Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Holidays From Goldring Travel - A Year in Review...And Why Travel Is A Necessity

This year has been a challenging one for me personally, but a very rewarding whirlwind of travel has eased the personal issues and reminded me that there is a big beautiful world out there that, if enjoyed, makes life pretty darn sweet.

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to enjoy a:
  • Winter Transatlantic Crossing on the Queen Mary 2
  • Caribbean Sailing on the Windstar Wind Surf
  • Father-Daughter Getaway on the Celebrity Silhouette
  • Amazon River Cruise Adventure with GAdventures
  • Black Sea Voyage on the Windstar Pride
  • Magnificent Europe Cruise on AmaWaterways AmaCerto
  • Three trips to Boulder, Colorado as my son began his college experience at University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Ensemble Travel Group Executive Retreat in Stowe, Vermont
  • Ensemble Travel Group International Conference in Palms Springs, California
  • Cruise Shipping Miami Conference in Miami, Florida
Here is a short video of some of my travel in 2014:


Travel has helped me tremendously as I go through my divorce while adjust to being a single parent, losing our dog of 12+ years and gaining a new puppy, watching my son mature into his independent self as  my daughter blossoms into a young woman, and have someone special bring new perspectives and energy into my life.

I talk with a number of people that say after a life event they are not ready to travel or need to wait until one crisis or another is resolved.  While that may be true in some instances, with the ease and diversity of travel opportunities now available, it just may be time for the reflexive "I'm not ready" to be cast aside and and the wonders of travel be considered to help one cope and heal.  It has most certainly worked for me.

Let's face it, each travel experience is life-changing in one way or another.  Travel enriches one's soul and adds perspective to what can seem an chaotic and stress-filled life or one that is just yearning for something.  It can also just be pretty darn fun!

I love travel.
I love my job.

And Most Importantly: I thank each of you for your support throughout 2014.

Give me a call at (877)2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com to get your 2015 travel plans started!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oceania Insignia - A Fire, Three Lives Lost, Quick Action By Oceania...and An Ambulance Chaser

I have not yet commented on the fire last week aboard the Oceania Insignia which left two contractors and a crew member dead and two other injured, but all of passengers and other crew and staff safe.  Why?  Because I didn't really know enough to comment or give opinion that was anything more than repeating what you already know.


But then this morning, I saw an article by a rather infamous maritime attorney, Jim Walker, Esquire entitled:

Insignia Fire Reveals Cruise Industry Remains Unprepared for Disaster

I read the article...pretty much knowing it would be another one of his ambulance-chasing-like articles not so subtly fishing for clients to attempt a suit against Oceania...and found something rather curious that Mr. Walker just couldn't seem to bring himself to overtly admit:  Oceania has done a pretty outstanding job dealing with a serious fire which disabled its ship on a very small Caribbean island.

His complaints:  

  • Oceania Cruises didn't tell the passengers what the cause of the fire was.  Huh?  I don't even know if Oceania has that fully figured out and that is not really something any business is going to be putting as a top priority.
  • The St. Lucia fire department didn't seem to know what it was doing? Huh?  What does that have to do with Oceania Cruises and, more importantly, why did Walker not mention that the fire was quickly extinguished and that all of the passengers where safely disembarked without any reports of that being mishandled.
  • All of the passengers and crew were relocated to a warehouse with either limited food and water or no food.  Huh?  What was Oceania supposed to do?  Finding them shelter and a centralized place to address things in a few short hours on a small island with limited infrastructure is not good enough, I guess.  Quickly organizing charter flights home is not enough, either. In fact, Walker, why not also ignore the praised most all of the Oceania passengers have been giving?  Oh, that's right, you did!
  • Oceania gave a 100% refund and a 50% discount on a future cruise as "a calculated and inexpensive way to hook [the affected passengers] into another cruise"  Huh? So Oceania immediately providing cash compensation and significant non-cash compensation is a bad thing?  Further, if the passengers were so disgruntled with Oceania (and they are not), giving a discount on a future cruise would be worthless to them and they would complain...and there is not a single report of that happening!
  • Oceania hasn't given enough information about the crew member that died so it doesn't care. Huh?  How about that crew member has a family and they are entitled to know what is going on first and are entitled to privacy?  How about the vast majority of the passengers (if not all of them) never met that particular crew member and, while many have expressed sadness over his death, rightfully none of them have complained they needed or wanted more information about this soul.  
Further, the fact is that the passengers are, from the front end of the business, unquestionably Oceania's number one priority.  But another fact is that that crew member...and all of the crew members are, from the inside of the business, unquestionably Oceania's priority as well.  Getting passengers home, housing the crew, dealing with the death and injuries of those 5 people, figuring out what can be done to address the cause of the fire and the repairs...with thousands of more people waiting for their upcoming cruises (including a world cruise), regulatory requirements, securing repair facilities, and the list goes on.  

In the end each one of the above items are "top priority"...handled by different personnel. And Oceania doesn't need to tell the public (in fact, probably should not tell the public) what it is doing in relation to each of those items.  (I mean, is Oceania supposed to tell you how it will deal with the spoiled food, cleaning the carpets and furnishings, laundering the bedding, etc.?)  

The affected passengers (both current and future) and the affected crew are mostly interested in what is the "end game"; in other words, what is going to happen to them.  Is their world cruise cancelled, do they have jobs for the next month or two? etc.

