, today commerce is very international and Goldring Travel is extremely experienced in addressing the needs and desires of its clients around the world...with very competitive pricing and unsurpassed service.

Now, in addition to telephone (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732 383 7398 and email (eric@goldringtravel.com) Goldring Travel is available for video chat on Skype.  The world is getting smaller every day.  Fair Dinkum!    (I spent three years in Brisbane building superyachts, so I think I am allowed to genuinely say it.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seabourn and Some Long Time Guests - What is Old Is New Again

As you may know, some of Seabourn's guests are not happy about the elimination of formal night on 7 night cruises.  They believe it will be the ruination of the Seabourn experience because, apparently, the rest of the Seabourn experience is irrelevant.  The tuxedo, it seems, is allegedly the gatekeeper that keeps away the "other" people and children.

That said, this vocal minority is now stamping its feet and claiming the loyalty is now gone.  It reminded me of when Seabourn said it was going to stop sending its smaller ships on transatlantic voyages, so I sought out my blog article on that subject.  What is kind of freaky is that I wrote it literally one year ago to the day this controversy became public. 

On February 19, 2010 I wrote Seabourn's 2010-2011 Itineraries:  You Got What You Asked For....And Didn't.

No need to repeat myself yet again.

What do you think?  Join the discussion on the Yahoo!  A Dress Code Thread - Seabourn on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I Am Proud Of The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum

Over the past few days there has been a bit of controversy over a change in Seabourn's dress code (eliminating formal nights on cruises of 7 days or less) and its decision to not encourage, but not ignore children on it ship.

While on Cruise Critic hysteria and three sentence angry comments/demands prevail, on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum there has been real discussion, real thought and expanded writings by each poster.  You can read them at Yahoo!   A Dress Code Thread - Seabourn

There is a huge amount of solid information and discussion in The Gold Standard Forum.  I am proud that is is, well and truly, turning into "A place to talk about cruising and travel in an intelligent and comfortable atmosphere".

Note:  You will see a one star rating once again...and from the same person.  It is exactly that sort of self-absorbed and childish behavior that moviated me to create The Gold Standard Forum.  So for the rater and those reading this, please ask yourself, "Who do you want to spend your time reading or relying upon? A person who is forthright or one that is, well, as they say, Res Ipsa Loquitor."

Seabourn President, Pamela Conover, Talks About Formal Nights and Children

I received an email this morning from a client who is presently on the Seabourn Odyssey World Cruise concerning the mini-revolt by some concerning Seabourn's foregoing formal nights on shorter cruises and its decision not to entertain, but also not ignore, a growing (albeit still quite small) segment of its guests:  children.
(I surmise the World Cruise guests are otherwise very happy as no other issue of any significance seems to be on the minds of some; quite a positive in my opinion.)  In any even, gently edited, here is the email:

Eric,


In my opinion, Ms. Conover hit the ball out of the park [during her talk on the Seabourn Odyssey today in Melbourne].

Her explanation of the formal night issue was, as you said, simply a response to passengers who don’t want to bother bringing formal wear on a short 7-day cruise. For cruises of 14 days there is one formal night and for cruises of 21 days or more there are two.

Ms. Conover likened the issue to that of smoking … no response satisfies everyone. Some passionately declare they will not book a short cruise if there is a formal night and other say they will not board unless one is included. In my opinion, it’s total nonsense. If that issue is the deal killer and these persons are willing to give up everything else the ship has to offer just to wear a fancy outfit on one evening of their short vacation, who cares if they come or not?

As to the “children’s programs,” Ms. Conover explained that the line is simply responding to complaints received from passengers about children they encountered last August and September on 7-day Odyssey cruises in the Mediterranean. Apparently, although Seabourn has never marketed the line as a venue for youngsters, a number of passengers included younger members of their families on short cruises in the Mediterranean last summer. The presence of the kids, apparently, disturbed some. Seabourn’s response is to devise things for the children to do to occupy them and keep them out of everyone else’s hair ... a proportionate and sensible solution.

It’s not enough for some however. They seem to want Seabourn to sell tickets only to old people...Happily, Ms. Conover emphatically said the line will not ban children but will deal with the fact that some passengers in its market niche will wish to travel with their children or grandchildren by doing something to help these customers keep them occupied.

