Author Archives: Cheryl Rosen

There are 68 articles by Cheryl Rosen published on this site.


“Keep calm and visit Ukraine,” says one travel insurance supplier’s recent marketing campaign, in a tone-deaf call for travel advisors to become evangelists for travel to Ukraine (Visit Ukraine – INFORMATION PAGE FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS).

And indeed, travel advisors report that many clients are holding steady on their planned cruises and FITs in the region, if not to Ukraine itself. Still, though, as final payments come due, politics and the drumbeat of military operations are beginning to take a toll.

“I sell cruises only, and I’m a top producer for Virtuoso, so I have lots of people going to that region—and surprisingly few have canceled,” says Linda Speer of Cruises by Linda in Harrison, AR. “Still, I have a group of seven cabins booked on a Baltic cruise in September that’s looking instead for something to do domestically. Between omicron and this Ukraine business, it was just too much uncertainty.”

Of course, that’s something Speer has gotten used to of late Read the rest of this entry »

Like Girl Scouts who are always prepared, travel advisors know that a successful vacation often comes down to having a backup plan. So when Lene Minyard of Perfectly Planned Journeys gathered a group of insiders earlier this month to come up with ideas to help travel recover, it’s no surprise they proposed a Plan B—for their own businesses, for their customers, and for the industry as a whole.

The discussion began, of course, with concerns over the present situation. “There’s a lot of new blood coming into the industry; they are coming in by the droves,” said The Travel Institute’s Guida Botelho. “We get 8-10 new people every single day. And we have a responsibility to educate and empower and propel these people forward.”

But for new advisors—and for the thousands of travel advisors already in business—it’s almost impossible to keep up with the changing regulations of every supplier and destination. And of course, there’s the Damocles sword: the better job you do and the more information you share with clients, the greater your liability if you say the wrong thing.

“We need more training on being a business owner, on defining the advisor’s role in the midst of the pandemic,” said TRUE Global Network vice president Margie Jordan. “When you make it your burden [to give clients information], it becomes your liability. Where do we draw the line? What is our duty of Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s just say that unique times call for unique strategies. Being so deep in the throes of omicron concerns (could that have been just a couple of weeks ago?), it’s not surprising that some travel advisors took a step beyond the usual marketing strategies to reach new and existing customers.

Leave it to the younger generation to head for Hulu. While everyone agrees that taking a group by the hand and posting your adventures on social media is the best way to build confidence among customers, 29-year-old Dillon Guyer put together “some incredible footage” he filmed of everything from Clearwater, Florida, to Virgin Voyages, Athens and Istanbul while he did that. He then posted it on the Hulu channel using a new program in beta testing.

With an investment of $2,000, Guyer signed up for a plan that bills him every time a Hulu customer plays his ad; so far Read the rest of this entry »

What’s a travel advisor to do when a preferred supplier like Crystal cruises stops sailing? Communicate with your customers and be transparent. In the case of Crystal, you have to look at your booked customers in three buckets and reach out to each with targeted communications, says Alex Sharpe.

The CEO of Signature Travel Network, himself a former SVP of Regent Seven Seas, immediately reached out to legal counsel, who told him “you should cancel and dispute charges right away,” he told TRO. “With the ‘reserve accounts’ in place with the credit card colmpanies, I don’t know that disputing charges is critical, but at this point, it couldn’t hurt.”

Here’s an edited version of what Sharpe had to say in our 45-minute conversation last week: Read the rest of this entry »

Just hang in there for two or three more weeks, travel advisors, and things will be better.

That’s the biggest take-away from a press conference yesterday featuring Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO Frank del Rio and the head of its Health and Safety Committee, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer.

Here’s my transcript of what they said, slightly edited for brevity. I took notes in shorthand, which I am pretty good at but a word or two may be off, and I apologize for that. Read the rest of this entry »

It took a village to survive in the travel industry in 2021, and I am amazed by the smart and generous travel advisors who shared their stories with me throughout the year. In the final weeks of the year, I came across some amazing stories of teamwork and perseverance during the Dream Vacations/Cruise One conference.

