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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Silversea Cruises Announces Stricter Smoking Rules

In a move which will differentiate Silversea from some of its competitors by significantly restricting smoking on its ships effective January 1, 2013.

More specifically: 
Smoking is not allowed in most areas of Silversea ships, including:
Guest suites and guest suite verandas (including suites, staterooms, verandas and balconies on Silver Explorer)
The Bar (main bar)
Pool Bar (except at designated tables indicated below)
Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking is permitted in the following areas:
The Connoisseur’s Corner and in specifically designated outside areas. These areas include designated tables outside of the Panorama Lounge, La Terrazza and the Pool Bar, as well as on open Decks 9 and 10 aboard Silver Spirit, Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow, open Deck 9 aboard Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, and open Deck 6 aboard Silver Explorer.

I think most will be breathing a sigh of relief, but some will undoubtedly be fuming mad.

In this time of highly competitive pricing in the luxury cruise market, it is essential that the cruise lines find ways to differentiage themselves from each other.  There is far more to choosing a luxury cruise experience than price and changes like these assist potential clients in making their choices.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Silversea Purchases Second Luxury Expedition Ship

The luxury race for expedition and exotic itineraries is quickly heating up.     SILVERSEA ACQUIRES GALAPAGOS TOURISM COMPANY AND EXPEDITION SHIP     (Monaco -- June 18, 2012) The Silversea Group announced today that it has purchased Canodros S.A., the premier Ecuadorian tourism company that operates in the Galapagos Islands, and their upmarket expedition ship, Galapagos Explorer II.    Silversea plans to add Galapagos Explorer II to its ultra-luxury fleet of six ships next year, after the all-suite, 100-guest vessel undergoes a major refurbishment in September 2013 and is given a new name, steps that will ensure consistency with the standards of the Silversea fleet.   Until that time, Galapagos Explorer II will continue on its planned schedule of cruises and will continue to be operated by Canodros, which is based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Canodros will also continue handling reservations for Galapagos Explorer II, as well as sales and marketing through its established network of travel companies and tour operators.   The acquisition will enable the award-winning cruise company chaired by Manfredi Lefebvre to expand the Silversea Expeditions brand. Its existing expedition ship, Silver Explorer, is regularly deployed in the polar regions, and the addition of a second vessel, offering year-round unique luxury expedition cruises in the Galapagos archipelago, means Silversea will have the opportunity to offer the adventure traveler a broader portfolio of itineraries, encompassing some of the world's most desired and least explored regions.   The 4077-ton Galapagos Explorer II offers the stylish elegance of a mega-yacht, attentive onboard service and an enriching naturalist education program. All of its 50 spacious suites feature ocean views and 24 include private balconies. Public spaces include a restaurant, piano bar, library and Internet station, main lounge, outdoor bar, two outdoor whirlpools, and a marine observation deck.   In the coming months, Silversea will announce more details concerning plans for the ship after it is renovated and renamed.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

You Want The Best Pricing AND Service On Your Luxury Cruise? Be Careful of the Hype!

Goldring Travel provides some of the best pricing AND service for your luxury cruise vacation.  It is that simple.  If you want to cruise on Crystal, Silversea or Seabourn...or even the upper premium lines, Goldring Travel will meet or beat the pricing of other travel agencies and will most assuredly surpass their service...but you have to read this article to find out the deal.


So what motivated me to just come out and say this today?  Last evening I was reading an article, "How Cruise Lines Fill All Those Unsold Cruise Cabins" and it really got me angry; because it was really just an untrue article that was essentially a promotional piece for Vacations to Go.  VTG has built its reputation as a clearing house, a discounter and an internet cruise selling machine and, to be sure, it is very successful...but it is also one of the companies that has caused many cruise lines to clamp down and try to prevent some of its inappropriate tactics.

