Friday, October 8, 2010

This is an article from our October Cruise Newz & Views in our new section "Did You Know?" If you are not a subscriber, simply send an e-mail to with your full name. Each month we have informative articles, client recommendations on excursions they've done themselves, client pictures, a little humor (always something fun) and the current Secret Word where you can win a special prize (link will take you to our website and details of this Exclusive Contest) -

While on the website, you can also learn about our Exclusive Client Loyalty Rewards Program -

Several new policies (or some that have always been in place) are now being enforced by the cruise lines. Mainly, this is the strict enforcement of the final payment due date.

Reservations MUST be paid for by that date or will be cancelled. Since the cancellation will be on the first day of the "penalty period," customers will also be subject to losing their deposits. This is not a new policy per se but is now being enforced.

As many of you know, we always watch the due date closely for you and even move the final payment due date on your invoices back by 10 days from the cruise line due date as a precaution. Now you know why.

Another new Princess and Cunard policy is that only ONE extension of an option will be allowed. Other lines are also being more selective in allowing "option extensions."

We take options for several reasons:

1) It "locks in" a promotional price, category, or cabin location for you;

2) It doesn't cost you (or us) anything;

3) It gives you a chance to request vacation time from your employer.

Another point about options - at one time, the cruise lines allowed us to take an option for about 7 days but of late, options have only been good for about 3 days on average. So remember, when we suggest taking an option, it is in your best interest that we are doing so! Now you know!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excitement beginning a trip

Things otherwise are a little quiet right now. We completed and sent out our latest Cruise Newz & Views a few days ago. If you are not currently a subscriber to our monthly newsletter, just send an e-mail with your full name to to get your free copy monthly.

This morning we are doing the last of the packing for our trip to Canada/New England on the beautiful Caribbean Princess. It seems we sail on this ship every two years - 2004, 2006, 2008, and now 2010. We've done the E. Caribbean, the W. Caribbean, the Southern and now this one. In fact, the picture on the blog is from the 2008 trip. Unfortunately our friend Capt. Marco is not on board this week.

The trip will be a little different as we are taking Amtrak's Auto Train today from Fl. to Va then heading to Philly to meet up with folks going with us on the cruise. Others we will meet on the ship.

Even with over 50 personal cruises to date, the beginning of every one brings new excitement and exhileration. Not only sailing with a couple of our associate agents this trip and some clients, it's also the new places we will visit and the new friends we are sure to meet during the trip.

By request, we will try to post daily as to our adventure. Trains, Ship and automobile (no planes) so the next two weeks should be interesting. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Use an Agent or Book Direct?

The question that has always been on the consumers mind is "Should I use an agent or is booking direct with a cruise line better?" Because of the greater use of technology and the cruise lines themselves directing more people to do things "online", this question becomes even more important to the consumer.

Let's do a comparison. When you call the cruise line direct, they will give you their best pricing based on any eligible criteria you might have (resident, Sr., past passenger, etc.). When you call and work with an agent, they get the same rates from the cruise line that you are eligible for. So far, no difference.

But, the cruise lines do not have "group space" held and only book individual reservations (even if there are two or three cabins involved). An agent on the other hand may have "group space" or contracted pricing that is lower. Advantage agent.

If you call cruise line A who also owns cruise line B, they will still only tell you about cruise line A (the one they work for.) The res agents do not even have access to the other brand. An agent on the other hand, will take the time to look at multiple possibilities accross different cruise lines to find the best fit for that customer. Advantage agent.

The res agent of a cruise line has one focus and one focus only - secure the reservation with a deposit NOW. That is their job! They will not necessarily do any research to compate dates to see if an alternate date has a better offer. Instead, you tell them what you want, and they "take an order." An agent on the other hand can do the research and will help you find the best value or "deal" that works for the customer. Advantage agent.

The cruise line res agents in most cases have been on very few cruises personally if any at all. To them, taking an order and meeting their "quota" of new bookings is all they care about. That is their job! Maybe they toured some of their ships, but they know practically nothing about the "competition" out there much less their own ships. An agent on the other hand probably has sailed on and toured many ships, has spent time learning about the various product out there, and can honestly help you figure out what is going to be best for you the consumer. Advantage agent!

