Thursday, March 31, 2011

April 1, 2011 - The Unofficial National Day of Cruise Price Increases. Don't Be A Fool!

While I am sure your inboxes are filled with emails letting you know that prices on cruises from Regent, Silversea, Azamara Club, etc. are going to be going up as of April 1, 2011 I thought I would just confirm that is, in fact, the case.

Now, what I can't tell you is how much the cruise prices are going to go up.  And what I can't tell you is if things like free or reduced air or business class air might not be added to the increased price as a way to lower the cruise vacation's total cost or if onboard credits will be added or...

What I can tell you is that on many cruises, even well into 2012, the suite that you want may not be available because of increased early bookings.  In fact, while I haven't seen it yet, you will eventually find that the category you want may not be available....so your waiting to book that cruise just in case there is a price drop could well cost you more money than your theory says you may save.

And please remember that in most instances if the price of your cruise drops after you book with Goldring Travel I am able to obtain that lower price; provided it is before final payment is due.

Have a cruise you are interested in?  Email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me call me at (888) SEABOURN or (877) 2G0-LUXURY in the U.S.; +44 20 8133 3450 in the U.K.; +61 7 3102 4685 in Australia; and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Luxury Cruises: The Culture and Nationality of the Staff Does Have a Significant Effect.

I am going to discuss a subject which from a scientific and sociological perspective is not controversial, but from a luxury cruise guest's perspective just might be.  I am not going to say anything that I haven't said before...I just haven't discussed it in a while and some recent experiences have brought this back to the fore.

Before your eyes glaze over with the premise I am about to give, I want to you read this and wonder "What the heck does this have to do with my luxury cruise experience?!"

Earlier this month I attended a seminar offered by Lloyd's Register in conjunction with The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) entitled, "Human Factors in Cruise Ship Design, Construction & Operation".  It was a discussion on how to design, for example, an aspect of ship's bridge or engine room considering everything from the expected heights of the crew using it, to maintaining it, to how decisions will be made based upon the anticipated manning of that area....The Human Element.

As I have long observed and said, for example, European and South African staff on a luxury cruise line are generally more engaging and Filipino/Indonesian staff are generally more subservient.  As I listened to this seminar I truly began to understand the "why" more than simply observing the result of the cultural differences.  (If you really want to delve into this subject, I found this article:  Reasons As Carriers Of Culture:  Dynamic vs. Dispositional Models Of Cultural Influence On Decision Making from the Standford Business School very interesting.

Let's take a quick look at what I am talking about, but let us stay away from the dining room or favorite lounge.  Consider what happens on the Bridge: There is a ship heading for us and it is not responding to our warnings or radio calls!  What is going through the each crew member's mind?

.....Some cultures stress that people make individual decisions while others are based upon communal or group decisions.  Americans are, for example, taught to seek out a solution to a problem, own that proposed solution and "make it yours".  Most Southeast Asian cultures, however, stress harmony and less conflict, so they are taught to find consensus.

.....Some of those same cultures are so focused on group decisions or consensus that if one person receives a compliment it may actually been seen by the others in the group as an embarrassing failure and an incident of shame.  As most of us know, Americans, for example will heap praise on the one receiving the compliment and, in fact, may well use his/her success as motivation to do better so as to obtain that praise the next time.

.....Error avoidance is yet another concern.  I have spent far too much time lecturing this point, "If you 'sit on the fence' and are indecisive only one thing can happen:  You rip your pants."  Put another way, if you delay in a decision you have already made a decision...NOT to act.  One interesting point raised in the seminar is that in one study Bulgarians rated almost twice as high in requiring all possible information before making a decision; not all "relevant" information or sufficient information to have a high probability that a decision is correct.  Hence the decisional issue becomes "Do I have all the information?" rather than the actual issue.  I, personally, have had this sort of frustration with some superyacht engineers...and now I understand a bit better why.

...The perception of hierarchy is also very different among cultures.  It is referred to as being "steep" or "flat".  In other words, is what the captain says absolute or is it appropriate to discuss, question or even challenge it?  We know that nobody is perfect so while the idea that the Captain (Hotel Manager, etc.) is the one in charge is one thing, but to never ask about something that seems incorrect is another.

On most cruise ships you find Norwegian or Greek captains and officers, right?  When you think of Norwegians and Greeks do you think of  shy or indecisive people or strong and commanding types?  There are, of course, American and British, and other nationalities representatives on board cruise and other ships.  However, there are very few Asians, for example.  These are not the result of "stereotypes", but a recognition of what their cultural and societal upbringing generally results in.  Of course, there are those that do not "fit the mold" and, as the Stanford article points out (if you really read it), there are experiential changes and multi-cultural alterations (hanging out with other people and seeing the results, so to speak) that can change the tendencies of some individuals.  To that end, more Southeast Asians are finding their way onto and more than competently handling some of the most critical and decision-making oriented tasks.

OK, now to the important subject:  How does all of this affect my luxury cruise experience?  I answer that with a scenario:  You stroll near the bar or stop and think about taking a few minutes rest in a lounge chair.  Carol Spencer Brown, editor of Cruise Critic, wrote in her review of the Seabourn Legend that one of her lasting memories was:

Standing at the deserted stern, away from the hullabaloo of the pool deck on our first sea day, watching Montserrat pass by, I started to think that "it would be nice to sit here all afternoon in a lounge chair," when Ian, one of the most attentive of an already attentive crew, called out to me: "May I set you up here?" Within minutes I had a fancy tropical drink , a lounge chair pulled up to the railing, and even a little table on which to rest my book. He would have brought me lunch from the Sky Grill, too, but I declined.

Ian owned that moment, good or bad.  He saw an opportunity to make a difference to a guest...individually...and decided that his actions would not be taken as an imposition, but appreciated.  And he took the initiative to not only set up a lounger, but to create a setting.  He was not wrong...but he most certainly did not engage in asking many questions to assure his approach was correct. 

If most (obviously not all) Filipino crew were in the same situation...and not confusing the multi-cultural and long term experience issues...the tendency would be to assure that no offense was taken, that there was sufficient information, and to have the group decide what to do (unless the group already decided how to always handle such situations) and, to be sure, not to make it appear that he was doing anything which would call him to the fore individually.  The result:  You probably would secure the lounger yourself and the crew would then politely ask if you would like a towel.  You probably would have to ask for a drink and it would be efficiently provided with a smile.  It would all be quite pleasant, but not a luxury experience.

Obviously this same cultural and societal situation exists throughout your cruise experience from the moment you check in to the time you step off the ship...Think:  Dining Room Service especially.

But let me be clear about this one point:  IT IS YOUR CRUISE.  You may well prefer being asked first.  You may prefer not being engaged by the staff, but keeping to yourself.  There are many that will say, "If I want a drink I will ask for it, so don't bother me until I call you over."  I would suggest, however, that in a true luxury experience the adjustment will be made, but in other circumstances the initiative to "break ranks", but might make individual requests a bit more difficult to accomplish.

