Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do What You Need to Do and Write What You Need to Write.

I know I have been on sort of a role about being a bit kinder to fellow travelers.  I also know I have been a bit harsh in putting forth the message; I guess, in large part, because it seems like the ones that actually need the message won't hear it otherwise.

You may recall the other day I posted on the Goldring Travel Facebook Page about a truly inspirational speaker I saw with my family by the name of Michael Fowlin.  He had many great messages for teenagers, but also for adults.  One of them was, "Stop doing what you are supposed to do and starting doing what you need to do."

I really took that to heart and have really tried to change the way I do some things.  Without trying to sound too virtuous, and without getting into specifics, I have done things like letting some important people know that they are really appreciated rather than just sending them a Christmas card...and they probably never actually perceived themselves as important to me.  And rather than say to a waitress whose customer walked out on their bill, "Sorry", I did something to assist.

So today I received another of the many emails I get from my 79 year old mother.  (Remember when your grandmother would cut out articles from the newspaper and mail them to your parents?  This is the modern version of that.)  Anyway, she sent it because the video was shot in Red Bank, New Jersey (the home of Goldring Travel...and formerly a really good cigar bar seen in the background, but now closed). 

This video, by Life Vest Inside, speaks to the same thing.  Coincidence?

Sometimes people board luxury cruise ships and believe it is all about them.  They paid their price and they demand all they believe they are entitled to.  Sometimes those people forget that they are dealing with human beings and that the stewardess is doing her best, the hotel manager is trying to correct things for you, the food served by the waiter may not be perfect, but they are people.

So before you start yelling.  Before you start posting how bad they are.  Before you start adversely affecting other's dreams of their cruise.  Before you write as if your singular experience is authoritative and the dozens of more positive experiences must be a thing of the past or a sign of things to come (rather than an isolated instance):  THINK.

Do you really think you NEED to yell, or berate or castigate? Or is just something that you decided you should do? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Do People Believe Bad Comments More Than Good? A Word of Caution: The Poster May Be Trouble.

There is an interesting, though disturbing, phenomenon that raises its ugly head too many times:  The Thrill of Writing Negative Cruise Reviews.

On Cruise Critic (the website of so much inaccuracy and social dysfunction that it boggles most minds), there is presently a woman on the Seabourn Pride (posting as "Caroldoll") who typifies how an obviously ill-informed person who loves the limelight gets her 15 minutes of fame by engaging in various rants and then becomes offended because she was called out on it

What mystifies me more:  There are people that take what this one - ill-informed and not terribly well centered woman's - opinion and deem it to be truthful, relevant and, to be sure, a virtuous death knell.  Why? 

Let me set the stage: 

Granny Lorr has just completed an 88 day cruise on the Seabourn Pride and had the time of her life...again.  You can read her travelogue with details of her experience on the Seabourn Pride here:  Granny on The Pride 2011.  Raves and compliments abound.  She disembarks as the Pride is going into drydock.

Caroldoll embarks on the Seabourn Pride the day it gets out of the same drydock.  She starts out by stating, in part, "The check-in was handled quickly and professionally. However EVERYONE was sitting in a very small theater type room. There were small coldcut sandwiches..not even good cold cuts and with very dry bread and cookies. After about a half an hour someone came to take us to the suite. We are in the OS 6. This is mid-ship with a very very obstructed view."

It is at this point I stop, pause, and determine that whatever else she has to say is definitely going to be of the "Why did you step under my foot?" rather than the "I am sorry I stepped on your foot" variety.  It is, to someone who is knowledgeable (like a good travel agent) that:

(A) One never should arrive at a Seabourn ship before 2:00 p.m. and more preferably at or after 2:30 p.m.  So why did this person arrive before then?  Obviously she didn't have a clue either because she didn't use a travel agent or she used one that didn't know or didn' tell her.

(B) The midship Owner's Suites on the smaller Seabourn ships have a somewhat obstructed view from the balcony.  The Seabourn website makes the condition very clear, "Suites O5 and O6...Living rooms windows have an obstructed view due to ship's equipment; as well the private verandah will have an over head obstruction due to the overhang presence of the ship's life boat.".  Oh, heads are going to roll!  To bad she did not use hers before the cruise to actually read something or ask questions.

So I read on - already tainted by her failures...and they are failures...and read her comment, "I could go on and on, but their internet package is $400, so I won't!" And I pause again because in the top suites on Seabourn the interest is included in the cruise fare (or, if you will, complimentary...just as it says on its website.)  But then I think, "If she bought the full cruise package, then it wouldn't matter." 

Then I say to myself, "Self:  Why would someone who just boarded a ship spend the time ranting on Cruise Critic rather getting herself together and having any issues addressed in a productive fashion?"  I figure it is because she is seeking vengeance, retribution...or, possibly, she needs to blame someone other than herself because she just doesn't belong on that ship.

This last point plays itself out when she complains of the age of the Seabourn Pride, which was launched in 1988 and then compares it to her yachting experiences.  But again, lack of or bad travel agent aside, the Seabourn website clearly states, "And in 1988...the sleek, 10,000-ton Pride emerged from the...shipyard".  If this person was looking for modern or something comparable to a new superyacht either ignorance or visions of grandeur were present. (BTW, I tell all of my clients that the service and cuisine...the "Software" if you what makes the small Seabourn ships special.  If you want state of the art "hardware", the newer Seabourn Odyssey-class ships are probably for you.)

Then there is another point:  This is the first cruise since the drydocking of the Seabourn Pride.  While it made some major technical enhancements to the ship there is absolutely no way things would be running perfectly.  The drydock is run by a shipyard (not Seabourn) and things go wrong and need to be corrected...especially when on a compressed schedule.  In addition, the staff are spending their first days putting things back where they belong (or in new places), working the kinks out of the new equipment, etc.    Just like taking a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season, you should never book such a cruise without expecting problems...Ever.  Guess she was never told that!