Lastly, the res agent at the cruise line is interested in your booking reservation today, again, that is their job. Discussing excursion options, talking about the ship itself, or even buildiing a long term relationship with a client is not in their job description and will simply direct you to the cruise line website for any other information. Even if they knew the answers, that is NOT their job to tell you and they are instructed to send you to the website. In fact, if you call back it is almost impossible to talk to the same person.

An agent on the other hand is interested in that long term client relationship (or should be.) If not, find another agent who is. We do more work AFTER one of our clients makes their reservation usually because they can ask us questions about virtually anything prior to sailing and we will take the time to answer and help the client. Advantage agent.

I could put a lot of other comparisons but I think you get the idea. The agent is YOUR advocate and friend, the cruise line merely wants to take your reservation. You decide who is best and most advantageous for you.

And one last thought. As the cruise lines require the customer do more and more "online" for themselves, it would not surprise me one day when speaking to a cruise line res agent will have an extra fee. Don't think so? It happens with most businesses today - stores, hotels, and of course, the airlines who are the most creative in finding ways to add "fees." Yes, there are agents and agencies that offer discounts for booking online on their site and already charge extra to talk to an agent.

We don't and we never plan to! I guess I'm still old-fashion". We still think it is about providing service, advice, and building that long term relationship that is the right way to run a business.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

First, I had trouble getting back into the BLOG for the last couple of weeks. Had changed my password and never wrote it down. OK, it's an "upper age moment!" It happens. It's in my password list now so I should be more consistent in posting.

So today I ask how much is too much? As a Professional Travel Consultant and CruiseOne Franchise Owner who specialises in Cruise Vacations, we have a very simple business philosophy and have since day one about 9 years ago - DO FOR OTHERS AS WE DO FOR OURSELVES.

To put another way, it's always about our client(s)! I had the privilege yesterday to speak to a new agent training class and this was the focus of the entire presentation I gave about how to be successful in building their new franchise business. Put the Client first!

But the cruise lines aren't make this easy. It has gotten to the point where every week they have another "SALE" and another "Best Offer Ever." They run promotions and offers (special pricing, on-board credit, or something) to attract new bookings. Why? Beause they have space to fill on a ship and of course it's for "New Bookings Only." Why do they have all this space available?

Let's think about this for a minute. The cruise line wants to get the space (cabins) on a ship sold. The earlier they are sold, the better off they would be since they could actually RAISE pricing when there is less availability for a particular sail date on that ship. It's supply and demand, not rocket science!

The bigger the supply (cabins available) and lower demand (people booked), you will have to lower the price or offer incentives to move the inventory (remember a cruise ship sail date can not sit on the shelf forever - once it sails, you can't sell more cabins on that sailing). On the other hand with less available cabins, they could get a higher price or at least not have to lower it and/or give away incenetives. This ain't rocket science, just pure logic.

I am not saying this to get people to pay more for their cruise - yes, the higher the price, the more commission an agent earns (if it happens to fall on the commissionable side of the pricing which lately is not happening anyway,. Increased pricing is in the non-commissionable side of the pricing - do you think we actually get paid on what you pay? No, on many sailings the portion of the pricing that is non-commissionable is higher than the portion that is. That's another whole topic for another day.)

Here's my point. Cruise Lines, wake up! Let's work together and protect the clients who do what we want and book early. Make sure they get the best deal. And if you have to run a "SALE", make it a real one - do it EARLY! And if you don't want to protect the customers, at least don't fight us agents who do. When we call you about these situations, just go ahead and give the customer who is already booked the offer - price or incentive - and we will all WIN. Your cruise line, your agent partners, and most important, OUR MUTUAL CUSTOMER!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Professional Travel Agents Deserve Some Respect!

Although I will normally try to come up with an interesting or relevant topic of information, today I want to "sort of vent" a little.

I received a call from a prospective new client late (and I mean late) last night. The lady was pleasant enough starting out - was interested in finding the best deal in Oct, Nov, or Jan since she was flexible on when she could take a cruise. This is a good thing - be flexible on your time frame for vacation and a professional agent will take the time to find the best deal (read this as pricing or value as the prices of cruises do vary week to week based on many factors.)