It doesn't matter if there is a fire at a hotel, earthquake, power outage, sinkhole, terrorist, etc. someone is going to say, "The hotel should have done more."  And, to be sure, that same someone is going to say at another time, "The hotel should not be charging you so much under the guise of having fail-safe  plan for every contingency because it will probably never, or very rarely, be needed."

Here, Oceania Cruises has done a really good job of making sure their passengers were safely evacuated, were kept safe at all times, were expeditiously returned to Miami and were significantly compensated as a result of the shortened cruise. It seems to me that Oceania Cruises was extremely well prepared for this event.

I guess the question really is "Jim Walker, Esquire, why did you write your terribly inaccurate article?" If you read Walkers "About" page you will see that it is about publicity, publicity and publicity.  

Shameful.

If you want the accurate facts about a cruiseline or a cruise, contact Eric Goldring, of Goldring Travel, at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How U-Haul Repeatedly Rips Its Customers Off...and Doesn't Work For Its Clients Like Goldring Travel.

This is a true, and truly abusive story, about two transactions with U-Haul...a company I strongly urge you never, and I mean, never  deal with The U-Haul mentality apparently is to abuse you long and hard enough that you will give up and they will take your money it is not entitled to. 

Clearly, U-Haul doesn't know who it is dealing with.

Transaction 1:

You rent a U-Haul truck and automobile trailer for a one way trip and your contract says you are to pick them up at A and drop them off at B.  But when you go to drop off the truck and trailer at B, it agrees to take the truck but refuse to take the trailer...and demands you deliver it to location C (a two hour round trip from B).  But you call location C and it advises you it won't take the truck...only the trailer.  So you throw your hands up in the air and have the truck and trailer dropped at another location that will take both and then...

U-Haul seeks charges you not only for the supposed mis-deliver, but to have the trailer delivered to another facility.

But there is more:  U-Haul knows you object to this and what does it do?  It charges your credit card without your authorization.

But there is yet more:  U-Haul eventually begins looking at the issue and claims it has 72 hours to review the complaint, but won't reverse the unauthorized charge! 

Eventually U-Haul admits its error, credits the account, apologizes for what it assures you is an unusual experience and promises you something like that will never happen again.


Guess what?  It happened again.

Transaction 2:

This time you rent a U-Haul truck without a trailer for a one-way trip and your contract says you are to pick it up at A and drop it off at B; just like the last time.  But when you go to drop the truck off at B, where do you think it demands you deliver the truck?  That's right:  Location C...the same 2 hour trip!

You think the second time U-Haul might get things a little better, right?  WRONG.  As with the last time U-Haul charged to move the truck to some other location, and charged the credit card even after (being a bit wiser) you specifically advise U-Haul (that would be Alea at 888-553-3363) that no further charges are authorized.

You also tell Alea that you must speak with a supervisor.  She tells you there is no supervisor available, but she is escalating it (after being about as abusive as a customer service representative can be)...but you come to find out the next day she didn't do anything!

So (now not so surprisingly) when you don't hear from anyone what do you do? You go "social" and post something on U-Haul's Facebook Page.  Boy did that get a quick response!  But you think that would actually get the matter resolved you are sorely mistaken.  All it did was look good on Facebook - for a minute- and the matter got put right back in the "Abuse the Customer" file.

So then I let the matter sit for about 20 hours and heard nothing. So I call Alea (you know U-Haul's abusive customer service rep).  She admits she did nothing and just heaps more abuse. 

So you call 800-789-3638.  The first time a very nice person tries to get a manager and you get disconnected.  No call back.  So you call again and are transferred to a supposed regional manager, but your call goes immediately to voicemail (and you don't get a call back).  So you call a third time and get a nice person who, despite her valiant efforts lasting over 30 minutes - and her advice that U-Haul gets 72 hours to address the situation and that another regional manager is supposedly working on your matter...but he is not working today!...you get absolutely nowhere...and the line disconnects.

Now it is a fourth call to U-Haul (still no calls back) and I get a supervisor who says...get this:  Nothing can be done because an objection has been noted on the file?  HUH?  So you speak to his supervisor who, in turn, gets me to a regional manager who says he will reverse the charge as soon as he can get to a computer. (YAY!)

But then - and you will love this:  He accuses me of being abusive to his staff and that he would eventually gotten to me anyway.  Huh?

So the conversation changes and I asked him if he ever thought his staff was abusive to the customer and that maybe people like Alea treated the customer like they were the problem - rather than valued - which caused the additional conflict?


I said to him that Goldring Travel's motto and business plan is "Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!"  In other words, the customer is always treated as important, valued, nothing is too much of a hassle...and never tell them to wait 72 hours for you to get to something urgent.  I think...maybe...he got the message.

And then I said to him, "So other than reversing the improper charges, what are you going to do for the customer that you have twice abused?"  He hadn't a clue.  It was something that hadn't even entered his mind.

I do know is:  If you want to avoid the same thing happening to you, there is a very easy solution:

DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH U-HAUL!

I also know if you want to have a great experience with a travel agent who will think of you as the valued customer you are, give Goldring Travel  a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Huge Shakeups at Prestige Cruise Holding (Oceania and Regent Seven Seas)...Top Executives Are Leaving and A Ship Is Arriving


On September 2, 2014 I wrote an article about Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) purchase of Prestige Cruise Holdings,which in turn owns Regent Seven Seas and Oceania cruise lines.  I pondered:

I have to wonder how NCL, and Kevin Sheehan (who is a pretty straight shooter!) will deal with Regent's false marketing that it is actually less expensive than say Celebrity or Holland America.  I have written about this a few times.  For example:  Regent Seven Seas vs. Holland America - Really? Let's TalkEthics and Regent Seven Seas Pricing - It Is Out of Control...Seriously, Why Pay That Much?