Like the formal wear issue, I can’t believe that there have ever been sufficient numbers of children on board to warrant all this fuss. I’ll bet you a quarter there were only a few kids out of the 400 souls on board – not enough to make any real difference to reasonable people.

Seabourn’s marketing and price point - and informed travel agents like you who honestly advise clients about where they will have the best vacation - will ensure that a Seabourn experience will never be a Disney adventure.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seabourn Changes Its Dress Code...Sort Of. The Sky Is Not Falling!

I preface this article by admitting I LIKE FORMAL NIGHTS and because I travel so much I never have an issue with being charged for taking additional luggage.  And I admit that I regularly cruise with my children, but not on Seabourn...and I have absolutely no plan to change that. 

So yesterday I read a post on Cruise Critic by some hysterical poster claiming that Seabourn's elimination of formal nights on its seven day cruises is a harbinger of Seabourn ridding itself of the triples (Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend) and seeking out children to run through its ships.  How utterly infantile.  And, oh yes, wrong!

Then I received an email from one of my clients on the Seabourn Odyssey's World Cruise telling me about a petition some of the guests are circulating complaining about the dress code change and also some sort of non-existent related change in Seabourn policy to make the Seabourn ships more attractive to families and children.  This is to be presented to Seabourn's president, Pamela Conover, when she arrives on the ship in Melbourne, Australia today.

I have had emails with Ms. Conover and, as I knew, this is (I believe the technical term is) poppycock.  Seabourn is trying an elimination of formal nights on its shorter cruises because that is what the majority of its guests prefer.  (Just last week I had a very loyal Seabourn client - aged in her 50's - who expressed her husband's great relief that he won't need formal wear on their upcoming cruise.  Oh, yes, they booked an Owner's Suite and have no children.)

I discussed this hysteria with my wife last evening.  I think our talk among ourselves may assist you in understanding Seabourn's approach. 

We were going to one of our favorite restaurants, Bistro Ole in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  It serves Portuguese and Spanish dishes with a twist; is owned and styled by an openly gay man and   is based upon every one being friendly and leaving their inhibitions at the door.  (Not like that...you are encouraged to chat with those at the table next to you, try new foods and laugh.)  As it takes no reservations, our arrival at 7:30 p.m. blessed us with 1 1/2 hour wait, so we went around the corner to a bar for a drink before dinner. 

After getting over my seemingly regular frustration with the misinformation provided on Cruise Critic (I had to mention that!), I said to my wife, "You know not only can't I imagine my parents - at 50 years old - going to Bistro Ole, but when going out on a Saturday night, a tie and jacket was pretty much standard dress.  I don't think I have worn a tie to dinner with you more than a few times in our 17+ years of marriage and never in the past decade except when on a cruise."

I also thought back to the days when I first started practicing law.  I wore a tie and jacket every day; with dressing down being a sport jacket and grey slacks.  (remember "Dress Down Fridays" being a big and innovative concept?!)  Now if I am not going to court I do not wear a suit or even a sport jacket and tie.  Khakis or jeans is standard dress.  And I am not a freak of nature.  It is how more and more attorneys are dressing. 

So then I said, "What the heck does this have to do with children?  Why do some people make a connection between being less formal and children.  I think it is, well, childish!"

As one who likes formal nights, I am not thrilled with the change, but then again, it isn't going to really affect my cruise.  I probably will still wear a sport jacket to dinner (sometimes with a tie and sometimes without) and - LISTEN TO THISthere will still be the same wonderful cuisine and intuitive Seabourn service.  So then, what is the big deal? 

How does my not wearing a tuxedo destroy all that is Seabourn?  It doesn't...and it can't.  It is not like the lack of a tuxedo is going to turn into ripped jeans and burgers in Restaurant 2.  It is not like the Seabourn staff will look down upon me as being a second class sort of person.  And, alas, it is not like it is going to stop my wife from wearing her jewelry or some pretty swanking clothes.

So now I turn to the issue of "children" on Seabourn.  Folks, let's make this very simple:  Can someone please explain to me the connection between no formal nights and children? On the mass market lines they have formal nights and they seek out children, have children's facilities and staff for children.  Meanwhile, Seabourn has built two brand new ships (with a third being built) that have absolutely no facilities designed for children.  There are no activities for children.  There are no staff for children.  You see, there is absolutely no connection between formal nights and children:  no logic, no nothing.

