Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why You Should Book Your Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, AmaWaterways, Celebrity...Oh You Get The Idea...Cruise with Goldring Travel

 
I know my blog is read as a resource probably more than it is read to find the latest and greatest "sale". 

While that is, in part, because I believe the experience is more important that buying what you don't really want because it is allegedly is "On Sale", the main reason is that I love the travel business and don't focus on "selling to", but rather the "servicing of", my clients.

However, sometimes I feel I need to remind readers of my blog and Facebook page that I actually am a travel agent and make a living selling holidays and that I just don't talk about them.  In fact, I always think about what I can do to make my client's vacations better...even when (and you can ask my family about this) I am on vacation.

Rather than tell you all that I will do for you in the way of great pricing, great service and focusing on your desires and developing a long term relationship (things that I would hope you would insist upon when choosing your travel agent), I thought I would just give you a couple of recent (and I mean like in the past week) testimonials from two of my clients:

A guest on the 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride posted on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum:

I have to say that Eric’s add-ons made an outstanding cruise a memorable and much more special experience.

Those of you who have followed my banter with Eric on this board must know how hard it is for me to acknowledge Eric’s significant contribution. I must momentarily step out of my role in trying to contain Eric’s rather large ego, a mission totally supported by Eric’s lovely wife, and acknowledge that his additions were fantastic, exceeding my expectations.

I have always suspected that Eric might be a tad prone to exaggeration. Having read his blog about the cruise, I think he might have even understated it. All the Goldring events were very special, and I say this in spite of the fact that I am the guest he tried to embarrass by asking me to fillet a huge fish at Chef Kurt’s private event.

We will relive & enjoy these experiences until senility finally takes full hold. (At the present rate, that won’t be long.) I’m sure Eric would appreciate me saying that his add-ons made this cruise a real travel experience.

And a repeating 2011 and 2013 Seabourn Full World Cruise Client wrote to me:

Good morning, Eric.

There was a most intriguing giant white package waiting on our porch when I got home yesterday. It was from you , of course. -- what a treasure trove! We thank you so much for the beautiful fleece jackets, backpacks, cool flashlights and ---lest we forget-- our cruise documents!

With you in our corner we're always confident that problems will be solved, expectations met, and sea conditions will follow your instructions.

Now, should you think that Goldring Travel's special handling is limited to only my clients that take high profile cruises, a client of mine just returned from a 12 day Caribbean Cruise on the Seabourn Quest in a Category V2 suite (and who even declined a Preferred Limited Upgrade to a V6 suite for $549 pp) messaging me on Facebook:

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale this A.M. after a perfect cruise. How could it be anything else??? It was Seabourn, after all. We did have a question though. How do they determine who gets invitations to dine with the shipboard Glitterati? We received 4!!! Accepted all 4 and had some wonderful times. There were, however people who never received 1. Just wondering how we came to be so honored.
Before, during or after your holiday, Goldring Travel is there for you doing everything possible to assure you have the best experiences possible.

Interested?  How about considering the 2013 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise, the 2013 Silversea Silver Expedition Panama Canal Cruise or the 2014 AmaWaterways Vienna to Istanbul River Cruise?  Please email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or telephone at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or in the UK: 020 8133 3450 or Australia: (07) 3102 4685 or elsewhere internationally: +1 732 578 8585.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cruise to Antarctica - Seabourn Style

Goldring Travel specializes in selling luxury travel experiences.  A cruise to Antarctica with landings ashore with some of the most experienced and knowledgeable naturalists and lecturers in the world...and then returning to your luxury ship to enjoy a champagne and caviar toast to each day's experiences upon return to your suite is about as life-fulfilling a luxury travel experience as you can have!



Seabourn's Holiday Antarctic Voyage Itinerary

There will be a total of four Antarctic cruises of 21 or 24 days - the first departing November 20, 2013...right after the 2013 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise (what I a perfect way to start off!), December 11, 2013 (the Holiday sailing), January 4, 2014 and January 25, 2014.  I have already booked some clients on the 2013 Christmas-New Years Holiday sailing and the more the details become available the more excited I get. 

So let's get to the details!

On Monday I had a great conversation with John Delaney, Seabourn's Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and have some details to share with you...as you get ready to call Goldring Travel to book this magnificent experience aboard the Seabourn Quest.