And now my ponderings...which were truly a belief...have quickly come to be.  In short, effectively only Frank Del Rio remains where he was and almost every other top executive has been replaced (er umm, has resigned) or has shifted to fill an immediate void.

Today it was announced the resignation of Kunal Kamlani as president and chief operating officer of Prestige Cruise Holdings.  While most publications have said this was unexpected, I did expect it as I do not believe there is anyway Kevin Sheehan, CEO of NCL Holdings (which now owns the cruise lines) was going to have anyone beholden to Frank Del Rio stay with the company.

Why?  Because there can only be one master of the ship and it is no longer Frank Del Rio!  Kulani was given a new employment contract on November 19, 2014, but to me that was only buying time as it was but a one year contract and to me was not terribly rich (with a $750,000 annual salary with performance bonuses that could raise it to about $1,300,000 along with options to purchase only 1,500 ordinary shares of NCL Holdings, medical a $1,500 monthly car allowance and four weeks of vacation.)


Kamlani's replacement is Jason Montague, who was CFO and executive vice president of Prestige Cruise Holdings...but was tagged to head the integration of NCL and PCH and has worked closely with Kevin Sheehan.  He is definitely a financial guy who was involved in the creation of Oceania and its acquisition of the original three R-Ships (now the Oceania Nautica, Regatta and Insignia) as well as the just announced bargain-basement priced purchase of the soon to be former Ocean Princess to be renamed Sirena.

Consistent with Kamlani's departure is that of Bob Binder, former vice chairman of PCH, who had been around since the creation of Oceania.  So has James Rodriguez, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for PCH after twelve years of service.  Michael Hirsch, senior vice president of Oceania Cruises retired.  There are yet others, but you get the idea...and I am confident with Kamluni's departure there will be more.

Now, it is not unusual to have a number of significant changes when a company is taken over, but here the changes are coming swiftly and from the top all the way down.

Will there be changes at Regent and Oceania?  Ya think?!

Will those changes be positive?  That remains to be seen.

But after so many years of frustration with how the Regent Seven Seas product has been delivered I am very optimistic.  (For me, having more options for my clients is a good thing!).

And as for changes at Oceania, it is my hope that there are sales and marketing changes so that what is a pretty darn good onboard product can have a similar standard.  Being bombarded with marketing materials, emails, by this and get a discount on that, upgrade/downgrade, change sailings, etc. on literally every Oceania booking will cease.  (Yes, some clients take up these offers, but most do not and it is a huge burden on a travel agent that cuts deeply into my precious time and endangers my relationship with my clients if perceived as badgering.)

So is now the time to book your Oceania Cruise?  Or should you wait and see what happens? I believe now is the time to book that cruise.  The Oceania product is a good one and there is no way that is going to be degraded.  With the addition of the additional (I can't say new) ship, those strong itineraries that Oceania is famous for will become stronger...and there will be more Penthouses and better to chose from!

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Seabourn Black Friday Sale!

Goldring Travel is having a Seabourn Black Friday Sale!


Book any Seabourn cruise and you will receive $500.00 or more off the published Seabourn suite cruise fare (whether it is double or single occupancy)...That is any Seabourn cruise that can be booked today...in any category other than an Oceanview Guarantee.  (You will receive a discount on Oceanview Guarantees too, but it will be fare dependent.)


Your discount may be right off the retail price or as an onboard credit or a combination of the two.  And if you book one of the higher category suites or a longer cruise you will definitely receive an even greater discount!

The only requirement is that you pay the required deposit or final payment (if the sailing is within 90 days) when you are given the discounted price by Goldring Travel. Remember that Goldring Travel never charges a change or cancellation fee, so if you later decide to cancel or change your cruise there is no charge...except if you cancel it within the Seabourn penalty period of 120 to 150 days (cruise dependent).

 

Goldring Travel is one of the World's Top Sellers of Seabourn cruises so you will not only receive great pricing, but world-class advice and service!  Our motto is our business plan:  Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard!  So why are we holding this sale?  To introduce Goldring Travel and then earn your travel business not only for this cruise, but for the rest of your life.

This offer is good from today, November 26 through Monday December 1, 2014 and is subject to availability and prior sail.  No discount can be applied to taxes.  All prices and payments are in U.S. Dollars.  This offer may be withdrawn at any time.

Interested?  Give Goldring Travel a call at (877) 2GO-LUXURY, UK:   020 8133 3450 AUS: (07) 3102 4685 Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585 or email eric@goldringtravel.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Is An Unethical and Dishonest Travel Agency? - Holiday Travel of Lake Charles, Louisiana Is a Great Example Of What To Look For

The other day I posted an article on the Goldring Travel Facebook page concerning the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise.


I had various travel agent friends who "liked" the post and someone posted a cute comment about some dogs that are common to Norway (although they are of Finnish origin).  But then...I saw a post from Sonny Duplantis, of Holiday Travel, of Lake Charles, Louisiana posting his telephone number, the name of another travel agent and a host of wildly inaccurate information under the guise of being motivated only by a "support your local travel agent" desire.  I deleted the post and advised Facebook of the impropriety of same.

I also contacted Holiday Travel and, not surprisingly, I received an email back that it did nothing wrong.  So I did a bit of digging - saw that Sonny Duplantis, of Holiday Travel, was a textbook example of what to watch out for and thought, "What a great example of why travel agents have such a bad reputation".