I was, and remain, highly critical of Regent Seven Seas' virtual elimination of European and South African staff (an admitted cost savings measure) and, to be sure, of Silversea's venture into the same approach.  And, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.  Since those changes have been put into effect there have been consistent comments about the changes in service levels; more so on Regent Seven Seas, which operates with almost exclusively Southeast Asian staff.  (Remember my comment about multi-cultural exposure and experience altering the cultural tendencies?)

Take it from me, who has been told is an assertive New Yorker (even though I am from New Jersey), where you are from and how you are raised does make a difference.  We are not all the same nor should we.  I celebrate cultural differences every day...Heck, I am in the travel business and as you know soak up cultures, customs, food and wines everywhere I go.  But...and it is a big "but":

When I hear, "Mr. Goldring!  So glad you arrived at the hot tub at 3:30 p.m. as expected.  Here is champagne and glasses for you and Mr. Smith", I know I am having and enjoying a luxury experience.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Goldring Travel, the Seabourn Quest Inaugural...and a New Telephone Number: 888-SEABOURN

Goldring Travel, one of the world's top sellers of Seabourn cruises, both in the United States and internationally, has previously been invited to the Inauguration of the Seabourn Odyssey and the Inauguration and Maiden Voyage of the Seabourn Sojourn.  I am thrilled to now have been invited to fly to Rome for the June 3, 2011 pre-Inaugural Cruise on the new Seabourn Quest.  (The actual inauguration is properly being saved for the guests of the Maiden Voyage!) 

While I obviously having first hand and in depth knowledge of the Seabourn Quest through my times on the both the Odyssey and Sojourn and everything Seabourn with my additional time enjoying the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend as well as hosting the annual Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruises...and nurturing the luxury cruise desires contained within the hundreds of Seabourn cruises for my clients, it is going to be great seeing any slight changes in the ship, the excitement of the new Seabourn management, saying hello to old friends and, of course, the delivery of Seabourn's newest ship.

I am also pleased to announce that for all my United States clients Goldring Travel has an additional, and easy to remember, telephone number:  (888) SEABOURN(All of our other numbers, U.S. and international, remain available for your use.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

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

iWith Seabourn Cruises having a major back-office shakeup, Crystal Cruises joining the "inclusive" cruise lines and Regent Seven Seas seemingly joining the premium/mass market lines with its segregation of luxury suites into Concierge (Regent's term) and Second Class (my term)...and my having commented rather directly on each's big move...someone fairly high up in the cruise industry protested the content of one of my recent articles and used the phrase, "the industry accepted definition of ‘luxury’". That really took me back.

Goldring Travel's Motivation

My motives were questioned as well....and that well and truly baffled me. So let me be very clear about my motives: I find the marketing of snake oil not only to be offensive, I believe it is unlawful. I believe it violates Consumer Fraud laws. Because of my professions I cannot, and will not, simply push a cruise line's sales pitch simply because they want me to. As such, if I do not believe a cruise line is giving an honest representation I am going to say it. You may recall that last year certain cruise lines were fined and/or forced to rewrite their brochures because of misleading representations as to what was "free". And, of course, you know my mantra of "Nothing is free. You are paying for everything!" You will also notice that Seabourn does not offer "free" air and I will, in a very small part, take credit for that...because I voiced my opinion on that subject very loudly.

As you will see herein, I can back up the fact that there is no alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury" and that just because a cruise line seeks to redefine "luxury" so that it can put forth a sales pitch (snake oil if you will) that it is offering a luxury product I am going to tell you objectively why I believe it is or isn't a luxury product. To do otherwise would, in my opinion, be dishonest.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with a cruise line lawfully engaging in what is called "mere puffery" (something the consumer should know is just marketing hype). This would include comments like, "The finest experience at sea", "Six Star Luxury", "Simply the Best". However, just because it is lawful it does not mean that I am required to (a) push the puffery or (b) shut my mouth and not tell my client that I believe it is mere puffery and not the quality they think it is. My job it to assure that my clients receive the product that meets or exceeds their desires...not jeopardize my reputation or my client's vacation by violating their trust by ignoring the truth.

Who Defines, and How to Define, a Luxury Cruise

I think I have been around a day or two and have dealt with one or two "luxury" cruise lines and, oh, I don't know...appropriately cared for hundreds of luxury cruise clients....attended quite a few conferences, seminars, lectures and I have even given a lecture or two...and I have NEVER heard of an "industry accepted definition of luxury".

In support of that absence and my belief that a definition is actually needed, I recently wrote a four part discussion of "What is a Luxury Cruise Experience?"


Then, just last week I was at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference sitting in on the Luxury Cruise Panel and was baffled by not only the differing concepts of "luxury", but why certain cruise lines were even on the panel.

I listened to the head of Cunard talk about all of the brands on the three Queens (Mary, Victoria and Elizabeth): Todd English, Canyon Ranch, Wedgewood, Twinings, etc., etc., etc. Yes, there is Grill Class and all that comes with it...and it is that which defines luxury to most. It is the rarefied world of private lounges and dining rooms, fine cuisine and spacious and well-appointed suites. But in the end, you are effectively on a mass market ship with thousands of people paying for everything with onboard revenue options everywhere once you leave your confines. Does that meet the alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury"? Well, other than Cunard being on the Luxury Cruise Panel at the conference you don't regularly hear about Cunard being a luxury cruise line, do you? What you actually hear is that there is a luxury class within the cruise line.

As I listened I said to myself, "With so many brands supporting Cunard, is Cunard providing anything that by itself supports the concept of 'luxury'" or is it claiming luxury by presenting someone else's luxury hardware...but without the luxury software (people, etc.)?

What about MSC? It was on the panel because of its somewhat similar to Cunard segregated area known as the Yacht Club. Does that meet the alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury"? For if it does, do we then throw in Norwegian Cruise Lines' Garden Villas? Do we include Celebrity Cruises Aqua Class cabins...or just its suites...or neither?

How do we deal with the Oceania Marina? Frank Del Rio, Sr., the head of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Oceania Cruises owner, insists that his new, and beautiful, ship with incredibly high guest satisfaction ratings is NOT luxury. Paul Motter, of CruiseMates.com argues that it is, in fact, a luxury product. I wrote an article on why it is not: Oceania Marina - A Great Addition, But It Is NOT Luxury. Anyone hearing about an alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury"?

Seabourn Cruises is presently running a bit on its website which states, "Seabourn believes clairvoyance is a job requirement." It would seem that Seabourn is focused on intuitive service...its own branding...rather than the brands of others or, to be sure, that hardware establishes luxury.

So with that preface I revisit the former Regent Seven Seas' ploy of asserting it provides a "Six Star Luxury" Experience...reminding you that I consider the phrase to be "mere puffery". Regent sought to portray itself as being better than regular luxury, better than some supposed industry definition (which, you will remember, has not yet been defined), better than its competition. But, once again, it never defined what was required to achieve "Six Star Luxury". Making it more offensive...at least to me... is that Regent Seven Seas was knowingly providing a inferior product to Seabourn and Silversea and, cabins aside, Crystal Cruises. But it was argued (and is still argues) that it was still a luxury product.

