Friday, December 19, 2008

Travel Protection Update to the story earlier today

We did get word back that the folks did get on the 4:10 flight and are somewhere over the Atlantic as I write this heading to San Juan for their cruise. They will probably sleep very well this evening.

Does that mean they wasted the money for travel protection? Not at all. This time it did work out but for many, it doesn't. As I said earlier, it is "peace of mind" protection and without that flight, it would have been quite an out of pocket expense or complete cancellation and loss of the cost of the cruise.

A good friend of mine, a former client who is now an agent with our company (from Boston area)which is getting 7-11 inches of snow today, had e-mailed me this afternoon with a subject line:

The Only White I want for Christmas is the color on the side of my Cruise Ship

I would not tell him about our 80 degree temps today but told him to read my posting earlier today. He sent back this note:

Nicely done. The page looks great and the article is very timely to say the least. I like the picture of you and Helen with the captain. Only Al Richman could get the cap off of the captains head. I must say that I am one of your best students. For the January cruise I took the insurance and will show up 2 days ahead of time

Of course, if you have been on this BLOG before you noticed the picture of us that I finally put on it.

If you are reading this post and have no idea of what I am talking about, go back to the previous one. And if you wish to share a story about your situation once when it comes to having or not having travel protection, please put it in the comments.

Happy Holidays to all and we wish only for you to have an adventurous 2009.

Al & Helen

Travel Protection - Is it worth the money?

This is an "optional" purchase offered along with one's cruise plans. 1/3 or more travelors opt NOT to get the travel protection offered when booking a cruise (I have no idea of the stats for other travel.) But is this protection worth it? I believe it is.

Not because we, as agents, make some additional commission, but for peace of mind! We learned this lesson the hard way years ago before becoming agents. It cost me over $3400 to learn this lesson but that is a different story. Today's is current.

We have a client going on a 10 day S. Caribbean cruise departing from San Juan today. I received a call yesterday that they were worried because of a major snowstorm coming into Detroit this morning and would the flight get out in time to catch the connection in Miami. Well, the plane boarded passengers and then deboarded them. They reboarded an hour or so later, left the gate and then returned (mechanical problem). They finally left Detroit about 4 hours late.

Needless to say, they missed the connection and the only two flights to get them to San Juan in time to catch the ship today are full (we're hoping stand by works for them as people connecting from other flights may be delayed more depending on where they are coming from - mean but my clients get my priority!)

We can not even help them get to the first port of call tomorrow (flights and time schedule) and the 2nd best scenario is to get them to the ship on Sunday. This means hotels two nights in San Juan (if they get the flight that is too late for the ship), purchasing a ticket from San Juan to St. Marten, meals, etc., and will the luggage actually catch up to them? Not to even mention lost time on the cruise if they get there at all.

Without travel protection, one is "out the monies" spent. Fortunately, these folks listened to me and purchased when they booked about 4-5 months ago. All costs will be reimbursed (estimate with the flight to St. Marten) about $650-900 or so plus the 2 lost days of the cruise! And if they don't ever get to the cruise - $2700 they paid for the booking. cost of their travel protection is $198 total.

Right now, they are at the Miami airport getting on the stand by list for the 2:30 flight or the 4:10 flight. With luck, they will be on one of those flights, get to San Juan, get on the ship, and begin their long awaited vacation.

Whether they make it to the ship today is still unknown. But the "peace of mind" protection - that's what I call travel protection - is definitely worth the small amount paid, even if they get to the ship and enjoy the entire cruise and do not have to file a claim.

Think about it the next time you book a cruise. Of course, whenever possible get to your embarkation destination a day early to be even safer. Especially in the winter when coming from up north.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Town Hall Meeting - Lessons Learned

Last week we conducted out first or "inaugrual" live online Town Hall gathering and in short, it was interesting! We only had 3 people attend (well 6 or 7 but from 3 locations). That turned out to be a good thing.

Why a good thing? The reason was some technical difficulties. Plan 1 was a toll free teleconference setup. This was fine except they gave me the wrong "host" code to open phone lines. Actually was a typo but didn't know this until the next day.

Not to worry - we went to Plan 2 - and attached my microphone to the new computer (that's another whole story) but something was not right and no audio.

Fortunately, at 7:58 there were only 2 attendees so I was simply going to use 3-way calling to plug both in and now a 3rd name showed up on the attendee list. Well, I could only connect 2! On to plan 4. As there is a "chat" module in this technology I asked "does anyone have 3-way calling?" One lady thought she did so I asked "Mike or Richard, do you mind if I give Wendy your phone number?" Richard said that's fine so I called Wendy, she connected Richard from her phone, I connected Mike and we began only about 7 minutes late. If there were more folks, then it might have been a real "daisy chain" to pull this real.

The folks had a good time looking at the pictures we took of the Solstice, Splendor, and Ruby Princess and especially the "behind the scenes" look at how we research price and availability for clients. They had several good questions and closed the session.

