When traveling with valuable gear, such as cameras, jewelry, and prescription meds, it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of your belongings. Protecting your belongings is crucial to maintaining their value and functionality, whether you’re a tourist who enjoys taking photos as their travels progress, a diabetic who relies on insulin that needs to be kept cold, or someone who wants to show off different diamond bracelets when dining. We will discuss the best ways to travel with your treasures. We’ll explore some of the best alternatives available today.Read the rest of this entry »
I needed to research African photo safaris that could be linked to cruises. It would be a 2–3-week vacation with a budget of about $25,000 per couple. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to try out ChatGPT, and this looked like it would be a perfect test.
ChatGPT is a new computer program that can assist travel advisors—or middle school students, physicians, politicians, or anyone else—by helping them answer questions and provide client information. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to understand and respond to text messages in a way that mimics human conversation.Read the rest of this entry »
The holidays are upon us, and it’s excellent news that bookings are up. But it’s not going to be a Merry Christmas if you don’t prepare your clients for the new realities of this winter’s cruises now that we’re facing the triple whammy of COVID, flu, and RSV.Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s face it. Cruises are now commodity products. Everyone sells the same ships and itineraries for similar prices. So how do you stand out from all the others selling the same cruise—maybe for a few dollars less?
Try focusing on things you can add to the cruise package.Read the rest of this entry »
When the feds removed COVID testing before embarkation regulations a few months ago, most travel advisors and cruise execs cheered. Bookings exploded—in some cases exceeding pre-pandemic levels—and some stock analysts saw relief from the vast debt the Big Three has amassed.
On September 22, Jack Stebbins reported on CNBC that total debt was 35 billion for Carnival, 25 billion for Royal Caribbean, and 14 billion for Norwegian. This is much less than their stock values that day, which were $11.01 billion, 11.18 billion, and 5.61 billion, respectively—less than half of what the companies owed. The article said that the cruise lines’ best hope is the luxury cruise market, which is not as sensitive to economic downturns. This luxury market is centered on “small ships,” with fewer than 1300 guests.Read the rest of this entry »
After three years “on the hard,” I was eager to cruise again on a line and ship that I had been on before. As our inaugural effort, we selected 12-night Fall Foliage Cruise on the Seabourn Quest. We started in New York City earlier this week and are now approaching Halifax in Nova Scotia. My intent is to describe how cruising has changed in the past three years.
As dedicated small-ship cruisers, we have sailed on 2-3 voyages a year for more than two decades: mostly on high-end lines including Silversea, Regent, Crystal, Oceania, Azamara, Windstar, and Seabourn. Later this year, I will do the same while we are cruising on some of the newest offerings from Viking Ocean and Regent.Read the rest of this entry »
The most common mistake travelers make is NOT taking a camera when cruising. “After all,” they say, “a smartphone is all use when I’m home. Why should I also bring a heavier camera?”
Cruises represent new challenges most of us don’t face in everyday life. We don’t spend as much time outdoors; we don’t need to contend with never-ending glare, and our subjects are usually within eight feet of us. Also, we’re not visiting places to which we might never return.
For all those reasons, you should take a “real” camera on your vacation along with your smartphone. The best travel cameras weigh less than 2 pounds—including the lens—and are nearly unnoticeable. They also don’t need a flash to take amazing photos.Read the rest of this entry »
I thought it would be interesting to see how some destinations and cruise lines have changed since 2021. The pandemic has been the worst period for the cruise industry since World War II. While the number of cruises is rebounding sharply, some destinations are facing a cloudy future as cruise destinations and many cruise lines are contending with daunting debt in ways that may affect how they treat their guests.
At the same time, there are some winners on which travel advisors can focus, if they want to benefit clients and themselves, as well as some question marks that can go either way.Read the rest of this entry »
Today, as never before, your clients’ price for travel purchases largely depends on when you buy them. It used to be that clients could be roughly placed in one of two groups: One that accepts the first offer before other buyers see it; and one that defers purchase decisions as long as possible.
