Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cruises and the H1N1 situation

I prefer to follow the President's use of H1N1 in talking about the current situation instead of swine flu. Just the name "swine" alone is causing more panic, IMHO. The travel alerts are out, people are beginning to get very concerned and added to everything else going on, we ask ourselves "why travel anywhere right now?"

These are my thoughts why planning a cruise is a smart thing to do. First, when stress mounts, finding a way to relax is a good thing. We all work hard, worry about bills, jobs, health concerns, kids, and numerous other "negative" things that cause us stress. When we have something to look forward to that represents fun, pleasure, relaxation and just a plain get-away from the daily stress in our lives, we feel better. We all love to plan and look forward to a vacation.

There are many wonderful land based places one can go for a vacation and reap the benefit of looking forward to fun, pleasure and relaxation. But there are also cruise vacations. Forgetting the value of a cruise over land (IMHO), with the H1N1 situation, it is really a cruise is a very sensible thing to consider.

If you were planning to go to a hotel in MX for example, you are probably changing your plans and scrambling to find an alternative vacation. You have now added stress to your life. If you plan a cruise, they work on the alternative plan for you. We see this in hurricane season every year - ships can change itinerary to stay out of harm's way when necessary. A hotel or resort can not be moved. Where it is is where it stays. Where will H1N1 spread to next? Your guess is as good as mine and if planning your vacation there, will you have to worry about what happens in the future?

The cruise lines monitor all situations very closely and can change itineraries to keep the customer (and the crew) out of harms way as much as possible. Ships with itineraries to MX now have changed ports of call and can bypass stops in any port in MX but the passengers still have all the benefits of the cruise. If something happens, they can still alternate the itinerary again. They can make changes after you are on the ship if necessary. What happens if you were at a land resort and something happens there?

Since cruise lines are diligent in reporting outbreaks of anything (norovirus every year for example) and don't want their passengers to have problems nor do they want any bad publicity so they already take precautions in cleaning public areas continuously to try to prevent the spread of any desease. They also take precautions in just allowing people to board the ships, especially in times like this. Will people lie to prevent them being denied boarding? You bet they will! Do hotels even try to screen quests at check-in? I've never heard of them doing that.

Combine the safety and precautions of a cruise ship to prevent spread of illness, the flexibility that cruise ships have in where to travel to so they can protect their customers and avoid areas of potential problems, with the value currently offered as prices are still at very low per diems, and this is a great time to plan your summer vacation. Or fall, winter, or even next year's.

And realize that using an agent, and especially a cruise specialist who will keep abreast of situations for you (need I say especially us and our team?), is again the smart thing to do. You don't pay more than booking direct with a cruise line - and probably save money, you get "real world" advice on selecting the right cruise for you, you have an advocate to protect your vacation and interests, and you might even find a new friend.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Each month we send out our personal newsletter - "Cruise Newz and Views" -to hundreds of subscribers who like to cruise. It is entertaining, informative, and best of all, FREE.

To be on our subscriber list, simply send e-mail to with your full name. (We need the name to be able to find you if you want to opt out at a future time.)

This is from the "From the Bridge" section of the April issue which went out yesterday:

January through April is referred to as “Wave Season” - the time frame when most people plan their summer, fall, and holiday cruise vacations. Over the last several years, the “booking window” had been about 7-8 months or longer prior to sailing. With the economic situations beginning the latter part of 2008 and early 2009, this “window” has changed to more “close-in” sailings. Since there was a higher than normal amount of availability, the cruise lines offered some amazing promotions in recent months to fill their ships. Some of you reading this month’s Cruise Newz did take advantage of a promotion and may have already sailed. In fact, in this month’s Cruise Newz, we share some stories about people who have taken advantage of recent promotions.

However, we said last month that these great bargains would not last for long and we are now seeing prices begin to increase as sailing dates fill up. There are still some great deals and bargains (depending on when and where you want to go) and our job is to find them for you.

Here’s an example: We (fortunately) took an option for a client this week on a Europe sailing for August. After working out the extra details (a few days in London and then getting to Copenhagen for the cruise), the client made the deposit before the option expired. Had we started the process two days later, the price of their cabin would have been an additional $600 per person. When you contact us and we find a cruise that looks right for you, be glad we do take options! There is no obligation, but it does protect you and the pricing we find for you!

The steps are easy:
1) You contact us to begin planning a cruise;
2) We help you by checking availability and pricing for the time frame and itinerary you are interested in;
3) We analyze pricing to find the best value for you;
4) We take an option which “locks in” the pricing we find and usually this will give you a few days to “think it over” before making the final decision.

Once you make the deposit, you can always cancel before final payment and receive a full refund so there is nothing to lose by depositing. Should the pricing go lower (once under deposit) we can get the pricing adjusted lower or better accommodation for what you are paying. Even after your booking is fully paid, we can either get you a refund or perhaps an upgrade to a better accommodation.

One last tip – if you are thinking about a cruise to Alaska, there will be less ships sailing there in 2010 (than this summer) so expect pricing to go up. There are still some great “deals” for 2009, but for 2010 dates, we recommend booking this year for next and getting something under deposit. This will assure you of the cruise or cruise tour, cabin type, and travel date that is your preference.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why do the Cruise Lines have so many rate codes?

Things have been pretty quiet of late and haven't been on the blog for awhile. Tonight though, I'm looking up a cruise for a client and an interesting thing came up and I figured this was a good one.

Cruise Line Rate Codes! They must be drinking some cheap wine or something to come up with their pricing strategies on occasion. In this case (the cruise I was looking up tonight), there is a past passenger rate that is better than a non past passenger rate, a military rate that is a little less for the 1st and 2nd passenger than the past passenger rate (so far so good and makes sense), then there is another lower rate for non-refundable (you can figure out who this one is on), and then there is another rate for Cash Back Offer - an onboard credit.

Here's the thing - the Cash back offer rate is $100 higher than the past passenger rate but with $120 on board credit, actually comes out $20 less and even a couple of dollars less than the military rate. So a non past passenger, booking under this rate would actually pay less than a past passenger or military person.

As an agent, the higher rate means higher commission and in this case, good for both the passenger and the client. But unless an agent is "sharp" enough to really look at the rate codes and figure it out.............this is why using a professional who specializes in cruises is the right thing to do. Especially, and only, if they put the client's best interest first!

I find many instances where what looks good, isn't always the best price. Iguess this increases our value to the consumer to work and book with us since we know how to find these strange situations.

Next week I will be posting information about our new Associate Agent Program. We are looking to expand our business (yes, this is a good time to expand and train some folks to be cruise specialists with us). Don't want to wait until next week? Then send an e-mail to and I'll get back to you.

Smooth Seas and Blue Skies