To be fair and accurate, when Apollo Management and its Prestige Cruise Holdings took over Regent Seven Seas, Frank Del Rio, Sr. and his people, made many, many changes to the Regent Seven Seas product from hardware to cuisine because, in reality, Regent was pressing to reach "four stars", forget "six stars". (For all the Regent loyalists out there, even if you argue that Regent is as good as Seabourn, there has never been any consistent assertion or substantiation that Regent provides a superior experience....and isn't that was the whole Six Star Luxury thing was asserting?)

Now, Regent Seven Seas after significantly changing its product to be more "inclusive" with a "free", "free", "free" mantra even though every soul pays for everything, but merely in an inflated lump sum - and insisting that is "luxury" - declares that providing such amenities as "printed air boarding passes" and a Regent tote bag...but only in the upper categories...defines luxury. Now I must pause: I am trying to remember the last time I needed to printout boarding passes on a luxury ship and was denied same or paid for it...or the last Seabourn cruise that I didn't receive a tote bag (heck, for that matter the last time on Celebrity cruise!). Priority luggage handling, dinner reservations and spa appointments also don't cut it as even marginally defining luxury.

Are these things that are within the alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury"? Me thinks not! More importantly, are the absence of those things something that excludes the cruise experience from being within the alleged "industry accepted definition of luxury"? Again, I think not.

Why Cruise Lines Claim to be "Luxury"

The fact of the matter is that the main reason cruise lines want to claim their product is a luxury one is so that they can find justification for charging you, the consumer, a higher fare. There is nothing wrong with that...as long as you are "an educated consumer" (Thank you, Sy Syms!) and understand that just because it says "Coach" or "Jaguar" or whatever it doesn't mean that the product is of the highest or luxury quality. The brand may cause you to think "luxury", but you should not stop "thinking" there.

And that is where I come in. I seek to educate my clients and potential clients. I want to you know not to rely upon "mere puffery" or blindly follow claims of inclusion in the luxury market because of a non-existent "industry accepted definition of luxury".

On December 10, 2010 I was quoted in an article on FoxBusiness.com. I was described as follows:

"[C]ruise ship connoisseur, Eric Goldring, a yachtsman, maritime lawyer and luxury cruise expert...sells cruises the same way the sommelier at the Le Reserve sells wine. He doesn't care about volume, but is maniacal about customer satisfaction."

I guess I am "maniacal" when it comes to customer satisfaction and, so, when I sell you a "luxury" cruise it is going to be just that...and not because some mythical industry definition or mere puffery says so, but because it actually is luxury. And, to be sure, that it not only is luxury, but they type of luxury you desire; whether it be formal or casual, touring or expedition, exotic or stayed.

Join the conversation on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum: What is a Luxury Cruise Experience?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Regent Seven Seas Is Now A Premium, Not Luxury, Cruise Line...I Told You So!

I have been steadfast in my assertions over the past two years that (a) Regent Seven Seas Cruises is a premium, not luxury, cruise line; and, (b) Oceania is essentially taking over Regent Seven Seas and it will not exist as a distinct product.  Along those lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has just announced that it is segregating its allegedly luxury ships into two classes:  Concierge and Second Class.  (Oceania provides its suite guests and concierge class guests with amenities its standard cabin passengers do not receive.  See the similarity?)

New Regent Seven Seas Cruises Concierge Program - Guests booking suite categories E and above on Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner and category D and above on Seven Seas Navigator will receive the following services:

* priority specialty restaurant reservations
* 25% off premium purchased wines & liquors
* priority spa reservations
* 10% off pre-or-post hotel or land packages
* priority embarkation
* space available upgrades at time of sailing
* priority luggage delivery
* complimentary binoculars
* 15 min. worth of free phone calls per suite
* complementary Regent Seven Seas tote bag
* one free hour of internet per suite
* printed air boarding passes

Before I analyze this and because there is just so much to say, I refer you to a few of my prior articles:





That said, let's look at this Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, first considering why this is happening.

It is well known that cruises "sell from the top down and the bottom up".  In other words, the most expensive and the least expensive cabins/suites sell first because people generally want the best suites and/or the best price.  This leave a void in the middle which fills in over time.  On the Regent ships the suites are essentially the same with most or all having balconies and identical layouts, so how to sell more of the mid-priced suites?  You put a carrot in front of those potential passengers that want the best price and let them know that they just might get that now extremely illusive thing called a "Complimentary Upgrade". 

Now the person who would normally book a Category H (the lowest) might just be motivated to purchase a Category E or, more likely, the person who books a G might make that move more readily.  Of course the beauty is two-fold:  If the ships sell from the top down the chance of a big score upgrade is pretty much nil.  If you move from an E to a D, so what.  And remember the person who purchased the D is probably going to move up before a person in an E.  The result:  Regent's ploy causes the ill-informed to purchase an identical suite at a higher price with little or no chance for substantive upgrade on most sailings.  [BTW, doesn't Regent claim its ships are sailing full? If so, to what suite would you upgrade.  But I digress...]

Now, with that ploy out of the way, let's take a look at the "benefits" of Concierge Class and compare them to what you receive on Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruises:

* Priority embarkation - What the heck is this?  On your luxury cruise you need to pay over a $1,000 more to walk on the ship earlier (how much we don't know) than someone else.  Or, better, if you don't pay the higher fare you get to sit in a cruise terminal...waiting to embark on your allegedly luxury cruise.

* Space available upgrades at time of sailing - We covered this fallacy already.

* Priority luggage delivery - So my allegedly luxury cruise means that I get mass market luggage delivery?  No what it really means is that Regent is cutting back on service so luggage deliver will be delayed for many passengers.  This is an obvious indication of a cutback in the number of crew on the ship.

* Complimentary binoculars - Celebrity makes them available in all suites and Regent only provides them in some?  Huh?

* Complementary Regent Seven Seas tote bag - Celebrity makes them available in all suites and Regent only provides them in some? Huh- Part II?

* 15 min. worth of free phone calls per suite - Value: about $25.00...or you can just use your mobile phone.  But if you are a Past Guest it is worthless.

* One free hour of internet per suite - Value:  about $25.00.  But if you are a Past Guest it is worthless.

* 25% off premium purchased wines & liquors - Getting past the "free", "free", "free" Regent marketing, I must wonder what liquor is not going to be excluded from the complimentary liquor list in order to give this value. Further, it is well known that the vast majority of guests never touch the reserve wine lists. Without getting into whether the prices of the reserve wines will creep up to cover this cost (as Regent's prices did if you were to get the allegedly "free" pre-cruise hotel room), this reminds me of the old joke about the wife coming home and telling her husband how much money she saved because everything she bought - but didn't need - was "On Sale".) Obviously the purpose is to drive sales of wines; not provide actual additional value. And, of course, remember, you are paying $1,000+ more in order to save possibly $25 on a $100 bottle of wine...that may well have been previously sold for $85...if Regent's history repeats itself!

