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 »
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 »
The picture isn’t bright for travel advisors selling small luxury cruises on brands such as Regent, Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, Viking Ocean, Oceania, Ponant, and Windstar. Most haven’t seen a decent payday in the past two years. Many have gone into debt trying to keep the doors open by spending countless unpaid hours processing cancellations, rebooking, and trying to attract new clients when they have little to sell.
The cruise industry sages predicted that Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Canada would open to cruise ships carrying fewer than 1300 guests long before now. Then, along came omicron and problems with the domestic airlines. Recent reports of hundreds of infected crew members from the resort ships in the Caribbean being warehoused on other cruise vessels refute the cruise lines’ contention that cruising is now safe. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, the CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker said that checking passengers for proof of vaccination wouldn’t be physically possible on domestic flights without causing enormous delays to the airline system.
It’s tempting to compare Mr. Parker’s statements to similar ones made by tobacco and asbestos CEOs, who insisted that health authorities should not regulate their products. What he probably should have said was,“Without some form of proof that a person is vaxxed, and streamlined airport procedures, it isn’t physically possible for domestic flights to check passengers for proof of vaccination.”
Many of the problems airlines and airports encounter involving COVID-19 could be prevented if passengers couldn’t enter either without verified vaccination credentials and a one-minute COVID antigen swab test, or a breath analyzer test at a TSA security portal. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I flew roundtrip from Los Angeles to Oakland to see my grandson and his parents. It was my first time in the air in more than a year. Here’s a report card on how everyone did.
Southwest Airlines: Grade B-
Southwest was nearly the same as it was pre-pandemic. Fast on-time flights, courteous service by flight attendants with a sense of humor, and reasonable prices. Except for wearing masks on the flights, it was like the Delta variant of COVID-19 didn’t exist.
Because my wife and I are both fully vaxxed, but are “Infected Flier Hesitant,” we took an aisle and window seat in the front of the plane and put this sign on the middle seat between us. Read the rest of this entry »
If some of your clients love cruises, they may have promised themselves that – if they got through the COVID crisis unscathed – they’ll find some new places to visit. Here’s how you can help them fulfill these promises. Suggest some new places to explore and provide them with enough information to turn their dreams into reality. Read the rest of this entry »