Friday, July 27, 2012

Seabourn's 2013 - Winter 2014 Itineraries Are Now Open For Booking


Seabourn's itineraries for Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 are finally announced and open for booking.

Once I have a look I will let you know what I think and what look like interesting and unique itineraries.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Goldring Travel's AMAWaterways' AmaLotus - Vietnam, Cambodia and The Mekong River Cruise- Part II

OK, so you want to know what I am going to be doing on this travel experience?

First, let me tell you want it is not going to be:  A Bubble.  You know what I mean.  The sanitized and homogenized ordeal where you "get on the bus" and then you "get off the bus". It is not going to be stop at temple A and then temple B.  If you want that sort of experience you can most certainly have it..and AMAWaterways has a promotional video that, to my mind, kind of gives that impression (for those that want that sort of thing), but that is not what an AMAWaterways experience need be...and it is great that AMAWaterways makes sure people like me can immerse myself.

Yes, there are some pretty beautiful things to look "at", but you know me and I look "in, around and about" and I get my hands dirty.  How?  Well, that is the beauty of travel.  If you plan it out too much you will miss the opportunities that are right in front of you.  My preparation is generally a framework and a couple of "must do's" and then I let things flow over me. 

Well, let's take a look at a few of the Griswald (err' Goldring) family preparations.  First, some background

If you have not seen the movie National Lampoon's Vacation you must in order to the the proper context.  Stuff happens and it isn't going to be perfect, but it will a great experience and a lot of fun.  (And, yes, I am the same person who has for the 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride arranged a tour and private tasting at Chateaux Margueax in Bordeaux, France and a cookery lesson at Ballymaloe organic Cookery School in Cork, Ireland...among other things).

My son has agreed that for $50.00 he will eat a Balut egg.  They are essentially chicken eggs that have been left to develop into rather complete fetuses.  He figures it must be OK to eat since the do it on television (see below) and it will be an experience.  (Beside the experience he needs money to pay off that new computer he - I - just bought.)

My daughter, who is a vegetarian, but who eats fish, has not yet agreed to anything.  I am trying to convince her that snake is close enough to fish to try and, if not that, dried scorpion....which is actually fairly closely related to lobster....will be on the menu.

Now, for me:  I am very excited to announce that just today I have been given the opportunity to do a review of  Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Collection 7 DVD which, fortuitously (Anthony uses that word a lot!) includes his Cambodia journey.  He is, to me, one of the great modern travelers and an inspiration.

So, what I have to say is "Why yes, I will try _______".   Fill in the blank for me. Seriously.  It does not have to be food related.  Suggest something experiential and, if possible, and I do not risk too much (other than pride) I may just try to fit it in.  And if I do, you just may receive a Goldring Travel jacket.

An example of what I will not do:

And so you know that this journey will not just be about being extreme, I  do love my comforts and will be fully detailing not only the "free time" activities, but the tours, cuisine, service, etc.  and the ship from the top suites to the standard cabins.  I can assure you that my wife and the couple we are traveling with will enjoy the creature comforts, but they also enjoy letting me do what I do...but not necessarily join in.  There must be balance,  right?

Next up is a bit of discussion about the actual itinerary and schedule of events.

Silversea's New President of the Americas - "I want to be the most expensive cruise line, and I want to be the best."

There is a great interview with Ellen Bettridge, Silversea Cruise's new President of the Americas in Seatrade Insider that I found both refreshing and motivating because of its honesty, forward thinking and focus.

One area Ellen spoke about that I know needs addressing is essentially, "What makes Silversea the best luxury cruise line...and what is it that makes it 'luxury' to begin with?"  This is a question that I think all of the supposed luxury lines need to address...and need to do it sooner than later.

