Thursday, February 25, 2016

What Does It Really Take To Be A Travel Professional?

The Travel Professional 
(aka “Travel Agent”)


Hey listen. I get it! You want all the benefits that Travel Agents gain on their vacations, but let me tell you from first-hand experience….. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be and it takes a lot of work and dedication to be the best at what we do. Especially like some “club” organizations or “multi-level marketers” (aka "MLM") want you to believe. To me, that is just the old “pyramid” scam affect which effects the REAL persona of what a Travel Professional is perceived to be by others.

When I tell people what I do, I get the puzzled look and then the ultimate question of “Does anyone even use travel agents anymore?” I mean, nowadays?” There is a huge misconception about the extinction of the travel community, and that’s far from the truth. A perfect way to break down why a travel agent is the best way to go is the news report by Angie Liu from WRAL's News Channel 5 - 5 On Your Side - "Why Use A Travel Agent?" It gives a scenario of how the average consumer spends an overwhelming amount of time using the internet to find a vacation. Even our own Dondra Ritzenthaler & Keith Lane of Celebrity Cruises explain why you should be using a travel professional to handle your next cruise or land vacation.  After watching this, you’ll understand why travel agents will always be needed.

Travel agencies aren’t tied to a storefront anymore. Due to technology, there are tens of thousands of home based travel agencies. Fewer storefront travel agencies may offer an illusion that travel agents aren’t around anymore. But don’t be fooled.  According to PhoCusWright, the travel agency distribution channel accounts for one-third of the U.S. travel market, selling $95 billion in 2011. That’s means about 1/3 of the US travel market is booked by these so-called extinct travel agents. PhoCusWright is projecting sales of more than $100 billion this year alone! Yes, billion. Even better news, the number of home based travel agents is growing—up from 31,000 in 2006 to 40,000 in 2011. Along with their increasing numbers, home-based agents now account for a substantial portion of agency leisure sales; in 2010, home-based agents racked up nearly US$10 billion in gross travel sales, or more than one third of all agency leisure sales.  So travel agent careers abound – just in a different location!

In the past, I wrote "Why Use A Travel Agent Over The Internet?" so we won’t go into that. But a travel professional has to commit to the business in order to become the best. The following is a “bare minimum” (for starters) of the rigorous and time consuming dedication that is put into a travel professional's success:

However, you can have all the travel knowledge and education in the world but that is only part of it.  The next part is the personal experience, business relationships with vendors, colleagues, and clients, and the networking skills to get the job done.  It also means that you have to be an expert in those specialties that you feel best fit your knowledge, skills and experience and capitalize on it. Furthermore, today’s travel agent is not static in a specific location checking emails, contacting travel vendors, customers, booking changes/updates, etc. wherever we are; not just sitting in a chair at a computer.

You can book it yourself, but until it’s something you do day-in and day-out, you can’t appreciate what a real pro does. Someone that books travel all the time knows the nuances of travel—getting to know the customer, what form of travel fits their wants, budget, and schedule; bookings with various vendors; awareness of the best promotions and expiration of those promotions, thereby providing the customer the best deal; how to avoid mistakes; and rapid response to a customer's travel emergency.  Meeting the customer's every travel need takes more that a "click" on the keyboard - transportation, lodging, insurance, emergency contacts, VISA's and Passport applications, luggage restrictions, side trip suggestions, and so much more. 

It’s amusing how customers feel and assume that travel professionals work for free. Besides everything you just read, let me ask you this: When you go to the doctor for an office visit because you are sick, don't you have to pay for that? How about a lawyer? A dentist?  What makes a travel professional any different?  Bottom line: It doesn't.

A travel agent lives, eats and sleeps travel 24/7. Everyone likes to think they’re a travel expert because they can Google it. But in reality, there's a lot more to being a travel professional than meets the eye, don’t you agree?

Please feel free to comment as I would love to hear from you.

Subscribe to our Blog Page and Don't forget to follow us on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter LIVE feed!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Are You A Cruiser Or A Resorter?

Differences Between A Cruise And An All Inclusive Resort Vacation

Deciding where to go and the uncertainty of choosing between a cruise or a particular all-inclusive resort can be intimidating and … hard to picture. Especially taking a gamble on your family’s vacation. So how is a cruise different than an all-inclusive resort vacation? Here are some comparisons as to what both a cruise and an all-inclusive resort vacation can offer:


Your bags are packed and you are bursting with excitement as you are on your way to the port for your first cruise. (If you have kids, they are screaming and anxious to get onboard!)

You’ll stop at four islands during the course of your 7-day voyage, and at each one you’ll have the opportunity to experience its unique vibe, local cuisine, and possibly enjoy some great tours on the island or do a little shopping for people at home. During your days at sea, you’ll eat lavish meals in the ship’s main dining room or specialty restaurants, relax at the pool and spa, participate in activities onboard, and see Broadway/Vegas-style shows, maybe a deck party or two! Your cabin has plenty of sleeping room for everyone, a bathroom, and a private balcony where you can sit and gaze out into the deep blue ocean. 