During the Seabourn Quest's upcoming scheduled drydocking a couple of exciting things are going to happen:  Her hull is going to be strengthened so that she will be ice-classed and she is having Spa Penthouse Suites installed and incorporated into the Spa area (with great views overlooking the ship's wash...talk about a fantastic vantage point for these cruises!).  Remember this a both an adventure and luxury experience!



Your first two questions are:

  • Are there going to be landings and where...or are we just going to sail around like most cruises? You are going to experience five (5) days of zodiac landings and expeditions as you visit the areas surrounding King George Island, Gerlache Strait, Paradise Bay, Lemaire Channel, Hope Bay and Elephant Island among others.  Where specifically will you have your landings?  Where the real-time reports of wildlife, weather and sea conditions dictate.

  • Do I have to purchase any special gear?  No.  When you board this cruise you receive a really cool Seabourn Expedition Parka designed so that you can also use it when you return home and to impress your friends.  You will also receive a backpack specially made for your cruise (I think Seabourn took my idea, as I have long given backpacks - and other goodies - to many of my clients as gifts.)  Oh, and there won't be a need to schlep boots as Seabourn will be providing them to use during your cruise (and you get to leave them behind!). If you book your Seabourn Antarctic cruise with Goldring Travel (with its great pricing) you will also receive a high quality Canon or Nikon digital SLR camera with telephoto lens with our compliments!
And then you probably will ask:

  • Is it something safe and comfortable for me to do?  While there are going to be some exciting experiences, Seabourn is well attuned to the safety and comfort of its guests, so there are going to be a number of opportunities based upon physical ability and interests.  This starts with Captain Bjarne Larsen, who with his staff, have years of experience cruising the waters of the Antarctic and Expedition Leader, Robin West, who has participated in 40 prior Antarctic voyages (including a superyacht expedition) and Assistant Expedition Leader, Jara Versloot-West, an expert on all types of expedition cruising and (not surprisingly) also has 40 prior Antarctic journeys.

  • Is this cruise just for Whale Watchers and Penguin Lovers?  I have studied the Antarctic for years and while the scenery and wildlife is spectacular, the law, politics and history of this most remote place on earth is equally fascinating.  Seabourn has put together quite an ensemble of lecturers and naturalists who will give lectures and have conversations around the ship on everything from paleontology to the legal issues concerning oil spills to politics and how it effects everything from scientific work to exploitation of the Antarctic's resources.  When you experience this region you will most certainly better appreciate the issues!

  • OK, Goldring Travel is giving me this fancy-smancy camera and I don't know what "SLR" or "telephoto" even means!  Now what?  Seabourn has you covered (like I didn't know that!).  There will be two (2) digital photography coaches onboard the Seabourn Quest for each sailing including on the first two sailings Wolfgang Kaehler (lecturer, author, safari leader and BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year - Composition and Form for his "Penguins on Ice") and Daniel Cox (Two cover stories for National Geographic and author if 19 books) and on the second two sailings Pat and Rosemarie Keough (winners of the World Best Photography Book and 2012 Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal).
Remember, this cruise also has an in depth exploration of the Chilean Coast as well as port calls in such places as Ushuai and Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Now why should you use Goldring Travel to book this extraordinary experience?  Other than great pricing and a great camera, one of my clients who is about to depart on the Seabourn Quest's 2013 World Cruise just wrote me this morning and said it best:

Good morning, Eric. 
 
There was a most intriguing giant white package waiting on our porch when I got home yesterday.  It was from you , of course. -- what a treasure trove!  We thank you so much for the beautiful fleece jackets, backpacks, cool flashlights and ---lest we forget-- our cruise documents! 

With you in our corner we're always confident that problems will be solved, expectations met, and sea conditions will follow your instructions.

Yes, you also get great service!

Prices starting at US$14,999 (+ $608.88 in taxes).  For more information or to book your Antarctic Experience contact Goldring Travel today! 

Please email me at eric@goldringtravel.com or telephone at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or in the UK: 020 8133 3450 or Australia: (07) 3102 4685 or elsewhere internationally: +1 732 578 8585.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oceania Cruises - A Little Less Consumer Friendly. Why? And What's The Good News?

Oceania Cruises is doing some things to make its cruises just a bit less consumer friendly, just a bit more expensive, and, to be honest, a little concerning.  While I still have happy clients that cruise on Oceania, the key to that happiness is knowing what to expect... and these changes are, to be sure, unexpected and neither will make you happy.