Seatrade quotes her stating, "The focus is on ‘selling value’—the value of choices, of small ships, of butlers in all the accommodations. ‘Luxury is choice,’ Bettridge said, pointing to the choice of mattresses on board, pillows (nine kinds), bath amenities (Bvlgari, Ferragamo, hypoallergenic) and even scents in the suites. There are many dining choices, too, from the casual hot rock cooking at The Grill to Relais & Châteaux’s elegant Le Champagne."
But at the same time she acknowledges that many lines have recently gone more inclusive.  These include cruise lines such as Crystal Cruises and Compagnie du Ponant, and, while not noted in the article, the Premium lines including Azamara Club, Celebrity and Oceania have added alcohol beverage packages to the existing prepaid gratuities packages...with Oceania also now having shore excursion packages.  (Paul Gauguin is also more inclusive.)

With Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn also presented as competition (though interestingly Seabourn was the one luxury cruise line not mentioned by name in the article) I am very interested to see what Ellen brings to Silversea in the way of changes.

What I do know is that people that purchase a cruise primarily because everything is "free" or "included" are not generally the luxury client sought after.  They are not looking for "value" in the sense of "luxury", but dollars and cents.  Regent Seven Seas has done a great job marketing to this group who, in reality, get the same or less than what one would receive on a carefully planned Celebrity cruise...other than less people.

Possibly most importantly - and clearly politely thumbing her nose at Regent's "free", "free", "free" concept, Ellen is looking to unashamedly be the most expensive cruise line because (a) There really is nothing wrong with bragging rights - many folks actually find value in it; and, (b) There is nothing wrong with paying a premium to be on the best cruise or stay at the best hotel or wear the best watch.

So while I pull my hair out (what little is left) at the cut rate pricing strategy Seabourn has engaged in - which to me undercuts its pedigree and onboard experience (as one time bargain hunters exploit the bar, restaurants and service...and then leave to never return) - I am hopeful that Silversea's new focus on being exactly what it was created to be (shall we call it, Politely Elitist?) will cause the Luxury sector to get back to what it does so well.

I am not ready to take a blind leap, but I am most certainly excited to keep a sharp eye on where Silversea Cruises is headed.

By the way, I have a small group sailing on the Silver Expedition's October 18, 2013 Panama Canal and Tropical Expedition Cruise.  If you are interested...and maybe some of the changes will be in place by me at (877)2GO-LUXURY or email me at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Goldring Travel's AMAWaterways' AmaLotus - Vietnam, Cambodia and The Mekong River Cruise- Part I

For about a year now I have quietly been planning a 16 Day River Cruise on AMAWaterways.  It is the Vietnam, Cambodia and The Riches of the Mekong River itinerary.  We depart for Hanoi, Vietnam on August 19, 2012 and the date cannot get here soon enough.

Note:  This is a Griswald...err' Goldring...Family vacation, and we are being joined by our dear friends with whom, for the last two years, we have rented a villa in Islamlar, Turkey. So we know it is going to be fun and interesting.  (The last time we were all together was when we cruised on the Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia.  The kids are older and the experience far different, so who knows how this will play out?!  What we do know is that it is going to be good!)

That said, as an introduction to our adventure, let me give you an overview.  You fly into Hanoi, Vietnam, then go to Ha Long Bay and overnight on a luxury junk, fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, embark the AMALotus river cruise ship, cruise down the Mekong River, disembark and travel to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) before departing back home.

OK, let's face it:  You have no idea where these places are, how to orient (pun intended) yourself, what you do when you get there or if it these places could possibly be of interest.  I am with you...except for one thing:  This is my job, so I better know and if I don't, I better find out!

So I am going to "find out" and vicariously take you with me as I do.

First, a map always helps.  It is amazing to me how many people have no idea where they are actually going when they book their holidays.  Possibly it is because television instantly transports you there, but without some sort of reference point I, frankly, get confused...and see that my clients generally do to.  Hence, The Map

Second, I need to get my head around that this is not an independent trip nor is it a cruise.  This is a Land/River Cruise combination.  You can just take the river cruise portion if you like, and I am certain there are some that will, but for the life of me I cannot see how that really makes much sense.

