Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Seabourn and Cruise Critic: Frustration, Ignorance and Misinformation. Let's Correct That!

I generally don't talk about what I speak directly with Seabourn's top management about, but I will say that the misinformation, tone of comments, censorship and generally bad attitude on the Cruise Critic message board for Seabourn is one of them.

When accurate information is deleted (as it regularly is) and then it reappears when the moderator decides with a triumphant and misleading post as if he has been anointed by Seabourn to announce the information (when, in fact, he is not anything other than the only conduit Seabourn has...as the accurate information previously posted was deleted), it does Seabourn and its guests a tremendous disservice.

For example, last evening a frequent poster (Margate Cruiser) posted, the following, "Seabourn with the new ships are having great growing pains. And with Holland America being in charge and very few people moving to Seattle Washington. You can see who is going to run the show. Seabourn as of now have not told the TA"s all know but what are they waiting for." That is just wrong...and on so many levels...and this is but one of many examples.

Here is how I would respond (which I did on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum)...If I did it on Cruise Critic the moderator would delete it:

Ignorance is, well, ignorance. The comments remind me of "friends" when there is a divorce. So many of them stir the pot, say how bad the other side is, spend hours winding up the poor spouse and the, after the divorce...they disappear. Why? Because the conflict was of interest. The net result really isn't.

These are the facts coming from someone who (a) is naturally skeptical; (b) is naturally a pessimist; (c) has spoken directly with every top Seabourn person past and present - at length - including Rick Meadows.

1. There is a DEFINITE road map of keeping Seabourn as a separate entity. Everything that I am aware of shows that Seabourn is going to be run as a separate entity. Most people do not know that Seabourn and Cunard had a similar relationship until only a few years ago. I never heard any passengers claiming Seabourn was run by Cunard. Now Cunard has a similar "shared services" relationship with Princess and I do not hear many Cunarders focused on that relationship. As I previously stated, the back office stuff will be kept separate, but use the same system. They will be in the same building, but have separate offices.

Yes, there may be some crossover on the Reservationist side of things...but that is a great reason NOT to book directly. I have been assured I will not only have the National Accounts Manager (who I have known and worked with at Seabourn for years), but a specially trained and Seabourn-only specialist just for top accounts. That, of course, is in addition to the personal relationships I have with reservation folks that are going to telecommute and others in important areas that are going to relocate. But then again, the geniuses on Cruise Critic that book directly or believe there is a need to have an up close and personal relationship with folks in the office BECAUSE THEIR TRAVEL AGENT DOESN'T PROPERLY TAKE CARE OF THEM...may well find themselves frustrated.

2. There are people moving from Holland America to Seabourn, but they are giving up their positions at Holland America. Why not keep the Seabourn folks? Why use HAL folks? The answer is simple. The back office stuff is in Seattle. It made absolutely no sense to have a small satellite office in Miami (3 hours ahead) trying to work remotely on a system that most have absolutely no knowledge of, and using back office resources that were not down the hall, but 2,500 miles away. Now, some folks from Seabourn were offered to move and some have taken that offer up. Others did not (and some were not offered a position for various reasons.)

HAL people have a strong skill set for things that Seabourn wasn't doing a great job with. Why continue with the people that were not going a great job when there are people available that know the system and are doing a great job. Further, the movement between cruise lines is almost incestuous. As a former outsider it is amazing to me. If you ask anyone in the business for more than a couple of years, they will tell you the multiple lines they have worked for. So, while it may seem like a takeover to those not in the know, it is pretty ordinary in the actual real cruise back office world.

3. Seabourn has been very upfront with this Travel Agent. While some (most) travel agents may not have the information I have, the fact is that I do have the information and, as you can tell, it is not like Seabourn's top brass is not being responsive to me. Without getting into a TA bashing thread, the fact is most travel agents are "divas" (don't know what you call the male version) or are just dumb. I am not going to spout off about my business model, but suffice it to say, there is a reason they are complaining and I have the information!

So, if you have questions, I have answers...and if I don't know the answer I will get it.  I am not the type to wait for someone to feed it to me.  I do not consider myself "that" important.  I consider my clients "that" important.   Feel free to email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me on (877) 2GO-LUXURY