What is true is that the cruising population is not only increasing (how many ships are out there now as opposed to 10 years ago?) it is getting younger.  Seriously, when was the last time you heard the phrase, "Cruising is for the newlywed and nearly dead."  You haven't because the demographics have changed with younger people regularly cruising.  (Am I younger since I am 51 and not nearly dead?  Or because I have been cruising since I was in law school over a quarter century ago?)

And those younger people, unlike the "nearly dead" have children that are dependent upon them.  (I know there are some in the "nearly dead" category that can't shake their kid's dependence as well, but that is a subject for another time!)  And the world is far more available for travel.  And the concept of "Children should be seen, but not heard" is no longer a mantra repeated...or, frankly, accepted by most.

Just this past month, my 14 year old son gave a photo presentation on the multi-cultural aspects of Israel and is now working on a project as to how he would divide up Israel to resolve the Palestinian conflict and why.  And my 10 year old daughter gave a PowerPoint presentation on Greek mythology.  Both children drew upon their experiences in Israel, Greece, Turkey and Egypt and utilized the photographs and souvenirs they obtained along the way.  For those claiming the horrors of children being on a cruise ship, please explain to me which cruises you took your children on or what the benefits to them were by leaving them home while you traveled the world?

The point is that parents are traveling at a younger age and they do, more regularly, bring children with them.  But they do this only during a very limited portion of the year.  And, alas, it is not a Seabourn thing, but a cultural thing...unrelated to dress codes; though the parents don't dress so formally.  Is it then that by keeping formal dress codes these "nearly deads" (in body or spirit) want to keep 30 and 40 year olds (and I guess 50 year olds with children, too) off of Seabourn?

Now, let's shift gears:  How many older folks travel now then say 20 years ago?  And how many of those older folks travel by taking cruises rather than, say, spending two months in Miami Beach?  (Should we talk about how South Beach in Miami became a vacant, run down, slum because older folks stopped going there in part because they died and their children - when they became "older folks" didn't follow their lead, but went elsewhere be it Myrtle Beach, Lake Tahoe, Aruba..a long cruise?)  Think about this:  How many World Cruises are available today versus twenty years ago?  Mind-blowing isn't it?

So the facts are that more OLDER and YOUNGER people are traveling (and, more people are cruising than ever before) and families like to vacation together.  This does not necessarily mean children, but older parents and their adult children.  (I have many clients that travel like this.)  But their are others that extend the multi-generational concept to include three generations...which include children (not necessarily "wheelchair to high chair", but teens and college kids). 

And Seabourn would not like to tap into this multi-generational market because why?  Of course it would.  Why seek to only sell one suite when it can sell 3, 4 or 5 suites to the same family?  (And, folks, consider the economics.  A Seabourn cruise is far more costly than a Carnival cruise.  Just how large do you really think this multi-generational market is and how many of these suites are going to be affecting your particular cruise...just by economics!)

Alas, it is not Seabourn seeking to create a market, as explained, it is an ever increasing market that Seabourn is happy to accommodate as it now has 5 ships and soon 6.

And that brings me to the last point:  Seabourn has no plans to sell off the triplets.  There are quite a number of loyal Seabourn guest that like the smaller ships better.  They don't get the intimate feel they require on the larger ships regardless of all the "latest and greatest".  Also, there are many exotic itineraries that well-traveled guests are looking for that are viable when utilizing the smaller ships that are not practical with the larger ones.  For example, filling 100 suites for a cruise to Java or where the flights are very long is far more realistic than 225 suites.

Not to mention that many of those ports can only be visited by the smaller ships.  Remember that is one of the focuses of Seabourn.  With all the recent focus on the newest, larger, ships, the very backbone of Seabourn's itineraries possibly need to be brought more to the fore.

So for the "genius" who linked formal nights to the elimination of the triplets I ask the following questions:  "How many times would you like Seabourn to take you to Rome?"  "Do you prefer the intimacy of the smaller ships?"

To wrap things up, I ask a question, "Do you want Seabourn to go the way of Miami Beach?"  If the newlyweds find Seabourn unattractive and the nearly deads demand things remain the same, isn't that exactly what you are going to wind up with?  Remember, the "nearly deads" aren't really nearly dead...there is a prejudice that older folks are not vital when we all know that they are traveling more, living longer and better.  What was that about today's youth?