* 10% off pre-or-post hotel or land packages - See my comments on the "free" hotel only being available when you purchased a cruise at a higher rates and my concerns over the price of wines above.

* Priority specialty restaurant reservations - When 30+% of the ship has priority, that would mean that not only is there no real priority, but that 70% of the ship on this allegedly luxury cruise are going to be closed out of literally every good dining time.

* Priority spa reservations - When 30+% of the ship has priority, that would mean that not only is there no real priority, but that 70% of the ship on this allegedly luxury cruise are going to be closed out of literally every good spa appointment.

* Printed air boarding passes - What can I say?  How about, "Huh - Part III"

As promised, I will now compare the Regent Seven Seas Second Class service versus Seabourn.  I can't.  I just can't.  Not being able to board while others can? Wait for the luggage because others are served first?  No available prime dining or spa reservations because the "more important" guests (you are a mere passenger, are you not?) have them? Oh, but some of your tours are included as is a one night hotel stay...at prices that are significantly higher than what you would pay on Seabourn, Silversea or Crystal Cruises.

My motto needs to be repeated here:  Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!  Now do you understand why I don't normally sell Regent Seven Seas Cruises?  I would NEVER treat my clients as second class nor would I charge a client more to receive my luxury cruise services.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crystal Cruises - Going "All Inclusive"

Crystal Cruises has been hinting, whispering, suggesting...and now it is doing it.  With all of the luxury lines offering their versions of "all inclusive" Crystal Cruises is aligning itself with the rest of the luxury market.

Crystal Cruises announced, in part:

Crystal Cruises is enhancing its already expansive host of luxury services and amenities. Effective spring 2012, vacations on the award-winning Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will include complimentary fine wines and premium spirits throughout the ship, open bar service in all lounges, and pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff. The complimentary gratuity amenity also includes Penthouse butler service as well as service in all of Crystal’s fine specialty restaurants and sushi bar...

The new benefits begin with each ship’s first Trans-Atlantic cruise next year: Crystal Symphony’s “Beyond the Sea” sailing from Miami to Lisbon on March 19, 2012, and Crystal Serenity’s “New World to Norway” voyage from New York to London on May 8, 2012.

 Also included with all cruises is free round-trip air transportation from two dozen North American gateways (or a generous air credit), with airport/ship transfers included.

I do want to observe that in a world where the word "inclusive" has become the mantra of the younger and move up cruising guests, the more stayed and traditional manner of "pay as you go" is going out the proverbial window.  While this is surely upsetting to many of the traditional and longtime Crystal Cruise guests, the fact is that Crystal Cruises must find new guests in order to survive as a viable cruise line and business.  Those new guests, as I have said, want "inclusive" cruise experiences so to stick with the traditional way...even giving large onboard (or "As You Wish") credits so that there is no additional cash coming out of those new guests' pockets...just hasn't worked.  [Don't' get me started on "free air" not actually being "free" and the credits usually not equaling what air actually costs, but I digress.]

Now, before those who want to "pay as you go" start complaining that now they will be paying for something they don't use, please try to look at this logically; not emotionally.  The cruise lines set your fare.  That fare takes into account guest lecturers, bridge, meals, etc.  As Crystal's announcement continued:

Always included at no additional cost are: all non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, specialty coffee drinks, soft drinks and fresh juices; all meals, including dining in specialty restaurants that feature the cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio; high tea; ice cream and frozen yogurt bar; gym, steam, saunas and whirlpools; numerous fitness classes such as Spinning and group Pilates Reformer instruction; golf lessons with PGA pros; Walk-on-Water weighted vests and Nordic Pole walking equipment; Yamaha keyboard classes; Berlitz language classes; paddle tennis; dozens of computer/technology classes; art classes; Crystal Visions lecture series, featuring Crystal Visions lecture series featuring distinguished speakers; award-winning entertainment; in-stateroom movie and CD rentals; film screenings in the onboard cinema; dance lessons; dedicated junior cruiser facilities; early embarkation luncheon; welcome champagne; comfortable shuttles to town; pillow menus; self-service laundries; twice-daily housekeeping with nightly turndown service; and 24-hour room service.

Some guests eat five times a day...always going for the seafood...and others dine twice and do so modestly. Some never walk into a specialty restaurant. Some guests play bridge and use the instructor as a twice daily ritual, while many guests never even walk into the card room.  Some guests have...wait for this...children who use the Junior Cruise Directors.  Some live for the art classes.

So while these inequities have always been overlooked because "traditionally" that is the way it has been, the fact is there are many costs that are unequally shared because each guest utilizes the ship's facilities and offerings differently...and the cruise lines adjust their fares to cover those unequal costs...for every guest.  This is, well and truly, no different.  The fact is that Crystal Cruises has the most robust and high quality enrichment programs on the high seas and they cost Crystal far more than what will be expended on inclusive liquor...so I don't accept that, especially on Crystal Cruises, becoming "inclusive" is unfair to those who drink alcohol.

Now, you can argue that your present As You Wish credits can be spend as you wish...but the fact is loading up on perfume from the shops costs the cruise line and raises your fare...and you never really wanted two gallons of the stuff anyway.  And don't argue that doesn't happen because you take tours, etc.  The fact is that Crystal knows where most of the credits are spent and you have seen the crowds in the shops on the last days of almost every cruise! 

To further underscore the need for this change, Crystal Cruises ventured into the semi-open seating arena - having broken from its historical fixed early and late dining traditions by offering "Dining by Reservation".  That too became less than a satisfactory solution as many of its longtime guests simply used it to move fixed seating from early or late to "in between" booking the same table at the same time with the same people every night.  This closed out many of the new guests from enjoying what is normally considered "open seating" and left Crystal with a second area of large concern for the younger traveler.  That is changing too.

I am looking forward to sailing on the Crystal Symphony on April 17, 2011 with my family.  I will be "Dining by Reservation" and I will be drinking wines and whiskey...and maybe even a beer.  And, to be sure, I will partake in a cigar or two.  But I will not take art, music, language or bridge classes.  Unfortunately for me, I will have to pay for my drinks as I do not get a credit for that which I don't use and am sailing long before the "all inclusive" experience starts. 

I plan on enjoying myself because I am going on a wonderful ship with excellent service and cuisine, fine facilities, an interesting itinerary, a children's program over Spring Break, etc.  I do not plan on complaining that someone else is using part of my cruise fare to subsidize their vacation.

What do you think?  Join the conversation on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum!

If you are interested in booking a Crystal Cruise email me at eric@goldringtravel.com, call me at (877) 2G0-LUXURY in the U.S.; +44 20 8133 3450 in the U.K.; +61 7 3102 4685 in Australia; and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2012 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride - September 22, 2012

I am very excited to announce that I had a bit of a jump on the 2012 European itineraries and have designated Goldring Travel's 2012 Food & Wine Cruise to be the Seabourn Pride's September 22, 2012 sailing.

It is an incredible itinerary with overnights in Le Havre (for Paris) and Bordeaux while visiting English, Irish, French, Spanish and Portuguese ports...all in 14 days!  There will, of course, be the additional Shopping with the Chef, a Goldring Travel special event...I am guessing in Bordeaux...the Famous Food & Wine tasting aboard the Seabourn Pride plus some additional surprises.

