One of the exciting experiences I have in escorting cruise groups is seeing individuals and families going on their first cruise. The anticipation and wonder is fun to watch!!! We have many of these “first-timers” on the Townsquare Media cruise, more endearingly known as the “Rudy Cruise” after their Morning Show announcer on KEAN, Rudy Fernandez.
The Travel Factory Blog
Several years ago, we had questions requesting to go to our website for additional information about our agency or tours and cruises that we were promoting. My response had always been, “we don’t have a website”, just give us a call.
So, a couple of years ago, upon recommendation of a fellow travel agent, I contacted a professional webmaster in Nashville, TN. We had a phone meeting about what I was thinking and he made some excellent professional advice based on his experience with other travel agencies, so I employed his services.
Since we are in a “technical age”, I wanted our name and presence on the World Wide Web so that when we were closed, or when someone who was shopping for some information from a professional travel agent, they could at least find some information on our web site. So with Peter Beare’s help, we have a site. He is so good with pictures and videos and adding them to some of our group tour opportunities.
You can also go there to see a little history about our agency, the agents who are working here, and a little information about their experience. We will often receive post-tour comments from our guests, so some of them have also been included on the site. Photos taken by past guests also appear on our site.
Every year we plan group tours and cruises for The Travel Factory Gang, and those travel opportunities are summarized under the heading of “Cruises” or “Tours”. For those opportunities, you still have to contact us for additional information and to make a reservation.
We did put on the site a tour operator that we have been using for many years, Funjet Vacations, and you can shop for tours that are offered by Funjet on our site. You can make a reservation and pay for it with your credit card from the site. Funjet Vacations will then contact us for continued follow-up and service needs on the tour, and we will receive the credit for the booking.
Since we started, I have also been publishing our Thursday Morning Travel Tips on the website under our blog. You can find that when you log in to our site, go to “About”, click on the ladder the subject of “Blog”. You can then read all the Tips since we initiated the website, and see the number of folks who have visited the blog. It is really interesting, at least to me, the subjects that are of most interest, and the number of people who click on that blog.
I’m still a little old-fashioned. I like and enjoy the face-to-face contact, but for those who like to explore on the web, here is another valuable site. If you do want to visit us personally, just come by at 4150 Southwest Drive at the Plaza at Park Central located between Rosa’s and Chick-fil-A on the south side of town. You can call too at 698-1421 or toll-free 800-760-4040. We have the experience to help guide you to the perfect vacation that fits your families needs and budget.
Recently I read a report that the airlines had greatly improved their record of lost luggage incidents over the past year, but I can testify that it still happens.
One of the reasons that they have shown great improvement is because there are fewer pieces of luggage being checked. Since they started charging for checked luggage, not only have the number of pieces being checked diminished but also the increased weight of each piece has been reduced.
Way back the first of March we tooted the travel agents horn, especially when talking about shopping in the Big Country. A couple of weeks ago one of the travel magazines I subscribe to, TravelAgent, had a column on a similar theme….”reasons to use a travel agent”. I thought that using some of the editors suggestions would be a good tip for my Travel Factory listeners and readers today.
The travel trades I’ve been reading say that there has been an uptick this year in interest in travel to Hawaii. We’ve booked a few, but in our area not necessarily any more than usual. According to a recent visitor satisfaction survey, the islands score at the 98% level, so obviously it is a very inviting and popular vacation option.
One writer comments that “airline travel isn’t for the faint of heart these days”. And that is the truth, based on a lot of testimony from travelers who have been by the office in the past few months to give us a review of their trip. Airline travel is still the best and fastest way to get from point A to point B, but recently it’s the negative treatment and lack of concern by the airlines that is so irritating.
Have you had any good experiences lately booking hotels on-line? The excellent travel ombudsman that writes a weekly column for the Dallas Morning News, who I have referenced often, Christopher Elliott, is seemingly monthly having to help out a traveler with their hotel snafus.
Just recently I heard of someone who had experienced a bad situation with a hotel reservation that they had made on-line and were complaining about it. Someone with some inside hotel information told that person that guests who book through the on-line agencies often receive the standard rooms, or ones closest to the ice-machine rooms or elevators. If they book through the hotel’s website, more importantly, if they are members of that hotels reward program, then they typically get the more desirably located rooms. So, the tip here is to consider joining a loyalty program of a hotel chain that you like, and begin staying there to build up points. Not only will you be recognized favorably when making the reservation but you just might get a free hotel stay down the road. Simply tell your travel agent your preferred hotel and give them your reward number; it’s as simple as that, and more to the point, you most likely will not be disappointed with the accommodations that are selected for you.
