Monthly Archives: May 2010

Posted In: 1:1


PictureConstantine Venetopoulos is part of the 3rd generation of the Venetopoulos family that founded Variety Cruises. Constantine joined the firm in 2007, after studying marketing in City University London and Surrey University. Constantine currently serves as the Director of Sales for the company’s US operations.

TRO: Constantine, can you explain to those who have never been on  a Variety Cruise exactly what the experience is all about?

CV: The Variety Cruises concept goes back to when we started with our small ship cruises, at that time called Zeus Cruises. The concept is an intimate and casual atmosphere on board small yachts or sail cruisers hosting a select 50 guests in 25 staterooms, with a crew of 20. The atmosphere is one of casual elegance, more similar to private yachting than cruising.The day-to-day experience revolves around the sundeck, the dinning area and lounges of the yacht. Weather permitting, our yacht will drop anchor daily close to a beach or cove where our guests can enjoy some time to swim directly off our swimming platform. We visit sites of historical significance where our guests can enjoy an optional excursion or spend their time at leisure. We dock into the islands later in the afternoon where our guests can explore the village ports and the islands. The smaller size of the ships presents opportunities that the larger cruise vessels can never achieve.

TRO: Tell me something about the destinations Variety visits.  How is approaching a port in a small ship different from ports of call visits on larger vessels?

CV: Our destinations are currently Greece and Turkey, Venice and Croatia, Egypt and Jordan and the rivers of West Africa. The common thread among all our destinations is  to visit the more known ports of call combined with intimate, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings


Last week, a colleague called me asking for the name of a Canadian agent. She had a client and needed a referral. Have you ever done that? While the airlines have made a ton of money by relocating their call centers to India where people earn far less than a livable US wage, when was the last time you just gave away a customer?  Maybe it’s time to consider it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw May 28, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

I started the New Year with high hopes that this year would definitely be better than the previous year. My business was doing great. I was getting exposure in the local media. I finally had money to really market and advertise my business. Things were chugging along.Just when I thought things were turning the corner –bam!  My life as I knew it started to unravel.  I was sitting at my desk diligently working one cold Feb. afternoon when my brother called. They had rushed my Mom to the emergency room because she was having stomach pains.  I knew my Mother was resilient and thought this would be a temporary setback.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

A perfect storm of converging opportunities can make forming affinity groups as easy as cake…a real piece of pie. (My skills as a chef are limited but I really do know how to mix up a mean metaphor!) Let’s look at the huge opportunity offered by these converging forces – one element at a time.

Globalization & the Aging Population –

With the aging of the world’s population as a whole, there is a growing passion for continuous later-in-life learning. The prime areas of interest are food & wine, technology, art, history, culture and literature. Riding this wave, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: Get easy

Not long ago, I was working with a sign company whose tag-line was “We Make It Easy.” This phrase was included on all of their promotional materials, and I first noticed it in the upper left-hand corner of their business card.

Since I was dealing with the top dog in the company, I decided to ask him if his employees actually did make doing business easy. I was a caught by surprise when the president answered, Read the rest of this entry »

They say you never stop learning or growing. As such I like to consider myself a student of life. Yet there are some things that I must admit, I seem to need to learn over and over again. Although I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent individual that picks up things quickly, one of the most difficult life lessons for me has been to not compromise my own needs in order to fulfill everyone else’s. That’s not to say that you should be neglectful of anyone, but I think we need to be mindful of our own needs first. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PicturePrior to joining Holland America Lines (HAL), Rick Meadows was VP of Sales & Marketing for Windstar Cruises, then Senior VP of Sales & Marketing for Seabourn Cruise Line. A frequent speaker at industry forums, he also serves on the CLIA Marketing Committee. Residing in the Seattle area, Rick serves on the board of directors of the Seattle Repertory Theater and has been appointed by the Governor to the Washington State Tourism Commission.  Our discussion focused on the increasing popularity of on-board enrichment programs and how travel agents might leverage the trend to their advantage.

