Last week I was fortunate to travel on this beautiful new ship with Holland America Line! Here are a few highlights we enjoyed while on board!
Being that we were born in the 70’s, my husband and I really enjoyed the new venue, The Rolling Stone Rock Room! We found ourselves between here and the BB Kings Blues Club (also a favorite of ours) each evening!
The ship is beautifully decorated, and we really loved the artwork on board. From the glass sculpture by the casino of David holding a cell phone to the portraits of Frank Zappa, Dave Grohl, and Bob Dylan portrayed as old sailor uniforms. The music theme on this second Pinnacle Class ship is beautifully highlighted throughout the ship with art, design, and with the staff.
We stayed in a Vista Suite on this sailing. These cabins offer a little more square footage than a balcony cabin. We enjoyed the extra space and the large balcony. My husband likes to sleep in when we are on vacation, so I would get up and dress for the day, grab a piece of fresh fruit that was complimentary in our cabin and would sit out on the balcony each morning. There is nothing more refreshing than alone time on your private balcony watching the sun come up and the gentle roll of the waves. We also enjoyed the flat screen tv that was hung in front of the bed, as we like to watch all the just released movies at the end of our evenings on board many nights. I know this sounds silly, but we have been on many cruises and in cabins where the tv is position in places in the cabin where we can't seen it if we are laying in bed.
The staff on board was terrific. They all were the first staff on the ship and helped in the completion of the ship load in when she first sailed out from build. They are extremely proud to be part of all of that and it reflects in everything they do on board! We had great service throughout the ship but there were areas that they were implementing some new technology and I think it was slowing them down as it was new to them. Other than that, it was the same wonderful service we have come to love on Holland America Line.
I would recommend the Nieuw Statendam, or its sister ship, the Koningsdam, to any client looking for a great ship to sail on. I have a secret or two about these ships that I would be willing to share but only for those that are booking their cruises with us! We found a few gems that are definitely staying in my playbook for future Holland America Line cruises!
Our itinerary this week was round trip from Ft Lauderdale, and we visited Grand Turk, San Juan, St Thomas, and their private island Half Moon Cay. A great week out of the cold and in some wonderful Caribbean warm waters! A much-needed break from the office!
Yes, that seems to be the case. I recently had a client come to me with some travel planning and they asked if it is ok to book air through a certain online booking engine that I will not give the name of. I advised them that we can get the same air fare pricing if not less with our in-house air desk. I told them I would compare with the online engine and what we can get on our side as a courtesy to them. What I found was astonishing to me and I believe all clients should understand what they are getting into when they book their own air through a third-party online booking engine.
As I went through this third-party website, I noticed a few items that I thought would be helpful to give guidance on in this focused attempt to help our clients understand the value we bring to them.
Below is the screen shot of a portion of the check-out page on the third party site. Take a close look at the image below of what you see if you are on this site to finalize your air booking. Does it make you feel like you are not getting the best service for the price you are paying? Guess what, you’re not. In fact, this site feels that you should have to pay more to get great service. Isn’t that supposed to be included? And I really like how they term customer service as support.
They will only support you with the standard package for up to a $250 cancellation fee per ticket. What happens when the cancellation fee is over that amount? There is no jumping the queue in the standard service, which this sounds like long hold times is the norm at this company. But you can pay for it and then they will jump for you. Notice the fine print that says most people pick the top package to get the best service. Now I understand this is their business model, but what the heck! When did it become ok to have to pay for first class service (or support in this model)? But I digress.
The long and short of it, you get the standard limited customer service for free. However, for $12.95 per person you can purchase faster customer service and for almost $40 per person you can get the fastest customer service when something goes wrong or needs addressed. Does this bother you? It did me. Why does a travel planning service engine charge a client for customer service? Isn’t this what the travel industry is, a service focused industry?