What do you think?  Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn 2011 World Cruise Now Open

Seabourn Sojourn's 111 day Maiden World Cruise is now available for booking. 

(If you want to "whet your whistle" read how fantastic the present World Cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey is going, stop by The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum's thread which is following the comments of the very happy world cruisers:  Seabourn Odyssey World Cruise.

Departing from Los Angeles, California on January 5, 2011 its first stop will be the Marquesas and French Polynesia followed by New Zealand and Australia...but this time Seabourn will be taking a southern and western route, after ending its first segment in Sydney. 

The Seabourn Sojourn's second segment calls on Melbourne and then will be visiting Adelaide and Fremantle before heading north to Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

The third segment consists of Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand ending in Singapore.

From Singapore, the Seabourn Sojourn's fourth cruises to different ports in Malaysia and Thailand before heading to India and then Dubai.

From Dubai there the Seabourn Sojourn cruises to Oman, Egypt, Jordan and Israel followed by port calls in Crete, Greece and Sorrento, Italy before arriving in Rome.

The final leg is a very familiar cruise from Rome to Southampton, England with calls in Spain, Portugal and 2 2/1 days in Bordeaux, France, ending on April 27, 2011.

For Full World Cruise guests each suite receives First Class Air, 300 pounds of luggage valet, all private car transfers (from home to airport to yacht and back), $2,000 onboard credit, 5 exclusive Full World Cruise events and 6 World Cruise events  - all included in the cruise fare.

Obviously as your cruise length shortens, the benefits do as well, but even those on a single segment are treated in Seabourn Style, with included each suite receiving economy air, 125 pounds of luggage valet, airport to/from yacht transfers, a $300 onboard credit and a World Cruise event included in their fare.

With Full World Cruise prices starting at US$60,696.38 and segments starting at US$7,952.24 (including all taxes, fees and airfare) the value and luxury is simply incomparable. 

Call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY (or +1 732 383 7398) or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com for more information or to book your World Cruise.

Smart Money's 10 Things A Cruise Line Won't Tell You...And Some Things About Seabourn - Where The Smart Money Goes!

Today I came across an article posted on the Smart Money website titled, "10 Things Your Cruise Line Won't Tell You."  Being perceived by some as a "tell it as it really is" sort of travel agent (and a curmudgeon about all things cruises by some others) the article's title interested me enough to spend a couple of minutes reading it. There is some good information in there...as long as you actually read the content rather than the eye-brow raising list.

I am not going to critique the entire article, but I think it raises some topics that gives a good springboard as to why Seabourn is such a strong cruise line...and worth considering especially if you are looking for "value for money".  Notice I said, "value for money" and not "luxury".  That is because the focus of the article is basically how you are not going to receive all that you think you are paying for.  Not so on Seabourn!

With that, here we go:

1. “Our engines break down all the time.” - If you read the article it is disclosed that, according to CruiseJunkie.com "roughly 5% of ships that had to cancel some or all port calls did so because of engine or mechanical problems. Those problems have become less frequent, however weather-related cancellations have become more common."  Wait a minute, that would mean 95% of cruise ships did not cancel any ports for mechanical reasons and, further, since such an event might happen on only one or two of a ships 30+ cruises in a year (or only 3% of a ship's cruises), that means that essentially 99% of cruises do not miss ports because of mechanical problems. OK, that is not only great performance by Seabourn, but it is worth pointing out!

4. “Sure, we can take care of your plane reservations, but you’d do a whole lot better on your own.” - To be honest I am not a big fan of cruise line air...even with the alleged "free" air that isn't free on any cruise line.  You know the drill, the cruise line gives you lousy flight times and connections, charter flights, etc.  rather than a good flight time with a direct routing.  On Seabourn the flights are consistently the some of the best flights around and on high quality air carriers.  If you want to change your flight it is not a big deal and many times the alternatives are provided at no additional cost...even if you want to arrive a day or so earlier or depart later.  Typical comments I receive are like this actual comment from someone who was trying to organize pre and post cruise options seven months before her cruise, "Wow, I am really surprised and impressed, I really didn't think we would find anything out until 90 days out. The schedule is fine...Ok, now I am really impressed, I didn't realize they were "real" tickets. How cool is that. So, I went and changed my seats."  How much value is there to you with that kind of service?