This itinerary on the intimate 208 guest Seabourn Pride affords the very best that Seabourn has to offer and showcases the type of varied and unique itinerary that Seabourn is famous for, visiting ports that other ships simply cannot.  And, for me, it shows that Seabourn is now more focused than ever on itineraries that allow for true enrichment and experiential travel:

September 2012
22 Saturday DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM 07:00 AM - 05:00 PM D
23 Sunday LE HAVRE, FRANCE Arrive: 08:00 AM D Overnight
24 Monday LE HAVRE, FRANCE Depart: 05:00 PM D
25 Tuesday ST. PETER PORT, GUERNSEY 08:00 AM - 05:00 PM A
26 Wednesday FALMOUTH, UNITED KINGDOM 07:00 AM - 03:00 PM D
27 Thursday COBH (CORK), IRELAND 08:00 AM - 08:00 PM D
28 Friday AT SEA
29 Saturday BELLE ILE, FRANCE 08:00 AM - 03:00 PM A (This is a beautiful island off the coast of Brittany.)
30 Sunday BORDEAUX, FRANCE Arrive: 08:00 AM D Overnight
October 2012
1 Monday BORDEAUX, FRANCE Depart: 05:00 PM D
2 Tuesday BAYONNE, FRANCE 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM D (This is the unofficial capital of the Basque region and is about 2 miles up the Ardour River)
3 Wednesday GIJON, SPAIN 09:00 AM - 06:00 PM D
4 Thursday LA CORUNA, SPAIN 08:00 AM - 06:00 PM D
5 Friday AT SEA
6 Saturday LISBON, PORTUGAL 07:00 AM  D

I will be providing some detail on each port and the special events in the weeks to come.  (I am, of course, still working on the final arrangements for the 2011 Goldring Travel Food & Foliage Cruise on September 21, 2011 from Quebec City, Quebec to New York City on the Seabourn Sojourn.

Prices are incredibly reasonable for this 14 day cruise with prices starting at under $5,750 per person, based on double occupancy, including all fees, taxes, gratuities, alternative dining, in-suite bar setup, complimentary wine selections with meals, most liquor throughout the ship, and, of course, all special events including the Food & Wine tasting.

Call (888) SEABOURN in the United States, +44 20 8133 3450 in the UK, +61 7 3102 4685 in Australia and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere or email info@goldringtravel.com .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Silversea Cruises - Refurbishment of the Silver Shadow: A Photographic Update

Earlier I posted some of the planned refurbishments for Silversea's Silver Shadow in my article:  Silversea Cruises - Refurbishment of the Silver Shadow: A Move Toward Consistency

I just received some additional photos showing some "after" shots. 


Grand Suite

Main Bar


La Terrazza


Reception

Reception
If you are interested in sailing on this newly refurbished Silver Shadow, email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call (877) 2GO-LUXURY!

Silversea Cruises - Refurbishment of the Silver Shadow: A Move Toward Consistency

Earlier this week I spent some time with the folks at Silversea Cruises and my favorite topic was discussed:  Consistency of Product.  I believe it is essential in the luxury cruise market that even with different ships there must be a consistency between them so that repeating guests have a sense of "home" and new guests/travel agents have an understanding and appreciation of a unified product.  This is not a new or innovative concept as others have engaged in a similar exercise (Seabourn has consistency between its significantly different smaller and larger ships, Celebrity is in the process of "Solsticizing" its Millennium class ships, etc.)

What is good news to me is that Silversea is now undertaking this process and, apparently, has begun the process of installing the "best ofs" from its fleet.  Silversea's Silver Shadow is presenting underdoing a refurbishment and Christian Sauleau has shared with me not only the list of improvements, but some "on the job" photographs so you can see some of the "behind the scenes" work.

For example, ever wonder how all those chairs are reupholstered?


Anyway, back to the refurbishment and installation of consistency of product.  The Silver Shadow has the following work being done with the idea of better aligning her with both her sistership, the Silver Whisper and Silversea's new flagship, the Silver Spirit:

Suites
• New carpet, new curtains, sheer curtains, new upholstery for sofas, chairs, same color scheme as Silver Spirit in all the suites
• New wall covering in Grand , Owner suites same color as Silver Spirit• New balcony furniture in all suites, same as Silver Spirit
• Bathroom maintenance and wood polishing in all suites

Public areas
• Observation Lounge: New carpet, new fabrics for the chairs
• Spa/Beauty Salon: New wood flooring same as done on Silver Whisper, new tiling in bathrooms , new fabric for the sofas in beauty salon
• New carpet in all suite corridors, landing and staircases, and public rooms again
• La Terrazza: New design same as Silver Whisper, extended awning for outdoor dining
• Panorama Lounge: New carpet, new upholstery for chairs, re-position of the Coffee station (same as Silver Whisper)
• The Bar: New carpet, new fabric same color as Silver Spirit
• The Restaurant: New carpet and new fabric for the chairs same as Silver Whisper
• Upgrade sound system in the show lounge and pool deck
• Pool deck: New awning to increase shade and seating for the Hot Rock Grill, new buffet counter and cover for the grill
• New tiling in the pool same as Silver Spirit
• New deck chairs same as Silver Spirit
• Internet facilities, new cabling of the ship for higher performance of the internet in suites and public rooms

Here are the workers installing some of that new carpeting:




Technical
• General maintenance as needed , deck maintenance , tenders , engine overhaul, etc..

And speaking of technical things, I thought you might be interested in a look below the waterline where new, fuel efficient and environmentally appropriate silicon bottom paint has been applied:




I will keep you posted as I get more information and photos.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami - What the Cruise Lines Have to Say...And What You Need to Know.

I have just returned from Cruise Shipping Miami, the most important conference in the cruise industry, and can report that nothing really dramatic came out of the sessions I attended or the new products that I saw (though MTN's new application I previously wrote about was not ready for the conference and I believe that is going to be huge in the contemporary and premium markets.)

Before I get to the details of some interesting things, I do want to let you know I spent a good bit of quality time with the folks at Seabourn including a long private meeting with its president, Rick Meadows, as well as senior vice president of marketing, John Delaney, and others including some of the technical folks in charge of making sure the ships are properly maintained and fully operational.  I will write about those conversations (to the extent appropriate) shortly.

I also spent some time with the Ken Watson, Christian Sauleau and Stephen Tucker at Silversea.  While we some great conversation about the Prince Albert II, we actually were more involved in the logistics and ramifications of the tragedy in Japan on the Silver Shadow's only port calls, disembarkation and embarkation, and sailing issues.  The complexities of dealing with guest concerns (both legitimate and emotional), safety of the guests, crew and ship, operational costs, airfares and flights, and possible liabilities, etc., coupled with the uncertainty of what is happening with the nuclear facility and the unpredictability of trade winds, weather, etc. the difficulties in short and long term concerns and planning was self-evident.  You should know that it is something that is truly cared about by Silversea and any delays in providing concrete decisions is because Silversea really cares and wants to do the best thing overall; not make a decision because it is the easiest in the short term.