And what a great companion article to the one I posted just the other day:

How Do You Effectively and Efficiently Book a Cruise by Yourself? You Don't!


The first thing I noticed was that its website: http://www.gowithholidaytravel.com is horribly written. The sentences are incomplete and the grammar is about as bad as it gets.  Warning:  If the travel agency's website that is trying to get your business is unprofessional and shows a lack of care, you probably are going to have issues with your booking also being unprofessional and dealt with a lack of care. 

The second thing I noticed is that Holiday Travel claims to be everything to everyone.  "Holiday Travel has  Luxury Division Travel Specialists. We can now help you with Seabourn, Silverseas, Cunard (Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary), Crystal, Viking, and Uniworld River Cruises along with Tauck and Insight Vacations. Princess cruise sailings from Baytown (Houston)
Royal Caribbean cruises  sailing now year round from Galveston. Go to www.GroupTrips.com/holidaytravel for all of our bus trips"

Once you get past the errors such as it is Silversea (not Silverseas) and it is Queen Mary 2 (not Queen Mary), and Viking River Cruises is not (and does not claim to be) luxury, nor is Princess or Royal Caribbean, you find a reference to "Bus Trips".  So I look and see that these bus trips are about as low end as possible offering only continental breakfasts (no other meals) and many evenings spent at "enroute hotels" a/k/a low end no-name motels.  I also noticed that its group trips are pretty much only bus trips and short Carnival/NCL cruises with a few longer ones thrown in...with no details provided.  Warning:  If the travel agency that is trying to get your luxury business is also selling low end $500 bus trips and short budget cruises there is a very high probability that it has no ability to properly service your inquiries and providing the proper nuanced information you personally would desire regarding cruises...no less luxury cruises. 

The third thing I noticed is that Holiday Travel has online cruise pricing while it claims "The prices we have and the prices you get directly from the cruise line or tour company (even if you are a member of their frequent travel plans or have a special offer) is the same and in some cases our prices are better." So I took a look at the pricing for the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise and found that Holiday Travel is charging over $5,000 more for the same V4 suite I am offering...and it does not include any of the exclusive special events I am providing.  Warning:  If a travel agency claims it offers the same prices as the cruise line, RUN AWAY...especially if that dubious pitch immediately follows it's link to bus tours...because if it is offering you nothing and has no proven reputation, then you are asking for trouble.

The fourth thing I noticed is that it only has offerings for only a few vendors.  For example, Holiday Travel only offers river cruises from Viking and Avalon.  While there is nothing wrong with those lines (if they meet your desires), the fact is that there are many different river cruise lines, including more luxury orientated lines.  Warning:  If the travel agency seems to only offer a limited number of cruise lines you probably are going to be pushed into one of them even if it isn't the best match for you...either because they only sell a limited number of suppliers or they are not familiar with all of the options.

The fifth thing I noticed is that while Sonny said he was only suggesting that people use a local travel agent, it states right on the Holiday Travel website "1-888-xxx-xxxx (out of town)"! And, to make matters more dishonest, the website also makes a pitch for outside/part-time travel agents to work from their homes.  Warning:  If a travel agency claims to be focused on only selling locally, but actually isn't, it probably is being dishonest about other things too.

The sixth thing I noticed is the email address. If a travel agency can't establish an email address with its URL (like ripoff@gowithholidaytravels.com) which costs about $20 a year, there is a clear indication that the agency may not be all that it seems to be. There are a number of unfortunate people that have lost their vacations when a seemingly legitimate travel agency took their payments directly and the travel agency then did not pay the cruise lines, hotels or insurance companies.  Can you imagine turning over $20,000 for a luxury cruise to a company that makes it's money selling $600 bus trips and cruises?  While the lack of a customized email address may not be a strong indicator of such financial games, why risk it?  Warning:  Make sure the travel agency either has a long history of providing excellent service or your payments go directly to the supplier.  If the agency refuses to pay the suppliers directly: RUN AWAY.

I could go one, but by now you get the idea:  Holiday Travels of Lake Charles, Louisiana may be a legitimate travel agency, but it unquestionably engages in unethical and inappropriate conduct (such as posting on the Goldring Travel Facebook page a competing post with wildly inaccurate information...while charging over $5,000 more for the same cruise!).  So with that I paraphrase Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry:

In all of this excitement I kinda lost count.  Do you feel lucky?  Well...Do you?

When it comes to selecting a travel agency do your research.  Ask questions.  Check its website. While a great travel agent can be a tremendous value to you, unfortunately we all know of ones that can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.  You are your best protection...and now you have a bit of a better idea how.

Now:  Interested in getting more information about your next luxury vacation?  Contact me...I really know what I am talking about and have the experience...with a focus on creating the best vacation for you and with the goal of booking your travel not one time, but for the rest of your life!

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine (and Beer) Cruise - Norwegian Fjords & Arctic Circle on the Seabourn Quest - June 13, 2015

2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise
Norwegian Fjords & Arctic Circle Seabourn Quest - June 13, 2015
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Goldring Travel is always looking for the next unique culinary and cultural experience that goes above and beyond while avoiding the duplication of itineraries.  We have traveled through the Mediterranean,  the Aegean Sea, the Bay of Biscayne, the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers, and even the Southern Atlantic visiting such countries as Greece, France, Malta, England, Ireland, Brazil, Uruguay, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and more.  