- Those who follow the “buy it now” strategy know that when products are heavily promoted and advertised, the first offer is usually the best, and buyers who trail the pack won’t receive the same benefits or prices.
- Those that avoid making financial decisions feel that better opportunities are always available, if someone is willing to ferret them out.
According to a recent article in Forbes, “travel protection” was originally offered by cruise lines and other travel organizations as self-funded trip cancellation protection that paid the cancellation penalties if a client canceled a trip. It was sold through travel advisors and the travel organization’s own telephone reps for a modest price.
The idea was simple: If a cruise line booked a stateroom for a client who later wanted to cancel, they could cancel and receive a full cash refund or credit—if they had purchased the Trip Protection Option. This was a low risk to the cruise line, since the stateroom could be resold to another passenger. It was an easy sell for travel advisors and paid a low commission.
The ancient Romans were known for many achievements—Roman numerals certainly come to mind—but did you know they were responsible for the creation of the tourist industry? They created the original Grand Tour, an itinerary from the lost city of Troy to the Acropolis, from the Colossus of Rhodes to Egypt, where the inaugural Nile cruise took them to the remotest parts of the empire.
Fast forward to the middle of the eighteenth century to the start of World War I, where we witness remarkable changes in leisure travel—the sheer volume of travelers, technology, choices of destinations, and even the opinions of what was considered worth seeing (TRAVEL SNOBBERY).Read the rest of this entry »
A couple came to me a few weeks ago wanting to explore Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam in January 2023. One of them was an experienced cruiser who favored ocean-going vessels; the other especially wanted to see the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. They were open to any mode of travel, so long as it was extremely comfortable. Both were ardent walkers and foodies; they had 2-3 weeks set aside to travel.
They realized they might have to make some adjustments since Angkor Wat is not close to any sea lanes, and they knew that they didn’t want to take any overnight excursions that would rack up costs and time away from home. After considering the options, I proposed two vacations to consider:Read the rest of this entry »
If a potential client asks you to recommend a cruise, the worst thing you can do is start rattling off cruise lines and destinations. Unless you know them very well, before you jump in with suggestions, engage them in a conversation in which you weave in the following questions. These will help qualify them as potential cruisers and help you to guide them to the best choices.Read the rest of this entry »
Despite the optimism of the travel trade publications, you only need to look at the stock prices of the major cruise lines to see what’s happening in cruising. Compared to a year ago:
- Carnival stock is down by 61%
- Norwegian is down by 56%
- Royal Caribbean is down by 55%
A drop in stock prices doesn’t reflect past woes. It predicts what analysts think companies will be earning in 3-6 months. Morgan Stanley’s Jamie Rollo outlined a worst-case scenario in which Carnival stock could fall to $0 during a global economic downturn. Read the rest of this entry »
Travel advisors are still faced with many challenges and opportunities in the aftermath of the pandemic. The challenges are readily solvable and will hopefully strengthen our industry, but some of the solutions may raise the hackles of those invested in the status quo. One of the most significant challenges is—despite months of complaints—communicating with travel providers on the phone or via the web.
Difficulties in communicating is not only the fault of the airlines, cruise lines, and hotel properties. Nearly all have done an excellent job posting the information online that their telephone reps provide over the phone. Still, most travel advisors are more comfortable speaking with the reps and buying travel over the phone.
Other industries have faced the same problems, and they usually solve them by:
- Hiring more telephone reps, especially those with years of experience.
- Providing digital callbacks.
- Ensuring that online systems are easy to navigate.
If the pandemic had done nothing else in the past few years, it has convinced travel advisors and guests to buy travel insurance. The thought of being stranded in a foreign hospital, or quarantine facility, and possibly being prohibited from flying home on a scheduled airline has made nearly everyone a believer. It has convinced nearly everyone they need a travel insurance policy that treats COVID-19 as “any other illness or accident.”