TRO:  HAL has a reputation as a leader in the field of on-board enrichments programs, particularly in the field of culinary arts. Has this proven to be the most popular of passenger programs?

RM:  Let me kind of set the background first. The Signature of Excellence program that was started about four years ago as an initiative has now become a way of life with us. We really believe that investing in enrichment and “edu-tainment” is something that is going to be really important to remain relevant to the Boomer and the generation behind them (Generation X). The whole ability to learn and be entertained at the same time is not a fad…but has become a trend that has really set in…and is now something that is expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

People who know Aruba feel like they have their own secret hideaway. But a place this good can’t remain the secret trove of only a few. The liveliness and abundance of casinos, discos, cabarets and dinner shows makes this resort a premium location for sunbathing, windsurfing and partying. You’ll enjoy the hot weather, the desert climate and the sandy beaches and crystal clear ocean. Most of all, you won’t lack for something to do! Vacation Express has the best programs to Aruba of any US Tour Operator, so maybe it’s time to point your clients south, way south, to discover their own secret hideaway.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Tugging at heartstrings

I recall one of the first Point to Point columns we did at TRO by Mike Caplin called This is the business we have chosen. The column included a fantastic video which is always worth watching one more time.  I hadn’t thought of Mike’s column or the video until earlier this week when someone posted in the TRO Community about clients who touch our hearts and make it all worthwhile.

The initial post discussed a 30+ year relationship where a woman took each of her 13 grandchildren on a trip when they were 13. The last of the grandchildren is now 13 and Lynn is likely planning her last trip for this client. But the sparkle and the thrill of travel in this client’s eyes makes it all worthwhile. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

How important is response time?

If you’re a firefighter or an ambulance driver, your response time is vitally important.  And it had better be measured in minutes, and not hours.

But what about travel consultants? For us, I think it probably depends on the situation. If you’re a corporate agent dealing with clients who need to change their plans from moment to moment, you probably need to be very accessible and responsive. A leisure agent, on the other hand, generally has a little more time to respond and react. But how long is too long?  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

On Star Flyer, Jack Sparrow Wannabes

Cannes, France — This past Saturday morning, I disembarked an eight-day cruise on Star Flyer, and I can now say with confidence that a sailing on Star Flyer is unlike an ordinary cruise on ships large or small. Not once during our eight days sailing the Mediterranean did Star Flyer tie up alongside a dock, and that alone says something about this cruise.

Sure, any small ship can drop anchor in snug harbors and dispatch passengers ashore by tenders, as Star Flyer did in each port we visited this week. But Star Flyer does something that most ships don’t do: She recaptures the romance of sailing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

My good friend Mike Marchev and I produce a weekly webcast called “The Mike and Nolan Show.”   Pop onto and you’ll see us laughing it up and discussing various travel topics of interest.  Recently the subject of bad habits came up and it really struck a nerve with me.

There are a lot of things that we used to do that still serve us very well.  There are other things we continue to do even when we know we should change.  Why is that?

Sometimes we keep on the old well-trodden path just because so many others are still on it too.  Sometimes we repeat old patterns because we haven’t learned any better ones.  Sometimes we continue to do it even after we’ve learned a better way.  Habits are, well,  habit forming! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Silver Linings

No doubt we have seen some pretty dark storm clouds hanging over travel the past few months. We have an economy that threatened to go comatose and the worst unemployment in decades. Worldwide, the news media seems bent on making Mexico, Thailand and  Greece off limits.  Then there’s that ash cloud and an oil slick in the Gulf the size of Connecticut.  It’s still early in the year so no one is yet uttering the word “influenza,” but give them time.  As Gilda Radner said, “It’s always something.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Interruptions!