Julie Vowell, Jodi Denney, Lisa Merutka and Barbara Linebarger, for example, have been pooling their resources since they met in 2016. They were brought together in their pj’s as a fire alarm went off in the hotel where they were staying during a training program, and have supported one another ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

The travel industry is rolling with the punches again, as 2021 rolls to a close and every day brings a new news cycle. Again.

Just two weeks ago at the US Tour Operators Association, the speakers were bullish about what 2022 would bring and travel advisors were looking forward to a great year. But this week, there’s a slight hesitation in everyone’s step, as omicron spreads on land, air and sea.

This is going to be a tough week,” says Zena Beaver in Selinsgrove PA. “Three days ago all was good—but after the six o’ clock news last night, I received three emails and two texts about postponing trips from January to later in the year.”

“Those take-home Covid test kits are the new toilet paper,” joked Jennifer Trinin at ProTravel in Westbury, NY. “Maybe we can get ones with logos on them to Read the rest of this entry »

“We are a little broken. Life is scary. The waters aren’t always calm and you may not know what to do,” says Drew Daly. “But just keep swimming.”

It’s all about having a plan, the World Travel Holdings (WTH) senior vice president told attendees at the Dream Vacations/Cruise One annual conference onboard Celebrity Apex in November. And clearly, the WTH team that manages the franchising brands has been working on theirs.

In their first live conference in two years, they gathered 800 franchisees and travel advisors aboard one of the first US sailings of the beautiful Celebrity Apex for a week of ship inspections, education and Read the rest of this entry »

The Industry Gives Thanks

There’s nothing like an industry get-together to pump you up, ease your worried mind, and remind you how much we have to be thankful for. So this Thanksgiving, I will be counting my blessings for the bounty of good news and good people I have come across in the past two weeks.

At CruiseWorld in Miami and then aboard the gorgeous new Celebrity Apex, where 800 Dream Vacations and CruiseOne franchisees gathered for their annual conference, the travel advisors and suppliers I met were uniformly hopeful and optimistic, excited about the future and, above all, happy to be together again.

If there’s just one story to tell, make it that a cruise ship is the safest place on earth, says Celebrity VP Read the rest of this entry »

A Little This, A Little That

 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for travel advisors. Everyone seems to be on the move again, checking out destinations and attending conferences, seeing friends after a long, long time. I’ve heard so many interesting comments about what’s going on the industry; here are some thoughts.

Last month’s Global Travel Collection conference featured a panel of Teen Family Influencers talking about what they found most memorable in their families’ jaunts around the world. The biggest takeaway: no two kids are the same, something travel advisors need to keep in mind when planning inter-generational trips. On the panel, Lucas likes “nature-oriented exploring,” such as the “scientific stuff” he heard during a tour of Pompeii; Benjamin likes to go Read the rest of this entry »

RCCL Leaps Into World Cruising

It’s a traveler’s dream vacation, and a travel advisor’s dream commission—even a sign of hope that one day soon the world will be open and the seas free to roam.

So, of course, Royal Caribbean’s announcement of its first-ever world cruise, the longest in the industry at 274 nights, made some headlines this past week. And for some travel advisors, it actually did get clients calling.

While some said it was too long (especially for customers with pets) and some said it was too expensive for the traditional RCCL cruiser, Royal Caribbean SVP Vicki Freed said that in just the first couple of days “hundreds of bookings have been created” as “people are moving their ‘bucket list’ trips into their ‘to do list’” and travel advisors tell me that indeed some categories are almost sold out.

The “Ultimate World Cruise,” sailing round-trip Miami on the mid-sized Serenade of the Seas beginning December 10, 2023, is broken down into four legs Read the rest of this entry »

You wouldn’t think that writing about luxury travel has much in common with selling luxury travel, but in fact it really does.