Now to the State of the Industry Panel.  Some of the highlights will also be the subject of more specific articles later, but I did want to give you the flavor of where things are as it may relate to the cruising public. 

*As many of you know, I have clients from all over the world:  Australia, China, Andorra, Italy, New Zealand, etc., so this was not news to me...but it is one that I believe North Americans need to be cognizant of:  Presently about 27% of cruise passengers are not from North America.  With the growth rate for European cruisers increasing at a far more rapid rate, be prepared for many traditionally North American ships to carry up to 50% or more non-North American guests within the next 5-7 years.  (There are cruise lines now that are almost 100% European such as Hapag Lloyd, TUI, Aida, P&O, etc.)

I read comments, especially from some of the more vocal "experts" on Cruise Critic complaining about multi-national experiences and cultures clashing with "their" cruise experience (ironically, usually while on a cruise that starts, ends or travels through Europe!).  Just like their demands for multiple formal nights, things change and this is one change that is coming far more rapidly than I think most expected.  I, personally, think nothing of it as the world is quickly becoming a global community.

* Speaking of Cruise Critic, the issue of cruise line cheerleaders came up.  Not really, but the statistics supporting why they exist did.  Believe it or not, far more than Coke vs. Pepsi when measuring overall loyalty to a brand, cruise line loyalty is Number One.  People are more loyal to a particular cruise line than they are to brands for cars, beverages and, believe it or not, even baby products. (Don't question a mother's decision on care for her baby!).  That explains in large part why so many Regent Seven Seas loyalists have stayed with that cruise line while the product has changed (for better or worse) so many times over the past decade.  It also explains why there is far less cross-over from say Silversea to Seabourn and visa versa.  What wasn't discussed is "Why?" I just may tackle that one in the near future.

*  Environmental regulations may significantly change the nature of non-luxury cruises in the very near future.  Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Government has established Emission Control Areas (ECAs) where the sulfur content in fuels must be significantly reduced and, in fact, almost eliminated.  More specifically, from the effective date in 2012 until 2015, fuel used by all vessels operating in designated areas cannot exceed 1.0 percent sulfur (10,000 ppm). Beginning in 2015, fuel used by vessels operating in these areas cannot exceed 0.1 percent sulfur (1,000 ppm).  The ECA for the coastal United States goes out 200 miles.  (It may also apply to the United States Virgin Islands too, so it has impact in the Caribbean as well.)

While the cruise lines are working to find "equivalents" such as using higher sulfur content fuels, but having scrubbers on their exhaust to remove the sulfur down to the same level, what it otherwise means is that the cost of fuel and/or operating the ship is going to rise significantly.  So other than significantly raising cruise fares what is the solution?  As you should know, when you speed your gas mileage significantly drops.  The same thing happens with cruise ships.  (Have you ever noticed that ships leave at a specific time and arrive at a specific time and there is very little wiggle room to make up for a delay?  It is because the ships are operating at near top speed.)  So if the ships slow down they can save over 20% in fuel costs. Now, if you think about that, if the ships cannot go as fast they cannot reach ports that far apart overnight.  Thus the result is going to be fewer ports, closer ports (so less diversity) and more sea days.

*River cruises are rapidly gaining in popularity.  One thing I found very interesting was the President of Viking River Cruises basically saying that river cruise ships do not have, nor need, many of the facilities that ocean cruise ships have because they spend so much time in port.  I think that was a very unfortunate statement and, to be sure, that may be what Viking River Cruises must say due to the quality of its ships.  Take a look at AMAWaterways (it is pronounced "Ama"; not "A.M.A.") and you will see beautiful new ships with massages and beauty salons, saunas and larger staterooms with French Balconies, etc.  Just as the popularity in ocean cruising drove innovations and luxury lines, so too is this happening with river cruises.    I just might host a Food & Wine River Cruise on an AMAWaterways sooner than later.

*There as been a serious issue with unscrupulous selling practices by British travel agencies resulting in the UK arm of Carnival Corp. drastically cutting travel agency commissions.  I will write extensively on this, but consider the following:  Three (3) travel agencies in the UK sell almost 50% of the cruises in the UK and they generally have you pay them directly months prior to when the cruise line is required to be paid.  Further, they have no mechanism for you to have the protection of paying the cruise lines directly (which is how Goldring Travel operates).  So these agencies have stifled competition, care little about quality because they thrive on quantity, and then take your money for their own use for months.  Yes, I will have lots to write about on this subject!

To be sure I also had a good bit of activity on the superyacht side of things and spoke with many cruise line people on topics at private events as well.    Stay tuned for more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seabourn - Exceeding Your Expectations

Today I received the kind of email that I love to receive.  It was from a client who has just returned from the Seabourn Legend.  It speaks for itself:

[We] returned from our cruise late yesterday afternoon. Before the flurry of laundry and returning to our real lives commences, I wanted to take some time and drop you a line.

As promised, this truly was the most wonderful experience we could ever have imagined. From the moment we were dropped at the gate, we were completely pampered. The food was extraordinary, the services were beyond perfect, the people were wonderful!!!

We did renew our wedding vows on Tuesday evening. The Captain officiated. David E. Green and many others worked so very hard to make it a truly memorable experience for Ed and I. They decorated the whole lounge! There was an aisle for us to walk down,lined with candles. There was a beautiful bouquet and other flowers, even a three tiered wedding cake. There was music and many pictures, as well as champagne! They did so very much for us and me being me, couldn't stop crying. As simple and understated as our actual wedding was, this was over the top. It was beautiful and something that will remain in my memory forever! There simply aren't words to thank everyone for all that they did.

After this joyous moment, we had the most wonderful dinner, ever! Moses, our waiter went so very far above and beyond to make this a truly special event for us. Again, how do you begin to thank all of these wonderful people for all that they did for us?

The entertainment was truly of "show quality". Casey, David's assistant is a very talented lady and Seabourn is so fortunate to have her. Sam also is a pro and as well as being so very gifted is a genuinely nice person and great dinner partner. Oh yes, David as the Dancing Queen was over the top fabulous!!!!!

I could go on and on but as some point I am sure that boredom will set in for you as I am sure that you have heard this many times before.

Please, if you could pass this note along to the Seabourn offices, I would so appreciate it. I have no idea who to send it do, but am sure that you do and coming from you, it will garner the proper notice.

Thank you so much for all that you did to make this possible. This was the experience of a lifetime. By the way, we did put a deposit on another wonderful adventure with you and Seabourn.

As I tell everyone who contacts me, my goal is to make your desires happen.  I think I can say we succeeded for this happy couple.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seabourn - 2012-13 Itineraries and More!

I have a good bit of exciting news concerning things happening at Seabourn.  It is all good stuff!

First, the 2012-13 European Itineraries will be released this week...possibly even later today.  So you better start pulling out those Onboard Open Bookings and your Bucket Lists.  What are the new itineraries?  Seabourn won't even tell me.  Sort of like waiting for Christmas morning, isn't it?!

