Thursday, January 31, 2013

Celebrity Cruises Popup Restaurant

Enjoying the Molecular Bar before dinner at The Kitchen NYC.  More to come!

Friday, January 25, 2013

You Want Your Travel Dreams...The Real Dream...To Be A Reality? Here's Goldring Travel's!

I wrote an article a few weeks ago about Seabourn's Antarctica cruises.  While most people that commented loved the article there were a few comments about how it was wrong to post articles about travel experiences that most people cannot afford.  That bothered me.  It bothered me not because I felt the comments were correct, but because those making the comments have an unfortunate perspective and have, I guess, given up "The Dream".

When I started Goldring Travel I didn't really think of "The Dream".  I thought of the frustration of having lousy travel agents who did nothing other than read from a computer screen (or, back then, also from a brochure).  What I didn't see was that my frustration was not with getting lousy advice, but rather that somebody was interfering with my dream.  But, alas, what took time was realizing that my dream was not getting a great deal on a cruise in the right stateroom. 

I digress for a moment. 

It is important that you ask "Why?"  Why what?  Why you are using a travel agent.  If you are doing it just to get what you think is a great deal, you are cheating yourself because, as they say, "If you know everything then you know nothing.  If you know how to ask a question, you will know much." 

Last night I had the rare experience of explaining to someone that they were just mean and they didn't care about whether I made a penny or even if they wanted a particular trip.  They just wanted to do whatever it took to get what they thought was a deal...and then continue that onto the ship so they could get an even better deal regardless of the impact on me or the innocent crew that would subsequently abuse and potentially get in trouble or fired.  If that is who you are, Goldring Travel isn't interested in your business. 

If you have never been to Athens or Bordeaux or Norway, how can you "know" what to do?  You can't.  And if you haven't been on a particular ship or cruise line (or have only been on it once) how can you know the nuances.  Most Goldring Travel clients don't want to skim a book or check places off of a list.  They want to really experience it.  For example, one client wanted to see Cappadocia, Turkey in a day but with information I was able to give they decided it was better to experience one another place well than to do both place not so well.  Another client wanted to travel the Great Ocean Road and the Yarra Hills in Victoria, Australia in two days, but again the same issue and the same result.  And in both instances I could have made it happen...just not well.  And I will spend hours trying to make such things happen and walk away without booking a tour if it isn't right.  If you are someone who just can't get enough (regardless of your budget), Goldring Travel would be privileged to earn your business.  (Read this too!

OK, now back to my dream and Goldring Travel. 

You know when you wake up in the morning and say to yourself, "I had a great dream last night, but I really can't remember the specifics though nonetheless it seems so vivid".  That is how my life dreams were for many years.

My dream, as I perceive it today, is -fortunately for me- more along the lines of what is expressed in the following video (and please, please, please watch the whole thing):

I remember starting out my boating days on my dad's 21 foot Pursuit on the Shrewsbury River and fishing in Sandy Hook, then on the lakes in upstate New York gathering fish for my Honor's thesis, then on research boats gutting bluefish and silver hake  (and getting stung by jelly fish) while a biological aid with the National Marine Fisheries Service, then sailing on my friend's 42' Hunter sailboat out of Coconut Grove, Florida and then owning my own 19 foot center console fishing machine after building yachts in Australia.

All of those things were not really "living the dream", but were preparing me for it.  (Some people call that "Growing Up"!

Now, "Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars", and I am living The Dream. 

The Dream is not about going places and it is not about just appreciating where you have been.  My Dream (and it is my dream; not yours!) is to share all the good stuff, but not only with family (and I have a great one) and friends (some of those are pretty special too), but to walk into my office or open my laptop where ever I am in the world and help others live their dreams (and it is your dream; not mine!). 

Yeah, I know, in a perfect dream I could do all of this for nothing.  But nothing is perfect and I have to make a living.  But you will know that whether it is a Seabourn or Celebrity cruise, a luxury safari or a beach holiday, Goldring Travel has as its backbone a passion and love not only for travel, but your travel.

Inspired?  Curious?  Trust me?  Give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or +1 732 578 8585 and let's make your dream a reality too!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard! Why to Book Your Cruise or Other Travel - Regardless of Discount - With Goldring Travel.

On Friday I spoke at The New York Times Travel Show on the topic of Specialization and How to be Successful in the Travel Industry.  I also spoke on a panel discussing Small Ship Cruising...sort of representing Seabourn, but more so the luxury sector from the travel agent, rather than the cruise line, perspective.