First the less important (significant) change:  It was only a few months ago that Oceania started its beverage package programs where you can purchase, for example, spirits, wine and beer throughout the ship.  Oceania has just announced that its packages are already going up in price.  Now, I am not sure if that is related to people drinking more than expected or trying to tweak it so that those people who were on the cusp, decide not to take the package...and then are charged more by the end of their cruise.  Then again, it just might be so popular that Oceania figures it can make $2,000,000+ over a year across its fleet with the price increase.  While it is curious to me, it is something you just need to be aware of. 

That said, while Oceania claims its beverage package is "one of the reasons Oceania is such a great value", that value just got $5.00 per day more expensive; making it just a bit lesser of a value, right?  Regardless, it should not be a major factor in whether to take an Oceania cruise.

The second change is actually two changes that effect each other.  And those changes just might be a bit more important when planning your cruise vacation - or even if you select Oceania for your cruise holiday.  Change OneOceania is redefining a "long cruise" from being 20 days or more to only 15 days or more.  Why?  Because Oceania has always had a longer penalty period for "long cruises".

Change Two:  Oceania has always started its penalty period for "long cruises" (when cancellation fees apply) as being 150 days rather than the standard 90 days. But now Oceania is extending is penalty period out to 180 days on long cruises.  What that means is if you change your mind, become ill or whatever, Oceania is going to hit you with a penalty six (6) months before your cruise was to set sail...and that is not, to my mind, fair or reasonable.

This tells me two things: 
  • Oceania is having issues with passengers booking longer cruises and then cancelling them just before final payments are due.  While the question, "Why?", is interesting (and relevant), the fact is that this phenomenon leaves Oceania with inventory to sell with relatively little time to sell it.  When this is coupled with its "no discounting" policy, there is little in the way of marketing to fill those empty berths.  (Yes, Oceania does have a very aggressive program of offering highly discounted prices to passengers booked on the cruise before or after the sailing, but not for those just desiring that sailing.  Curious, but it is what it is.)

  • Oceania wants and needs your money earlier.  When the penalty period starts 6 months before your cruise, it means your money is out of your pocket months earlier...so Oceania gets to use your money while you wait half a year for your cruise.  Oh, and don't think your travel agent is getting his/her commission earlier, because Oceania took care of that a months ago when it delayed the payment of commissions until only a couple of weeks before your cruise departs.
I do not want to be the purveyor of "gloom and doom", but these changes along with some of its earlier "policy" changes, the delay of the drydocking/refurbishment of the Nautica, and its sister company, Regent Seven Seas Cruises', rather poor financial performance leads me to have some fairly significant concerns that Oceania Cruises may be going the way of Renaissance Cruises; a prior Frank Del Rio venture.

Now, what is the good news?  Is there any?  Why Yes!  Yes there is!!  Despite my longer term concerns, Oceania now provides a very good cruise experience and it has some excellent itineraries.  And (you would know this if you really read this article!) there is availability on some pretty great close-in sailings including this winter in the South Pacific

With a wonderful onboard product (even if it costs your $5.00 more a day for your drinks! LOL!) and those longer penalty periods of no relevance, you can take advantage of the situation and get yourself on a great Oceania Cruise today and be on the high seas this winter.

Interested?  Give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.
    

Monday, December 10, 2012

AmaWaterways Vienna to Istanbul River Cruise Hosted By Goldring Travel - May 2, 2014


Goldring Travel is hosting a fantastic fifteen (15) day River Cruise from Vienna, Austria to Istanbul, Turkey on AmaWaterways’ newest ship, the AmaCerto, on May 2, 2014.  This is a wonderful combination of land and river cruise travel on what I believe is the best river cruise company around. Yes, it is over a year away, but river cruising is hot-hot-hot and this cruise will sell out quickly…very quickly. 
 
First, some preliminary things to think about independent of this unique and very interesting itinerary since most people have never taken a river cruise.  And, yes, I have experienced AmaWaterways just this past August-September 2012 traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia.  It was honestly one of my best travel experiences and the onboard service and cuisine truly exceeded my expectations:

1.      When I speak to people the first thing I hear is they don’t want to be on a ship filled with old people visiting lots of churches.  This tour and cruise has little to do with either.  This can be quite an active trip if you desire and focuses more on the history (and wines!) of this fascinating area…and, besides, AmaWaterways offers three styles of tours, “Gentle Walkers”, “Active Walkers” and “Late Starters”.  Bicycling tours and private use are offered in a number of cities, as well as “Culinary Delights – Bites & Sights” excursions.