5. “Think everything’s included? Think again.” - The article points out that most food, entertainment and coffee is included, but alcohol, merchandise, spa services and pictures are extra.  It suggests that you can save some of the additional cost by buying soda packages for about $30 for a week.  It also notes that "another significant expense for passengers is tipping the staff. Many cruise lines have begun charging a fixed gratuity for restaurant and custodial service, set at an average of $10 per guest, per day."    On Seabourn not "most", but "all" food, entertainment and coffee is included as are your alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, gratuities and, to be sure, even 10 minute Massage Moments on deck.

6. “Our ‘gourmet’ food is anything but.” - While the article points out "Typically, the kitchen staff knows about how many entrĂ©es will be needed, so they prepare that much in advance and finish it when the diners arrive." and the asserting it is 3+ star at best, it then comments "Some large ships often provide alternative, specialty restaurants that do cook to order, but this special treatment comes at a price—one that isn’t included in the cost of the cruise.  As Douglas Ward, author of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2010,” explains, “It’s economics. If you don’t charge enough money for cruises, you have to lower the quality of the food and other aspects. It's a question of balance - or go out of business.” Ward says the smaller, reservations-only restaurants that cost extra on the major lines use premium ingredients, but they can charge up to an extra $30 per person per meal (plus wine). The bottom line: If eating well is important to you, be prepared to pay extra."  Unfortunately, even Seabourn's competitor, Silversea Cruises, is now charging even more to dine at two of its alternative dining restaurants. 

However, on Seabourn the cuisine is prepared "a la minute"...that is it is prepared as it is ordered...the quality of the ingredients is simply the best at sea, and there are absolutely no additional charges to dine at any of the alternative dining venues. Caviar and Champagne before dinner...or as an afternoon ritual?  No Charge.

9. “Our ads might say Champagne and caviar, but expect beer and pretzels.”  - This one can be repeated.  On Seabourn...and only Seabourn...Champagne and Caviar are included, as much as you reasonably want and whenever you want, at no additional charge.  The champagne flows from the moment you reach the top of the gangway!  And, by the way, if you are lucky enough to be on most Caribbean cruises you can enjoy Seabourn's signature Caviar in the Surf.

10. “Our ship is fancy, but don’t expect service to match.” - Not true on Seabourn.  Intuitive service is Seabourn's trademark.  You know the service is good when you are chatting to friends during breakfast that you will meet them at the forward whirlpool at 3:30 p.m. and at exactly 3:30 p.m. a bar waiter arrives with a bottle of champagne and four glasses.  True story.  (Also, see points 5,6 and 9 above!)


So now, let me ask you is the "Smart Money" spend reading an article about how a cruise isn't going to meet your expectations or considering the value of a Seabourn cruise? 

Want to know more?  Call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY (or +1 732 383 7398) or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Yachts of Seabourn - E-Documents Are Now An Option

Don't Worry!  If you love the formal presentation that The Yachts of Seabourn cruise documents, there is no plan on eliminating them.

However, there are many people that either don't want or cannot receive the documents in a practical manner.   And for those guests that have a pile of travel wallets and luggage tags you are no longer forced to keep adding to your collection.

I am sure there will be those that doubt the option is not a harbinger of the elimination of cruise documents, but let me give you two examples of how the changes in our electronic and global lives makes this option a great improvement; not a cutback.

One example: I just had a client vacationing in the Caribbean that decided to take a Seabourn cruise in a couple of weeks.  The client asked the obvious question:  Can I get e-documents since I won't be home before the cruise?  Now the answer is "yes".  Problem solved.

Another example:  A client made a decision to do some traveling about two months before their cruise (and before the documents would be ready).  Living in Europe and moving every few weeks, getting the documents to  them became quite a challenge...and an expensive one at that.  Add to that the fact that the clients really didn't want to lug around a travel wallet and luggage tags (they really just wanted the cruise ticket) the practicality of e-documents is pretty clear.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Do Travel Agents Earn the Distrust of the Public

I previous wrote an article about some travel agency practices that I believe were inappropriate.  As a rare exception I withdrew the post; not because I believed the conduct was proper, but because I am not the integrity police...I just call it as I see it...but because while there were certain facts I did not know, the hassle just wasn't worth the potential downside.  I am, alas, in business to make money through the selling of cruises and other vacations; not as a paid journalist.