But VTG - and this article - continue to push things that while "technically" accurate (or maybe near enough?) they are just not substantively true when it comes to you, the cruising consumer.  So let's do what I do...take a real look at the truth:
  • VTG offers "as much as 80 percent off the full price fare" - I just wrote another article on this.  In any other industry claiming 35% off on a product you have never sold at full price would be unlawful.  Not in the cruise industry.  So if a cruise which has never sold at $10,000 cruise is first offered at 35% off ($6,500), does a ten percent discount off the lowest selling price ($650) make it 45% off?  No, it makes it 10% off! And that is how such absurd 80% off claims come to be. 
      • So when that article says, "Believe it or not, it's possible through a company called Vacations to Go"...you better NOT believe it.  Seriously, how can you trust somebody that uses that kind of fuzzy math to get you motivated to buy a cruise?  Wouldn't you feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing you got a "good" deal, but not that you got sucked into buying something only because you were told it was a "great" deal?
  • VTG is a "trusted partner" of the cruise lines to sell "excess inventory".  Guess what?  So is Goldring Travel.  In fact, just last evening before I read the subject article I wrote about how Goldring Travel offers Seabourn Private Sale Pricing.  The fact is there is no magic to it.  If you sell a lot of luxury cruises, you get special deals because you have proven you can sell the product.  Goldring Travel, however, does it differently...with full disclosure.  Granted VTG does sell a lot more cruises than Goldring Travel does, but with Goldring Travel you get a higher level of service and virtually instant responses.  And your reason for getting less for the same cost is????
  • VTG is subject to the same new anti-rebating and pay full fare policies that most of the cruise lines have put into place.  In fact, there is some evidence that because of VTG and some other larger internet-based agencies offering pricing that cause clients to move their bookings from either the cruise lines or other agencies, many of the the cruise lines have severely limited your ability to move your booking from the cruise line or another agency.  I have also recently written about this, but briefly:
      • If you book a Crystal cruise and move it from one agency to another, the receiving agency has its commission severely cut (and your discount comes out of that commission).
      • If you book an Oceania or Regent cruise and move it from one agency to another after 30 days, the receiving agency does not receive any commission.
      • On many cruise lines, they no longer allow you to pay a discounted fare, but rather you have to pay the full price and then the travel agency can offer you added amenities such as onboard credits, private transfers, etc.
So as you can see most, but not all, cruise lines are, frankly, fed up with some of the sales tactics of Vacations To Go and similar outfits.

So here's the deal:  From now through the end of June 2012, if you bring my your current (within 48 hours of it being made) confirmed/verifiable written offer  from Vacations To Go offer on any Seabourn, Silversea or Crystal cruise I will meet or beat the price (and any the added amenity, if any, with something comparable)...and give you some the best service in the industry.  If I cannot meet or beat the price (and comparable added amenity) and the cruise costs $5,000 or more I will give you a check for $100.00.  (And, of course, this offer is subject to the availability of the category of suite/cabin and sail date.)

That does not mean you get to go back to VTG or a third agency to engage in haggling.  If I meet my end of the bargain, you must book the cruise with Goldring Travel, so I will need your credit card authorization before I quote you.  (If you choose to thereafter cancel the cruise Goldring Travel never charges as change or cancellation fee, but you are subject to all cruise line change/cancellation fees and penalties...so use caution...and if you are not sure ask me if there are any first!)

And, by the way, I will not accept the transfer of a VTG booking.  I wouldn't want it to take one of my bookings. 

The idea is that I want you to understand that there is a hype and there is reality.  The reality is that Goldring Travel wants to earn your business....Honestly and with Integrity.

Call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732-578-8585 Internationally or on Skype (egoldring) or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seabourn Private Sale Pricing is Back!

If you are looking for a great deal on some close in Seabourn sailings, please give me a call or email me as I have access to some fares that are not generally available.

I cannot publish the prices (or my discounts), but if you are looking for a cruise in the Mediterranean in July or August or Northern Europe (June 22 or 29, August 27th) I just may have an incredible offer for you.

Call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.

