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.