So now with all of this background I am reading about those poor souls reading her rants who have booked their first Seabourn cruise and it is on the Seabourn Pride.  They are unnecessarily worried because they are clearly not getting a balanced perspective.  Why would Caroldoll do this to these people?

But I also must ask, "Why are there so many other posters rooting her on to complain more?"  Do they not see that what she says may or may not be true, but even the faults are probably blown way out of proportion.  Or, of course, if they are not like her, would the issues she is legitimately having  be perceived as dire by themselves? Of course they do.  If they read Caroldoll's thread they already know how ill-informed and/or perverse her perspective is.  To me it is like a those people that see someone under the influence and nonetheless buy them another drink because they think that person is amusing.

Before I end this I would like to refer you to an article I wrote back in July 2009:  Let's Get Back to Basics - Why Do We Do This Stuff???? .  It talks of "The List":  the list certain people make of everything that is not right (not even wrong) with their cruise.  It ruins their experience and, when they decide to share their List, it ruins it for others; something I wrote about a few days ago.

Do yourselves a favor when looking to book a cruise:  Use a quality, knowledgeable, travel agent.  Don't book online (unless you plan on handing it off to that agent afterwards).  Don't book directly with the cruise line.  Don't read the review of one person and believe it to be true. And, don't believe everything you read.  (Unless, of course, you read it here!)

Do have a great time and know that your experience is what is important.  That other person's:  Usually, not so much.

Join the discussion on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What a Wonderful World (To Travel) - Happy Holidays from Goldring Travel

This has been quite a year for me, personally, and for Goldring Travel.

I have traveled from the mountains of Lake Tahoe, California to the beaches of Sardinia; wandered the streets of Rome and was among the first to cruise on the Seabourn Quest; relaxed in a beautiful villa in remote Turkey; took in much during the Global Superyacht Forum in Amsterdam; embraced the east coast of Canada and the United States on the Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise aboard the Seabourn Sojourn and in my special event at the New England Aquarium.

I have enjoyed my children's growth and happiness (even during some trying times) as each blossomed and developed as either an incredible writer or computer whiz, while becoming more independent and self-assured.  One traveled to Europe this summer as part of a People to People Student Ambassador Program, then to a high tech course through Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, then on to Washington, D.C., all the while snowboarding and computer gaming.  One spent the entire summer at camp in Vermont, learning to kayak and hiking and camping, but also becoming quite a compassionate young woman whose stories can make you cry or just think.

But even with this all of this great stuff I have encountered more negativity than I have in the past.  Some of it surely is based upon the worldwide economic problems.  But some of it is just an unhealthy approach to those things that are really wonderful. It has become so rampant that I even wrote a few articles on this, including one earlier this week.

In contrast, I find such peace and enjoyment with my children, but do you have any idea how many hours I have stayed up late just to schlep a bunch of kids from here to there?! I am enriched by my cultural experiences, but do you know many hours were spent sitting in an an airline's economy seat?  I love my Goldring Travel business, but do you have any idea how many "discussions" I have had with cruise lines making sure you, my clients, are treated better?  It will never be "all" good, but I am truly blessed and can find no reason to complain.

So, at this time of the year when some are looking for gifts, parties, resolutions for the new year, and how next year is going to be better than this year...I look around me, reflect - think of the Jimmy Buffett lyric, "Some of its magic.  Some of its tragic.  But I have a good life all the same." - and then I say, "What a Wonderful World!"

Happy Holidays from Goldring Travel!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis the Season - Your Demands and Comments Can Degrade Everyone's Holiday Cruise

As I read things on the web I am seeing that annual overtone of some folks that seek to dampen the joys of holiday cruises and other vacations by complaining about a single incident that happened weeks or months ago as if that single incident is going to be repeated regularly...And then they complain about children and/or crowds.

Let me float this by those "lovely" folks:  Do you ever consider that being a Grinch isn't helpful and, in fact, not only makes the other guests uncomfortable and beats down not only the attitude of those serving you, but makes their ability to service you and others as they wish impossible.

Example: You are upset because your stewardess didn't give you all three types of designer soaps or there was a service issue in the main restaurant.  You complain to the head of housekeeping, the maitre d', the head of Guest Services and then the Hotel Manager.  You want it right and, gosh darn, you are entitled to it!

No matter what anyone does it just isn't good enough.  And everyone is doing everything possible to please you.  They, in fact, are not doing other things for other guests because they are so focused on quieting the storm around you.  To you the issue isn't that everyone is falling over you to make things right, it is that it wasn't right in the first place (the impossibility of perfection aside), in fact, to you it will never be right.

But the issue (not to you, but to everyone else) isn't that your issue can, to your mind, never be made right.  The issue is that your issue has caused a negative impact on so many around you.  Not only the other guests that have issues that could otherwise be quickly and easily addressed (if the needed staff weren't constantly dealing with yours), but that the staff is disheartened because no matter how hard they try you won't be satisfied.  (You may recall a certain person from another cruise website the cruised on Seabourn earlier this year that fits this profile!  You can also find a number of people that fit this profile on Cruise Critic.  Coincidence?  I think not.)

But there is more to your degradation of everyone else's cruise experience:  Now that you have negatively impacted other guests and the staff on your cruise, you then publish your one-sided complaints on various websites and/or forums...and then you interject them onto any person about to take a cruise that asks a question that just might hint at being an opening for you to repeat your singular issue and perspective.

And then there is the issue of children and crowds.  Two quick points on this:

First, the sun rises every single day.  No one complains (except some teenagers who sleep until 2PM) because it is what happens no matter what.  During holiday cruises and other vacations, like the sun rising, children - who are off from school - will be there.  So don't be like a sleeping teenager and complain about an obvious thing that is going to happen no matter how much you complain.  The same holds true for crowds.

Second, some people actually (a) have children; (b) are children; and/or (c) like or are not bothered by children.  And some of them actually enjoy the vibrance and energy of crowds (rather than the carpets being rolled up at 10PM or the pool being an object merely to be observed). So don't get into complaining about things that are the joys of others...especially when you aren't going to be part of their experience/cruise/vacation.  It not only isn't helpful, it can be offensive.