Some guests are signing up for CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) travel insurance that entitles guests to a refund for almost any reason. CFAR policies are often 30-40 percent more expensive than other policies offering the same benefits, and some only pay off in credits for a future trip. Also, some apply a percentage deduction against the refunds the guests claim. Read the rest of this entry »
The St. Regis Amman brings the sophistication of the St. Regis brand to the capital city of Jordan through bespoke service, eloquent units, and established rituals designed with sensory details in mind. The 258 hotel rooms, suites, and residences offer comfortable accommodations with refined decor. All units come with the infamous St. Regis butler service.
One of the top-selling suites for leisure and business travelers is the Governors suite. It is sized at 1469 sq feet and offers two marble bathrooms, a living room, dining room (or converted meeting room – board room style) a fully equipped kitchen, contemporary fixtures, and high-end amenities. The unit sleeps 1 to 2 people and is the perfect base when visiting Amman. The hotel is located by the 5th circle, in the heart of the city.
For guests seeking Read the rest of this entry »
If you’ve ever used a Kodak Retina folding camera or a Rolleiflex twin-reflex, you’ve been obsessed with photography for a long time.
Retinas were to Eastman Kodak what Cadillac was to General Motors. For 55 years, from 1934 to 1969, these German-made 35mm folding bellows cameras were at the top of the camera food chain. They had f2.8 or f3.5 50mm lenses—just like many cameras made today—and were the ultimate choice for vacationers seeking a camera they could take to Europe or the family cottage. Retinas could fold up to fit in a jacket pocket or purse. Models in good condition can take great photos today with 35mm film. Read the rest of this entry »
If you want to spend much of your life cruising on small ships (less than 1500 passengers), it helps to be very old or wealthy. At least, this is common wisdom, but some investment syndicates are trying to level the playing field by making frequent cruises available to many of us.
Right now, the residential cruise ship called The World seems to be the only proven model for people making their homes at sea on a small ship. The World was commissioned about 20 years ago by Canadian hotel investors. The original idea was to combine high-end condos and luxurious hotel suites onboard a vessel that would circle the globe. The hotel revenues would offset the ship’s operating costs, making the residences more affordable.
According to stories written at the time, the project failed. Some say it was because the expectations of the condo owners weren’t Read the rest of this entry »
As a veteran of more than 40 international cruises, I used to turn up my nose whenever someone suggested that I sail from domestic ports. The only exceptions I ever made were a cruise to Iceland from New York City; a repositioning cruise to Japan that left from Seattle; one to South America that departed from Los Angeles; and two from Miami that sailed to Europe.
I reasoned that, if I was going to kill a night flying from LAX to a departure port and have an after-dinner drink and a Zolpidem tablet after dessert, I could just as easily wake up in Europe, Asia, or Australia as on the east coast of the US. Honestly, you don’t notice the difference—especially if you fly Business or Premium Economy.
After having two international jaunts canceled last year, and considering the possibility of the military crises in Europe broadening before I could sail again, I rethought these views. I booked a Fall Foliage Cruise from NYC to New England, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Montreal for a client and us. It’s only 12 nights, but with overnight stays in NYC and Montreal, the trip will be nearly the Read the rest of this entry »
In 30 years of involvement with the travel industry, I thought travel insurance was one product on which I could always count. My awakening occurred last year when one of my clients and I canceled a repositioning cruise from Japan to Alaska by way of Siberia.
Although Japan was closed entirely to cruisers, and the CDC said visiting Japan was unsafe, the cruise line wouldn’t officially cancel the cruise. This enabled them to defer providing refunds and permitted them to keep the $200 penalty guests had to pay if they canceled the cruise themselves. The $200 penalty caused our insurance company (one of the leading travel insurers sold by travel advisors) to deny our request to “roll” our insurance payments to a future cruise. The cruise line eventually returned our deposit, less the $200 fee, but the insurance company was adamant about keeping our entire deposits.
The insurance company representative argued that the $200 penalty exposed their firm to future claims I might make. I replied that neither my client nor I sought a refund on the insurance. I even said I would waive my rights to make future claims.
Everyone on this cruise who had bought insurance through this company and canceled the voyage had been charged the $200 fee. All those cruisers were being ruled Read the rest of this entry »