During my first panel the moderator asked a question, "What do you do if someone calls you up and just asks for an inexpensive hotel room in San Francisco?"  While it would seem that the "correct" answer is that you don't waste your time with him because there is no profit in it (sending him off to Expedia or Travelocity) as other panelists were implying, I jumped in and said, "You treat him as you would any other person that calls your office.  You have no idea who he is or what he actually wants!"

The audience of about 200 people seemed to be stunned.  I mean isn't being a travel agent about getting the "good" bookings and not wasting time on the little stuff?  Aren't you starting to hear travel agents assert they are "travel professionals" or "travel consultants" and that they charge a fee just to have you speak with them?  Who made these "professionals" and "consultants" better than you? 

Personally, I don't care what you call me as long as you believe (and I prove) that I am an expert you can rely upon and are willing to trust your hard-earned money with.  I believe I need to earn your business and I thank every single person for that opportunity...whether I get the business or not.   

I got into the travel business because I knew I was more than the uninformed and uninspired travel agents I had been dealing with...and they did not truly respect me or my desires.  As a result I consider every inquiry from every person to be as important as the ones I made that weren't handled as I wanted.  My questions as a travel customer were THAT important and weren't treated as such.  Yours are THAT important to me. 

But I digressed! 

So I told a story to the audience about what happened to me on Thursday (that's right, the day before):

A woman called me up, letting me know that she already had booked a cruise and wasn't too pleased with her travel agent because she couldn't get a straight answer from him.  She was simply asking if it made sense to upgrade from a Category A to an SY on the Holland America Prinsendam.  Waste of time, right?  I mean it is a question about another booking on a mass market line that has little potential for anything profitable for me as she already has it booked elsewhere.

Well, because I respect every question asked of me...and I know my stuff...I told her I thought the SY was the best value on ship and explained why.  (You see I know lots more than just Seabourn!)  She then proceeded to tell me this was a long cruise and that it was a $6,000 upgrade.  And then she started to talk to me about another, more exotic, cruise she has booked on a luxury line for later in the year costing close to $20,000 and if I had any thoughts or alternatives.

The audience was amazed.  What first appeared to be literally a $200 question turned into a $26,000+ question.  Who would have thought that?

In fact, during the panel discussion there was a Tweet: 

Cecilia Lihv
Listening to Mr Goldring at #nyttravelshow how he's treating everyone the same! @GoldringTravel

It was a very rewarding moment because you never know if your audience gets it...and at least one person did.

But there is another side - one that you, as the consumer, need to be aware of:  Most travel agents will turn away your inquiry about the discount hotel room or your question regarding a booking they may never get.  Obviously that is not Goldring Travel.

And, as they say, I do practice what I preach.  I do treat everyone as I want to be treated.  Your holiday is very special and important to you.  I never, ever, forget that.

So please:  Ask me your questions, no matter how small or how unimportant you think they may be.  To me they are all important.

And, of course, you never know:  You just may want Goldring Travel to be your travel agent.  Not sure?  Give me a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY (or one of my international numbers or Skype) or drop me an email.  I do truly appreciate the opportunity.

Friday, January 11, 2013

United Airlines - Responds to Its Food Poisoning My Wife with Poisoning My Premier Gold Relationship With It. Bad Idea!

My family was on United Airlines Flight 784 from San Francisco, California to Newark, New Jersey on January 1, 2013.  My wife, without question, received food poisoning from her paid for Cheese and Fruit Plate resulting in a rather poor welcome home after a lovely vacation.

It should have been bad enough that the aircraft was so old (obviously an old United Airlines plane as Continental never would have kept that rust bucket in service) that there were big old vacuum tube televisions mounted in the ceiling that were so worn out that the one movie shown had horrible color and picture distortion.  Listening to the movie was just as difficult as the earphone jack was broken.

But if food poisoning, a amenity-challenged plane and broken equipment was not enough, what should have been a simple addressing of the food poisoning has become a textbook in how to abuse a customer and make a relatively simple issue a big problem...which is a Bad idea.

On January 2, 2013 I contacted United Airlines through its Premier Gold Customer Service Desk.  I was told I could either call another number the next business day or I could submit a form online and wait for response.  Obviously I went with the phone call.  Bad idea. 