So before you interject your opinions and "warnings" this holiday travel season, remember it is not all about you, but THEM and what THEY want.

Just sayin'!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Silversea 2013 Itineraries Announced...and The World Cruise is Back!

Silversea has announced its 2013 itineraries and some of the highlights.  At the outset, there are a few worth mentioning:  The World Cruise is back; and, Silversea is continuing with its combining an "all inclusive" product with additional onboard credits.

The 115 Day World Cruise will be on the Silver Whisper, departing from Los Angeles and ending in Fort Lauderdale.  It is both good and interesting for the North American market, but more on that in a minute.  This voyage will visit 28 countries and 52 ports starting out with a beeline to French Polynesia, then on to New Zealand and Australia before heading along Australia's western coast to Southeast Asia (including Borneo, Viet Nam, Thailand and Indonesia),  and then on to India,  East Africa (including Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa) and then up the West Coast of Africa (Nambia, Gambia, etc.) before heading transatlantic to the Caribbean and then ending in Fort Lauderdale.  It is a great itinerary (save one leg in the middle which is many sea days...but that is simply unavoidable) and definitely worth considering.

BTW, Silversea is offering a 16 day pre-cruise extension allowing you to sale roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, a 3 day post-cruise extension allowing you to sail directly to New York and a 15 day post-cruise extension allowing you to sail to Southampton.

If you can say only one thing, it is that Silversea has put a great deal of thought into this itinerary as well as the demographics of its probable World Cruise guests!  (OK, it is two things, but they are intertwined.)  Hint:  It is set up to be very easy for North American guests...and not so bad for those from the UK.

I do not have pricing on this as of yet, but if you are interested, please call or email me and I will get it for you.

The other interesting aspect of Silversea's 2013 approach is that it is continuing its "Onboard Spending Credits" as follows:

6-7 Days - $500 per suite
8-21 Days - $1,000 per suite
22+ Days - 41,500 per suite

Personally, I would like to see those amounts taken off the cruise fare, but I understand that there is a good portion of the market that thinks they are getting something free, when they are actually paying for it 120 days prior to their cruise and then getting it back when they are onboard...and then are faced with having to spend it, when otherwise they might not.  (It is a small point, but one worth considering.)

I have also taken a quick look at some of the itineraries and there are quite a few creative ones.  Luxury in Alaska, a few trips to Iceland, Japan and China, roundtrip Singapore, and more.

As you know, I call it as I see it and I am liking what I am seeing!  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Your Order Room Service With Your Telephone, So Why Not Your Vacation?

This time of year I received many e-mails from clients and potential clients seeking advice for their next vacation. While that is great news, and I love to help them, there is a problem…A Big Problem.

The problem is, well, e-mails. Too many of us have become so reliant on shooting off a quick e-mail that we have forgotten how much easier an actual conversation can be when trying to plan a complex trip, or even just to figure out what sort of vacation one wants.  E-mails simply do not allow for the necessary "give and take" or an easy understanding of what a client’s desires really are. 

Eventually what can happen is a sense of frustration develops because either I do not really understand what a person may be trying to express in their e-mail or they do not understand fully what I'm trying to express in mine. That said, I can't tell you the number of times I have written in an e-mail, "Please give me a call" or "When would it be convenient for me to call you?" yet I only get an e-mail in response.

Am I complaining? No. My concern is not spending the time, but rather causing confusion – with prices and vacation options flying everywhere – rather than focusing on pricing and options that the inquirer truly desires.

There is a reason that Goldring Travel has:

A toll-free number in the United States: (877) 2GO – LUXURY;

A telephone number in London, England: 020 8133 3450;

A telephone number in Brisbane, Australia: (07) 3102 4685;

An International telephone number: +1 732 578 8585; and, of course,

Skype (egoldring).

It is so that I can talk with my clients and prospective clients. Not only is it the most effective way to communicate and discuss vacation plans, it is far more enjoyable, personal and, hopefully, informative.

Seriously, don't you get more of the information you desire more quickly when there is dialogue rather than:

                        Ask a question in an email.
                        Read a response.
                        Ask a second question.
                        Read a response.
                        Get frustrated because the answer wasn't really what you were looking for.
                        Ask a third question.
                        Read a response.

Seriously, something that can be accomplished in a five minute telephone conversation can take hours or even days via email.

Is this more time-consuming for me? Yes and No. It may take more time up front, but in the end it is far more efficient, far more enjoyable and, of course, far more likely that you (my client or prospective client) are going to receive the information you desire and, ultimately, the vacation of your dreams.

To me it is, many times, similar to online booking engines where there is very limited interaction to travel agent, too much interaction with the computer, and ultimately frustration and dissatisfaction set in.

For example, how do you effectively explain in a brief e-mail the differences between Uniworld, Viking and Avalon Waterways when considering a China river cruise? Or, how does one discuss differences in cuisine, service styles, ambience, etc. as it relates to the inquirer's personal tastes, desires and culture.

The fact is that every person pretty much wants the same information, but wants it delivered in a different way. These differences exist from person to person, but become magnified when different cultures are considered. Trying to deliver the desired information in an e-mail considering these factors does not always result in a great experience.

There is another problem as well. That is the proverbial chasing of one's tail. Can you give me a price on Cruise A, All-Inclusive B and, by the way, what about a River Cruise? To me this is most interesting because the people that are relying upon e-mail generally spend a good bit of time surfing the web. And, for some reason, there is a hesitance to click on the "Fare" button even if it is to merely get a general idea of pricing. 

Do you want to know the “some reason”?  Understandably, it can be an overwhelming experience for someone to sort out all the prices and the differences.  And that is where a good travel agent comes in.  So my question is, “If that is the reason, then why not let me (your travel agent) sort things out in a more efficient and understandable way?  A way that I know will deliver the information you really want in the way that will not be so confusing or overwhelming?