Lessons learned - 1) always have a plan but also have a back up plan. 2) Check equipment ahead of time. 3) Never panic as there is always a solution to a situation (I prefer that word over problem). I know these 3 things and only forgot the 2nd one. Next month will be better.

I do want to share these comments from Wendy:

Al & Helen:

I truly enjoyed your webinar this evening. The pictures of the new ships were beautiful. I found it very exciting to see pictures of Carnival’s new ship as I will be sailing in just a few days.
The tour of your website was very informative.
I can certainly see the price advantage of booking through you rather than try to sift through all of the information myself on the internet. I was especially interested in the “blocked cabin” rates that you are able to sell at a deeply discounted rate.

Since you gave me onboard credit for my next cruise, I will have to book again in the near future.

Thanks for all you do.


We always have surprises and the 3 who did take time to attend each received on board credit for their next cruise. What will we do next month? I guess you just have to show up to find out. Check our website for details.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

At least Crystal did read the posting

OK Crystal, I do remember you saying that about the pricing. I believe we are in St. Thomas in Jan so will stop by and say hello to you and Farrah. Still not buying that piece but we will visit it .

For everyone else, remember, you must contact us to get the info for Wed night's live cruise night on your computer. E-mail to for the invitation to attend.

This S Caribbean cruise has been very pleasent and we did get an invitation to tour the bridge with the Capt. this morning. We do have an interesting picture with Helen in the "driver's seat" of the Caribbean Princess. I guess we are still heading to San Juan - just kidding.;

Friday, December 5, 2008

Upcoming "live" cruise night at your home

(Hi from Aruba today.) On Dec 10th we will conduct our first internet cruise night. As I mentioned last time, this will feature 3 new ships and a behind the scenes look at our technology to help you find the best pricing and availability for your cruise.

We will be broadcasting "live" from our office right into your computer at home (guess what - you don't even have to wear shoes for this event) at 8 PM ET on Wednesday December 10th.

To get the information you need to join the event (website meeting link, passcode to enter the room and the tol free teleconference number, just e-mail me at As this is the first one, and an experiment if you will, we only have space purchased for 50 guests (and I will use two spots for my computers) so first come, first served with the info.

We promise you will have a good time, a few laughs and see some very interesting things. There will be a surprise or two for those attending. No, I will not tell you now - I said surprise!

We will also be drawing the November monthly contest winner for on board credit for their cruise. We hope to see you there.

Crystal and Farrah, I would love to hear from you and know that you did read about yourselves on this BLOG as a promised I would give you and your store a "plug." Thanks again for your hospitality.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We always say St Thomas is great for shopping

It's hard to believe but we are back on a cruise ship again. After the Splendor, we were on the beautiful and luxurious Celebrity Solstice for a couple of days last weekend and this past Sun, flew to San Juan for a S Caribbean cruise on the Caribbean Princess (our 3rd time on this girl).

Yesterday we were in St. Thomas and we had one "mission" to find a particular item but the store did not have it unfortunately. But we walked around and visited several shops. Lo and behold - in Cardou Jewelers, we found something for Helen we have been looking for for a very long time - earring jackets! We have checked stores in the US, we have checked stores in every island we have gone to and even in Europe to no avail.

When we asked (out of habit more than anything else) if they even knew what they were, the lady directed us to a counter and there they had some. It almost didn't matter the cost - it was mission accomplished finally. (They weren't that bad either especially with a little extra discount she gave us.)

We also saw something very interesting in a little store called Minor's Gems on a side street. They had a life sized figure in the doorway that talked to you as you walked by. Quite a surprise to really this thing wasn't human. The two gals who work there (Crystal and Ferrah) were so friendly we chatted with them for a few moments and when they mentioned they had glacier jewelery, I went through my digital camera to find the picture we took of a piece of iceberg (abut 400 pound piece) brought onto the ship when we were in Alaska back in Sept.

It turns out that this outfit has stores in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and they have some really nice and unique items. Crystal showed Helen a bracelet and had it put it on. It was nice, very, very nice and only $35,000! Not today Crystal!

We did find something for a niece for the holidays and it really was a bargain and they do have many such items in this little store and probably many more in Alaska. We will be sure to mention this shop to those coming to St. Thomas or Alaska in the future.

I can't do it now but will definitely try to upload the picture of these two warm and friendly girls and their "miner" doorman when we get back. Thanks again Crystal and Ferrah for your hospitality.
In a couple of days, I will post information on a special live online webinar we have scheduled for Dec 10th where we will be previewing the Carnival Splendor, the Celebrity Solstice, the Ruby Princess and a special behind the scenes look at how we research cruises and find the best pricing for our clients. Stay tuned for that as there will be limited space for this broadcast that will come right to your computer from our office and I'll tell you how to get the login information needed for both the computer and toll free teleconference number.