2.      I also hear that river cruise ship cabins are cramped and have rigid dining.  Again, on this ship that is anything but the case.  The AmaCerto has very comfortable cabins with “Twin Balconies” at 235 and 210 sq. ft. and French Balcony Staterooms at 170 sq. ft. and offers an array of dining options besides the main dining room:  The Chef's Table restaurant with its own private chef, two "Wine Bar" venues, plus a casual al fresco bistro. On select days, guests can enjoy a lunch outdoors on the Sun Deck.

Category BB Cabin with Twin Balconies

3.      There are no fears of being charged for all sorts of extras.  On AmaWaterways there is complimentary internet throughout the ship, a state-of-the-art Infotainment system, free-flowing regional wines with open-seating dinner (beer and soft drinks too) and complimentary specialty coffees, teas and bottled water 24 hours a day.  Breakfasts and lunches are truly diverse and plentiful buffets with made-to-order specials every day.  Also, most tours are complimentary, as are bicycles.

 

4.      No worries about not understanding your guides! All AmaWaterway’s guides are truly fluent in in English and know the information you want to make each day an enriching experience.
 
5.  There is plenty to do onboard.  In addition to the complimentary internet and Infotainment system, special highlights on this cruise including lectures, cooking demonstration, onboard music performances and piano music

So let’s get to the details!  (And you are able to do this as a "cruise only" itinerary if you wish)

Day 1 DEPART FOR VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Day 2 ARRIVE IN VIENNA - Arrive in Vienna and check-in to the InterContinental Hotel (or similar). The remainder of the day is at your leisure.

Day 3 VIENNA- This morning, your city tour takes you around the Burgring, the circular road around Vienna’s historic center. You will also take a walking tour through Vienna’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Highlights of your tour will include the Vienna Opera House, the Ringstrasse, and the awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The afternoon is free to explore on your own or join an optional tour to the Imperial Schonbrunn Palace. Tonight, explore the vibrant Austrian capital on your own or attend an optional Mozart and Strauss concert. (B)

Day 4 VIENNA - BUDAPEST – EMBARKATION - Bid farewell to Vienna as you check out of the hotel and transfer to Budapest, where you will have free time for lunch followed by a sightseeing tour of Buda and Pest. From historic Buda Castle, enjoy a splendid view of the twin cities spread over both banks of the River. Your tour also features a visit to the Fisherman’s Bastion. Afterwards, board your ship which is docked in the city center. This evening, meet your fellow passengers at the Welcome Dinner. (B,D)

Day 5 MOHACS - PECS – VILANY - Arrive in Mohacs during breakfast and then depart for your excursion to Pecs, the 2010 European Union Cultural Capital. Founded more than 2,000 years ago by the Romans, Pecs became an important early Christian diocese and Turkish cultural base during the many centuries of Ottoman rule. Upon arrival, visit the Mosque Church, the largest structure surviving from the Ottoman period, as well as the underground burial chambers that date back to the 4th century. You will also see St. Peter’s Basilica, the city’s main Catholic cathedral, as well as the restored Synagogue, before returning to the ship in Mohacs. After lunch, enjoy a wine-tasting excursion to sample aromatic, spicy wines from the vineyards of Vilany. As an alternative, take a guided bicycle tour to Mohacs in the afternoon (capacity controlled). (B,L,D)

Day 6 VUKOVAR, CROATIA - NOVI SAD, SERBIA - This morning, choose either a “Yugoslav Civil War” tour of Vukovar or wine tasting in the town of Ilok. Your city tour of Vukovar includes the Ovcara Memorial, the monumental cross that is a memorial to those who lost their lives during Croatia’s struggle for independence. As an alternative, travel to the town of Ilok, which is famous for its wines. Here, you will visit a local winery and sample their vintages before your walking tour of the town. Enjoy lunch on board as you cruise to Novi Sad, Serbia. Enjoy a walking tour of Novi Sad in the afternoon, beginning at Danube Park, then stroll through the Old Town district. (B,L,D)