So while I am happy to quote 10 different options, the reality of it is that eight of those possible options probably are not something the client ultimately is even interested in.

By all means, please send me e-mails. You know I will respond quickly! But, if you really are unsure, please follow that e-mail up with a telephone call or, if you wish, don't bother with the e-mail and just give me a ring.

In closing, let me ask you a question:  Do you prefer to order your room service request via a television monitor or by calling it in?  If you are a luxury guest, you make the call.  And why should you order your vacation any differently because…? 

Just remember my motto, "Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!" the next time you are looking for a vacation and you will soon hear, “Hello! Goldring Travel.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Seabourn Quietly Makes Some Improvements...And a Word of Caution

John Delaney, Seabourn Cruise's senior vice president for sales and marketing, announced in Travel Weekly UK some things that I have and aware of, but have not been able to share with you until now.

The first exciting bit of is that Seabourn intends on having the Seabourn Sojourn spending a significant amount of time in the Amazon Basin during  the fall of 2013. This is something that John Delaney and I discussed during my time on the Seabourn Quest's inaugural cruise this past June. I have told many of you that you will see some  new, and pretty exciting, itineraries starting in the second quarter of 2013 and this is just one example.

John also announced that Seabourn's past guest program is going to be significantly revamped. It is not going to dilute the present program but, in fact, will focus on Tiffany jewelry and, importantly, lower milestones to gain benefits.

As you may know, Seabourn's present program awards a free seven night cruise after 140 days of sailing or a free 14 night cruise after 250 days of sailing.  In today's market, especially with six ships, most of Seabourn's guests will sail on average 14 days or less per year, so a requirement of 10 years to receive any benefits no longer works. (To be sure, many of my clients sale for extended periods of 40+ days per year, but even then it takes years to reach a milestone… even merely receiving a 100 day pin.)

You should also be aware that with Seabourn's combining with Holland America's sales force, it is looking to increase its demand and, therefore, it's pricing.  While I do not believe travel agents selling Holland America generally have a clue about Seabourn, as it's mass-market travel agents are pitching luxury cruises, the fact is that there is a potential for Seabourn to raise its prices in anticipation of increased sales. Therefore I would urge anyone interested in booking a Seabourn cruise to do so sooner than later.

I would also like to remind you that the terms upon which the book your Seabourn Cruise are significantly more restrictive in the UK than book them through a US travel agent.

So you are interested Seabourn cruise I would suggest…strongly suggest…that you use a travel agent that truly knows the Seabourn product, provides you with excellent service, great pricing and the most flexible terms.  obviously, I believe Goldring Travel provide you with all of that...and more.

If you would like more information, or are interested in booking a Seabourn Cruise, please call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY in the United States, 020 8133 3450 in the United Kingdom, (07) 3102 4685 in Australia or   +1 732 383 7398 elsewhere worldwide or email me at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seabourn's Small Ship Luxury Cruising - Where Do You Want To Go?

I have compared, in a number of articles, some of the differences between the various luxury cruise lines.  One of those points is that Seabourn's smaller ships can go places other cruise ships simply cannot.  This recent photo of the Seabourn Legend as it transits the Corinth Canal in Greece speaks for itself.

Where do you want to go?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Global Superyacht Forum 2011 - What Is It About?

Many of you have read about my annual participation in the Global Superyacht Forum in Amsterdam, but really did not have much of an understanding about what goes on in what we discuss.

The Superyacht Group has just released a video that I think you'll find interesting. (And, yes, I am briefly in the video!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Euro and The Greek Bailout Plan - A Joke...Really

One of my clients sent me the following and I thought, this isn't funny, but it is a joke.

But before you read it, I want to look back to when the Euro was first being put in place.  I said then, and believe now, the currency must fail.

The very premise of it made no sense to me:  Take a multitude of cultures, with a multitude of economies, with multitude of currencies and then combine all of them, but allow them all to negotiate the base exchange rates (the first round of self-enrichment) so that eventually the countries with the strongest economies can seek to impose their philosophies upon cultures and economies that are inapplicable (such as taking a German industrial-based approach to Greece's tourism based economy) in order to assure that their economies are not hurt by the ones they are actually trying to exploit through increased sales of their goods and services (the second round of self-enrichment).

I mean, for example, how on earth could Greece's tourism economy get back from Germany the same amount of benefit as it gives to Germany from its purchase of German goods and services?  The math seemed and seems pretty simple to me.

That said, now  read this:

This may help clarify the Greek debt situation.

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. 

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a 100 Euro note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the 100 Euro note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. 

The butcher takes the 100 Euro note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. 

The pig farmer takes the 100 Euro note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. 

The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the tavern. 

The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit. 

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the 100 Euro note. 

The hotel proprietor then places the 100 Euro note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the 100 Euro note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town. 

No one produced anything. 
No one earned anything. 
However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seabourn Top Experts, Critics & Guests Evaluations

I regular refer people looking for objective evaluation of cruises and cruise ships to avoid magazine polls (Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, Porthole, etc.) and look to objective experts like Douglas Ward (Berlitz) and Stern's Guides. The reason is that the magazine polls can easily be skewed by improper voting, readership that doesn't actually sail on the particular line and a host of other reasons. I usually say...when there is significant consistently between the popular polls and the expert evaluations, it is something to take note of.  Such is the case with today's press release from Seabourn.  

SEATTLE, December 1, 2011---First-place awards and honors keep accumulating for Seabourn's intimate all-suite ships in 2011.  Recent announcements by the editors of the twin Cruise Critic websites in the U.S. and U.K. confirm the opinions resulting from earlier readers' polls at both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, naming Seabourn the best small-ship cruise line in the world. The readers of the popular consumer cruise magazine Porthole have also once again expressed their praises for Seabourn's ships and accommodations. In addition, Seabourn's fleet of six elegant ships also represents six of the ten highest scoring ships in the world, according to the ratings in the 2012 Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.