She did have a specific cruise line in mind as her past passenger level entitled her to a special discount when booking balcony cabins. So far so good! Without going into a long story (I've actually started this over twice), I spent the time looking at sailings during the 3 months and embarkation port she was interested in (this is 13 different sailing dates mind you) and found the weeks with the lowest pricing. I told her what the price would be, and then she wanted to know what I was going to "give her" for booking with me. I asked myself "When did I join E-Bay or become involved in running an auction?"

Why do people think they "deserve" something for booking with an agent instead of doing it themselves or booking direct? Especially after having the agent do the work they are too lazy or not capable of doing themselves!

Do people think that agents just arbitrarily make up the pricing of cruises? Then, they can or are willing to "negotiate" the price like car dealers, home remodeling contractors, or vacuum cleaner salesmen? Those type businesses can use inflated prices so they can "make you think" you got a "deal" with the "discounted" pricing or extras thrown in. How can they do that? Because you the consumer, are never told what the MSRP - Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price - actually is for that product.

In those scenarios, you are not dealing with the Manufacturer or Owner of the product, but are dealing with a "retail" seller who bought the product from a local distributor, who bought the product from a regional distributor, who bought the product from a wholesaler, who bought the product from a rep who might actually work for the manufacturer. Guess what, everyone gets to make up their own pricing along the way and add a profit to it. Then the person who has the store you buy from has to make a profit and also makes up their own pricing. They can put on a "SALE" and say the regular price is $xxx but they are discounting it X %. Guess what, they made up the regular price, and then offer a discounted price to what they want to sell it for to get their profit margin and make it sound like a good deal.

Well guess what! Cruise Lines do the same thing. They put out a brochure price (the MSRP) and then run various promotions or discounted pricing from that MSRP. But there is a difference!

You know what the brochure or MSRP price is for that cruise but it is still the owner of the product - the cruise line - that determines at what discounted price their product can be sold to the consumer at, either by themselves or by authorized agents. The agent is only a rep to handle the reservation on behalf of the cruise line! But the agent, who is paid by the cruise line by commission, is responsible for then handling everything for their customer before booking (doing the research to find the best deals and value and right product for the customer), after booking but before sailing (making sure payments are made in a timely manner, answering questions, help with pre-cruise registration, documents, and much more). For doing all the work, the cruise line offers the agent a pre-determined commission based on the pricing of the cruise that they, the Owner of the product set.

And guess what folks, the agent does NOT get paid their commission on everything you actually pay. Sometimes more than half of the price you pay is "non-commissionable" to the agent. The agent though, has many expenses to stay in business and to be able to provide their customers with the service they expect and more importantly, deserve.

Asking the agent to "negotiate" and discount the pricing the cruise line sets, is the same as asking the agent to pay for part of your cruise out of their pocket (it comes from the commission they earn) but then, the customer still expects to be able to get the same service they would normally would for being the "customer." Would you be willing to do the same job you have now if your boss asked you to work for less money? Then why would you ask an agent to do that? I haven't figured this out yet but it happens all the time. It's like going into a restaurant and telling the waitress "the diner down the street sells their hamburgers for the same price so I want to negotiate the price of one if I am willing to eat here."

As a Professional Travel Agent and Franchise Owner, I take great pride in the service, and many times, above and beyond service I, or my agents provide to our customers. We hope our customers come back to us again and again because of this "extra value" we provide and are willing to do even more extras for that loyalty (we have an exclusive Client Loyalty Program for our regular and repeat clients).

We continuously spend our time (and money) to learn as much as we can and gain more knowledge to help you make wise decisions for your vacation and to be sure you get the best pricing and value offered by the cruise lines.

If this extra service and information is not important to you, then do the research yourself and book with online websites or direct with the cruise lines. But wasting an agent's time to do research and asking them to then "negotiate" pricing is just wrong. The cruise line will not do it with you (in fact, most cruise lines now do not allow agents/agencies to discount or negotiate the prices they set) but there are agencies, especially the "online" sites that still will. Eventually, they may lose their "booking privileges" with that cruise line and since they can't do business with them, you are the one who will suffer!