2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise - Two Suites Available...or We Can All Stay In New Jersey

On September 22, 2012 the 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise aboard the Seabourn Pride will set sail.  I limit the small group event because it isn't possible to have a truly unique and personal experience with a large group.  Unfortunately, two clients recently had to cancel so there remains but two suites possibly available.


During our visits to ports of call in England, France, Ireland, Spain and Portugal we will, of course, be spending some time together enjoying the food, wine, culture and scenery of each distinct area.  But, for some, it is all about the wine.

Last night, settled in my home in Colts Neck, New Jersey I was reading an article in the New Yorker Magazine, "Why Smart People are Stupid:  Does All Wine Taste the Same?"  .  It was about the results of blind taste tests of wine from New Jersey (where I am from) and Bordeaux (where we are going).  The result was - just as I suspected:  Joisey wine tastes better!

Or does it?????

And this is where "travel" comes in.

Technically, wine is tasted blindly; that is placed in non-descript glasses with no markings.  You just taste the wine and choose which is better. 

But then you put a spin on it, you take the New Jersey wine and put it into a fancy bottle with a wonderful French chateau's label and take the wonderful Bordeaux and put it into a House of Wines - Newark bottle and choose which is better. 

I have another approach.  Take the same wine and taste it in Maryann's Bar in Colts Neck (scroll down the article and read the description:  six bar stools - all adorned with duck tape patches, a beer-stained pool table and an old television) and then taste it at Chateau Marguax in Bordeaux.  I don't care what you want to think, that wine is going to taste a whole lot better in the chateau (though the accompanying pizza would not hold a candle to Maryann's!)

You see, the trick to food and wine cruises, in my humble opinion, is not to get all wound up with which wine is better or which paring is the best (your palate is your palate...respect its wishes, but give it exposure!).  The real magic is the experience of the areas' cultures, scenery and, of course, travel.

To be sure, there will be some pretty interesting private events including Shopping with the Chef, Wine Tasting in Bordeaux, a Food & Wine Tasting aboard the Seabourn Pride and a special experience still being finalized...

Or we can hang out at my house and drink the same wines and eat the same foods.

If you are interested in this cruise, please give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goldring Travel Is Not Just About Luxury Cruises. Goldring Travel is About "Travel"!

I know that I have established myself as the "Go To Guy" for Seabourn cruises even though I promote and sell many more cruise lines than just Seabourn.  But what you may not really appreciate is that I also have expertise in land vacations.   

There is sort of a running tease between myself and one of my clients about whether cruising is travel.  This generated quite a good discussion going back to 2009 on The Gold Standard Forum.  We even joked about it just yesterday.

Honestly, while I firmly believe cruising can be travel, it is not always.  And, of course, there are times when traveling by cruise is not the best way to travel through an area of interest.  Because of my diversity, it is fairly easy for me to discern whether a client's initial desire for a cruise is actually his or her best choice.


Today I received an email from a client that came to me as cruise clients some years ago.  They had no specific desire for this year's holiday, but wanted something that really made them go WOW.  Last year the family cruised on Seabourn and had a great time...but I sensed that something different (not necessarily the easiest to plan) would be better for them: A Custom Private Safari. 

So when I saw their name pop up in my email mid-trip, I was worried.  (I mean you usually hear from clients midtrip if something is wrong.)  But what they wrote made me know that all the work and really understanding their desires better than they did paid off:

Eric,
Hello from the [Smith] Family from Leopard Hills in South Africa. 
You outdid yourself!  This is the best, most spectacular trip ever. 
We loved Capetown.  We loved shark diving and now we are at Leopard Hills which is incredible.
Everything has been perfect. 
We'll let you more when we return. Thx!

What I really enjoyed was adding in the shark diving and insisting Mom was going to get into the shark cage.  I don't yet know if she did, however the initial "No!" turned into "fear" turned into "Hey, that might be cool." even before they left.