Let me give you an example:  An older client of mine was interested in the river cruise portion, but wanted to spend time in Thailand beforehand and fly into Siem Reap.  Doable, but why?  So I asked him if he was interested in Ha Long Bay...but he never had considered it.  After a bit of thought, he was.  But just that, so could he do it independently?  Now logistics came into play and that isn't quite so easy.  So then he thought of a Seabourn cruise (they have a really great itinerary, by the way).  But then you miss the entire Cambodia and Mekong River (interior) aspects.  Then I said, "How can you fly into Siem Reap and not go to Angkor Wat?"  He agreed, but then the logistics, private guide, etc. came in.  And then the final issue:  His wife loves him, but she also loves other people; while he is happy to sit on deck and relax.  And from there the full Land/River Cruise booking was made!

Third, before I get into the details of the itinerary (which you can see by following the link above...or my comments to follow in my next article on this trip), I want to get into the Cruise Documents.  AMAWaterways does not have the fanciest of documents, but it is packed with a huge amount of useful information provided in an easy to read, easy to find, format.

The green booklet is the source of general information on such things as expected temperatures, what to bring, where to meet the AMAWaterways airport transfers, hotel specifics and embarkation information.  (Oh, if the cruise lines gave such detail!)

The white booklet is a Day-By-Day Description (summary and detailed) letting you know when each excursion (all of which are included) departs/returns; what exactly you will visit, length of the tour, amount of time spent walking, bus travel times (if applicable), difficulty (1-5) and what meals are included on tour.

While the small Mekong River book is of obvious content, the single page flyer is not.  It gives some history about the English language school in Cambodia that AMAWaterways sponsors (and also provides a list of supplies you may donate if you wish).

Now, of course, you want to know about that ship:  AmaLotus. 

This 124 passenger ship was launched in 2011.  The standard cabin size is 226 square feet and includes a nice balcony while suites range in size from 290 to 624 square feet including two balconies and a separate bathtub among other amenities.

Standard Balcony Stateroom
Sadec Suite Floor Plan
There is a small swimming pool overlooking the stern, various lounges and free wifi.  Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, but dinner is a multi-course affair.  Cuisine is both Western and Local with both being offered at all meals.  (You know which I will be enjoying...and it will not be hamburger or roast chicken!)  Lunch and dinner include house wines, beer and spirits. 

OK, so now you want the details of the trip and what we have planned?  That's in the next article!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Thank You For Making Our Seabourn Cruise That Good. Yes, That Good!

I am fanatical about that you know.  I look at every little thing and will comment on each and every success and fault.  But I also plead with you to enjoy your cruise; to not let the little things such as those that I may comment on interfere with your long awaited vacation.  That is because my job is to make sure I offer you the best cruise for your desires. 

And, to be sure, I also try to explain that there is a truly dedicated crew and staff making your cruise happen, so you should not focus on the small slip-up here or error there...or credit one person who has five people behind her making her look good. (Or feel you need to chase a particular waiter in order to dine well.)

Now my motivation for this article

Two clients of mine just returned from a 63 day cruise on the Seabourn Quest and wrote a Thank You note to the crew.  It is, in a way, a fantastic essay on why a Seabourn cruise is such a personal experience and how may people it really takes to make your desires become a reality.

To Captain Magnus, Staff Captain Stoyan, Murat, Andrea, Karl, Gunter, Paul, Doctor, Chief Engineer, and all of you men and women in white who sailed the Seabourn Quest safely and cheerfully checked us off and back on to the ship at each port, and made it seem to the guests as though you were always having as good a time as we were - THANK YOU!

To Handre, Heidicha, Tammy and Sara - you four were a huge part of our lives during this vacation.   Your innate abilities and talents in your jobs were gifts to all of us.   Getting to know and enjoy you personally definitely enhanced our trip - we will never forget you.  Our dearest wish is to sail with you again! - THANK YOU!