At least that’s my takeaway from an interesting and different kind of panel at the Global Travel Collection’s Elevate virtual conference last week—where, in addition to the usual roster of company executives and top suppliers, a panel of travel journalists talked about emerging trends in luxury travel. Like travel advisors, many of the journalists noted that the best way to cover travel—and to promote it—is to travel yourself, and to explain the details that go into a trip in the time of covid step by step.

Town & Country editor in chief Stellene Volandes noted that in her recent travels, the last day or two of every trip was consumed by conversations about passing the required tests to return home. Feeling carefree is such a big part of luxury, she said, but even when you revel in the experience of travel these days there’s a cloud of concern that “disrupts the cocoon that envelops luxury travelers. The moment a bit of chaos enters, you feel unsafe and it rattles people.”

For travel advisors, then, the key is to make the luxury travel experience “even smoother than ever. I want to feel like if I am stranded in an igloo someplace, like I can call an expert who can help me Read the rest of this entry »

Half the cruise ships are sailing, carrying half the passengers they once did. At each port, they are beset by differing and ever-changing protocols, negotiating life-and-death decisions with new players with whom they do not have the usual long-term relationships.

And yet, guest satisfaction is off the charts. The new-to-cruise customers that many expected to be frightened off are instead showing up. New ships and new partnerships, new terminals and new ports are on the horizon—and they promise to share the wealth with local communities and to promote a healthier environment for all.

“We built this industry over more than five decades; we deliver a phenomenal experience that our customers love, and the Caribbean is an unbelievably popular destination for our core markets,” said Royal Caribbean International president and CEO Michael Bayley at the Caribbean Spotlight: A Focus on the Future breakout session. “We need to just stay focused and trust each other and, in another year or so, we’ll be looking back trying not to remember any of this.”

In short, this week’s Seatrade Global conference was unlike any other Read the rest of this entry »

Bekah Eaton came home from ASTA’s annual conference with new ideas, new relationships, and a case of Covid. She believes she caught it from the woman who sat next to her for two hours. “I felt betrayed and almost angry that she would put me in harms way, and expose me without warning or anything.”

Another travel advisor, who asked to remain anonymous, was on a fam trip to Italy when she thanked the woman sitting next to her, whom she knew was opposed to vaccines, for getting vaccinated before the trip. “She went off on me about how she felt forced to get the vaccine—and that was very alienating in a small group atmosphere.”

Then she saw someone attending a FAM in Europe after being at an ASTA event where there were positive cases. “And I’m thinking, weren’t you in that room at ASTA with people who tested positive? Shouldn’t you be quarantining and not on this AMA cruise in Europe?”

Those experiences changed the way she sees those people. Read the rest of this entry »

(Caution: there’s some science and math ahead. But Norwegian solves the equation for you—and in so doing, offers a lot of hope for the future of selling cruises during a pandemic.)

Question: Is 100% really that much better than 95%?

Answer: Yes.

It’s a math problem Norwegian Cruise Line has been tackling for months, and the result is a little painful.

When we set sail earlier this month on Norwegian Encore’s first post-Covid cruise to Alaska, many lamented that the strict vaccine mandate meant families with small children could not sail—a big loss for a family-friendly cruise company and its loyal customers and partners. Read the rest of this entry »

What are the new guys on the block to do when the old timers hog the best spots? If the guys are Norwegian Cruise Line’s Frank Del Rio and Harry Sommer, and the spot is Alaska, the answer obviously is to build a new (and amazing) spot of their own.

That’s just what they’re up to at Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan, where Norwegian Encore’s August 7th post-Covid maiden voyage included two ribbon cuttings in the 49th state.

It’s amazing what has been accomplished in just 80 days, the locals say, since Alaska got the word that there was going to be any cruise ship season at all in 2021. The raven and the eagle that watch over the native tribes surely were at work, when “a piece of legislation that hasn’t been touched in years was changed with 100% consent in the House and the Senate and signed by the President in Read the rest of this entry »

Did they say, “all-inclusives in Europe, Asia and the Middle East?” Why let Cancun have all the fun?

