Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eric Goldring to Speak at The New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is an annual event (held this year March 2-4, 2012) at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.  It is a huge event where both the travel trade and traveling public can explore over 500 different destinations in one place.

As part of the The New York Times Travel Show focused on travel agencies I have been asked to speak as part of the Focus on Specialization series of panels; more specifically on the topic:  HOW TO BUILD YOUR TRAVEL BUSINESS - Get tips from successful travel specialists who turned their specialty into profitable travel businesses. 

During my talk I will discuss how I developed into the specialty in luxury cruises, but also how that speciality along with my experiences outside of cruising (such as superyachts and land vacations) have allowed me to provide clients much more than a singular type of travel option. 

I will also discuss how my remaining focused on luxury cruise business allows me to leverage my specialty and my marketing power with other travel vendors.  Hence, the one-time Celebrity suite passenger becomes a Seabourn guest becomes a Safari enthusiast and then back to a Seabourn,. Orion Expeditions, Silversea or Crystal luxury cruise. 

And, of course, how that sort relationship building not only takes years and a very "hands on" approach, but referrals (the true lifeblood of long term growth).

During my talk I will also note how "high tech" goes along with "high touch" as social media (actually the next topic of the Focus) - such as this Blog, The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum and Facebook - is crucial for specialists in today's market.

If done correctly, though I am always looking for ways to improve, you receive emails like the one I did this morning from a new client in Australia: 
Just to let you know.  Out of all the quotes and discussions with a number of cruise wholesalers, cruising websites, etc. you where definitely the most eager to secure my business, and the most professional.  And yes, your service is far superior to any other person I have dealt with.  Thanks again Eric.


If you are interested in hearing me or just stopping by to say hello, I am scheduled to speak on March 2, 2012 at 10:45 a.m.  (Remember, though, this is a trade only event...but I do talk with other travel agents!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

TripAdvisor - Reviews You Can Trust? Not According to the Advertising Standards Authority

"World's Most Trusted Travel Advice" or "Worlds Largest Travel Site"?

In the United Kingdom the Advertising Standards Authority, is an independent organization which is recognized by the government and various regulatory authorities, whose charge is to be sure advertisements are "Legal, decent, honest and truthful" and it has been doing so for half a century.

A complaint was filed against TripAdvisor by KwikChex, an online reputation company and two hoteliers, over its use of the following three phrases:

- "World's Most Trusted Travel Site"

- "... read reviews from real travellers ... TripAdvisor is the world's largest travel site, enabling travellers to plan and have the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travellers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features ... TripAdvisor.com features: More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from real travellers around the world".

- "Reviews you can trust"

While TripAdvisor claimed that it has sophisticated software to identify fraudulent reviews and that "they believed that users of the site had a healthy scepticism as a result of their experience of review sites more generally", the admitted that if its users didn't trust the information on the site, they would not be successful.

I pause here to note that many users of TripAdvisor (and other similar sites, such as its own Cruise Critic...yes, it is the same owner!) blindly believe what is posted and, in fact, I am regularly criticized for being skeptical about Cruise Critic.  I can attest that many, many, people that read TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic are not skeptical, but consider it to be an unchallengeable source of accurate information (much to some's subsequent regret).

In fact, ironically while I was advised of the TripAdvisor decision today, just the other day someone posted concern over my skepticism and how it affects my attractiveness (though not necessarily my abilities) as a travel agent.  You can join that discussion here:  Who Is This Iamboatman Guy And What's The Deal This Forum?

As I say to so many people:  Do you know by what measure the poster is judging that hotel?  Is he a McDonald's/Holiday Inn kinda guy while you are a Four Seasons woman?  I have read reviews of pretty marginal hotels and the reviews are great...because to those writing the reviews they are great, but they have no experience with anything better.  So what does 5 stars really mean?  What is a comfortable bed?  What is - and this is huge - "clean"?

OK, now, back to the TripAdvisor ruling:

The ASA noted that reviews can be placed on the site without any form of verification, and that whilst TripAdvisor takes steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it is possible that non-genuine content will appear on the site undetected.

But  consumers would necessarily be able to detect and separate non-genuine reviews from genuine content, particularly where a hotel or other establishment had not received many reviews.

It also found that a hotelier’s response in itself (TripAdvisor allowed hoteliers a ‘right of reply’ to critical or negative reviews posted on the site) would not go far enough to alert consumers to, and moderate, non-genuine content.

As such the ASA required TripAdvisor to withdraw its claims and thus, in the United States TripAdvisor says it is "The World's Most Trusted Travel Advice" and in the United Kingdom it says it is "The World's Largest Travel Site".  You can read the ASA decision here.

So this skeptical travel agent and writer remains so...and feels pretty darn good about it.  So, let me ask you, "Who are you going to trust to give you accurate advice?"  Give me a call or drop me an email!

Seabourn's Sustainable Caviar - The Real Deal...Done the Right Way

One of Seabourn's signatures is free-flowing caviar. 

Seabourn's Signature Caviar in the Surf

Over the past few years, with Caspian Sea caviar being extremely limited due to the fishing bringing the sturgeon from which it comes to be a candidate for extinction, Seabourn had to find appropriate alternatives without its product suffering.  Decadence with a conscious, if you will.

As I mentioned to you in my article at the start of the 2012 Seabourn Quest World Cruise, Seabourn has found a great source for sustainable, true, caviar:  Uruguay.

Seabourn's Executive Chef artfully reconstructs a fried egg with caviar
Here are some excerpts from Seabourn's recent press release: 

Seabourn has announced an alliance with Colorado-based Black River Caviar that will provide its discerning guests with top quality ossetra sturgeon caviar produced by a sustainable "wild farming" method in South America.