To Claudio, Weyden, and any others who helped us on our tours - THANK YOU!

To the deft sailors who managed all of the tendering at ports, and to those men below decks who paint and scrub the Quest to keep it shining - and who were last seen climbing all over the funnels on our last day, scrubbing and painting - you are wonderful - THANK YOU!

To Chef Neils and Chef Jess, and the enthusiastic chef on the Grill Deck, all sous chefs and kitchen staff, our food this last 63 days has been an epicurean delight!  It is truly a miracle that after this length of time, we actually had clothing that fit for our trip home!   Chef Neils, we especially enjoyed the two early morning market trips we took with you - very special.   THANK YOU!

To Marco, and all of your restaurant staff throughout the ship - those special young men and women who wait for us at the entrance of the dining room to escort us to our tables, who wait on us, bus our tables, who often insist on carrying our plates to table, and do all of the chores that made our dining experiences those we'll never forget them or you, Marco – your sense of humor was a special gift! - THANK YOU!

To Karl, able Hotel Manager, who always moved like lightning throughout the ship with a ready quip, a cheerful word and an eagle eye! - THANK YOU!  .  .  .  and to Gunter, our first Hotel Manager - we loved renewing our friendship with you prior to your leaving the ship - THANK YOU!

To the able bartenders throughout the ship, and you are so many, and to Angelo, our notable sommelier, and all of your pourers and servers - we have a question - how does everyone in the dining room manage to fill our glasses of wine when we're not looking! You have such talent and ways of keeping us from knowing just how much wine we are consuming!!! - THANK YOU!

To the able housekeeping staff, and particularly to our Natalie - stewardess par excellence - don't know how you work so hard making everything clean and neat, but you were never without a smile and cheery word - THANK YOU!

To the "King of the Staircase" (that is what we named him) who was always vacuuming the rug and giving the cheeriest smile and greeting - THANK YOU!

 To the Baristas in Seabourn Square, who served us all day long, from gourmet coffees to gelato - you were such an important part of how we began each and every day - THANK YOU!

 To Murat and to Andrea and to the lovely young women in the guest services section of Seabourn Square - your constant vigilance and handling of all our questions and dilemmas of travel, always helping us with extreme courtesy, competence and humor - THANK YOU!  Special thanks to Murat who not only taught me the Turkish word for "yarn", but encouraged me on my expedition into the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, where I found a treasure of yarns - should have purchased lots more!!  THANK YOU!

To the Seabourn Singers and Dancers, Musicians, Rachel, Lisa, Matt, you are all AWESOME - for the many hours of entertainment and sharing of your multi-talents in addition to your friendliness even when not on stage, we THANK YOU!!

To the Casino Staff (Cristian, Adriana and Radi) - even when we weren't so lucky, we still had fun - THANK YOU!

To the Salon Staff and particularly to Tijana and Katherine - you are both adorable and good at your jobs!  THANK YOU!

 I feel that I must mention some people by name, and will probably forget someone (for that I apologize!), but those mentioned here, in addition to those above, gave us special gifts of their time and attention, good humor, caring and expertise in the performance of their jobs aboard the Quest.   They are:  EUGENE, LAJOS, KRIS, CHRISTOPHER, VITOR, RUI, PETER, FILIPE, MARIANNE, MARICKE, LEIGH, JAN, GREG, VALERIA, MAYRA, LINDI, KATARINA, RADKA, CATHERINE, TIJANA, ADAM, TIL . . .  I know I'm forgetting someone . . . darn!!

Sailing with Seabourn has always been enjoyable for us, but because of the people above and a collective crew and staff that wanted the best experience for everyone on board, this trip was the highlight of our many Seabourn sailings.

Thank you, everyone, from our hearts.   As the days go by, know that you are thought of fondly and often spoken of.  We hope to sail with you again – SOON!

 With gratitude and great affection,

Makes you want to take a cruise, doesn't it?

Makes you understand why I recommend Seabourn cruises so often, doesn't it?

Ready to take a cruise?  Give me a call or drop me an email.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor: Perfect Together...Scamming the Public

One of my clients just forwarded a July 5, 2012 article from Does TripAdvisor Have a Problem with Fake Reviews?  That article discussed two things:  Bogus Reviews and Manipulation of its Message Board/Forums.

Let Goldring Travel Show You The Way Through the Murky World of TripAdvisor/CruiseCritic
The first, Bogus Reviews, is easy.  TripAdvisor is loaded with them.  Back in February I wrote an article Trip Advisor - Reviews You Can Trust? Not According to the Advertising Standards Authority which discussed the issue from a macro (big picture) perspective and let you know that the United Kingdom forced TripAdvisor to  drop its representation that you can trust its reviews.  The Frommer article discusses this on a micro scale, focusing on the reviews of a single hotel and how the hotel itself manipulated the reviews to assure itself a 5 star rating.

Now for the meat:  Manipulation of the TripAdvisor Message Board or Forum.  TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic are related through a common owner.  It is now clear that they both engage in knowingly deceptive practices; practices which may well be bordering on unlawful.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Frommer article discusses TripAdvisor's refusal to identify a poster named "hunnyb62" who had apparently posted similar reviews of a number of Sheraton hotel properties.  TripAdvisor refused to cooperate with identifying this person because of alleged concerns over privacy.  Huh?  This "person" has injected him/herself into the public arena solely to provide innocent third parties with knowingly false information in a designed effort to have them rely upon same.  Folks that is fraud.  Not a whacko.  It is fraud.

So why would TripAdvisor not cooperate with purging its site of people knowing committing a civil, if not criminal, offense?  My guess is easy:  Advertising Dollars!

Oh, but TripAdvisor did more...Much more.  On its message board there was a thread discussing hunnyb62 and the troublesome postings...and, apparently, Sheraton's somewhat cooperative efforts to find out what was going on.  (Apparently Sheraton has figured out that doing something to protect its integrity is valuable.) So what did TripAdvisor do.  According to Frommers it removed the thread.  "Poof!"  Any evidence that TripAdvisor is supporting fraud and false reviews is gone! 

TripAdvisor could have left the thread up for the world to see and simply locked it so that further comment could not be made.  But it didn't.  Why?  Because that "honest" review and discussion of TripAdvisor would hurt its reputation and, therefore, its position in the market...and, thus, advertising dollars.  Put another way, TripAdvisor is manipulating its website so that it is extremely difficult for the average person to know TripAdvisor engages in, promotes, and protects fraudulent reviews.

So what does this have to do with CruiseCritic?  Essentially the same thing goes on.  Sometimes, however, it goes the other way whereby CruiseCritic nurtures and protects knowing false negative reviews or posts, rather than removing them, because they generate more views (people love to read about alleged train wrecks) and thus higher advertising revenue.

I have written about this too in articles such as Cruise Critic Prostitutes Itself and Violates The Public's Trust! , but you can search out here them if you wish.  Possibly of more interest are two threads that I do not censor  on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum

Don't You Hate Irresponsible Travelogues and Comments?
Host Dan is at it Again!!!

These two cruise message board threads arose out of CruiseCritic's intentional efforts to do exactly what happened on TripAdvisor:  Silence the Truth. 
And on CruiseCritic they do something really troublesome:  They allow people that are truly emotionally and/or socially troubled to post clearly false information and ban people that call them out and event try to block them from visiting the site.  If that is not nurturing fraud and train wrecks I do not know what is.  See my article:  Cruise Critic Has An Ethical Obligation Not To Exploit Troubled People.
It is a shame that TripAdvisor/CruiseCritic have knowingly prostituted themselves...and then market themselves to you, the public, with "Trust Me".
No:  Trust Goldring Travel.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Costa Concordia - As I Said, "Watertight Doors Were Left Open". Where Was The Captain's Oversight?