"All of us are tremendously gratified by these honors" said Seabourn's President, Richard Meadows. "We're extremely proud of our hardworking crew who truly deserve the recognition for these awards."

The editors of Cruise Critic's authoritative web presence have collectively spent thousands of days at sea on hundreds of cruise ships. So when they single out Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest as the "Best for Luxury," they know whereof they speak. They also must have sampled the sublimities in quite a few shipboard spas before selecting Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest as being the "Best for Spa-Lovers."  Cruise Critic's U.K.-based sister site also selected Seabourn as representing the "Best of Luxury" for the second consecutive year.

The newly released December issue of Porthole magazine announced that its readers had named Seabourn Best Luxury Line, and Seabourn Quest as the Best Small Ship in its 13
th Annual Readers' Choice Awards, and had also cited the fleet for offering the Best Accommodations afloat.

Douglas Ward, the longtime editor of Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, is renowned for the meticulous and detailed scoring system he uses to rate ships of all sizes and shapes. In the 2012 edition, he once again rates all of Seabourn's ships five-stars-plus, and also includes all six of Seabourn's vessels on a comprehensive list of the ten highest scoring ships overall.

One thing you may want to keep in mind as you begin cuddling up for the cold winter and say, "You know, we should start thinking about our next cruise", I am finding quite a number of 20121 Seabourn cruises with extremely limited inventory.

So for all of you that insist on following the flawed philosophy of waiting because the price may drop, I want to offer these two points:  

     (A) If the price drops, but the category and/or suite you want isn't available, you probably have saved nothing...and may ultimately pay more; and, 

     (B) If you book with Goldring Travel and you find the price of your Seabourn cruise drops, just let me know and I will get you that lower fare...right up until the date your final payment is due.

Monday, November 28, 2011

UK Luxury Cruises? - Holland America and Seabourn Merge Sales Offices...Be Careful!

It has just been announced that HAL and Seabourn are merging their United Kingdom (UK) sales offices and teams; mimicking the rather frustrating endeavor in the United States.  The reason is not to increase operational efficiencies, but according to the press releases:  Carnival wants to group its "luxury" brands.

Unfortunately, what it will not do is provide a better, or more efficient, entree into the luxury cruise market, but rather a more confused and inaccurate message for the British and European cruiser.

Why?  Apparently, because according the Carnival UK if it is not a mass market experience is it a luxury one.  That is simple not true!

I must contrast this new message to the British/European cruiser against the message given in the United States that Seabourn is, and shall remain, a distinct brand with a distinct office and hierarchy, and most importantly a different clientele.

More specifically, Seabourn's entire inventory consists of suites in an all-inclusive, high service, high cuisine, atmosphere.  Holland America has an inventory of cabins where you pay extra for almost everything...on one side of one ship that equals the entirety of Seabourn's suites on all of its ships.  In fact, on Holland America it doesn't provide a single complimentary drink (save a welcome bottle of sparking wine) to even its top suite guests.  (And the Neptune Lounge is the least robust of almost any cruise line...even Royal Caribbean!)

So the British luxury cruiser is going to wind up getting support from travel agent and back-office philosophy that is focused on calling Holland America a "luxury"product when it is, without any question, an upscale mass market cruise that what really matters to the luxury cruiser is lost.

To make this point even clearer, one need not compare Holland America to Seabourn, but to - let's say - Celebrity Cruises which offers far more amenities for suite guests (complimentary cocktail hours, for example), has multiple alternative dining venues (including the world class Murano Restaurants), etc. Or how about Oceania Cruises or Azamara Club Cruises, which provide a more inclusive (not all inclusive) experience with finer dining options throughout their ships with a higher level of service and 50% or less passengers on their ships.

For an overall article on this subject please read my articles:

A Luxury Cruise: What is the "Industry Accepted Definition of 'Luxury'"? Does One Exist?

Budget Cruises Pitching Luxury: You Don't Get What You Pay For, You Only Think You Do...Because You Have a Bad Travel Agent!

Can someone please explain to me how someone pitching a Holland America cabin to you is going to be better qualified to explain the entirely different experience you will have on a Seabourn cruise...and that person is going to do it telling you, with a serious face, that both are luxury experiences?

So while the newly combined UK offices of Seabourn/Holland America want to represent to you, the traveling public, that they are "luxury" sisters, do not be duped.  And do not ever think it is appropriate to combine the Holland America and Seabourn brands for anything other than back office reservations systems, provisioning, etc., is absolutely an appropriate way to increase efficiencies.

If you are in the UK, elsewhere in Europe or even Australia, please give me a call on the telephone numbers below or email me at  to get the accurate information, great service, excellent pricing and, most importantly, the truth.

(877) 2GO-LUXURY 
UK: 020 8133 3450 
AUS: (07) 3102 4685 
International: +1 732 383 7398

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Season = Airline Food = Not Too Many Good Choices

Lots of suggested articles are sent to me from various industry sources and companies seeking to push a particular product or position.  Generally I read them with interest, but don't find them something my readers would find interesting or useful or, frankly, they are just are too biased.

However, today I received one today and thought:  I was going to write about how I have become so disenchanted with the poor quality and lack of healthy choices on my airline flights that it is something I should write about, but now I don't have to.  Here you go:

2011 Airline Food Investigation

Survey Provides Travelers with the
Best In-flight Food including Health Ratings
Making Healthier Choices 35,000 Feet in the Air
Virgin America and Air Canada Receive Top Rating, United Falls from Grace (again),
Spirit at the Bottom, Spirit and Delta Least Cooperative

NEW YORK, NY (NOVEMBER 22, 2011) According to Airline Transportation Association, there will between roughly 23 million passengers traveling over this Thanksgiving season. Knowing what are the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ choices is a valuable tool for any traveler, so once again rated the best ‘Calorie Bargains’ and “Calorie Rip-offs” at 35,000 feet. issued the 2011 Airline Food Survey rating foods for eight airlines. The survey assigned a “Health Score” (5 stars = highest rate, 0 star = lowest) based on snack/on-board food service offerings, number of healthy offerings, airline cooperation, fruit and vegetable offerings, and improvements. The survey includes health ratings, cost, comments, food offerings, calories, and exercise equivalents.

“This year Virgin America and Air Canada provided the ‘healthiest" choices in the sky, while United had a fall from grace, Spirit received the lowest rating, and Spirit and Delta were the least cooperative (and also received a low health rating),” says Charles Platkin, PhD, MPH, public health advocate, editor of and assistant professor at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College.

Below are the surveyed airlines’ “Health Scores” (Health Score: 5 stars = highest rating, 0 stars = lowest). For full survey results including full listings of the snack/on-board food, comments, ratings, cost, calories, exercise equivalents, and tips go to or email Mary Cummings (, 212 -367-6199 ext 2

Air Canada (514-393-3333,
Health Score: (****)
Best Bets: This airline cares about its passengers’ health--that's for sure. The airline calls their food Air Canada NutriCuisine and prides itself on the freshness and optimum quality of ingredients. They contract with a company called Food with a Conscience nutritional program ( to help create their menu.
They can do slightly better on the individual snack offerings though. Pick the Nissin – Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup. It will fill you up and it's more like a meal. The cashews need to be shared. They will fill you up but have too many calories for one person.  I love the idea of the Celery & Carrots with Ranch Dip -- nice touch. I just wish the dip were hummus or something healthier than ranch.  As far as the meals go, they are all relatively low in calories. Go for the chicken or roast beef wrap or the vegetarian sandwich (nice!).  The healthy oatmeal is also a great offering.

Virgin America (877-359-8474,
Health Score: (****)
Best Bets: In terms of individual snacks, the PopChips are a low-calorie choice; however, the best choice is the nuts. They are packed with important nutrients and will help keep you full longer than other snack choices. But you still need to split them with someone. The oatmeal is a good breakfast choice at 310 calories -- a nice whole grain to get you started in the morning. Virgin's snack boxes, such as the protein meal with hummus, nuts and tuna, are great. They’ll fill you up and will be a real meal. To be honest, the Jet Set Kid’s Pack could set a better example. I wish it had some healthier choices, but at least it's relatively low in calories (compared to other airline snack boxes). In terms of meals, the Edamame and Portobello Mushroom Wrap is filled with great stuff and has 9g of fiber and 20g of protein. Wow! The only negative is the high sodium content (1300mg). Another good choice is the Egg and Vegetable Salad Wrap, which is filled with high quality protein and has only 370 calories. 

United Airlines (800-864-8331, / Continental Airlines (800.523.3273,
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information:
Health Score: (*** 1/4)
Best Bets: On flights longer than two hours, go for the Tapas; it has some great foods, including almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta – just toss out the cheese spread.  All the individual snacks are pretty high in calories. I realize they're meant to be shared, but even so, there is no one standout among them. If you have a family of five or six (not very likely) and wanted to split the almonds, they are really the only snack choice that has real nutritional value. You should avoid the chips and cinnamon rolls. That doesn't leave too many individual snack options. All the snack packs are very high in calories. There are elements in each that are ok; however, if I had to choose, the Savory is probably the best -- just watch that fruit-and-nut mix. In terms of meals, the yogurt is not too bad for breakfast. Skip the cheese and fruit plate -- it gives the illusion of being healthy, but it's not at all, and there is really not much fruit to speak of other than the dried fruit. 
For flights longer than three hours, United has several healthy choices, but I really like the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad at 360 calories including the dressing. The other choices, including the Asian Noodle Salad, Thai Chicken Wrap and Turkey Sandwich are ok choices compared to those of other airlines, and in term of calories they are decent for lunch or dinner.  For breakfast, your best bet is the Yogurt Parfait – or, if you're interested in meat ,you can order the Ham and Cheddar Rustic Ciabatta Sandwich, which is 318 calories (not bad), and you can get rid of half the roll and save about 100 calories.

US Airways (480-693-0800,
Health Score: (** 3/4)
Best Bets: The CafePlus is not bad because, at the very least, you get the protein from the tuna, and it's low in calories. Maybe you can get rid of the cookies (give them to the flight attendant as a gift). I also like the Cobb Salad, and the good news is that the dressing is typically on the side. In terms of snacks, the only one that looks good is the chips and salsa at 130 calories. The nuts would be great; however, you need to split them with 8 to 10 people. Avoid the new Bacon/Egg Salad Croissant Box at more than 700 calories.

JetBlue Airways (800-538-2583,
Health Score: (**3/4)
Best Bets:  Not much in the snack area to eat other than the Quaker Multigrain Fiber Crisps. They are made with whole grain oats-- nice touch. Try to stick with no more than one snack. Just because they are free and they let you take more than one doesn’t mean you have to take them, especially if you’re not hungry. In terms of the meal boxes, the Shape Up is the clear winner if you're thinking of this as a meal. It has 8 grams of fiber and only 2g of unhealthy saturated fat. While the Cheer Up is low in calories, I’m not sure it will do the trick as a meal. However, if you're just looking for a snack and you share it with someone, you're only at 130 calories. Last year JetBlue started to offer more than just snacks, but only on longer flights. The problem is that they still need to add some healthier real meals and snack options. The individually packaged snacks are portion-controlled; however, most are lacking in any real nutritional value. And the worst part is that they no longer sell nuts -- which were the most nutrient-dense offering they had.

American Airlines (817-963-1234,
Health Score: (**1/2) Their snacks are still high in calories with few healthy offerings.
Best Bets: Your best bet is the Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Pretzels; at least the hummus has a few health benefits.  The Fruit and Nut Blend is a decent nutrition choice, but make sure to split it with at least two other people. Nuts are very high in calories but will help fill you up. If you're on a longer flight, the best choice is a new item -- Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table Turkey and Chutney Sandwich, which is packed with protein and even has apple slices on the sandwich for flavor. It’s only 323 calories without the chips (give them away or refuse them). Another good choice is the Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with chips (which you can give away) and dressing for 660 calories. I like the fact that the dressing is on the side (use it sparingly). Again, you need to make sure you differentiate a snack from a meal. A 600-calorie snack is very high; however, a 600-calorie meal, especially for dinner, can be reasonable. Watch out for the Boston Market Deli Chicken Pesto and the Boston Market Turkey Carver -- they have way too many calories for one person. For breakfast, the fruit and cheese plate is an ok choice. I like it because at least it has walnuts and grapes, and the cheese portions are small. The Breakfast Café Croissant Sandwich is low in calories at 320, and the ham might fill you up nicely. The other breakfast choices are high in calories, low in nutrients, or both.

Delta Air Lines (404-773-0305,
Health Score: (** 1/4)
Best Bets: In terms of individual snacks, there are no good options; however, sharing a  Flight Delights snack box is a pretty good idea (or have it as a meal and eat the whole thing). It has a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories for what you get. Of the breakfast options (on flights of 3 ½ hours or longer) your best bet is the Breakfast Snack, which has light yogurt and a fresh banana. Delta also offers a fruit and cheese plate that’s available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cheese is very high in calories, but it’s still a nice option if you skip the crackers; at least you're getting some nutritional benefit from what you're eating.  For lunch/dinner options, there are not too many offerings. You have the Chicken and Turkey Cuban at 552.5 calories or the Turkey Peppercorn Ranch Ciabatta at 576 calories. The chicken and turkey is the lower-calorie choice and is probably healthier based on the ingredients -- try to have only half the bread.

Southwest Airlines (214-792-4223,
Health Score: (*3/4) Not much variety and not much in terms of nutritional value.
Best Bet: Go for the nuts and skip the pretzels and other items.

Spirit Airlines (800-772-7117,
Health Score: ( *)
Best Bet: Bring your own food!!!  However, I guess the soup, at only 300 calories, could work as a meal. Keep in mind that all the calorie information below was estimated by our staff from the Spirit Airline menu descriptions and food manufacturers’ websites.
Bring Your Own Snacks
Even if you ate before you left home, you are still going to get hungry. We often underestimate the amount of time a trip can take. A two-hour flight could mean four or five hours of travel. Keep in mind that you can take most foods through security, but you need to check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the latest rules about carrying on food and water:
Here are some ideas for snacks you can bring or buy in the airport:
-       Water: Buy it after the security checkpoint to take onboard. Dehydration can cause or exacerbate hunger, jet lag and fatigue.
-       Cereal: Kashi, Shredded Wheat or other low calorie cereals. Look for portable, low-calorie choices, under 120 calories per cup. You can also look for cereal in a cup. It’s portion controlled in 1.5-ounce packs that are easy to store and easy to use.
-       Fruit and salads: Stick with fruits like apples and oranges that can withstand some rough treatment. You can even bring a banana if you put it in a container such as a banana saver ( Grapes or almost any other fruit can be carried in a plastic container. Also, they often sell cut up fruit or salads in the airport. They’re a bit more expensive than bringing your own, but at least they’re healthy alternatives to what is served onboard.
-       Energy bars: Although they tend to be high in calories and fat, they are generally better than a slice of pizza or a candy bar at the airport. Choose Larabars; they have nothing but healthy ingredients.
-       Nonfat yogurt: Yogurt is a great portable snack. You can purchase it after you go through security.
-       Sandwiches: Pre-cut them into portion-controlled sections so you can pull them out at different times during the trip without making a mess. Chicken, turkey, cold cuts and cheese (on 100 percent whole-wheat bread) are all great options for sandwiches on the go.
-       Soy chips and PopChips: Yet another portable, low-cal, high-fiber snack. (,
-       Peel-and-eat tuna and salmon cups: Chicken of the Sea makes these easy-to-open cups that give you a quick protein source. With no draining required, this wild-caught tuna or salmon is perfect for on-the-go lunches and snacks.
-       Nuts: They're a good source of protein and they help fend off hunger. Portion them into 1-ounce bags (about 160 calories each).
-       Dried or freeze-dried fruit and vegetable snacks: Eat dried fruit in moderation; it's high in calories. (e.g.,,,
-       All Natural Fruit Roll-Ups (no sugar added): Check out Stretch Island Fruit Company's Original Fruit Strips, FruitaBü and Smoooshed Fruit Rolls (
-       Whole-Wheat Crackers: Make sure to get 100 percent whole-wheat crackers such as Ak Mak (, Dr. Kracker ( or Mr. Krispers (
-       Beef jerky: Especially if you're a low-carb fan, but not if you're watching your sodium.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is a pretty unique day.  I figure it is also a great time to remember that we each can view every day as unique and not the "same old same old".  That is, however, up to us...and not a calendar.

As I look out my windows at the clear blue sky, the bright sun, the wispy clouds passing overhead, the changing leaves waving in the breeze, and I feel the coolness of an autumn day, I figure life is pretty darn matter what gets thrown at me.

So with that thought, when you are on your cruise or other holiday and something small (like a poorly tended to suite or a forgotten cup of coffee or a wine that doesn't really please your palate) bothers you, just think "11-11-11. Today is a unique day and life is pretty darn good."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seabourn's Fine Cuisine - A New Chapter

For many years Chef Charlie Palmer has been the "branded" chef for Seabourn Cruise Line and he has provided some truly excellent guidance and ideas from the 21 day rotating menus, to the original Restaurant 2 concept (two unusual companion dishes for each course), to the style and offerings in the Colonnade Restaurant (the nicest "buffet-esque" venue at sea).  And, of course, there he brought cache.

But today the Charlie Palmer Group says the creator of the award-winning Aureole restaurants in Las Vegas and New York will be leaving his role as Seabourn Cruise Line's Consulting Executive Chef in December.