In a Monday morning conference call about Hyatt’s acquisition of Apple Leisure Group, much of the excitement seemed focused on expanding its global reach—and that includes bringing the highly successful all-inclusive (AI) model to brand new markets under the Hyatt flag.

Of course, that’s not the only reason Hyatt Hotels Corp. will be buying Apple Leisure Group (ALG). The benefits include “increasing Hyatt’s footprint and capturing the growth in luxury leisure travel,” especially in the resort segment in general, and in keeping with Hyatt’s “asset-light strategy” of managing but not owning properties, Hyatt president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian said. In short Read the rest of this entry »

To some it’s a matter of principle; to others, a question of client confidentiality. Travel advisors are split on whether to mandate vaccines for their clients – but no matter your position, the lawyers say, get a waiver absolving you of responsibility should someone fall ill.

But first things first: Can travel advisors legally mandate that their clients be vaccinated?

“The short answer is yes they can,” says Jeff Tenenbaum, managing partner at Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC in Washington DC, who consults with many not-for-profit organizations about their meetings and events.

When it comes to mandatory vaccinations, federal law offers some protections in an employment setting – but not in the context of meetings, events and travel where employees are not involved, Tenenbaum says. “So if a travel agency wants to say that customers have to be fully covid vaccinated, it can do that without any exceptions.” Read the rest of this entry »

It’s all in the hands of the gods, the Vikings say. So perhaps the goddess Freya, using her powers to alter fortunes, determined that there be three cases of COVID among the passengers on Viking’s first four sailings in Iceland this month—and that I be onboard Viking Sky to tell the tale of our star-crossed voyage.

It’s hardly a story of doom and gloom, though. On the eight-day Iceland’s Natural Beauty cruise we saw a unique piece of the world that’s been on our bucket list for some time.

We sailed the Norwegian Sea and crossed the Arctic Circle; watched the sun set at midnight; saw waterfalls and fjords, the crack in the earth where America meets Europe, geothermal fields and lava fields, and an erupting volcano. We felt like Vikings as we jumped from the sauna to the snow room in the Thermal Suite; I got a blueberry hair rinse and a honey facial that left me smelling like a fruit salad. We ate steak and lobster, and sushi fresh from the untouched waters at the top of the world.

Per Viking protocols, we all wore masks in public places even though we were fully vaccinated Read the rest of this entry »

For customers looking for a unique destination they have not yet visited, AmaWaterways might just have the answer. Last week, it announced a new ship sailing a new river in a new continent to the Ama repertoire.

Colombia’s Magdalena River will host a partnership between Ama and Metropolitan Touring, known and well-respected by many travel advisors for its Galapagos and South America tours, aboard the brand-new AmaMagdalena in time for the holidays in December 2023.

On a press conference via webinar today, the two companies shared their excitement at having found one another, and in bringing the first luxury river cruises to the region. Just “two or three hours” from Florida, the Magdalena River offers beautiful scenery, diverse nature, and the second-largest Carnival in the world. (Also, the world’s best chocolate and best coffee, “and some really good rum,” says Metropolitan Touring’s Francisco Dousdebes.)

“It is the prime river in Latin America,” asserted Ama’s ever-cautious new destination seeker, co-founder and president Rudi Schreiner, who has been scouting “the whole area from Argentina to Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a CEO’s job to be inspirational, and a reporter’s job to be skeptical. But I have to admit, I was moved by Brad Tolkin’s buoyant tone as he kicked off Dream Vacations/CruiseOne/Cruises Inc.’s Travel Advisor Learning Summit on Zoom last week—and inspired by the great tips offered up by the speakers.

Overnight, it seems, all those dire predictions for the travel industry in general and cruising in particular have been put to rest by that pent-up demand industry leaders have been promising through the pandemic Read the rest of this entry »