In the past few days a significant amount of information has been released about the Costa Concordia incident. 

One focus is on the watertight doors.  As I wrote in my January 15, 2012 article just after the accident and then again in my January 17, 2012 article, "Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia - No Duty. No Pride. No Wonder:

But the thing that really gets me is that it seems pretty clear that watertight doors were left open. If those doors were shut- as required by law and regulations - then a compartment might have flooded, but there is no way the entire ship could. What seems like the arrogant, rule-breaking, manner of the captain filtered down to the engineering crew as well. (Not the first time I have seen this!)"

Today it was reported in Maritime Executive, "Documents also indicated that the ship's watertight safety doors, which were designed to prevent flooding, had been left open. Costa Cruises maintained that was not true, but officers on board claim that leaving the doors open was standard practice to make it easier for employees to come and go."
By the way it was also reported that the "Black Box" that tracks most relevant things about what was happening on the ship was broken and had been broken for some time.  As Maritime Executive reports: "New leaked e-mails reveal that the vessel had a faulty black box, it broke down in multiple instances and the crewman stated that the situation was getting intolerable."  Yes, the crewman complained. 

Now how is it that the Captain allowed the ship to sail with this critical piece of equipment broken?  Obviously, there needs to be more oversight of captains and officers on the things that matter...not the things that look good or are focused mostly on the bottom line.

If the open watertight doors was so obvious to me, one has to ask, "Why all the focus on mustering and life jackets?"  Is it because it looks good even though it is truly nothing other than a solution of last resort?

Yesterday I wrote a piece about a travel agency that attacked me because I did not report on an elderly woman taken off a Seabourn ship.  It was not, as widely reported, because she failed to attend the muster drill.  It was, in fact, because she intentionally, vigorously and aggressively failed and refused to follow the instructions of the Seabourn captain and officers. 

Personally, I like a ship where the Captain and Officers have extremely limited tolerance for such conduct.  Once the word gets around, you never know, maybe those watertight doors won't be propped open.  (And, yes, I do write about the extraordinary quality of Seabourn's captains!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Key Cuises and Tours of Bucks County: Key Mis-Information About Seabourn and Its Cheap and Unwarranted Shot at Goldring Travel

Protecting the Integrity of Goldring Travel

So I am sitting here waiting for my chicken to finish marinating before hitting the barbecue and I receive a note that a travel agency (Key Cruises and Tours of Bucks County, Pennsylvania) was trying to take a cheap (and grossly inaccurate) shot at Goldring Travel.  (BTW, I have never met this agency and have never had - to my knowledge- a client that has moved to Goldring Travel from them, so I don't know why the "shot across my bow".)

So I took a look at the article entitled "So What's Wrong With Seabourn Cruises?" The article starts out, "An independent luxury travel agency owner in New Jersey continually takes shots at Regent Seven Seas Cruises on his blog and, to a lesser degree, other cruise lines that are NOT Seabourn.  While any travel agent is entitled to his or her opinion, why doesn't this agent blog about the recent issues on Seabourn Cruise Line? Two particular incidents occurred on Seabourn Cruises that were not addresssed on that agent’s cruise blog, but have been well documented: "Getting kicked off the ship" and "Getting soaked on the ship"

OK, Marcy and Jeff Silverman of Key Cruises and Tours (see, I will use your name), let me explain not only why you are lousy travel agents, but why people should not rely upon Key Traveler or Key Cruises and Tours when planning their vacations.  I mean if you are going to stick your neck out, you better be ready to have it chopped off, right?

First, why make it personal?  If you have an issue with Seabourn, keep me out of it.  But if you are taking a shot at me, at least of the class and integrity to use my name.  (And, why go after another travel agency in the first place?  Is it just that you need some publicity?)