If you find an agent/agency willing to "negotiate" pricing and then book with them, or book direct with a cruise line or an online website somewhere, don't call us to complain when you have problems later on getting in touch with them (they might be out of business, or do not return phone calls even when they are supposedly open). We cannot help you (and yes, we get many calls from people who have booked elsewhere looking for our help) nor will we. You found a "deal" and now you have to live with it.

We agents deserve a little respect for what we provide and the ones who don't think so should go find another line of work. I love what I do but never said I was a non-profit business.

Note: to learn about our Client Loyalty Rewards Program, and what extras we offer to our clients, go to

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cruises for Family Reunions

Why does a cruise make sense for a Family Reunion? Simply put, it is the only way I know that everyone in the family can participate where it is affordable for everyone.

Let's think about this. The larger the family, the more age groups and economic situations within the family. Family reunions could be at one of the family member homes for a day, but can everyone in the family provide what would be necessary to do that? Probably not. Most of the family members either do not have the large home nor the time to do what it takes to make sure everyone has a good time.

A reunion could be scheduled at a resort but, what type of resort? Resorts are either going to be moderate, inexpensive, or luxury when it comes to facilities and pricing. Can everyone in the family afford the luxury resort? Probably not. Do the family members who are able to afford the luxury resort want to spend time at the inexpensive resort with less facilities, less entertainment options, less things to do that most of the family members can afford? Maybe, but again, probably not.

A cruise is really a floating resort. Every ship has a wide variety of entertainment options on board and things to do when in port. There are luxury accommodations and budget accommodations on the same ship. Everyone can stay within their own budget, do what they want (or what they can afford to do), and yet the family can still plan activities and dining together without putting a burden on the younger, less affluent family members.

Using a cruise specialist who understands the ships, the ports of call, and how to make the family reunion a huge success, should be the first step in planning your next family reunion. Give our team a call and I'll bet that a cruise will become the first choice for your families next gala get together. 1-866-887-4477.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Hardest Question to Answer

In the almost 9 years of being a professional agent specializing in booking cruises for folks, there is one question I am constantly asked that I find the most difficult to answer. This question normally comes from "first time cruisers" or those who have only been on a couple of cruises.

The question is "What is the best ship or cruise line?" All the cruise lines advertise how they are the best which is not much different from any business in any industry. So how does one know the answer to this or who to believe?

Well, IMHO, there is no "Best" ship or cruise line! There is however, something that is probably best for each individual, every time they are looking to plan a cruise vacation! And each time it might be different.

Itinerary, departure port, date of departure, type of accomodation, who is going on the trip, and of course, pricing or as I like to say - value. All of these things have to be taken into consideration to make a good decision.

I think it is a good idea for people to try different cruise lines early on in their cruising experience. We did that ourselves as our first 5 cruises were on 4 different cruise lines. This way we learned about the "personalities" of the different cruise product out there and yes, all the cruise lines do have a different type of personality (or put another way, energy level.)

The basics are the same for all of them - food, entertainment, choice of accomodation, and visiting new places or going back to those that were enjoyed in the past. And of course, one of our favorite things on any cruise is just being out on the open seas.

Do we have our personal favorites now? Sure we do! Part of it has to do with the "perks" we get as a past passenger with that particular cruise line but mostly, it is because we choose, based on our experience, the ship and/or cruise line we enjoy the most and that fit our personality. Does that mean we will not go on other lines? Of course not!

We're the same as you. Each time we plan our own trip, we take into consideration the variables mentioned above - itinerary, departure port, and value etc.

So when you call us to plan a cruise vacation and ask "What is the best cruise line or ship", we will ask you questions and sometimes make recommendations that you did not think of. Our job as your Personal Cruise Consultant is to help you make that good decision so you have a great experience and get the best value each and every time.

You don't have to follow our recommendation (or your favorite agent's reccomendation even if not us) but with over 50 personal cruises now, on many cruise lines and ships, numerous other ship tours and training sessions, traveling to many different destinations, (sometimes the same destination on a different product), and knowing that we know if we do right by you this time, you'll come back to us next time, it just might be worthwhile to try something new. You just might be pleasently surprised.