But I still do wish to speak my mind on the subject...especially since in the brief time the article was posted I received emails from some complaining of the same situation, but with other cruise lines.  So let me try it another way

I am one of the top selling travel agencies for The Yachts of Seabourn - worldwide - and I am one of the top selling agents - worldwide - as well.  I do not spend a fortune on advertising or mailers.  I do not bombard my clients or prospective clients with emails.  I try to focus on what my motto and business model is:  "Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard."  In other words, I work very hard to assure my clients and prospective clients are treated like important human beings; not lemmings who will follow the lead without thinking.

It is hard work, time intensive, patience driven...and it requires lots of education, both research and life experience.  I pride myself and Goldring Travel on being able to confidently give accurate advice on this city or that cruise or some hotel.  I also have a great desire to listen to those who have other experiences and opinions, as I find saying "I don't know" opens doors to learning, rather than the closing of doors through a fear of being seen as incompetent.  (Seriously, wouldn't you rather hear your travel agent say, "Let me look into that" rather than be given an inaccurate or non- answer?)

The result is that travel agencies with dozens of agents and outside agents are, almost without exception, less proficient and less efficient than I am.  Does that make some other agency or travel agent worse or better than I?  The answer is:  It depends how you want to answer the question.

A potential client came into my office the other day to discuss a taking a cruise on Seabourn.  He had found my name through the Seabourn travel agent locater which lists the top Seabourn agents by location.  But something was bothering him before we could really discuss his potential cruise:  It was the hounding of him by another travel agent...one he doesn't recall ever dealing with.

He sent me a copy of the emails and I was especially angered by one which stated, "Seabourn sent your information to us since we are their preferred vendor as well as an Amex rep. Our rates are often times less than others and if you have a Platinum Amex, it's even better." Leaving the "Seabourn 'preferred vendor'" business (as clearly if such a thing existed Goldring Travel would most definitely be designated as one), it is the rest of the emails that truly bothers me. 

The emails bother me because it displays a philosophy that (a) if you beat a potential client over the head with multiple emails and mailings they will eventually succumb to the barrage and book a cruise with you...just to get you off their back; and, (b) that it is OK to be dishonest or skirt the truth...as long as the potential client "thinks" it is true.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty:

Seabourn gives absolutely no priority to American Express travel agencies. Further, let's review the benefits of using an American Express travel agency:________________.  In other words, I am not aware of a single one. 

- First, American Express Platinum benefits are available to all approved travel agents - such as Goldring Travel; not just American Express affiliated ones.  In other words, if you have an American Express Platinum or Centurion Card and desire the $300 or $500 onboard credit and gift benefit (bottle of wine), Goldring Travel can provide that to you just as any Amex affiliated agency. 

- Second, speaking of Platinum and Centurion benefits, American Express Platinum Travel charges you full price for your cruise (and Amex affiliate travel agencies???).  Goldring Travel always provides you with a discounted price and, on many cruises, the option of Ensemble Travel Group benefits (either a $300 onboard credit or a high quality tour + cocktail party) which usually matches or exceeds the Amex Platinum benefits.  Here's a little bit of Goldring Travel history:  One of my motivating factors in getting in this business was my frustration when I found out that those "complimentary" Amex Platinum upgrades and exclusives were actually paid for by Amex charging you higher prices than were otherwise available.  Two instances (obviously from years ago) stick in my mind:  One where Amex Platinum tried to charge me $300 for an internal flight in Turkey that I was able to purchase for $40; and, a luxury hotel in New York gave me the same complimentary upgrade on a room I paid $200 less per night for...using my Amex Platinum, but booking it directly.)

- Third, Goldring Travel provides some of the best service in the business; not a claim that Amex can honestly make...and you don't read it in its marketing either.  As mentioned above, you hear about the added benefits...you know, the added benefits.