Another client recently contacted me about taking a Seabourn cruise in Australia.  Having lived in Australia and traveled the country I could tell that what they were looking for was not just a visit to a few of the cities on the coast, but really seeing the country in a luxury group.  Again, booking the cruise would have been easy, but the extra work in finding the right holiday for this couple was worth it.  Knowing the high demand I had them book a Tauck tour even before the prices were published; which was fortunate because that tour sold out almost immediately.  

Once things got finalized I wrote, "This is so much better for what you wanted to do than the cruise, isn’t it?!"  to which they responded:

Thanks Eric. 
You’re right – WAY better than the cruise!!!

So if you are looking for a cruise or land vacation, even one for this summer (and there are still some fantastic last minute deals out there!), remember that Goldring Travel is not just about luxury cruises:


Goldring Travel is about "Travel".

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cruise Lines: Rebating - Stop Pointing Fingers and Really Clean Up the Problem You Created

Preface:  Goldring Travel maintains an excellent relationship with all of the cruise lines.  This article is not in response to anything directed at Goldring Travel, but simply has been bothering me since the May announcement by Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines restricting travel agencies...and some of the articles I have since read.


Some of you may recall the downfall of Renaissance Cruise Lines - whose ships now sail for Oceania, Azamara Club and Princess cruise lines.  The problem was, in large part, that Frank Del Rio (now head of Prestige Cruise Holdings which owns Regent Seven Seas and Oceania cruise lines) decided that it was such a good product that it could cut out the travel agents and only sell directly to the cruise customer.  Renaissance went bankrupt.

Now, with cruise line sales soft in many markets and profits for lines such as Regent Seven Seas being dismal at best, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas announced that it was not only forbidding discounting, it was limiting the amount of added value that travel agents can provide to their cruise clients.  To be fair, they are following other cruise lines that prohibit direct discounting such as Crystal and Silversea, but Mr. Del Rio has taken the restrictions to a new level with tough, anti-competitive restrictions on transferring bookings and more.

So why am I writing about this?  Because I am really getting tired of some of the cruise lines talking out of both sides of their mouths. 

First - and foremost - my biggest pet peeve with my industry is the fact that cruise lines advertise discounts that simply are not discounts.  Pick up any catalogue and you will see Early Booking Savings or something similar printed right in it offering you upwards of 30% or more off the price that will never...and I mean never...be used to sell a cruise.  In the retail world that would be illegal because it is just outright deceptive; you must offer an item for sale at full retail price before advertising a discount.

Now, with the cruise lines engaging in what is considered a deceptive practice in most other venues, it exploits...and trains...the cruise customer to seek a further discount.  And if someone is looking for a 30% discount, why wouldn't they see if they could get a 35% discount.  I mean that isn't wrong, is it? 

And, of course, the cruise lines make it worse when they run sales giving yet further discounts and trumpet such things as "Up to 75% Off!"  I mean, WOW!  Really?  No, not really.  If a cruise is given a price of $5,000 and has an early booking savings of 30%, the actual highest selling price is $3,500.00.  If there is an actual 25% discount on this slow-selling cruise (and, by the way, on some cruises it is already planned that there will be a sale...so is it really a sale?), the discount is not 30% + 25% = 55%, but actually $875.00 in price reductions; rather than $875 being the price of the cruise.  Not bad, but not a huge discount.

And then there is the horrific practice of offering different pricing in different countries.  It is possible that a cruise may cost thousands of dollars more if you book in Country A versus Country B and, further, there may be restrictions that are totally different between those countries. So how do some of the cruise lines get away with this?  They prevent travel agents in Country A to sell cruises to people in Country B.  (Sort of a "hide the ball" tactic.)

So why am I going through this?  Because the cruise lines created a "Discount, Find the Best Deal, Shop the Price.  Change the Rules" mentality and want to penalize the cruise consumer and high quality travel agents for the chaos and deceptive practices they have created and nurtured.

Some of the cruise lines are trying to make a false analogy between airline tickets (where commissions...albeit small...have been eliminated) and cruises.  The airlines never promoted discounts or trained its customers to wait for sales like the cruise lines have.  And there is a big difference between the service a client needs for a ticket to Barcelona versus a trip starting in Barcelona and visiting four countries over two weeks...which probably includes an uncommissioned airline ticket as well.  Heck, I tell my clients that if they want to book their own air go right ahead and don't feel guilty about it.  (Of course I am there if they want me to book it, though.)

This is where the travel agent comes in.  If you do not believe your travel agent is of value to you, then you have a bad travel agent or book directly with the cruise line.  Both are BIG MISTAKES!  You wait on hold, get half the information you actually desire, and spend a lot of time dealing with things that would otherwise be swiftly dealt with by a true professional while you go about your daily business...and you have a resource for other questions.  (Go ahead and ask a cruise line reservation agent for real hotel options, great restaurants, what to see in a particular port, private guides for less than a mortgage payment, options between cruises and cruise lines, etc., etc., etc.  As Clint Eastwood said, "Go ahead.  Make my day!")

So what does this have to do with restricting rebating and discounting to the cruise client?  It is simple:  Just as there are car dealers that will do anything to make a sale and are not concerned about whether you ever buy another car from them, there are travel agencies that engage in the same business practices:  Cut rate pricing, feeding off the hard work of the travel agent before them that did all the research (test drives, model comparisons, etc.) and such.  And then the customer says, "I thought the car (cruise) came with a spare tire.  That was an extra cost? I am stuck here with a flat tire.  Now what?!"  The response:  "Hey Lady.  That's your problem."

Have I complained to the cruise lines about sleazy tactics by certain travel agencies?  Yes...And the cruise lines say little more than "We are aware of the problem." and the problem continues.

Have I been angered by working for many hours cleaning up other travel agencies' mistakes only to wind up on a bidding war with a third agency who did nothing to service the client and just wants to steal the business?  Yes!  (And I have fired clients that engage in the aforesaid practice?  You bet I have, but fortunately they have been far and few between.)

But do I want to give my clients the best value to go along with the best service?  Absolutely.  And I do not need a cruise line to tell me to follow rules created out of its own bad and deceptive practices and which have perverted the market. My suggestion is to clean up your own house first, then actually deal with the sleazy agencies (you know who they are) and then, if necessary (and it won't be), block my ability to provide more value to my clients.  [Personally, I would rather pour a portion of my profits back into my clients and earn future business and referrals from them than take out full page color ads that the cruise lines (ironically) will help me pay for...and which generate less business.  But that's me.]

And, by the way, Mr. Del Rio please explain why it is I am not prevented from cleaning up the mess created by either a cruise line's own reservations department or another travel agency?  I thought the idea was to make the customer satisfied and to create long term healthy relationships.  And we both know that I can and will do a lot more than any reservation's agent.  That is my job...and, to be sure, it really isn't theirs.

BTW, this is another in a series of articles I have written, and will continue to write, as some of the cruise lines seek to limit the ability of travel agents like the airlines did...and as did Renaissance Cruises.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Celebrity Summit "Solticized" - A Ship Inspection

Yesterday I visited the newly "Solticized" Celebrity Summit.  It is one of Celebrity Cruise Lines' Millennium-class ships (Millennium, Infinity, Constellation and Summit) that were truly innovative when they were launched, but were lagging behind there new younger sisters (Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection) who have their own innovations.

To give you some background, I have cruises on a number of Celebrity ships (some more than once) and itineraries as I find Celebrity to be "The Best Bang for the Buck in the Business" including Century, Mercury, Millennium, Constellation, Solstice and Equinox.  As such, I can give you a pretty fair analysis of what has changed and what has stayed the same...and what Solstice-class items have been fully or partially installed on the Celebrity Summit.

My initial impression of the ship was that it is extremely well maintained.  I found only one very minor area lacking in maintenance and you probably would never go there.  That is quite impressive. 
Similarly, even though it was a turnaround day, the staff almost always raised their heads when they saw me coming and said, "Good Morning" or "Welcome Onboard". (I was with a small group of travel agents, but I kind of peeled off as and when I wanted so that I could see the things that were of interest to me, so I was just like...well, you...walking about the ship.)

Celebrity was very smart in the way it has made better use of the space on the ship, as there were some rather underutilized areas.  It also added some cabins (a few Oceanview and AquaClass), but not enough to really change the population on the ship or more crowd areas...as there are more public venues now.

In the public spaces, the AquaClass Restaurant, Blu, has been added by annexing the a portion of the port side upstairs section of the main dining room.  It works great and looks even better. 


While there are larger suites on the ship, my favorite suites across all of the Celebrity ship remains the Millennium-class Celebrity Suite.  Its size and layout (separate bedroom, great bathroom and perfectly sized living and dining areas) is just the ticket for me.  And now it is for my wife, as well, as new balconies have been installed; making them an even better option.


The AquaClass cabins are my favorite category of non-suite cabins and include exclusive access to Blu plus included access to the Persian Gardens portion of the spa (extra cost for other guests) plus some additional amenities in a pretty much adults only area of the ship..  These are double occupancy only cabins



 and that have really great showers:



In fact all of the oceanview and veranda cabins have been refreshed and now are quite consistent with the Solstice-class ships, if still a bit smaller and look quite similar to the photo above.  (And for your oceanview cabin clients, there are some new cabins on Deck 3 that have huge circular windows that used to be part of the business center.  Keep an eye out for them.)

In the public spaces Bistro on Five and CellarMasters have been installed, albeit in smaller versions than on the Solstice-class ships.  The updated look really makes these extremely inviting and more intimate areas.  The Martini Bar has also been relocated to a much better location, really modernized and includes the popular ice countertops.

And then there was lunch.  As usual, the food quality was very good to excellent with not a single complaint among an entire table of travel agents.  (OK, there were two:  one said her coffee was cold even though it was poured out of the same pot my coffee was and it was fine; and, there was a complaint that the petit fours numbered five at a table for six, but half were left uneaten.)

That is a set up to my one travel agent comment...and how you need to really look at a Celebrity cruise:  A 15 minute discussion was had about bringing liquor onboard a Celebrity cruise.  You are allowed two bottles of wine per cabin, but no liquor.  But, according to these agents, there are many ways to sneak liquor onto the ship (mouthwash bottles, Camelback pouches, etc.).  So I asked a simple question:  On a seven day cruise you would pay $30 for a bottle of liquor and $50 for two bottles of wine, or $80 and still not cover the cost of soda, wine with dinner, drinks out of the cabin, etc.  So why not spend just a little bit more and purchase a Beverage Package and have all you want to drink with no hassles and enjoying the entire ship?  No one could...or, rather, would answer the question.

In other words, no matter how much Celebrity offers to a guest, it takes a truly involved travel agency, such as Goldring Travel, to make sure you have all the information assuring you have the best holiday possible, rather than an experience that is unfortunately focusing in part on things than can unnecessarily degrade your experience.

If you have any questions or would like to book your Celebrity cruise with me, please call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com


Friday, June 1, 2012

Goldring & Goldring, P.A.'s New Website Goes Live!

I have finally put the finishing touches on my law firm, Goldring & Goldring, P.A.'s, new website.  You can see it at www.yachtlaw.com or www.goldringlaw.com.

I have tried to make it modern, visually appealing and, as with Goldring Travel's website, filled with a good bit of content.  You can read some of my magazine articles and speeches, enjoy some photos of yachts and shortly, once the back-end issues are resolved, read monthly newsletters on some interesting topics.

A Perspective on Travel, Living Life...and a Volkswagen Bus

Last night was a surprise.  The rabbi at our temple invited 25 men to have dinner at a local Japanese restaurant to discuss our greatest adventures...and to bring along the spirit of one's choice.  Not being very religious (in the traditional sense) initially I was not too enthusiastic about it.  But then I thought, "You know, my daughter just had her Bat Mitzvah, my son just graduated from Hebrew High School, and I have no 'need' to be interactive with the temple.  Let me see what comes of it just being there to be there."  I am so very glad that I went.