Second, the remainder of the 2012-13 Itineraries and, hopefully, the 2013 Seabourn World Cruise should be released on or about April 1, 2011...No fooling!  (Think about that one.)

Third, tired of the cumbersome old Seabourn website?  Not for long.  A brand new Seabourn website will be unveiled hopefully within the next three weeks.  (My guess is that everything won't be tan/brown.)

Fourth, for all of you who have insisted Seabourn's reservations are being folded into Holland America's:  Wrong!  Seabourn is in the process of vetting those very few top Holland America reservation agents who are being trained on the Seabourn product.  Those top reservation agents will be combined with the "old guard" Seabourn reservation agents to create an elite dedicated and permanent Seabourn reservations team.  This process is in the latter stages, so hopefully within a month things will be all settled.

Fifth, as if all of the above isn't enough, Seabourn's transition to the new (for it) reservations platform will hopefully be completed by the end of the month. 

When you combine the new website, new itineraries, highly trained and dedicated reservations staff, and greater efficiencies, things are looking very good.

You are getting this information even before it is announced to the press.  Enjoy.

And, of course, if you are interested in booking your Seabourn cruise, email me at eric@goldringtravel.com, call me at (877) 2G0-LUXURY in the U.S.; +44 20 8133 3450 in the U.K.; +61 7 3102 4685 in Australia; and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seabourn Private Sale - March Through June 2011

Yes, it is that time again.

You can see all the Private Sale priced cruises on the Goldring Travel website by clicking on this link.

If you are interested, please call or email me as soon as possible as these prices are capacity controlled and may be sold out or withdrawn at any time.

Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference 2011 - Where the Cruise Industry Makes Big Announcements

Next week I will, once again, travel to South Beach in Miami, Florida for the annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference.  (Yeah, I know, it is tough work, but for you I will go to unlimited lengths!)

This is an industry event; not a travel agent one.  So the information is generally highly technical and focused more on what makes the cruise industry operate and grow rather than how or why to sell particular cruises or cruise lines.  For me (Iamboatman) it is a bit of heaven as I am able to delve into such generally interesting topics as the State of the Cruise Industry (the biggest single event of the Conference) with a panel including all of the major cruise lines to Luxury at Sea with a panel consisting of:

Sebastian Ahrens, Managing Director, Hapag Lloyd Cruises
Richard D. Meadows, President, Seabourn Cruise Line
Gregg Michel, President & COO, Crystal Cruises Inc.
Barbara Muckermann, Head of Corporate Marketing, MSC Cruises
Peter Shanks, President & Managing Director, Cunard Line Limited
Alex Sharpe, Executive Vice President, Signature Travel Network
Kenneth W. Watson, Chief Operating Officer, Silversea Cruises

I am also able to gain incredibly important perspectives from panels such as Spotlight on Europe ("As the driver of global cruise growth and with record capacity deployed, will this be Europe's decade?")

And, I will hit the trade floor and visit with vendors for everything a cruise ship needs...or doesn't.  For example, and I think this is very exciting, I have received word of a major announcement by MTN Satellite Communications, the company that brings you onboard internet and telephone service.  MTN will unveil its MTN Connect Mobile Application - the next generation of how people will consume information and communicate with shipmates as well as friends and family back home, all from the middle of the ocean. The experience will be faster, sleeker and in some cases, more economical. Some of the core functionalities include:

 Internet Access - from anywhere on the ship
 Seamless Content - for passengers to keep up to date while at sea. No latency times in receiving news and a faster way to get the information they are looking for.
 Make phone calls to anyone/anywhere - calling a friend or family member while on the ship, or wanting to reach out back home will now be easier and more cost effective. New calling modules will feature calling a shipmate and creating “friends” based on cabin numbers as well as ship to shore calling.
 Texting - Texting capabilities will be based on a one time subscription fee for the duration of the cruise. Text friends and/or family on the same cruise or back home with a unique number.
 Socializing - Facebook functionality will be offered to passengers at no fee to update the cruise lines specific page in real time on what they are doing and when they are doing it!
 Cruise Activities - Scheduling onboard and shore excursion activities from anywhere on the ship.

I am being given a private demonstration of this system on Wednesday.  Going into it, I am not so sure much of this product will be the highlight of a luxury cruise experience, but I can just imagine the utility and versatility on ships that are the destination like Allure of the Seas or where there are families trying to keep in touch.  (I guess the days of kids carrying around walkie-talkies are just about gone!)

I am also going to be attending some events by Lloyd's Register of Shipping outside of the Conference.  One seminar I am very interested in is entitled "Human Factors in Cruise Ship Design, Construction & Operation".  While that may sound quite boring to many of you, I firmly believe that if you understand and implement great design you can significantly increase the quality of the overall cruise product.  (Ever read about my analysis of a bathroom or tendering operation?)

And, of course, I will be meeting with some of the cruise line executives.

Yes, I report on industry news.  But I do more and, as a travel agent, I make sure I truly understand the cruise industry so that I may be the most effective for you, the client.

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Update on Travel to Egypt: Things Are NOT Stabilizing As Quickly As Hoped: Perspective Please

Even with the best of intentions, the emotions and issues surrounding Mubarak's return to Cairo and his potential prosecution has tensions rising and giving fresh indications of a less settled than hoped situation.

So while there was some good news of cruise lines and river cruises returning to normal operations, the reality is that many, including Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, have opted to eliminate Alexandria, Egypt from its itineraries through early September 2011.

Meanwhile Oceania Cruises has made it very clear that the situation is "extremely fluid" and may well change its itineraries, but is still holding onto its Egypt intensive April 20, 2011 Nautica itinerary.

Any trip planned to stop  in Egypt must be taken with a "wait and see" attitude.  While this is extremely frustrating for guests who are within penalty periods since the cruise lines have the right to alter or eliminate ports and, as such, there are no good answers (and, let's face it, Egypt would be one of the primary reasons for taking any of these cruises), considering what is going on in the region: 

(A) Keeping things in perspective is important - You are worried about visiting an ancient culture today while those living there are worried about pretty much every aspect of their lives; and,

(B) Remembering you are taking a cruise for many reasons and enjoying the dozens of other ones should not be overwhelmed by the disappointment that today...not tomorrow or in a few years...but today you are going to suffer the disappointment of visiting somewhere else; a place that just might be pretty cool itself.

I remain hopeful that what is happening in Northern Africa is a sign of change for the better.  It is a difficult time with thousands and thousands crushing the Tunisian and Egyptian borders (while new governments are being formed in both countries) while Libya teeters on turning into a balancing of human spirit and human tragedy. 

As free individuals with disposable income we need to keep our disappointments in perspective, but our optimism out front and centered.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Goldring Travel's Art (of) Whiskey and Wine Cruise - Azamara Journey (August 29 - September 8, 2011) Update

Since I announced that I would be the Ensemble Host for the August 29, 2011 cruise on the Azamara Club Journey (which I am fondly calling Goldring Travel's Art (of) Whiskey and Wine Cruise) has now been named this year's President's Cruise.