- Fourth, most of the Amex Platinum and Amex agents have never "been there" or "done that".  They read off a computer screen to give you a brief description of a hotel or a cruise ship or what to do in a particular city.  Not quite the same thing at Goldring Travel.  You read about it almost every time you stop by and read this blog or visit The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum(And if you aren't sure what you really want, do you want an "order taker" or an expert?)

To be sure I am not targeting American Express or that one particular travel agency.  What I have explained is unfortunately common throughout the industry.  So what is the person who is looking for an honest and expert travel agent to do?  Exactly what was done here.  Ask questions, question the answers and then make sure you are dealing with an honest and responsible travel agent.  There are no guarantees in life, but there sure are ways to reduce the chance that you will be duped.  Alas, and fortunately for you, I am not the only good travel agent or agency out there. I enjoy meeting up with some of the best in the business at various business functions.

Some of you may be asking, "So how do I know Goldring Travel is that good?"  Read my blog, read the message board, review the testimonials,  email or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732 383 7398.  I love to be challenged or even just to chat.

In the meantime:  Do you homework and, if you do that, make sure your travel agent "Will Treat You Like You Will Be Onboard!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Asset Management Exec to Head Silversea Cruises

Call me skeptical, but today Silversea Cruises announced that Enzo Visone has been named Executive Chairman of the Board of Silversea Cruises. Prior to this assignment, Mr. Visone was the CEO of an asset management company in Milan, Italy.  Prior to that he spent years at the head of Campari, the liquor company.

Manfredi Lefebvre, on the other hand, announced that he "will now have more time to dedicate to other business interests and philanthropic projects for which I will also avail myself of Enzo Visone's support, without distancing myself from the core business that is Silversea Cruises". 

When "The Man" gets out of the business (for charity, no less) and a number cruncher comes in there is a message.  Whether the message is the lenders (interim or permanent) want someone to have a tighter fiscal control (or just to have "their man" watching the store) is unclear.  But what is clear is that the new head of Silversea knows little, if anything, about the cruise industry.  (Compare, by contrast, Prestige Cruise Holdings placing Frank Del Rio, a man with great knowledge and a vision, at the head of its cruise businesses.)

As I have been saying, things at Silversea are not all smooth sailing.  Hopefully the move, if not unnerving, will be a good one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Silversea Silver Spirit - An Interesting Video of Six Restaurants

Here is an interesting video, produced for Silversea by Avid Cruiser, of its six restaurants.  While it gives a flavor (pun intended) of the various dining venues it is curious to me that the actual video of the venues is so limited and the amount of time spent looking at desserts and sashimi preparation (with a chef, taped at length, strangely having one hand gloved and the other not - how about some better editing!).

The one venue that really looks interesting to me from a culinary and enjoyment view is the Stars Lounge, which is a so-called supper club that opens at 9:00 p.m. with a variety of small bites...very creatively presented.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seabourn's Cuisine Continues to Win Over Food Critics...And, If You Like: You.

I have spent much of my time over the past weeks discussing cuisine and what it means and can add or subtract from your cruise experience.

Today I was advised of a San Diego food critic's blog "Matters of Taste" wherein she noted her first cruise ever was this past year on the Seabourn Spirit and it garnered mention in her "Memorable Morsels....My Favorite Foods of 2009" post.  Maureen Clancy wrote:

Three months after my first-ever CRUISE experience -- on the Seabourn Spirit -- I’m still in awe of chef Bjoern Wassmuth’s (left) performance. Crispy corn-crusted prawns with fennel slaw and romesco sauce; red carrot and curry potage with shrimp dumplings; warm ricotta and potato ravioli in truffle butter; chilled corn and lemon grass soup with lobster salad and spicy shrimp oil; swordfish Sicilian style with chili, capers, olives and basil...and much more. Each dish was picture-perfect and served by an attractive and amiable staff.


Many of you may recall that Chef Bjoern was "our" chef for the 2009 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise.  He made a number of special treats for us including that wonderful grilled fresh Slovenian Sea Bass (served on deck) from the aquaculture farm we visited early in the day where we enjoyed sea bass both smoked and sashimi with fresh pressed oil oil and naturally harvested sea salt.  Another Goldring Travel exclusive!

If you have been following the writings of those on the Seabourn Odyssey World Cruise on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum you know that that cuisine offered by Seabourn is "memorable" across the fleet!

Interested in the 2010 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise?  Email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY.