Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Advantages of Booking Early

It's astounding how the cruise business has changed within the last 2 1/2 years. Just a short time ago before the economy went into the tank, people booked their cruises six months to a year out. Now, a lot of people are waiting until the last minute to book. Some of this is because of the uncertain economic times; after all, many people don't know whether they will still be employed a year from now or what will happen to their portfolios. But let's face it, the cruise lines are encouraging people to book late because the cruise deals just keep coming. Everytime I open my email I get besieged with offers about the "cruise deal of the century."

Regardless of all the deals, here are three good reasons why you should book early:

1. The most desirable staterooms are usually booked early. If you really want a balcony stateroom located mid-ship on a deck that doesn't have public areas directly above or below it, you won't find it at the last minute. At the last minute, you're more likely to find interior staterooms or staterooms that aren't particularly well-located -- i.e. above the lounge, under the pool where you can hear the deck chairs being moved early in the morning or near the elevators.

2. Be sure to book early if you're planning to put three or four people in a stateroom because not many of the staterooms accommodate more than two people. These staterooms book quickly, especially for cruises in the summer and during the holidays.

3. If you're planning to cruise with family and friends, you should book early if you would like your staterooms to be located next to or near one another. It's a lot of fun to book balcony staterooms and suites that are next to one another because on many ships you can open up the balconies between staterooms and have a good time. If you wait too long, your staterooms could be all over the ship.

If cruise fares go down between the time you book and the time you make final payment, fares can be adjusted.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Upcoming Trip to Barcelona

On October 6 I leave for Barcelona, where I will have three days to poke around before boarding the Celebrity Century for a 7-day cruise that stops in Cannes, Portofino, Livorno, Rome and Naples.

Staying at a three-star hotel is always a crap shoot in Europe for not all three-star hotels are created equally. Some are cozy boutique hotels that make you feel right at home and others are drafty, noisy places that make you wish you had spent just a little more so you could get a good night's sleep. How much is a good night's sleep worth?

I will be staying at the Hotel Astoria in the L'Eixample neighborhood, which is a part of town where I am told you should always look up because you will undoubtedly see many intriguing and whimsical facades of the countless buildings that Modernista architects raised in a few short decades around the turn of the 20th century.

I'm hoping that Hotel Astoria is as comfortable, welcoming, and well-located as I think it will be and as I count down the days to my departure, the need to feed my tapas fix grows ever stronger.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reinvention is the Order of the Day

In these interesting times, it is vital to keep reinventing yourself in order to stay relevant. What worked last year is more than likely a dud this year. I was recently asked about the "emotional feel" others have in response to me and my business. I really don't know whether I'm there yet, but I would love it if people thought of me as one who enabled them to experience the sheer joy of sharing some quality time with people from different lands.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aboard the m/s Amsterdam

On Saturday I boarded the m/s Amsterdam at Pier 91 in Seattle with five of my most seasoned cruising clients to hear Holland America's presentation on their grand voyages. Just stepping aboard the ship made me painfully aware of my addiction to cruise ships. If only I could stowaway on the m/s Amsterdam's last sailing to Alaska in 2009...... As usual, Stein Kruse and his Grand Voyages' team put on a class act. In addition to viewing some stunning photos of the many exotic locations that the m/s Amsterdam and the m/s Prinsendam visit, I was struck by the stories of the deep friendships that fellow passengers develop over the course of their journey.

After the presentation, 200 Holland America clients, prospects and travel agents sat down to a delicious lunch in the La Fontaine dining room. My rack of lamb was a perfect "medium rare," the wine flowed freely and I enjoyed hearing about my clients' cruising adventures.

Holland America's ships are well-known for their exquisite art collections. The centerpiece of the m/s Amsterdam Atrium is the magnificent and stunning astrolabe, an ancient celestial clock with four faces: the astrolabe itself, a planetarium, the world time, and an astrological clock. You really need to see it for yourself as I don't do it much justice standing in front of it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Grand Voyages of Holland America

I appreciate the opportunity from Holland America to invite select clients to hear Stein Kruse's presentation on Holland America's grand voyages this Saturday aboard the m/s Amsterdam at Pier 91 in Seattle this Saturday. The grand voyages are 51 to 128 day cruises that will take you practically anywhere in the world where you can find a body of water. I've cruised all over the world but the longest cruise I've taken to date is only 18 days.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Parlez-vous fran├žais anyone?

It's no surprise that traveling can be much more fun and enriching when you speak the local language. Lately, I've been working to refresh my French. I've completed all three levels of Rosetta Stone and now I'm listening to Champs-Elysees, a French newsmagazine on CD. I'm amused by the section on literature where they're talking about Bernard Pivot and his new book, 100 Expressions to Remember. Did you know that "peigner la girafe" literally means to comb the giraffe but actually means to do some pointless task? I'm hoping this phrase will come in handy while visiting Cannes next month ;-)

About Me...

There comes a point in a person’s life when you want to try to have it all. That point came for me in June 2007 when I decided to buy a cruise travel agency. I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could travel as part of my work and turn people on to the spice of life in a different culture?”

Through my Cravings of a Cruise Diva blog, I want to share my passion for cruise travel with you. Rather than being hauled around in a motor coach from one major tourist attraction to another with hordes of other people while in port, I want the ports of call to come alive for you. I want you to be a part of the happening scene instead of merely observing it. I want you to feel the magic of being in a new, strange land. I want your visit to tantalize all five senses – all the better for you to go home and tell colorful stories to your family and friends.

I look forward to sharing my passion, some advice and help make all your travel experiences better than you could have ever imagined. I welcome your comments and stories as well – this will be fun…