This time we will travel to through the breathtaking Fjords of Norway and the Arctic Circle to the northernmost point of Europe.  (That is a Bucket List item for many just by itself.)  But there is more to the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise than an event or two!  I will be holding a number of  Complimentary Goldring Travel Food & Wine Events on shore plus the always incredible Private Food & Wine Tasting with the Seabourn Chef. (Since Norway is not known for its wines, this is where some unique and extraordinary wines will be paired with Norwegian delicacies!)  

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The itinerary is both comprehensive and relaxing, so there will be plenty of time to explore, enjoy the scenery and wildlife, and just sit back with a nice glass (or two) of wine.  Filled with breathtaking beauty, incredible experiences from strolling through quaint towns to fishing and crabbing to kayaking, hiking, kayaking and, of course, enjoying a wonderful slow pace in a region that has no reason to rush anything.  You also will experience the true Land of the Midnight Sun.  

June 13 Copenhagen, Denmark    
June 14 At Sea     
June 15 Flam, Norway  TR   
June 16 Scenic Cruising Sognefjord    
             Alesund, Norway   
June 17 At Sea     
June 18 Svolvaer (Lofoten), Norway     
             Scenic Cruising Trollfjord
June 19 Tromso, Norway   
June 20 Honningsvag, Norway     
              Scenic Cruising North Cape     
June 21 At Sea     
June 22 At Sea     
June 23 Olden, Norway  TR   
              Scenic Cruising Nordfjord
June 24 Scenic cruising Hjelterfjord  
              Bergen, Norway   
June 25  Stavanger, Norway  
June 26 Cruising the Skagerrak Strait  
June 27 Copenhagen, Denmark


So what does Goldring Travel have in store for the 2015 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise?

  • A truly Norwegian Culinary Experience with stockfish (salt cod), Artic char, lamb and goat cheese...with cloudberries, of course,  in an historic, fishing village;
  • A visit to an Ice Bar where we will enjoy Aquavit and Norwegian wines and cocktails (and with your complimentary Goldring Travel jacket you will be warm and toasty!)
  • A Viking Meal (updated to 2015, of course) including smoked reindeer and goat (as well as lobster and lamb...so those not so adventurous will be well taken care of!) which will be paired with five locally brewed Norwegian beers.
  • A Surprise Event!
  • An Ensemble Experience Shore Excursion (to be determined).
  • A Private Shopping with the Chef
  • A Private Food & Wine Tasting Onboard the Seabourn Quest.



Without giving the Surprise Event away, let me tell you about some of the past Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise events:
  • A private tours and tastings at Chateaux Margaux and Chateaux Lynch Bages in Bordeaux, France; 
  • Dining on Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar eight ways...and then making caviar (with aquaculturally raised stock) in Montivideo, Uruguay; 
  • A private behind-the-scenes tour of the New England Aquarium and then an incredible totally sustainable seafood buffet with paired wines and a marine biologist; 
  • A tour, class and tasting at a world famous chef's organic farm and cookery school in Cork, Ireland; and the list goes on.
  • A tasting of extraordinary Tokaji wines in Budapest, Hungary and Rieslings in Rudesheim, Germany; and the list goes on
Because of the uniqueness of these events, Goldring Travel has to strictly limit the number of guests. So please do not wait.

Prices start at US$9,000 per person including all fees and taxes.*


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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Do You Effectively and Efficiently Book a Cruise by Yourself? You Don't!

One of the "hot topics" in the travel industry is how to engage Millennials because you (not me, as I may be pretty tech savvy, but I am not in that age bracket) are so efficient and effective in mining data from all sorts of websites and, as a result, are very independent.

You, in fact, shun those supposed "experts" because you may well know more "facts" than those you might otherwise rely upon.  But are those facts and figures all you need to know in order to have the best travel experience?  As I will explain, the answer is not what you want to hear.

Monograms, one of the operators Goldring Travel uses has a great video as a prelude to this article...and remember when you watch it, you are probably doing something a bit more complicated than spending a few nights in Rome...A lot more!




The other day a very close friend of mine was traveling for training in customer service with an airline.  Having traveled all over the world, the concept of getting on an airplane for a short flight to the training center with other customer service candidates seemed rather mundane to her.  But what she experienced was something entirely mind-blowing:  These customer service candidates began fighting over who should be in Row 10 and if Seat D was a window or aisle seat.  And then it hit me...No wonder customer service is so often so bad!

The Customer Service agents really had no (or little) first hand personal experience dealing with issues that might seem minor on the outside, but can be very upsetting to a traveler.  There is quite a bit that can be learned in a classroom, or online, but there is nothing that can prepare you for real world issues than, well, the real world.

Heck, Row 10 may have no window.  Being seated in a window or middle seat when you want to get up a few times during a cross-country flight (or, heaven-forbid, you get a bit claustrophobic) can make a difference.  And, yes, for some people it doesn't make a difference, but for others it does...and there is no way you can tell them it isn't important.  (I admit I really like sitting on the aisle and not doing so can stress me out...especially on long flights.)

And that got me thinking about all the YouTube videos on "How to..."  So I took a look at what was available.  Let's just say there isn't a whole lot of "How to's" there and the ones that are truly sparse with information...regardless of whether that information is correct or not.

And that got me thinking about forums such as Cruise Critic or TripAdvisor...which, for those of you who know me know, are two of my least favorite "resources".  Why?  Because the information is, honestly, wrong more than it is right; especially on the luxury cruise lines.  There are people that pose as authorities, but post things that are just wrong...or are based upon their once every year or two cruise...or are focused on their own personal preferences.  I mean, how can a person who has a totally different life experience from you (and is focused on their life experience) that has a once a year vacation give good, reliable, and timely advise about a cruise line, a ship, a location, a category of stateroom or suite, dining experiences, ports, logistics, etc?