First, the spirit of the rabbi's choice was not some deep thought, but rather "Rabbi Yakov Daniels":  Jack Daniels.  Second, no stories about how marriage, raising kids, etc. could be your greatest adventure.  Cute, but to be sure, but not great reasons to spend my evening with 25 Jewish guys eating Japanese food in Marlboro, New Jersey on a Thursday night.

So the rabbi got everyone to brag...which is not so hard with 25 Jewish guys in the same room.  (Of course, complaining would have been just as easy...but whose complaining?)  Anyway, the first man speaks about how in his youth he hitchhiked from New Jersey to Alaska and back.  Another talked about diving with sharks off the coast of Costa Rica, I spoke of how my involvement with superyachts led to my traveling the world and doing what I love through Goldring Travel, etc.

And then there were two adventures that really, deeply, touched me and, to be sure, put many things into perspective:

One man spoke of his immigrating to the United States from the Ukraine when he was 6 and how it required his family to travel through Europe down to Italy selling everything they owned as they were not allowed to bring anything with them into the United States.  He said his greatest adventure was being in a small town in Italy in a bazaar (flea market) selling every last bit of their belongings just before coming to America.  It was interesting to me that from the perspective of a 6 year old boy it was not the leaving family or friends, the journey to Italy or the US, but the giving away of what was physically left of his home that was his greatest adventure and what that must have represented to him.

And then the man sitting next to me spoke.  He is probably 10 years younger than me, just moved into the area, runs his young children all over the place, and was earlier speaking of how he was there to meet new people.  He also said he needed to get home because he had to help  pack up their kitchen as a major home renovation was starting today.  His story was about 9-11.  He was one of Mayor Giuliani's right hand men.  He was going into the disaster when others were fleeing.  He spoke of bodies dropping from the sky, seeing so many shoes on the ground, the constant beeping of the firemen's transponders, and how he needed to find thousands of single line telephones.  He was an IT guy that made things happen when things needed to happen. 

To be honest, after that the other stories (some of which were quite interesting in the moment...even the rabbi's) blurred, I kept thinking to myself, "Greatest adventure, huh?  Learning how to travel and to appreciate the cultures of the world is not such a great adventure."

At the end of the evening the rabbi came over to us and chatted about the evening.  I said that with some of the stories my greatest adventure didn't seem so great...seeking to show my appreciation for the other men's adventures.  His response was that I should not belittle what I have done...which was not my intention.  After explaining that I said to him that one of my greatest pleasures is actually sitting in my backyard looking at the grass.  He smiled pleasingly and then said he had buried many people who thought the saying, "He who dies with the most toys wins" was true and to trust him that it isn't true.

The man sitting next to me agreed with the pleasures of sitting in his backyard...and then said he had to leave to help his wife pack up their kitchen fearing the anger that would otherwise greet him. 

I couldn't wait to tell my kids about this evening.  By the time I got home my daughter was asleep, but my son was up.  We sat in the gazebo (looking at the grass!) and at 16 my son only got a small bit of what I was saying.  But he had something else on his mind.  His girlfriend, who is a wonderful, caring young lady, just got a new BMW when she passed her driving test and now he is planning for his car when he turns 17 in a few months.  He is insistent.  He is focused.  He is pushing me.  He wants a 1970's Volkswagen Bus. 

It made me think that reason I went to that dinner was because of my rabbi.  He, not knowing any one's real back-stories, gave me yet another bit of richness.  My adventures traveling my not be the greatest adventures when compared to others, but it has allowed me to not only appreciate the grass, but to raise my children to appreciate it too.

So now I must get back to looking for a 1970's Volkswagen Bus.  If we can find one and get it running I think there may be a great adventure or two in it...as my son starts to travel his own way, seeking to impress no one.