Rick Meadows, Seabourn's President, in the same statement commented, "We are grateful to Charlie for the expertise and insight he has provided us. It has indeed been a fulfilling journey and, I might add, a delicious one. Charlie's guidance to Seabourn's highly-skilled culinary team has helped bring Seabourn's cuisine on par with the best in the world."

There are things that I notice, suspect and/or know that I feel are - at the time - better left unsaid.  I have noticed quite a number of changes with the Seabourn menus and, more importantly, the executive chefs having a far greater flexibility with the offerings.  I thought it curious, for example, that Chef David Burke (an excellent chef in his own right and a great guy who started his career in one of the Jersey Shore's finest restaurants literally at the same time I started my entree into the food & wine world at another one five minutes away!) was the chef present on the Inaugural Cruise of the Seabourn Quest; rather than Chef Charlie Palmer.

This, I believe, is a very good thing and now there will be a change...though not necessarily one that will really affect the high quality of Seabourn's cuisine.

Personally, I see it as part of an evolution where Seabourn's executive chefs are now expected to be far more than managers of the galley, but true creative and talented chefs.  As my readers know I have developed friendships (more than working relationships) with two of Seabourn's true culinary stars:

Chef Bjoern Wassmuth (Manager, Culinary Operations) and Executive Chef de Cuisine Rajat Adhikary (seen here in one of the Seabourn Quest's Spa Villas with a culinary feast created by Chef Rajat for me during the Inaugural Cruise in June)...and the finest and prettiest purser at sea, Shannon Storkey.

So with no doubt that Seabourn has benefited greatly from the presence and talents of Chef Charlie Palmer it is time to say, "Thank You" and also to enjoy the ever evolving culinary experiences on a Seabourn cruise.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seabourn Quest's 2012 World Cruise Guest Lecturers Announced

One of the most enjoyable things on a cruise is being enlightened; and not necessarily only in the ports visited.  Guest Lecturers provide great depth to a cruise...and the ports that you expect to be enlightened in.

The guest lecturers on the 2012 Seabourn Quest World Cruise are as follows:

Jan. 5 -Feb. 2, 2012  Ft. Lauderdale to Cape Town
Marvin Hamlisch - Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-Winning Composer
Jon Bailey - Musicologist
Daniel Silke - Political Analyst

February 2 - 27, 2012  Cape Town to Singapore
Dr. Robert Copaken - International Affairs Expert
John Doherty - Waldorf Astoria Executive Chef
Bob Graham - Former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor

Feb. 27 - Mar. 13, 2012 Singapore to Hong Kong
Denise Heywood - Southeast Asia Expert
Richard Roth - CNN's senior U.N. correspondent

Mar. 13 - Apr. 2, 2012 Hong Kong to Dubai
Chef Oliver Reschrieter - Princess Diana's former personal chef
Paul du Quenoy,  professor of World and European History at the American University of Beirut.
The Honourable Ronald Sampson, former Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands Government.

April 2 - 23, 2012 Dubai to Venice
Arturo Sandoval - Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter
Major General John Hartley - International Relations Expert
Glenn Robinson - Middle East Security and Political Expert

Regent Seven Seas Reports Third Quarter Results...Not As Good As It Says!

One thing Frank Del Rio, Senior can do better than probably anyone in the industry is market his ships.  Good value, not so good, doesn't matter.  Great service, not so great, doesn't matter.  Great cuisine or marginal food, doesn't matter.  But marketing only goes so far.

Stay with me while I lay the foundation of what Regent Seven Seas Cruises 2011 third quarter results actually show...

As most of you know there are a number of cruise industry tactics that bother me. One is the 30% discounts on cruises that were never, and will never, be sold at the non-discounted price. (In other industries that would be considered to be an unlawful practice; even possibly consumer fraud.)  another one is the hallmark of Regent Seven Seas Cruises:  Everything is Free.  Folks you are paying for every bit of it.  Regent promotes on its website:

  • FREE Roundtrip Air with FREE Upgrade to Business Class Air in Penthouse Suites and higher on Europe Voyages 
  • FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions
  • FREE Luxury Hotel Package
  • FREE Beverages including fine wines and premium spirits
  • FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities
  • FREE Ground Transfers
  • FREE In-suite mini-bar replenished daily
  • FREE 24-hour room service and no additional charge for specialty restaurants

With the some of the highest per day rates in the cruise industry, forgetting about issues with quality and consistency, it is just simply false advertising that those things are "FREE".  (Obviously you can opt not to take many of the "FREE" things like airfare, hotel, etc. and get a you refunded money for something that was allegedly "FREE".  Not so obviously, is that if you don't want their tours...and many true luxury guests would not want receive nothing back so your "FREE" tours are wasted.)

Now for the 2011 third quarter results:

Regent Seven Seas Cruises passenger count was essentially stagnant with a mere 0.8% reported increase in guests.   (Compare, for example, Royal Caribbean reporting an over 3% increase.) At the same time Regent increased its overall prices by approximately 3.0% and cut its maintenance and repair expenditures (which includes the amounts spent on the scheduled extended drydocking of the Voyager).

But possibly of greater interest is that its net income dropped approximately 30% and its adjusted earnings dropped approximately 18%. (Compare Royal Caribbean who reported double digit increases.)

So what does this mean to me and to you, the luxury cruiser?  To me it means that the recent Mark Conroy, Regent Seven Seas's president of a new ship is...again...just not credible.  A cruise line with very slow or no real growth with a reduction in revenue and profits (even though it is profitable) is just not going to invest in more capacity when it cannot fill its present ships or must do so with shrinking (though still cognizable) profits.

Does it mean that Regent Seven Seas is going to change its product or its marketing?  Probably not.

Ultimately it means:  DO NOT BUY INTO THE HYPE OF ANY CRUISE LINE.  You really need to have a travel agent who provides you with the real information so that you can make truly informed decisions.  I have often quoted Sy Syms, "An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer!"

If you are interested in more information on Regent Seven Seas Cruises or any other cruise line, please email  or call Goldring Travel.