Simply put:  If someone write a review that a restaurant is the best he ever dined at, but his idea of dining is the endless pasta bowl at Olive Garden, is his five stars meaningful to you?  If they say the food on Carnival was wonderful, would you conclude that it can't be much better on Seabourn?

Goldring Travel (that's me!) has been there and done that...and continues to do it again and again, differently each time.  Interested in a luxury cruise?  You can read how Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas are each all the best and award winning.  Can you really determine the differences?  The different styles, cuisine, staffing, suites, etc.?  Would you even think to consider where each ship docks which can be different even if the same port is visited?  Does a butler really make a difference?  What is really included? How does a particular ship handle the number of guests onboard.  (Alas, it is not only about the number of guests!)

Goldring Travel can, not looking at a computer screen, give you first hand knowledge.  And my only goal is to have you come back to me time and time again...and to have your friends and family come to me as well.  So, no...when a cruise line is running a promotion to get me to book a certain cruise I don't do it if it is not the right cruise for you. I want to exceed your expectations.  (Try doing that by yourself!)

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  You believe that with enough time and research (and you do love to research things...though you may not have all that time) you can make a great decision.  To which I say, "You are right.  You 'may' make a great decision.  But you probably could have made an even better one working with a truly experienced and reputable travel agent.  And you probably could have booked that cruise at a lower price and/or with some added amenities like onboard credits or complimentary shore excursions."

One final thing to think of.  Let's say you are stuck in Buffalo, New York in a massive snowstorm with seven feet of snow keeping the airport closed for days and it looks like you are going to miss your flight, your cruise, your hotel and a lot of money...What are you going to do?

Stand on line?
Sit on the phone?
Stare at your computer waiting for a chat session that won't answer your personal needs?
Fight with your significant other?

I know!  You are going to call or email your travel agent who booked you that cruise and made sure you had the right travel insurance who will work to get you out of Buffalo and on that cruise (or another one) with little to no money out of your pocket...without the frustration and time commitment.

So I ask you again, "How Do You Effectively and Efficient Book a Cruise By Yourself?"  You call (877) 2GO- LUXURY or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why You Should Book the Seabourn Spirit or Seabourn Legend Before They Leave the Fleet (With Goldring Travel...Of Course!)

In just a few months the Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend will be no more.  While the hardware will, like their older sister, the Seabourn Pride, will pass to Windstar Cruises, the essence of Seabourn will leave them forever.


But before I get to that, I want to address an issue that some people have obsessed over to the point of, let's just say, "concern".  When the Spirit and Legend leave the Seabourn fleet, the world will not come to an end, luxury cruising will continue to exist (and even get better) and many, if not most, of those guests who swore they would never sail on the larger Seabourn ships either love them even more than the smaller ships or are happily satisfied with the alternative.

Most of those few grumbling folks don't even know that Seabourn started out with even smaller ships...which now sail as SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I and II...and that move allowed Seabourn to offer more:  Like spacious suites, marble bathrooms, alternative dining, multiple lounges and more.  The move from 100 to 208 didn't destroy Seabourn's luxury or elegance, it enhanced it and actually made Seabourn more popular and able to meet even more of the demands and desires of the increasing number of luxury cruise travelers.

A case in point is the recent Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn.  Now while it cannot compare to the Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruises (with such exclusive events as a private tour and tasting at Chateau Margaux, a Tokaji wine tasting in Budapest including a $750 bottle of the finest Tokaji or a tasting of fresh branzino pulled right from the Adriatic Sea Slovenia or the onboard tastings such as 11 paired courses prepared ala minute), what it can do is provide some pretty outstanding experiences for the lucky 450 guests.

As one of my clients wrote to me:

Cruise was A-W-E-S-O-M-E.   All new food menus.   Wine was unbelievable.

So much to tell you.  Seabourn, what took you so long!!!   Themed cruise was determined an undisputed success within the first 24 hours.  More planned for 2015.
  

Tony Egger, consulting chef, says hello to his good friend Eric!

OK, now back to the Seabourn Spirit and Legend!  These are special ships because they were for many years the heart and soul of Seabourn.  It was, alas, from these ships that many of Seabourn's trademark events arose.  (Did you know that Seabourn invented, and still has, Movies Under The Stars? Yep, it wasn't Princess Cruises...and Seabourn's is a bit more elegant!)

I love these smaller ships and they were the ships that got me off to a successful travel agency business.  There is an intimacy that is fantastic.  And the ship's short-comings like a pool that is too small and tucked in a corner and the lack of true balconies are easily over-shadowed by the incredible service and cuisine (by the same staff that are on the larger Seabourn ships...so not to worry).  

A client recently returned from the Seabourn Spirit and wrote:

I have been remiss in contacting you since we got home from our Spirit adventures-since I have had to return to doing our cooking, housekeeping and other "chores" that were done for us in our 21 days of "Heaven" on Spirit.

I will sum up our trip in three words: FABULOUS, FABULOUS and FABULOUS.  We loved cruising the Adriatic, which was so clear and clean, and discovering Croatia and all it has to offer.  We took two Seabourn tours-a visit to Magna Grecia Farms outside of Katakolon Greece and Truffle Hunting out of Rovinj-both were wonderful. 