When I called and sat on hold forever I was told that I would still be required to submit the form online before anyone could speak with me.  OK.  Not so happily, I submitted the form and made the call again.  This time, after waiting on hold I am told that I need to call another number for Corporate Insurance because Customer Service doesn't handle food poisoning claims.  Bad idea.

So I contact Corporate Insurance and leave voicemail. It goes unanswered.  So I call a second time and it goes unanswered.  Then I receive a message that someone will be in touch with me within 7-10 days.  So I wait.  Bad idea.

Today I received a rather form email...not from Corporate Insurance, but from Customer Service, stating in part, "On behalf of United, I’m disappointed to learn you were not satisfied with the quality of the meal amenity we provided during your travel, and feel that the meal was responsible for your wife's illness. Our goal is to provide a healthy, tasteful meal, and I truly regret we did not meet this expectation. Your feedback will be forwarded to our Food Services division, as we continue to look for ways to improve the service we provide to our customers."  (Seriously, Food Services needs to find a way not to serve spoiled and/or contaminated food???) Bad idea.

Receiving an email that I was "not satisfied with the quality of the meal" makes it sound like a am complaining about wilted lettuce or a bruised apple.  Forwarding the complaint on to Food Services:  Really?  Is there a darker, more horrific place in the airline industry than Food Services?  But adding insult to injury, the letter goes on to tell me that I should guessed it...Corporate Insurance if I wanted to pursue a claim.  Bad idea.

So, being a gluten for punishment, I contact United Airlines Customer Service today to complain not only about the handling of the food poisoning complaint, but now also about how Customer Service is not providing me any customer service (even though I am Premier Gold and have flown over 825,000 revenue miles with United/Continental).  Bad idea.

After over 20 minutes I am told the person I need to reach only has voicemail and there are no supervisors who are authorized to handle this matter.  (You know they were going to send me back over to Corporate Insurance, right?!)  So I ask if any United customer - no less such an important one - should be so mistreated and their time so wasted.  The response was effectively, "Of course not...but we are not empowered to do anything about it."  Bad idea.

My only option I am told is to file a "Formal Complaint".  Poof!  I have now filed a Formal Complaint.  So what does that mean?  It means I am to - yes, that's right - wait for someone to be in touch with me.  When?  Nobody can tell me.  Bad idea.

United Airlines obviously has not learned, or refuses to understand, that customer service is essential to retaining clients and therefore repeat business.  I figure it is now time to book the very same flights I would have booked on United Airlines using its code-share partners (diverting revenue from United) while keeping my Premier status (costing United money)...if I even use United Airlines at all.

Imagine a small gesture after United Airlines food poisoned my wife would have been enough.  Now what is going to cost them...and not only to retain my business.  (You are reading this.  Are you going to think twice before booking a flight on United Airlines?  I bet you are!)

Goldring Travel's motto and business plan is simple, "Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!"  I got into this business because I was sick and tired of being treated by travel agents as..well as United Airlines is treating me.  My business focus is on providing some of the best customer service in the business.  You can be sure you using Goldring Travel is not a...bad idea.

Oh yes, and if you send an email or leave voicemail, your call will be returned, truly responded to...and promptly!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pam Conover Named SeaDream Yacht Club's CEO

Pam Conover, former President of Seabourn Cruise Line, has been named the Chief Executive Officer of SeaDream Yacht Club and its two 56 cabin "yachts".  This seems like a great fit to me. 

The SeaDream ships are, in fact, also former Seabourn hardware (its smallest) though Pam was, I believe, working for Carnival at that time before moving over to Cunard to oversee the launching of the Queen Mary 2.  Pam took over the reigns at Seabourn after the untimely death of Debbie Natansohn focusing, somewhat ironically, on the successful completion and launch newest and largest Odyssey-class Seabourn ships.

While Bob Lepisto will remain as President of SeaDream Yacht Club, Atle Byrnstad (also formerly the head of a Norwegian group that launched Signet Cruise Line - later renamed Seabourn) will take a less active role. 

Pam will definitely bring some great experience and insight to the brand.  I look forward to how she is going to make her mark...and if it signals the possibility of SeaDream expanding its fleet.  (Pam does have a bit of experience with such things!)

SeaDream Yacht Club is a unique cruise offering with a small ship, upscale but active, experiences favored by families, groups and those looking for casual elegance on shorter (usually seven day) itineraries.