The Edge Of Excellence: From soup to slop | TravelResearchOnline


The Edge Of Excellence: From soup to slop

A while back I took a cruise that was considered to be in the “premium” category.  It was a stunningly beautiful ship and my cabin was excellent.  The vessel was impeccably clean with a constant flurry of workers erasing every fingerprint and smudge

The décor was flawless and the spa was a sight to behold.  The entertainment was the best I have ever seen aboard a ship of any class. This might sound like a perfect cruise experience, but I would NEVER do it again!

The food was absolutely terrible.  It was not just “so-so,” but downright bad and, in more than one case, literally spoiled.  Crème brûlée should not resemble cottage cheese floating in runny maple syrup.  With only one exception, every dish of every meal was only marginally edible.

This epicurean disaster was the talk of the ship.  Nearly everyone I met had something negative to say about the disappointing quality of the food.  Perhaps more disturbing was the number of people that had negative things to say about their travel agents.

Of all the people with whom I spoke, not one said their travel agent discussed food preferences or mentioned reviews or ratings of food for the cruise.  That’s too bad, because food and dining represent the longest remembered and most talked about aspect of every vacation.

If you’ve ever taken one of my consulting workshops, you know how much emphasis I place on asking about food.  It is just one of the six “zones of experience” I suggest agents discuss in their consultations.  The other “zones” are related to activities, lifestyle desires, social situations, cultural issues and emotional desires.

Consulting and selling are two very different things.  Selling is TELLING people things–consulting is ASKING people things.  Consulting is about asking the right questions, in order to do the right research, in order to make the right RECOMMENDATIONS.

Without asking the right questions, you risk leaving the most critical aspects of vacation satisfaction to chance.  In today’s world where travel agents are all too often seen as optional luxuries, it’s a gamble few can afford to take.  In the case of the cruise above, it seems quite a few agents decided to just roll the dice and hope for the best.

True consulting does takes time and time is money.  This inescapable truth always brings me back to the only logical solution: fees.

Professional fees make the difference between struggling with high volume sales, and focusing instead on quality time, personal attention, and service.  The contrast can be as dramatic as soup to slop.

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

  6 thoughts on “The Edge Of Excellence: From soup to slop

  1. Dan Schneck says:

    Please tell me the ship you sailed..
    My first guess would be a HAL vessel.
    My second guess a P&O vessel.
    My third choice would be a Princess vessel.
    Last guess, Celebrity Cruises.

    If you choose to reply, the ship name would be kept confidential..

    Dan Schneck, President, Cruises Only, Canton, Ohio

  2. Deb Kashdan, PRemier Travel says:

    Nicely written, as always, just want to know which cruise line / ship this was referring to!! Thanks.

  3. Geof Lane says:

    Although I’ve had both good and poor experiences on cruise ships and seek out those I feel best suit my clients, when they have a bad experience, I look into it personally. It is the duty of the agent to investigate such stories and put them out there so folks can see that there is a lot of good and sometimes things do not go perfectly as planned. However, I always disclose the names of the vessels since without that bit of information, the story seem to be nothing more than made up or perhaps someone had just made up thier mind to not enjoy the experience…

  4. Ann Cappa says:

    How do we find out about food rating for the cruise lines? I’ve only been on one cruise line where the food was bad, not horrible, just not good. Most has been very good. I’m also not sure what questions to ask about food preferences other than specific dietary requirements. Thank you.

  5. Nolan Burris says:

    Thanks to all who commented! I can assure you, it was indeed a real experience. As I mentioned in the article, although the food was really bad, my main concern was with the travel agent criticisms I kept hearing. There’s no way we can anticipate every situation, but one simple question: “is food important to you?” can tell you if you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

    It’s a bit harder with a cruise, but ask things like “do you prefer exotic and unusual or comfort food? Fine dining or casual fare? Buffet or full service? Any dietary needs?…” A few minutes with Google with at least point you in the right direction.

    Lastly, If anyone wants to know the name of the ship, please email me: I’ll be happy to explain why it was left out of the article.

    In the mean time, remember – selling is telling, but consulting is asking.

  6. Chuck Flagg says:

    One thing though is that food is pretty subjective. You also can have a change in F&B management or an executive chef and what was once wonderful is now the pits.

    I do get the point though.

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