The other item I saw was the price drop assurance. Most clients do not know this but when you purchase air it is non-refundable for most fare classes, excluding first and business. But you can cancel or change your air within that 24 hrs. with our air desk for no change fee. If you are flying Southwest, they will price match if the price lowers. This site will charge you for that same service to the tune of $5.99 per person. Again, their policy and they are a business but not clear to the consumer.
Here is where I toot our horn…When you book with Carson Travel you will only ever be charged a fee if you are booking air independently and that is for ticketing or if you decide not to take your trip after we have been doing travel proposals for you. We will never charge a client for service. I think this is the biggest slap in the face to the consumer. They are telling you that you are not good enough for good service, and you should have to pay for it. If a change in flights occurs prior to your departure, we receive a notice and let you know. If that flight change is unacceptable, we work with the airline to get the best option for you or change to different flights, until a solution is found. No fee needed. If something happens during your travel, and you give a call to help in getting you from A to B, we do our best to work with the airline schedules to get you the best option possible, as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is in the middle of the night and believe me when I say that we worry about you! We want you to have a wonderful trip and when air goes badly, which we almost never can control, we know how that affects the over mood of your travel.
What if you are booking your entire trip with more than one third-party online booking engines. They don’t talk to one another. If you booked your air through one online booking engine and your cruise with another, then you need to reach out to both. You will spend countless hours on the phone with both and will be exhausted and frustrated. When you book everything through one company, again preferably Carson Travel, we have your entire trip planning in house and we will do all that for you. No extra fee. And if you need to file a travel insurance claim, which more than likely you glanced over on the online booking engine, we file that on your behalf. And guess what, no fee.
You spend a lot of work days getting to your wonderful getaway. At Carson Travel we value you as a client and we want you to have a wonderful travel planning experience and travel experience. Any company in my view that asks you to pay them in order to feel that value is not worth your dollar. Why do you trust a third-party online engine that is telling you that you must pay for better service when you should get that complimentary? Something to consider when booking your travel on you own.
We are pleased to have partnered with Richland Source and their membership campaign! When you become a member with Richland Source, you will be entered into a drawing for a Carson Travel Gift Certificate for a land vacation, valued at $2500!
Richland Source is one the best venues we have for the latest updates on what is going on in our local community. Help support this local brand and you could possibly end up winning a great travel gift certificate!
To be entered, you need to become a member with Richland Source, fill out the associated travel survey, and BAM! Your entered in the drawing! Don’t wait, consider a Richland Source membership today! There are several levels to choose from. Then tell your friends and family! $2500 can be Disney World family vacation, an All-Inclusive Resort stay, a ski vacation, a honeymoon, or a weekend away with your best friends! The best part, you get to decide! The winner will be announced next February 2018! Just in time to plan that summer or late fall vacation!
Here is the link to see more about this wonderful opportunity!
Leigh Ann Arnholt
Planner, Traveler, Giver, and Strong. Love making great things come together for people!
Good Morning! We are getting a lot of questions about the Caribbean with the last two hurricanes devastating many of them. Today we received a great deal of information regarding all those that were affected. This should help in answering many of your questions about what is open and what is not. Many thanks to Mark Travel Corp for giving us this information! One of our preferred partners!
To Our Valued Travel Partners:
To those affected by either Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria, we want you to know that we are thinking of you and we are here to support you. As an organization that has been family owned and operated for over 43 years, we consider each of you to be a member of our extended family. And when tragedy strikes you, it strikes all of us as well. During these challenging times, we encourage you to keep the conversation going with your Business Development Manager or Specialist and rely on them for support with issues you and your clients may be facing.
For all our valued travel agents, we want to give you a brief update on the status of several Caribbean islands that were affected by the hurricanes:
Please note: Aruba, Bonaire, Bermuda, Barbados, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis were not impacted by either Hurricane. All hotels are open for business and all off-site venues are operating normally.