Larry Pimental and his wife, Sandi, will host an exclusive party, informal gatherings, a unique shore event and onboard dinners, in addition to offering each guest a special gift.  It's a rare chance for you to get to know Azamara Club Cruises' president and his wife, as well as discover the rich cultural fabric of Western Europe!

And for those of you who are interested in catching up with Larry Pimental since he departed SeaDream Yacht Club this would be a perfect opportunity.

Read more about why I have called this The Art (of) Whiskey and Wine Cruise.

If you are interested in more information or would like to book this cruise, please email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or internationally on +1 732 383-7398 or UK on +44 20 8133 3450 or Australia on +61 7 3102 4685.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seabourn Private Sale - March Through May 2011: If You Can Travel On Short Notice...Do It!

I have just received some great Seabourn Private Sale prices that are not available except through a very select few travel agents...like me.

As you may know, because there is very limited inventory you only have the option of an Oceanview Guarantee or a Veranda Guarantee (You are guaranteed to have a suite in that category or better...yes, it could be better - though chances are you will not be cruising in the Wintergarden Suite!)

The prices below are per person, double occupancy, for Oceanview Guarantees and do not include taxes, which range from $32.99 to $598.49 per person dependent on the sailing. Also, any World Cruise Segments do not include any Seabourn Complimentary Shore Experiences...but they do include any complimentary Ensemble Experiences - courtesy of Goldring Travel - as long as you book more than 75 days prior to that sailing...if not, you may be entitled to a $150 per person onboard credit. And, of course, all of these sailings are subject to prior sale and may be withdrawn at any time.

I have again highlighted a few truly incredible deals.

This time they are organized by cruising area (not ship) so hopefully that is more convenient.

ARABIA & INDIA

Orchid Isles & India
Singapore to Dubai, United Arab Emirates 16 days Seabourn Spirit $3,599 MAR 5, 2011

The Spice Route to Rome
Singapore to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 34 days Seabourn Spirit $6,999 MAR 5, 2011

Kingdoms of the Sun I
Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 18 days Seabourn Spirit $3,999 MAR 21, 2011

World Cruise Segment 5
Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 20 days Seabourn Sojourn $5,999 MAR 26, 2011

World Cruise Segment 6
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy to Southampton, United Kingdom 12 days Seabourn Sojourn $3,999 APR 15, 2011

Jewels of India & Arabia I
Singapore to Dubai, United Arab Emirates 16 days Seabourn Pride $3,199 APR 2, 2011

India, Arabia & Mediterranean
Singapore to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 34 days Seabourn Pride $5,999 APR 2, 2011

Kingdoms of the Sun II
Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 18 days Seabourn Pride $3,599 APR 18, 2011

MEDITERRANEAN & GREEK ISLES

Mediterranean Spring
Lisbon, Portugal to Istanbul, Turkey 12 days Seabourn Odyssey $2,999 MAR 30, 2011

Grand Voyage Lisbon-Athens
Lisbon, Portugal to Piraeus (Athens), Greece 19 days Seabourn Odyssey $5,499 MAR 30, 2011

Turkish Delights & Greek Isles
Istanbul, Turkey to Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7 days Seabourn Odyssey $2,599 APR 11, 2011

Turkish Delights, Greek Isles & Dalmatia
Istanbul, Turkey to Venice, Italy 14 days Seabourn Odyssey $4,999 APR 11, 2011

Greek Isles & Dalmatian Coast
Piraeus (Athens), Greece to Venice, Italy 7 days Seabourn Odyssey $2,599 APR 18, 2011

Dalmatian Coast & Greek Isles
Venice, Italy to Piraeus (Athens), Greece 7 days Seabourn Odyssey $2,599 APR 25, 2011

Yachtsman's Riviera
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy to Monte Carlo, Monaco 7 days Seabourn Legend $1,999 APR 17, 2011

Yachtsman's Riviera& Bella Italia
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy to Monte Carlo, Monaco 14 days Seabourn Legend $3,499 APR 17, 2011

Mediterranean Sojourn I
Southampton, United Kingdom to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 9 days Seabourn Sojourn $3,499 APR 27, 2011

Mediterranean Sojourn II
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy to Southampton, United Kingdom 9 days Seabourn Sojourn $3,499 MAY 6, 2011

Baltic Sojourn
Southampton, United Kingdom to Copenhagen, Denmark 10 days Seabourn Sojourn $3,499 MAY 15, 2011

If you have any questions or you like to book one of these fantastic values, please email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or internationally on +1 732 383-7398 or UK on +44 20 8133 3450 or Australia on +61 7 3102 4685.

An Update on Travel to Egypt: Fingers Crossed Things May Be Stablizing Quickly

I just received an email from the Egyptian Tourist Authority that I thought was worthy of publicizing.  While I cannot vouch for its accuracy, I find the comments, the passion and the desire to move Egypt forward both extremely positive and, hopefully, a model for how the presently tumultuous Arab countries just might be able to earn the respect and support of the rest of the world.

 The Secretary-General of Al-Wafd opposition party Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour is the new Egyptian Minister of Tourism in the interim government led by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.



 Egypt's newly-appointed Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour invited several world-famous actors and TV celebrities to organize shows and entertainment programs on Cairo's Tahrir Square, Al-Masry Al-Youm news agency reported on Monday. U.S. media host Oprah Winfrey is among the stars who have been invited over, in a bid to restore Egypt's reputation as a tourist destination. The Minister made the announcement during a press conference on Saturday, which was also attended by Mr. Hussein Massoud, CEO of EgyptAir Holding Company, and Mr. Amr al-Ezabi, Chairman of the Egyptian Tourist Authority.


 The Foreign Ministry of Holland announced the lifting of its advisory against travelling to Egypt.


 The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had dropped its recommendation for Ukrainians not to visit the Egyptian resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh.


 On February 28th the Spanish Foreign Ministry lifted its travel advice against travelling to Sharm el Sheikh, Luxor & Aswan.


 The Austrian Foreign Ministry has lifted its travel advisory against travelling to Luxor, Aswan and the Nile.


 The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the lifting of its advisory against travelling to Egypt.


 The Belgian Foreign Ministry announced the lifting of its advisory against travelling to Egypt.


 The Japanese Government has downgraded its travel advisory to Egypt from level 3 (do not travel) to level 2 (consider travelling) except for Sinai Peninsula, Red Sea and the Suez.


 The Danish Foreign Ministry no longer advises against travelling to Egypt.


 US based Tour Operators resuming their operations to Egypt beginning March or April:


Learning through Travel, TravelEgypt, Holy Land Travel Center, Great Safaris, Journeys International, STI Travel, African Travel Inc., Europe Express, Travcoa, YMT Vacations, Caravan Serai Tours, SunnyLand Tours, Central Holidays, Ya’lla Tours and Signature Travel


 Egypt on Facebook! For the latest Tourism news, visit: http://www.facebook.com/#!/IamEgypt, http://www.facebook.com/#!/experienceegypt