Second, why drag up two (inaccurately) reported incidents as if those two isolated incidents  - of the thousands and thousands of Seabourn cruises where guests have their expectations far exceeded - should weigh on a client's decision of which line to cruise on. 

While perfection is a goal, not a possibility, it is not ironic that just today an AvidCruiser site posted an article:  A Close Call and Seabourn Sojourn’s Crew is Up to the Challenge about how Seabourn sent staff to the airport to meet two passengers that decided to fly in the day of the cruise (always a big risk) whose flight was delayed 6 hours and were going to miss the ship.  That is pretty consistent with what I regularly report.  In fact, I just wrote the other day about some very recent extremely satisfied Seabourn guests.  Check it out.

So, with the table set, let's talk about what Marcy and Jeff Silverman of Key Cruises and Tours have spouted...and what the truth is. 
  • The Muster Disembarkation:  Seabourn did disembark an elderly couple after the woman refused to attend the post-Costa Concordia muster.  She was not ill; she merely later claimed she was not feeling well.  What isn't mentioned is that she double-locked the suite door and refused to let the Seabourn officers (not just the staff) into her suite.  It was not about missing the muster drill (and her conduct was not that of an ill woman, is it?).  She was disembarked for arrogantly and intentionally refusing to cooperate or obey the Captain and officers of the ship.

    • BTW, I was involved with a heavy smoker Seabourn guest who, years ago, repeatedly refused to keep her suite door closed (so smoke would waft into the hallway disturbing other guests).  She was required to sign a contract acknowledging that if she did not obey the ship about keeping her suite door closed she would be disembarked at the next port.  She signed it and still sails with Seabourn today. Would you prefer Seabourn allow such conduct which may risk the safety and/or comfort of the other guests?

  • The Weathered Cruise:  A guest complained to Seabourn about some missed ports and wet carpets/a plumbing problem on a cruise late last year.  (A person who was on the cruise posted on The Gold Standard Forum and you can read about the ordeal the ship and guests went through.)  While there is no question that compensation was due (and I will not debate if $4,000 in future cruise credits was sufficient or not), a cruise line is not required to compensate anyone for missed ports...especially if due to severe storms.  Marcy and Jeff, why did you not mention this?  And why did you not mention that, possibly, with a good advocate (i.e. a truly qualified Travel Agent) this person's troubles could have been handled much more effectively and less emotionally.  Now, did Seabourn handle this properly?  I honestly don't know.  But what I do know is that it was an extraordinary situation and - as you will read on The Gold Standard Forum - it was not as if the entire ship felt Seabourn mishandled the situation...just this one person. 
    • Perfect?  Possibly not. 
    • Worth Goldring Travel writing about?  Not really.
So, now that you have read about the two isolated complained of incidents and you have read about the numerous good incidents, let's have Jeff and Marcy respond.  They can have space here or they can post on The Gold Standard Forum if they like.

But, more importantly, wouldn't you rather use a travel agent that is more focused on making sure you have accurate information then dredging up old mis-information and taking cheap shots at another travel agency?  I thought so. 

I want you to truly understand the difference.  So bring me your Key Cruises and Tours recommendation and pricing.  I will, for no cost or obligation, let you know what I think of Marcy and Jeff's travel plan and pricing.  That does not mean I want to steal their business.  (Heck if they did it right I will let you know.)  It means that I take my reputation very seriously and will take on any travel agency that engages in such practices.

At Goldring Travel we want to earn your business for doing right for you each and every time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seabourn One Week Sale! - No, Sell the Product; Not the Price Because Seabourn Just Keeps Getting Better.

You know I hate...and I mean hate...the "One Week Sale" marketing by Seabourn.  Those sales are rarely "sales" that last a week, but rather lower prices forced upon not only Seabourn, but Silversea, Crystal, etc. cruise lines due to the lagging economy; especially in Europe (which has been a growing segment of the cruise market...and with new more ships around, very much needed).