The Mark Travel Corporation
Last week I was invited to a whirlwind tour of the Memphis Downtown. I was very surprised at the amount of changes and innovations that are happening in this wonderful city! I stayed at the Sheraton Downtown. This hotel was perfect location for any type of meeting or convention that may be going on. It is attached to the Memphis Convention Center and one of the benefits for our corporate clients is that when you contract with the Sheraton you can also contract with the Convention Center. The executive chef for Sheraton is also over the Convention Center and we had a chance to meet him and experience his wonderful "made from scratch" menu's a few times! Another benefit to contracting with them is you get him all to yourself for both properties!
The downtown itself is really reinventing itself. With the addition of the Bass Pro Shops in the downtown and the rich history of music and culture they are all coming together to make Memphis a new place that is full of wonderful experiences. We did get to tour the beautiful Big Cypress Lodge that is inside the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. The rooms and conference meeting spaces are all rustically furnished and are spotless. Very clean and polished. This is a great venue for smaller meetings and groups!
I did get to enjoy the Memphis in May festivities. Reminded me of tailgating at OSU at times. I did enjoy it but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I knew someone that was competing. That was an amazing experience where people from all over the world come in to compete in different BBQ competitions. Everything I ate was delicious! I highly recommend a stop at Central BBQ. Again a highly rewarded BBQ restaurant in Memphis. Melt in your mouth BBQ! We will be doing a group tour in 2018 to this area but for our corporate clients give us a call as Memphis could be your next great meeting location!
As the world continues to grow smaller in how much we can experience we are constantly tested in this venue of our business. We are asked on a consistent basis now, "What happens if...".
Here are few things that we thought you may want to know about how your travel will go if an act of terrorism happens in the area you are going to.
*If the US State Department issues a warning to not travel to a destination we will encourage you to rethink the travel plans. If you must go, please consider travel insurance. Note travel insurance will allow you to cancel or change your plans only if there has been an act of terror 60 days prior to your arrival. Double check this with your travel insurance provider as each policy type has different parameters. And some travel insurance companies will not cover areas that are hot beds of known terrorist activity.
*Expect delays as the security getting into and out of a destination that has just had a terror attack will be long. Those in these security positions are going to be extra diligent in checking bags, watching people, and making sure there is nothing out of place. They will be on high alert for a few weeks until things settle down. Give yourself extra time at the airports. Try your best not to be late or pushy. No one likes pushy.
*Can you change your plans? Yes, in some cases with no penalty. For those that have not made final payment for a trip such as a cruise or land tour you may be able to change with $0 penalty. When airfare is involved that is not a charter component that is different, as those are usually paid in full upon deposit.
With the recent events in Orlando, this did not happen at the airport or a major theme park but be ready for security to show itself. The theme parks will be very careful to protect their clients that are vacationing. You may have delays getting in the parks as security will be more thorough. Try to think about what you are taking into the parks, is it absolutely necessary? If not, don't take it.
More important with all of this is the basic trust lost in each other every time this happens. It will take trust to work through these events and good people to step up and start reporting things prior to them happening. While you are traveling and you see something that is odd, or if someone is acting strange, don't be afraid to tell anyone in a security role or call the police.
By Susan Milne
Rich in history, culture and scenic beauty, Eastern Europe presents a treasure chest of experiences for an enriching vacation. From Prague to Sophia, Budapest to Bucharest, Warsaw to Bratislava there are numerous sights and cultural events to savor. You’ll be in touch with something completely different and intriguing while exploring the fascinating countries of Eastern Europe.
The beautiful Czech city of Prague is top of the list for travelers to Eastern Europe. A sought after destination for European and international visitors alike, it is an unspoiled masterpiece with an extensive Old Town, picturesque bridges and a thriving cultural life.
This is a region that values its heritage, where art and music are a significant part of life so cultural experiences are many and varied from attending the ballet and opera to folkloric festivals and jazz clubs. Enjoying music and dance is a must while you are here! Tour the historic theatres and opera houses, wander the modern and traditional art galleries and enjoy live entertainment in local markets. You are never far from wonderful art, architecture, music or dance in these countries where there's a deep appreciation of culture.
