Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seabourn or Regent: Use a Knowledgable Luxury Travel Agent (Goldring Travel)

I was going to write a different sort of article today, but I read three different things over the past two days that made me ask again, "Why would anyone book directly with a cruise line or with a travel agent that isn't a luxury specialist?"


The first thing I read was an email (actually a series of emails) from someone who had booked directly with Seabourn and then contacted me after he had made final payment and was having some frustrations and questions that had not been fully answered by the Seabourn Reservations Department.  (If you do not know, the Goldring Travel website and this blog are filled with information and, as a result, I do get many inquiries from people that "found" me too late.)  He wrote:

I am a first time cruiser on Seabourn and went ahead and booked my cruise directly with Seabourn using their web site and on line tools.  As this cruise is a 25th anniversary trip, I wanted to be sure I got the exact dates for the trip, so I booked the cruise well in advance.  I have noticed that the pricing for the cruise keeps changing and special offers come out that are confusing relative to what I paid for my suite.

I came across Eric’s blog and reached out to him for advice.  Eric helped me understand these changes and even though I did not book my cruise thru Goldring Travel, he has gone out of his way to offer advice and help me with Seabourn.

Lesson learned for me is the next time I book a cruise, I will book with Eric as he is an expert.  Even though Eric is not my travel agent, he has helped me.  Now that’s premium service above and beyond!

I can only hope I will be treated as well onboard Seabourn as Eric has treated me. 

Then I read an online review of a first time Regent Seven Seas cruiser who had an almost identical experience (but which was exacerbated by Regent's false pitch of "free", "free", "free" as you shall soon see) who wrote, in part:

There are some things I didn't know but wish I had, and I also want to review the ports and excursions as most were very enjoyable.

First, we booked directly through Regent. Our experience was less than we expected from a luxury line who promised great service--just little errors and mix-ups here and there that could have been avoided. Apparently, they are well known for having less than perfect internal systems and it is very useful to have a travel agent who is very familiar with Regent. Also, as I didn't know before, most agents will give you some onboard credit to spend, which is always nice!

Our airfare was included with Regent, and I wasn't aware at the time of booking but you can elect to take a credit and book your own airfare OR at least do airfare deviations, which I probably would do next time. We had no problem, but we could've had a non-stop flight home if we had deviated which would have been much nicer than our connection at JFK.

We were on a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise sailing from Barcelona to Rome. We had an included one-night stay at a hotel in Barcelona and all transfers are included. Again, you can request to receive a credit and book your own hotel and transfers. This probably would have been good, especially if you wanted a specific hotel or non-bus transfers. We didn't have a problem and all the Regent folks in Barcelona were helpful. They sold us a day tour to Montserrat and then transferred us to port around 2:30. If you don't buy the tour, you are still transferred as agreed.

That Regent Seven Seas couple:
  1. Overpaid
  2. Didn't get the flights they wanted
  3. Didn't get the hotel they wanted
  4. Didn't get the private transfers they wanted
  5. Paid for a tour they never should have taken
  6. And, most importantly, spent their cruise learning of how Regent let them down and all the mistakes that were made!  (Not a great cruise experience, huh?)
Compare the first time Seabourn guests who booked through Goldring Travel.  They just returned from a Seabourn Odyssey cruise from Istanbul to Venice:

We've returned from a fantastic vacation.  The entire party loved Istanbul (we saw the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Spice Market, underground cisterns and even got roped into a "rug show" though no one bought).

Levni Hotel (Istanbul):    This was a great choice and very nearby everything we wanted to see (we could even see the Seabourn ship when it pulled into the dock from our room).  The hotel was very nice and provided a full breakfast with omelette bar each morning.  It had an indoor pool, sauna and Turkish bath in it's spa.  There were a number of restaurants close by and we had a wonderful meal at the Imbat Restaurant on the top of the Orient Express Hotel (with a view of the Bosphorus)...

Seabourn Odyssey was a wonderful ship (just the right size).  We were all very pleased with the cruise experience.  The crew couldn't have been nicer.

The tour guide in Athens was great.  He really knew the ins and outs and got us to the Acropolis before the rest of the tourist hoards.  By the time we were done, their was a long line of people waiting to get tickets.  He got us to the changing of the guards and was very knowledgeable about Athens and Greece.  We pooped out on him before he did on us but we enjoyed the tour very much.

Ca Sagredo Hotel (Venice):    Wish we had more time in Venice.  This hotel was very special (Dan thought the room was just about the nicest we ever stayed in and that's a big compliment from him).  The water taxi to the hotel and airport was an experience just in itself.

My clients received:
  • Great Pre-Cruise Information including alternatives and options
  • A Discount
  • A $300 onboard credit
  • The perfect flights
  • Private transfers in a Mercedes Sprinter upon arrival in Istanbul
  • A perfectly located boutique hotel in Istanbul with all the amenities at a very reasonable price
  • Knowledgeable and accurate guidance on how to see Istanbul on their own (no need to sell them an inappropriate tour as was done to that poor Regent Seven Seas couple)
  • A fantastic private guide in Athens (mid-cruise)
  • Private water taxi transfers in Venice
  • A stay in Venice at one of the best hotels in the world (my opinion) which is not only beautiful, but right on the Grand Canal and across from the Rialto Market and provides superb, understated, service
That's correct.  My clients paid less than the other two individuals for their cruise and received exactly what they wanted (even though they didn't really know what they wanted...I did!) with superior service and not a single high pressure pitch for an unnecessary tour or the frustration of being given partial answers...so they could late find out, "I didn't know that I could have..."

You are investing thousands of dollars in your holiday.  Cruise line reservations agents have a very limited pool of resources...and travel experience and alternatives are not included! 

Regent Seven Seas approach is to make it easy for travel and reservations agents to sell because they are designed to not let them think...just sell.  Less time spent on a booking makes for an easy sale...and, as you can see, it is at your expense.  (And, seriously, how many travel agents look to a future relationship?  Most just want to get the commission on the deal in front of them.)

My clients know I want to book their travel for the rest of their life.  You are investing your time, money and loyalty in Goldring Travel, and Goldring Travel respects that and, as I say to every client, "Thank you for allowing me to earn your business!"

So whether you are interested in a great deal, great service, something a bit more unique or a combination of all three (Yes, that is the correct answer!) please email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me on (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732-578-8585 or my local numbers in London or Brisbane.