The Spirit Team was professional, gracious and classy-they do have great employees.  Our weather was fantastic-only 1/2 day of rain in three weeks.  Met lots of people from all over the world and had interesting conversations. 

I can't thank you enough for turning us on to Seabourn.  We have been spoiled for life and look forward to future travels on the "bigger sisters"-all booked through Goldring Travel of course!

I could go on and on with wonderful details of our trip/cruise-the memories will not quickly fade.  Thanks again for all you do-and you do it so well!

I encourage you to get away from the cold of winter and head down to the Caribbean for a week or two on one of the two smaller Seabourn ships before they leave the fleet.  With prices starting at $2,199 + tax per person (and, if you have never sailed on Seabourn Goldring Travel will give you at least a $400 per suite discount right off the top!), you have everything to gain and - as my client's say - nothing to lose!

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seabourn to Build Second New Ship ("Probably")

Stein Kruse, President of Seabourn/Holland America/Princess/P&O Cruises has finally publicly stated what has been a not so secret "secret" for months:  Seabourn will probably be building a second new ship for delivery in 2018.


This is, truth be told, why Seabourn 2016 new ship delivery has been delayed a few months.  You see Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilding company, has a number of shipyards and the original yard was large enough to build one 640 guest ship, but not two at the same time.  So the yard building the new ship had to change, but was subject to a bit of an availability issue.

This second ship has also had a bit of a twist on the Inaugural and Maiden Voyages of the 2016 ship: It will be delivered in November 2016 (though bookings for the Maiden Voyage  will be opening in only a few months) and the itineraries are going to be very unique and unexpected.

With Seabourn transferring its smaller ships in the next few months and the new builds on the way, there is no question that Seabourn will continue having the youngest, most luxurious, and most innovative fleet in the luxury cruise market.

I bet you want more information on the new ships, how the Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest will be modified to provide a consistent and upgraded experience and just where that Maiden Voyage will be. Alas, I can say no more!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Goldring Travel's 2014 Food & Wine River Cruise - AmaWaterways AmaCerto (Amsterdam to Budapest) – Part XI - The Tokaji Wine Tasting

I awoke early for the last day of the 2014 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise.  It was not to prepare for my long awaited and highly anticipated Tokaji wine tasting in the afternoon, but for the sail into Budapest, Hungary.  Unfortunately it was very foggy, but still pretty spectacular.


Budapest, Hungary's Parliament Building 
I don’t know what I was expecting in Budapest, but the tour (there was only one) gave a decent overview as the sun burned the fog away.  There was the grandeur of the 1800’s and a poster for a Slipknot concert (if you don’t know Slipknot consider yourself older…and fortunate.  I took my son to a concert a few years ago, so I know!).


The "Original GPS"
After visiting the Pest side of the city we crossed the bridge to Buda which had a bit more charm.  




We were given a hour of free time, so while others shopped and hit the tourist coffee shops, I wandered into a tiny local pub for a beer



and then wandered over to an area away from the regular tourist area and found a food truck with a long line.

A Paprika-Infuses Sausage on a crusty baguette 
‘Nuf said!

We returned to the ship for our last locally themed lunch (a tasty Hungarian goulash, of course), but after that wonderful paprika seasoned sausage a taste is all I could muster.

Mid-afternoon was the last Goldring Travel Food & Wine Event…and the one I have been so looking forward to:  A Tokaji wine tasting.  Tokaji is a small area of Hungary that produces what I believe is the absolutely the best dessert wine in the world.

Getting to Domus Vinorum, the location of our tasting, was interesting because we took the local tram.  It was an ancient relic yet our guide said it was rated as one of the 10 most beautiful trams in Europe.  Then I realized it was because of the view traveling along the Danube.  If you have the time, the 2 Euro investment for a trip on the No. 2 tram is worth it.

We entered into a modern wine shop and were ushered down the stairs, through one room, down a small, winding, stone hallway and into a beautiful tasting room.


Our sommelier for the tasting, Esther, was outstanding.  Her father owns a vineyard and she lives Hungarian wines.  Her passion, as well as her charm, made this another incredible tasting.  It was a great education as well.

What I didn’t know, and didn’t expect, was that we tasted two Tokaji wines that were more un-oaked chardonnay like.  They were OK, but nothing special.   



Honestly, I think they were a set up for what was to come:  A little bit of heaven.  The three following wines were the Tokaji I had been waiting for.  These Tokaji wines reference a certain number of puttonyos, or 25 kg baskets of highly ripened AszĂș grapes added to the barrel, ranging from 3 to 6 puttonyos.  (Puttony is singular.)  The more puttonyos the higher the sugar concentration and greater concentration of flavors.



Our last wine, a 6 puttonyos Bestek 100% AszĂș grape, 1989 Tokaji was, without a doubt, the finest dessert wine I have ever enjoyed.  You need to taste it in order to appreciate it.  With the other two Tokaji wines paring with a gooey stinky cheese or a cigar would be perfect.  But for this:  Nothing.  it was so complex, so sumptuous, so damn good that paring it with anything would be a crime! It was a fantastic finish.


After our tasting we headed back to the AmaCerto to begin the dreaded packing.  I decided to delay that until after dinner as AmaWaterways allows you to stay in your stateroom until 9:00 AM on Disembarkation Day and use the lounge right up until the ship departs with her new guests and I was scheduled for an afternoon flight out.  (AmaWaterways even schedules taxis for you if you like.) 

However, after I checked and was sitting at dinner, Lufthansa sent me an email that my flight was cancelled.  Its pilots were on strike.  After quickly making some calls I was on a 6:00 AM flight out of Budapest, but others were not so lucky…and Lufthansa offered to assistance.