The caviar, which is processed by the lower-salt Malossol method, comes from Siberian sturgeon stock raised in a natural environment carefully researched to provide ideal conditions. The end result is caviar that has been praised by experts including a number of renowned chefs and Ruth Reichl, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for its flavor and texture. It has also been verified as being ecologically sustainable by the authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and granted a top "Green" rating by the Marine Conservation Institute.

"Caviar is a luxury," noted Richard Meadows, Seabourn's president, "and as such, it is a part of the culinary repertoire on board our ships. Seabourn guests expect us to provide quality caviar," he continued, "and they also share our concern for sustainability, so we are pleased to have discovered the Black River ossetra."

"Black River Caviar is very pleased to be serving Seabourn," said Graham Gaspard, president of Black River Caviar. "Both companies share the same philosophy of providing our clients only the finest quality products and service in an environmentally responsible way. We are grateful for Seabourn's support of sustainable farming which is critical to the preservation of several sturgeon species. We consider it a great honor to be working with a company not only known as the pre-eminent luxury cruise line but also the role model for environmental stewardship."

Black River Caviar is produced by a family-owned facility on the Rio Negro in Uruguay, under the guidance of a Russian master sturgeon farmer. The firm was started in 1990 with fertilized Siberian sturgeon roe imported from Russia. After twelve years of cultivation, the company began harvesting caviar in 2001. The caviar is produced to order, and never stored. For more information about Black River Caviar, visit www.blackrivercaviar.com or call 888-315-0575 (USA) or 011-970-547-1542 (international).

You may also recall that last year I had some choice words for cruise lines trying to wrap other's luxury brands around theirs to create an ambiance of luxury.  Seabourn didn't do that; it found the luxury, put it onto its ships and then let you know who supplies it...allowing the supplier to wrap Seabourn around it.

Nothing like standing on your own two fins....'err, I mean, feet.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Voluntary Industrywide Muster Rules - No Skipping It!

While I firmly believe that the passenger muster drill "issue" is not where the cruise industry needs to focus (more like how and why did Schettino become captain of the Costa Concordia), it clearly is an issue that has drawn the attention of the media and the emotions of a number of new to cruising individuals. 

It is in response to the latter concerns that the cruise industry wants to show it is doing something and doing it quickly, the following press release and change in mustering rules was just announced:

February 9, 2012LONDON –The global cruise industry today announced a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. The new policy follows the industry’s announcement on January 27 of a Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review in response to the Concordia incident and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

The new muster policy, which has been voluntarily initiated by the associations’ members and is effective immediately, exceeds existing legal requirements by calling for the mandatory muster of all embarking passengers prior to departure from port. On rare occasions when passengers arrive after the muster has been completed, passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The formal policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

Musters are mandatory exercises conducted on cruise ships to ensure passengers are informed of safety protocols while onboard the ship, including emergency evacuation procedures. Current legal requirements for conducting a muster of passengers can be found in SOLAS and mandate that a muster occur within 24 hours of passenger embarkation.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review includes a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. As best practices are identified, they will be shared among cruise industry association members and any appropriate recommendations will be shared with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), European Union and other governmental authorities as appropriate. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code. Recommendations resulting from the Review will be made on an ongoing basis.

A copy of the new muster policy can be viewed at:
http://www.cruising.org/regulatory/cruise-industry-policies/passenger-mu...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Are the Seabourn Triplets (Pride, Spirit and Legend) Being Sold?

Ed. Note: The Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend were sold a year after this article was written (February 2013) to Windstar Cruises but are staying with the fleet until 2015 (Pride until 2014).  You can read the article here.

I am REPEATEDLY asked this question and I REPEATEDLY inquire of the top folks at Seabourn (and trust me on this...whomever those folks on CC believe they have connections with, my connections are better...I have the best).

So I will tell you what I have said/believe before and that hasn't changed after speaking with the SVP and two VPs in the past week including a conversation yesterday:

Goldring Travel has a new address: 
9 Professional Circle, Suite 202
Colts Neck, New Jersey 07722-2427
but the Seabourn little sister still has the same home!
Seabourn has the small ships on the schedule into 2014. 

I can tell you that Windstar’s new owners started a rumor going that it was buying/bought them, but that isn’t true.

While there are things that I know that I cannot share (some of which may be pretty cool stuff), there is a known frustration with the small ships being quite slow (limiting itineraries), needing lots of long term investment, etc. I mentioned this back when the building of the Odyssey was first announced…over five years ago!

Based on that, I could not say that should the right cruise line (not directly competitive) make the right offer at the right price on the right terms and at the right time, Seabourn (‘er, umm, Mickey Arison) wouldn’t consider the offer. 

That said, I can assure you that Seabourn has absolutely no plan or desire to reduce its inventory.

Tea leaves anyone?

BTW, I will - again - be at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference in Miami in mid-March and I can assure you I will be meeting with many and will have my ear to the wall, floor and ceiling for any info on many, many subjects.

I would also remind folks that news organizations require at least two reliable sources for a reason. The sale of the triplets was assured on Cruise Critic back in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and now 2012. I am confident that at some point when the ships are sold...and they will be sold/too old at some point...the person who said it was happening back in 2008 will say, "I told you so."

I put the deal together for, and consummated the transaction of, the sale of SS United States to Norwegian Cruise Line. Do you know who many deals I allegedly had made before that?

When it happens - this year or in 5 years - it will be a very quickly done deal that nobody could have accurately forecast/predicted; whether it be one, two or all three of the little sisters. That I am very confident of.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Awesome Video - Keels Are Made For Walking, Silly.

I wanted to share this video with you.  It is an incredible, and dangerous, stunt of a man (presumably in a Hugo Boss suit) walking on the keel of the Hugo Boss racing sailing yacht...while it is sailing. Amazing!