Yes, there are some incredible deals.  Yes, I have some deals that are even better, but you need to call me for Private Sale Pricing plus additional discounts, onboard credits and/or complimentary shore experiences.

But (yes, I know, here I go again), the reason I take issue with the One Week Sale thing is that Seabourn has an exceptional product.  And, to be sure, after a somewhat rocky start that new management (which now, I guess, is no longer "new") has begun to find their sea legs and the onboard product is improving.  Yes, that's right...Seabourn's onboard product is improving.  This is not marketing hype, but simply true fact.

For example, I awoke yesterday (Sunday) to an email from a client who has been on so many Seabourn cruises that they were awarded a Milestone Award:  A Tiffany Bowl.  (Which, by the way, they appreciated far more than the Tiffany pins that used to be given out.)  The email read:

"We had our best ever trip on Seabourn.  The captain, crew and staff were wonderful.  And I need to talk to you personally. Will call as soon as I can."

OK then.  They had a great trip, but why did they need to call me as soon as possible?  Me, being me and always accessible, I sent an email letting them know they could call me on my mobile any time. 

And then I got the call...They were so impressed with everything Seabourn they just wanted to let me know (and to let me know of the plan for next year!)  Special events for sailing 60+ days, a special anniversary celebration, and much more.  They also wanted me to know they loved the Ca'Sagredo Hotel in Venice (one of my favorite hotels!) and enjoyed their complimentary upgrade to a balconied suite overlooking the Grand Canal.  (I do what I can do!) As she later wrote on Goldring Travel's Facebook Wall:

We just had our "best ever" Seabourn cruise aboard the Quest. Thank you, Eric Goldring, for all of your planning and advice. Can't wait to book another trip with you!

Now, this is not a one-off incident.  In the peak of the summer holiday season, when you would think the full ships would cause service slippages, nothing further from the truth has occurred. 

Another client of mine, also very experienced Seabourn guest, was a bit concerned returning to the small Seabourn ships after having such wonderful experiences on the larger ones (most recently on the 2011 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise).  Presently on the Seabourn Pride they write: 

The Seabourn Pride is the oldest of the Seabourn ships – we took our first Seabourn cruise on it in 2006. We both think given the years in between the ship has aged well – in fact some of the facilities look better than they did on our first trip – she has been in dry dock a couple of times since then.

Most of the crew is new to us – 3 notable exceptions – Nelson the bartender at the Sky Bar who is a legend in his own time – we were happy to see Roland from the Legend now promoted to Bar Manager on the Pride and Beatie from the Legend as the Cruise Sales Specialist. For those of you who crossed the North Atlantic with us last year – you’ll be happy to know that Eddie who took such good care of us at the Patio Grill – has now been promoted – and is Maitre De on the Legend...

Seabourn has had a provisioning issue or two this voyage – poor [DH] now has to have Johnny Walker Black – it seems they have run out of Red on board – so our cabin bar is now stocked with Black and he is offered it everywhere else onboard. We are enjoying some of the best seafood we have ever had – most of it purchased by the chef locally.
Now, with all of this wonderful news, I have to ask, "Why is Seabourn so focused on selling on price?"  As I recently wrote, there are so many issues that arise - and can easily be dealt with - if you use a knowledgeable and experienced luxury travel agent (HINT, HINT:  Goldring Travel ).  And if you focus solely on price you are probably going to find that all the other issues:  Logistics.  Hotels.  Recommendations in port.  Guides.  Flights. go un- or improperly attended.

Goldring Travel focuses on providing you with the best VALUE.  Yes, we give you excellent pricing, but that is not our focus...and if you use Goldring Travel (as you can tell from the last few articles) it not because we are holding One Week Sales. 

It is because Goldring Travel is that good.  I stake my reputation on it!

Call us at (877) 2GO-LUXURY, +1 732 578 8585 or in UK: 020 8133 3450 or Australia: (07) 3102 4685