Day 7 BELGRADE - Wake up in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and enjoy a panoramic tour of some of the city’s 5,500 streets, 16 plazas and 32 squares. You will also see the Kalemegdan Fortress and the Serbian Orthodox Temple of St. Sava as part of your tour. As an alternative, take the “Tito’s Memorial” tour, which includes a visit to the House of Flowers, where the tomb of Josip Tito is located. You will also see some of the many gifts Tito received during his presidency. You will have free time in the city center after your tour to stroll along Prince Michael Street, the city’s main pedestrian and shopping area. A guided bicycle tour is available in the afternoon (capacity controlled). (B,L,D)

Day 8 CRUISING THROUGH THE IRON GATES - VIDIN, BULGARIA - Today, enjoy a full day of cruising through one of Europe’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders, the Iron Gates. Here the Danube narrows as it winds through a range of magnificent gorges between the southern Carpathian Mountains and the northwestern Balkan Mountains. This natural border between Serbia and Romania will be an unforgettable highlight of your Black Sea adventure. Late this evening, the ship cruises to Vidin. (B,L,D)

Day 9 VIDIN - The Baba Vida Fortress, the only entirely preserved medieval castle in the country, stands guard over the Danube at the Bulgarian frontier town of Vidin. The 14th- century castle has massive walls and four imposing towers, a stark contrast to the bucolic park that surrounds the castle. From here, take an excursion to Belogradchik, a beautifully restored 6th- century castle, located in a stunning landscape of unusual rock formations. (B,L,D)

Day 10 GIURGIU - BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - ROUSSE, BULGARIA - Enjoy a full day excursion to Bucharest, the “Paris of the East.” Visit the Open Air Museum, which was dedicated to the traditional architecture of rural Romania. After lunch you will have two options: a visit to the Palace of the Parliament, second only to the Pentagon as the largest building in the world; or a tour of the newly renovated Lipscani district, the historical city center of Bucharest. (B,L,D)

Day 11 ROUSSE – DISEMBARKATION – VELIKO TARNOVO – PLOVDIV, BULGARIA - Disembark the ship in Rousse and continue your tour by motor coach.* Your first stop is the ancient capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo, where you will visit Samovodska Charshia, a traditional market. Afterwards, enjoy lunch at a hotel in Veliko Tarnovo, where you will sample a traditional Bulgarian lunch before continuing on to Plovdiv. This evening, see the main highlights of Plovdiv Old Town on a walking tour before dinner at a local restaurant.  You will stay at the Dedeman Hotel (or similar). (B,L,D) *If you prefer to fly from Bucharest to Istanbul, it is a US$399 option.

Day 12 PLOVDIV - ISTANBUL, TURKEY - After breakfast, continue on to exotic Istanbul for the grand three-night conclusion of your Black Sea Voyage. You will stop for lunch in Erdine, and then continue on to Istanbul where you will check into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (or similar). The rest of the evening is free to explore on your own. (B,L)

Day 13 ISTANBUL- A comprehensive city tour will take you through its Old City, with its numerous Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments. Admire the mighty defensive walls, the Roman aqueduct and the hippodrome. See the Galata Tower and visit the beautiful and historic Blue Mosque, so named for the blue tiles adorning its interior. This afternoon is free to explore the town on your own or join the optional “Turkish Delight” tour, an in-depth look at some of Istanbul’s most unique sights. (B)

Day 14 ISTANBUL- Today, your guided sightseeing tour will take you to the spectacular Ottoman Sultans’ Grand Palace of Topkapi, home to every Sultan from the 15th-19th century. During your tour, admire the private chambers of the Sultans, the Harem (women’s quarters) and the Imperial Treasury’s vast collection, including the jewel-encrusted Topkapi Dagger and the stunning 86 carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. This afternoon, enjoy an optional Bosporus cruise to Istanbul’s chic, trendy neighborhood of Ortaköy, or use the remainder of the day to shop for souvenirs or relax at a tea house or café. (B)

Day 15 DEPART ISTANBUL - Prepare for your homeward flight. (B)
Goldring Travel's Special Pricing starts at US$3,200.00 per person (cruise only) and US$4,700 per person (with both pre- and post- cruise extensions) including all taxes. 
All you need do is pay a fully refundable** US$400 per person deposit to secure your space on this fantastic trip of a lifetime. **Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please ask for details.
Please call Goldring Travel with any questions or to book this extraordinary travel experience at (877)2GO-LUXURY in the United States, 020 8133 3450 in the United Kingdom, (07) 3102 4685 in Australia and +1 732 578 8585 Everywhere else.