My wife and I just returned from a week’s vacation with our children and grandchildren……11 persons in all. It wasn’t a unique trip, one that we had done two other times before, but the experience reinforced our belief that cruising is one of the best family trips you can take. We have 5 grandchildren, a 17-year old, a 13-year old, two 10-year olds, and a 6-year old, and all of them now, after three cruises under their belt, are experienced cruisers. You can turn them loose on any ship and they can find their room.
That headline is copied from a column in the Dallas Morning News written by the “Travel Troubleshooter”,Christopher Elliott. He was responding to a question by a reader who had to cancel an airline flight because his traveling companion became too seriously ill to travel.
We’ve mentioned before that Disney is seriously deciding to take up river cruising, emphasizing family vacations on the river. Remember, the ships on the rivers are not fashioned with swimming pools, water slides, rope courses, video game rooms, theatres both inside and out, miniature golf and basketball courts, and counselors who entertain with various games and activities that keep the kids occupied and involved.
In recent weeks we have heard from several cruise lines that they are attempting to break the cycle of last-minute discounting in order to fill ships to their preferred 100% occupancy.
This is important for them because this discounting undermines their marketing assertions that booking early will benefit their guests because they are getting the best fares offered on a particular sailing. Carnival even said that they were going to hold firm on pricing even if their ships sail at slightly lower occupancies.
We are weekly getting complaints from unhappy clients who have been disappointed because they cannot get the flights they want using their frequent flyer miles. They received those miles because they were loyal customers.
You might be interested to know that a while back Consumer Reports tested 9 airlines over a period of several months and as you would expect, found major differences between the carriers on their frequent flyer programs.
Among the ships celebrating years of service this year is both Princess Cruise Line for 50 years and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for 45 years. Both lines cater to the mass market vacationer with features on every ship that boggle your imagination. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has been sailing the Caribbean for 45 years. They currently have 5 ships sailing year around; 10 ships are in operation during the summer months.
It’s so much fun helping families plan for their vacation….just knowing how much fun they are going to have and the new experiences they will enjoy and the memories they will be making.
In my estimation, some of the best vacation options for families are the all-inclusive vacations. That means all costs are considered and paid for before you travel. And a lot of the time, the tour operators will throw in a promotion where the land package for the children under 12 is free.
An article in this weeks Travel Weekly by the cruise editor, Tom Stieghorst, poses the interesting conundrum of the necessity of swimming pools on cruise ships.
A reason for this question to come up was his experience on the new ocean-going ship, the Viking Star. As I have mentioned before the Viking River Cruises position on their 40+ river ships is a no-swimming pool policy. Of course, one of the reasons for this policy is that they do not cater to families, but to the over 55 market. The new ocean-going Viking Star does have 3 pools; main pool midship, an infinity pool aft, and a counter-current pool in the spa area.
We do a lot of talking about the visitor count in Las Vegas, and how they drew record visitors in 2014, but their count of around 40-41 million visitors pales in comparison to the visitor count in Orlando.
There was a report out this week that Orlando becomes the first destination to surpass 60 million visitors, an all-time record for the U. S. travel industry. They reported that there were 32 million room nights sold in 2014, resulting in bed tax collections topping $200 million for the first time in Orange County.
Wave season for 2015 has just completed, and the cruise lines all seem relatively upbeat regarding present and future bookings. Carnival reported that their prospects for the year look so good that they will not have to resort to close-in pricing discounts later in the year to get their ships filled. The world’s largest cruise company reported a net income of $49 million on revenue of $3.5 billion, and they reported that the upcoming Alaska season as “super strong”.
We participated last week with Business Expo, and we had a good many folks to stop by our booth and talk a little travel. Three or four of them wanted to tell me about the trip they took, but of course, they did not make the reservations with anyone at The Travel Factory. Don’t they know that we could give them the same price they paid, and we could keep some of the money circulating in the Abilene economy?
A big thanks for all those folks who stopped by our booth yesterday at the Abilene Expo. The Travel Factory and Supertravel have had a presence at this business extravaganza for 30 of it’s 31 years, and we enjoy visiting with other businesses in town and many of our clients and friends who have allowed us the pleasure of helping with their travel arrangements.