Does this sound like a dream? Fortunately, cruising is a real vacation opportunity for you and your family! Even for the couples that are looking for the romantic getaway vacation. What’s even more surprising is you can afford it and can even be less expensive than an all-inclusive vacation!


All Inclusive Resort Vacation


You’re on the flight, getting closer to that beautiful island far, far away you have been dreaming of. You are envisioning beautiful weather and can hardly wait until the plane lands.

You’ll get off the plane, hop on the shuttle to take anywhere from a 10 – 30 minute ride to the resort. You’ll spend from 4 – 7 days at the same resort, relaxing, enjoying exquisite cuisine (even by the beach, pool, or a romantic fire pit), a splash in the pool or a relaxing massage from one of the spa personnel on the beach, to some exciting entertainment. You might be able to enjoy the local scenery, but have to check how the local activity is. Then off to jet ski, soak on the beach, and enjoy a night at the disco club. Your room has either a garden, pool, or oceanview, even possibly a private balcony.

Does this sound like a possibility? It could be more cost saving that a cruise, but there are some things to consider when it comes to doing an all-inclusive resort vacation. Again, it is still affordable and possible to afford, just like a cruise!


Which is a better value?

Just because a cruise includes less than a resort does not necessarily mean that it is not an ideal or more valuable vacation for you and your family. You are certainly getting a lot for your money with booking a cruise and/or all-inclusive resort, however, there are some disadvantages to consider:

Yes we know! Lots of information but even planning a vacation tends to be stressful and time-consuming, especially deciding on a cruise or an all-inclusive resort. Most consumers are always looking for a “cheap” vacation, but end up getting exactly what they paid for – added stress, problems, and extra expenses, especially bad memories. This is where a Travel Agent comes in, built with the knowledge and experience with YOU in mind! 

Our Pick: Cruises! Ok, so we’re a bit biased. But that’s only because we truly believe that cruises are a superior vacation and we have the experiences to prove it. CLIA statistics show that the number of people that have cruised from 2009 – 2015 have increases from 17.8 to 23.0 million people. Cruising has a 42% best overall vacation amongst customers while all-inclusive resort vacations only got a whopping 9%! Customers were 89% highly satisfied with their cruise vacation and 84% would recommend a cruise to a friend. Resorts may a have a slight space advantage, but cruises win handily when it comes to the sheer variety of food, activities, and entertainment. And when you add in the chance to visit several different places without having to deal with the headache of transportation, it doesn’t seem like much of a contest, doesn’t it?

Which one are you? A Cruiser or A Resorter?

Many kinds of travelers would be happy at either a resort or on a cruise, but certain styles of vacations will get you better value for your dollar at each place. For instance, a cruise may be less inclusive and therefore more expensive than a comparable resort vacation, but if a resort vacation is not what you want, your trip will be less valuable to you.

Cruises are best for travelers seeking to explore several destinations and who want an extremely diverse array of activity options. A cruise can stop at three to five islands and offers shore excursions from horseback riding to parasailing and exploring historic sites. Cruises may cost more, but they are designed for travelers who want to get off the ship and have unique experiences at each port of call. In addition, cruises may also be better for travelers seeking a high-level of service. 

Resorts are best for active travelers who like water sports and plenty of opportunities at hanging out in a bathing suit all day. They also enjoy local cuisine, trying out multiple dining options and popular drinks. They immerse themselves in the culture and history of the destination. In addition, it is most popular for families with children, weddings and romantic getaways.

On the other hand, resorts offer the best value for relaxing vacations. You can find a variety of included water sports and entertainment options to interest an active traveler, in addition to plenty of opportunities for sunning on the beach. And the best thing is that you'll hardly ever have to take out your wallet. However, if you keep venturing from the resort to dine at local restaurants or explore other areas of the island, you won't be getting the best value from your vacation dollars. In that instance, you'd be better off booking a room in a non-inclusive hotel or trying a cruise that calls at several ports.

For multi-generational families, both cruises and resorts are good options. Both have kids' clubs to entertain the little ones and a variety of activities to satisfy family members of every age. Just remember, Venezia advises, that when your kids think it's fun to try virgin pina coladas, they'll be free at a resort and between $5 and $10 on a cruise.

What it boils down to is this: The VALUE of a vacation depends on the kind of getaway you're seeking and what is the right fit for you and your family!  This is why you use Maraloha Travel for all your travel needs!

Please feel free to comment as I would love to hear from you.

Subscribe to our Blog Page and Don't forget to follow us on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter LIVE feed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

HAL Veendam - 2/7/16

Holland America Cruise Line
Leaving: Port Of Tampa
February 7, 2016

Having to be at the Port of Tampa at 10AM, we arrived at 9:45AM so that we could find parking. Since we were told that Terminal 6 was free parking, we decided to park there and walk over to Terminal 3 as it was only a short distance from the Terminal. However, upon our arrival, we noticed that the Veendam was not at Terminal 3, Norwegian Star was docked there. Since we were not informed prior to arrival that the Port of Tampa changed their schedule, the Veendam was now at Terminal 2 permanently. With that said, we walked about 15 minutes to get to Terminal 2. Port of Tampa is a very small Port for cruise ships. Port of Tampa now homeports five vessels from four cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line. There are only 3 Terminals (Terminal 2, 3, and 6) and there are no cruise line that is own or upkeep any specific terminal like Norwegian Cruise Line has in New York City. The cruise ships are constantly interchanging terminals.