So that ordeal taken care of and the crisis avoided, AmaWaterways was not done.  After dinner we were given a final WOW with a nighttime cruise up and down the Danube to enjoy the incredible Budapest riverfront lit up in all of its elegance.




What a fantastic way to end my cruise on the AmaWaterways AmaCerto.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Goldring Travel's 2014 Food & Wine River Cruise - AmaWaterways AmaCerto (Amsterdam to Budapest) – Part X

The day after the 2014 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Tasting aboard AmaWaterways AmaCerto was a peaceful day visiting Melk, Austria and its Benedictine Abbey.  It was a pleasant, but I more enjoyed wandering the quaint village and strolling back to the ship.  The axiom ABC (Another Bloody Church) is starting to become uttered by more than a few passengers.

AmaWaterways AmaCerto in Melk,Austria
Melk's Benedictine Abbey


More enjoyable for me was finally being able to use the AmaCerto's pool as we cruised through the Wachau Valley.  (As I was the only one in the pool, the swim up bar was only for show.)  Not a bad view at all!





We then arrived in Durnstein, Austria which is a truly charming little village.  While famous for its apricot and the jams, liquors and more made from them…as well as another church…strolling through this town was peaceful and relaxing (though you can climb to the castle ruins looming above the church).  AmaWaterways included a second wine tasting here including a Gruner Veltiner, a Riesling and a Zweigelt.  The wines were decent enough, but the person running the tasting was aggressive and bothersome (unlike the charming folks who did the one earlier in the cruise).

Durnstein, Austria


Late in the evening we set sail for Vienna, Austria; which I have been waiting for.  For all of the great cities I have visited this is one important one I had not yet been to.  This was a busy day with events literally morning, afternoon and evening! 

As AmaWaterways regularly offers alternatives to the standard tours, I chose the Hidden Vienna Walking tour. Our guide took our small group through some of the backstreets of Vienna showing us some of the medieval areas and relaying some interesting stories and myths.  He had some interesting insights into Mozart's life and death.


Hidden Medieval Vienna, Austria

Mozart lived here

Mozart played here
Mozart died here
As he was talking the clouds turned to drizzle and then the drizzle turned to rain and, as the tour was wrapping up (for our free time) the skies opened and there was a deluge.  I was glad the specially embroidered Goldring Travel jackets that claimed to be waterproof actually were! (I am not sure why a couple of people felt it was the guide’s fault or how they thought he could make the bus instantly appear.)

Despite the torrential rain, two couples in my group graciously invited me to join them for something to eat at Demel.  As we walked I was able to enjoy some of the other sites of Vienna, which gave me more of a feel that I had visited the city.  When we arrived at Demel, which I did not know of in advance, I immediately knew I was in a little bit of heaven if you love chocolates or pastries.  What I didn’t know is that there was an upstairs, passing the show bakery, where a bit of elegance and a bit to eat could also be enjoyed.

I had a wonderful pate, but more importantly coffee served with decadent whipped cream and then a delicious chestnut dessert.  It was a real treat.

Demel's Bakery


A beautiful and delicious pate
A delicious Demel chestnut dessert,
so rich even I couldn't eat more than half
 I had just enough time to get back to the ship via taxi (which was very easy), change my soaked clothes and head out for the extra cost tour to Schonbrunn Palace.  Now, I understand it is supposed to be one of the, if not the, most opulent palace in Europe, but I am not a palace kind of guy.  I heard lots of positive comments and it is a “must see” place…which I have now seen.

Schonbrun Palace, Vienna, Austria
Upon my return I had just enough time to take a warm shower (needed after all the rain…that finally cleared as we boarded the bus to head back to the ship), have an early dinner with a Viennese theme (schnitzel was my choice) and head out to the extra cost Mozart and Strauss concert performed by the Weiner Residence Orchestra.  While the setting was not impressive, the concert (which included some opera and ballet) was quite good.  I was very happy I attended it.

An early morning sailing brought us to our second to last port:  Bratislava, Slovakia.  I had no idea of what to expect and I was more than pleasantly surprised.  This small country and city suffered under Soviet rule, first with a Communist approach and then, after an attempted revolution, a socialist approach.  It has a small, very walkable, charming old city and, as I learned on the Culinary Delights tour, a very modern new city area with a huge modern mall, hotels and opera house.

Old City - Bratislava, Slovakia

New shopping Mall, Bratislava, Slovakia



The guide for the Culinary Delights tour was the “delight”.  As we sat waiting for our food to be prepared (other than what we did to sort of assist) and while we dined, she discussed everything from the effects of the Soviet occupation to taxes, education to culture to history.  (I knew she would be good when she explained the explained the horrible looking building across from our ship was a “gift” from the Soviets.  She explained its design prevented the sun from coming in on sunny days and let the rain in on rainy days…rendering it useless as well as ugly.)

Oh, yes, we enjoyed the chef making Demikat (a delicious traditional sheep’s cheese, potato and paprika soup) and Pirohy (perogies, obviously) filled with sheep’s cheese or jam.


Demikat - Sheep's cheese, potato and paprika soup
Pirohy filled with jam with sugar and poppy seeds

After our tour I had time to take another stroll through old city before heading back to the ship.  I don't know that I will ever be back, but I surprisingly am glad I was here.

Next up is my final port,  Budapest, Hungary, and the last event of the 2014 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise:  A Tokaji wine tasting!