Legendary historic and architectural sights range from ancient castles to opulent palaces, ornate cathedrals, colossal parliament buildings and well preserved Old Towns. Don't miss the significant modern history sights as well like Prague's Wenceslas Square, central to the 1968 protests, or the stunning modern architecture of Budapest.
There's a burgeoning culinary scene with new cooking classes springing up in major centers, breweries to visit and wine and spirits to taste. Check out our list of 10 Intriguing Cultural Experiences for more on this tempting addition to your Eastern European vacation!
Markets and Market Halls are a good place to sample local delicacies and these lively spots are not just summer venues. Events and tours are held most of the year with Budapest's Market Hall one of the most active. Christmas Markets are especially enticing with their beautiful decorations, lights and seasonal fare. They are a major draw for visitors with special tours and river cruises focusing on the splendid Christmas Markets.
There are other great places to shop as well. Shopping streets and modern shopping/office complexes abound in the cities offering a range of shops you won't find at home.
River cruising is certainly a great way to experience these countries. Check out the Cruising article for river cruise options in the region.
There's a mix of the traditional and the modern in Eastern Europe that is extremely appealing to visitors. This is one of the most enriching vacation destinations you'll ever enjoy!
This is part of our monthly e-zine newsletter! Alaska is one of my favorite places on earth and here is a another great article of all the fabulous adventures you can enjoy while you are visiting!
The Great Land: Alaska January 2016 By Susan Milne
The beauty and majesty of Alaska entices visitors for a rejuvenating vacation away from it all. Marvel at the breathtaking sights that greet you at every turn while enjoying unforgettable adventures in the last great frontier.
There's so much to see and do in Alaska, always against a backdrop of overwhelming natural beauty. Whether you take a cruise, a land tour or combine both, you are in for the scenic journey of a lifetime when you visit this amazing state.
Alaska's vast wilderness will amaze you as you discover glaciers, hike the rainforests and the tundra, go wildlife viewing and explore the fascinating culture of Alaska's native people.
Active adventures abound with everything from sea kayaking in peaceful sounds to riding the world's largest Ziprider at Icy Strait Point. You'll definitely want to get out of town and enjoy the wilderness to see the real Alaska. Authentic natural experiences will have you renewed and refreshed for your return home! For more, take a look at the 10 exhilarating Alaskan activities in this month's Top Ten list.
There's an active culinary scene as well, understandable given the incredible fresh seafood which is readily available. Don't miss an outdoor salmon bake, trying King Crab and halibut cooked with local berries while sampling those interesting craft beers that are being produced here.
Glaciers are always the highlight of any journey to Alaska. Whether you cruise close to a tide water glacier to watch it calve, visit one of the many glaciers accessible by land or take a helicopter flight to visit a glacier dog sled camp, you will create some rare and unforgettable memories unique to this incredible state.
You'll be equally impressed by Alaska's 11 major cultural groups. Learn the history, watch craftsman at work and enjoy local cuisine at many outstanding cultural centers including the totem pole parks at Ketchikan, Sitka's Indian Cultural Center, and the many cultural displays at Icy Strait Point. The jewel in the crown is the outstanding Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, a gathering place which celebrates native language, heritage and tradition.
Alaska certainly is a unique and wondrous place that offers visitors a range of unusual and special experiences, just right for a rewarding and rejuvenating vacation.
Champions Golf Course | Kona, Hawaii
10 Outstanding Hawaiian Golf Courses December 2015 By Susan Milne
It's another great way to make the most of your Hawaii vacation: Tee off at the world's number 2 golf destination. Hawaii has some exceptional courses open year-round featuring breathtaking sea and mountain views, lava formations and surging water along rugged coastlines. Watch out for the native Nene Geese, frequent visitors to many of the greens! Not a golfer? You can still join a group and head out to enjoy the action and the spectacular settings.
Leigh Ann Arnholt