You’re Crowding My Space

Excuse me, dahrlings, but…
You’re Crowding My Space

As if we don’t have enough hurdles to deal with, Pumpkins. Come winter, Americans can bar your client from flying to Mexico. Or Jamaica. Or Barbados. Or anywhere south of the States.

The air above America is American and it belongs to them. (Honestly, no one wants to take it away from you guys. They really are a touchy lot.) And if they don’t want someone in their space – even if that person is sitting in a plane hurtling through it – they can’t be there – up in the air, that is. Apparently, they’re planning a “No Trespassing” sign somewhere over Michigan.

This latest safety fabrication is called the ‘Secure Flight’ rule. It’s supposed to stop a mad bomber from taking over a sun charter or something and flying it into the States. Read the rest of this entry »

Growing up, I had a friend whose mother was a Realtor. I remember numerous last minute trips to her mother’s office, her mother dropping her at my house (last minute), cancelled outings (last minute), and so forth. The almighty dollar was of utmost importance to her mother and it seemed to me, that everything else was secondary. And if that worked for their family, that’s great. I know the job of a Realtor can be 24/7 and a tough one at that–especially in this economy. And, often I find myself comparing my own career to that of a Realtor’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – May 17, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Publishers Corner

The Tyranny of NOW

Can we all just relax a bit?

Last week, in the midst of a hard disk meltdown, I received an email from a travel agent requesting information on using TRO’s 60 Second Geography series on the agent’s web site. Because of the momentary crisis presented by some 390 gigabytes of data that went missing, I did not notice the incoming email until a second one arrived demanding to know why I ignored the first. Checking the time on both, I noted that only two hours had passed since the first request.

Let me state for the record that I pride myself on promptness. I live at my computer with my email on and I try to respond as quickly as possible to all inquiries. Particularly those from travel agents and suppliers. But, on some occasions, things slip through the cracks. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Why didn’t I think of this?

OK, I will warn you right now, that what you are about to read is stunningly brilliant. I will also disclaim that the concept was not mine, but devised by a guy I don’t know named Alec Brownstein. Alec’s story is incredibly impressive—you should read about it. But as I thought about it, I realized his brilliance is easily adapted to the travel industry—and I will take the credit for it.  In one form or another, we all advertise. If you are still advertising in the newspaper, go get a cup of coffee.  If you are advertising online, stick around as I explain why it just might be a bad and expensive idea to advertise what you’re selling. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PictureNo, he’s not a twin, but Lee Robinson does hold twin responsibilities, being the Vice President of Field Sales at both Princess and Cunard Cruise Lines.  His business card is double sided as well.  Wonder how he has time for his hobbies of golf and gardening?

TRO:  How did you get started in the industry?

LR:    Many years ago, I worked for Holland America, managing hotels in Alaska, and working with the tour buses.

TRO:  Princess has come a long way since the Love Boat days.That show was certainly the impetus for getting people interested in cruising.

LR:     Yes, it was.  And Princess was also the first cruise line to offer a teaching Academy.  When we started our four levels, we never thought we would have this many agents reach the status of Commodores.  It shows the dedication of agents to complete the program and take additional courses annually.

TRO:  Now fess up, Lee, how did you do on the courses?

LR:     I admit, I didn’t pass Tahiti and South Pacific on the first try. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Promoting our Value

Recently, I have had booth space in 2 consumer shows here in my home town. While talking to people who stopped by,  I was amazed at the number of consumers who said they booked their vacations online.  I have said it before and I am going to say it again-travel agents and agencies need to show our value to the consumer. The average consumer thinks we don’t provide any real tangible value. They still think they are getting the best pricing doing it themselves.

How do you show value to consumers? Do you treat your clients like they are VIPs? Do you react negatively when they call you for a simple air request? Do you react negatively to budget consumers? Today’s budget consumer may be tomorrow’s upscale traveler. Everyone should follow the Golden Rule-treat others how you would like to be treated. Do we consistently do that? Do our negative thoughts affect how we treat others? Read the rest of this entry »