When we arrived at Terminal 2, we were greeted by friendly Port staff and escorted to a line of other travel agents waiting to get their guest pass to board the ship. Of course, you needed to fill out the health questionnaire just like if you were going on the cruise yourself. Boarding was on schedule at 10:30AM and we were given a list of cabins we could view. Ideally, ship visits (aka: Ship Inspections) would be guided by Inside Sales Representatives or Business Development Managers leading small groups of twenty agents or less. However, since there were well over 50 agents on this visit, this was a self-guided tour which gave us plenty of time to do our own exploring. They only gave us an hour to see just the staterooms which was plenty of time since the ship is pretty small. Usually when you attend these ship visits, you start from the bottom deck and work your way up. However, since we boarded on Deck 5 and lunch was in the Rotterndam Dining Room on Deck 7, we decided to start from the top and work our way down. There are only 5 decks that have cabins on them. The other 5 decks were public rooms which we would be visiting after lunch. 

Starting on Deck 10 “Navigation Deck”, visiting Cabin PS001 – Pinnacle Suite, the top of the line accommodation for guests. This is the only suite of its kind and there is only one of them onboard this ship. It was very roomy as you would expect any suite to be and featured a very large balcony, dining room, living room, master bedroom with separate vanity, binoculars with a stand, huge bathroom with two separate sinks and spa bathtub, plush robes, walk in closets and even it’s own little food preparation kitchen! That is something you don’t see on a cruise ship attached to a suite. Below are pictures of the entire cabin, including the dining area, living room, master bedroom, bathroom and food preparation area.


Across the hall on the same deck is Cabin SB004 – Neptune Suite, the half-sister of the Pinnacle suite, with only 28 of these suites on the entire ship. Smaller cabin than the Pinnacle suite but has a large area with master bed and living area, vanity and walk in closet are in one room with the bathroom attached. It is medium sized and does not have a bathtub. It also has the large balcony with sitting area.  Pictures are below:


Down to Deck 8 “Verandah Deck” we go to Cabin BA122 – Vista Suite. I really would not consider this a suite at all. If you try to compare this to the Norwegian Escape Balcony cabins, this is exactly the same but smaller. As you can see from the pictures, the bathroom is small, balcony is small and to walk from the entrance to the sitting area is very narrow. Not a lot of storage capacity or amenities that you would see in a balcony cabin.


Now since it only took us 30 minutes to see those three cabins, we decided to go to Deck 6 “Lower Promenade Deck” to see two more. Cabin CA329 – Lanai Stateroom. Now this is not your standard Oceanview/Balcony cabin as some might think. Usually Oceanviews have just the big window and Balcony cabins have a balcony, however this one offers sliding glass doors leading onto the walk-around Lower Promenade deck, so no balcony or just a window, and was actually much roomier than the Vista Suite! I was quite surprised as you can see from the pictures.


Right next door was Cabin E327 – Oceanview Stateroom. This is your standard oceanview stateroom with a small sitting area. Bathroom is the standard size but has both a bathtub and shower.


After seeing these staterooms, we headed to the Rotterdam Dining Room for lunch, however you can only access it from Deck 8 as the kitchen is on Deck 7. 


Rotterdam Menu
Beautiful dining room and the service was great. However, since I am allergic to seafood, the menu was filled with seafood delight. There was not much to choose from except for one beef and one vegetarian meal, so I tried the rack of lamb and got a plain green salad. The rack of lamb was undercooked and most people sent it back for it to be more cooked. The food was not to my liking and the response I got from other agents on this visit were not on the favorable side either. However, the menu changes daily and the cruise line is very accommodating when it comes to meals.  (From Left To Right: Appetizer, Green Salad, Berry Soup (Cold), Rack Of Lamb, Dessert)



After lunch, we headed to Deck 8 to explore some of the public rooms. With not a lot of time under our belt as we had to disembark the ship by 1pm, let me just highlight a few public venues so that you get the basic idea of what this ship has to offer, as there are many to list. We went thru the casino, which was quite small, then onward to check out the Specialty Restaurant Pinnacle Grill. Obviously, we could not sample the food but the décor was nothing to write home about. However, one of the two highlights I really liked were The Retreat (aka: The Oasis) on the "Sun Deck" and the Lido Pool. The Lido Pool features a Sliding dome cover and The Retreat features a big screen to watch movies on. It was quite cool! The sliding dome cover comes in handy when there is bad weather or high winds as it blocks the wind, rain, etc. when covered so that you can swim anytime and still get some sun.

(From Left to Right: Pinnacle Grill, Entrance to Pinnacle Grill, The Retreat, Lido Pool with Sliding Dome Cover)


They always say "A Picture Says A Thousand Words", so here are some other pictures I took of some of the public areas.  (From Left to Right: Front Office & Shore Excursions Desk, Casino, Martini Bar, Explorations Cafe, Lido Restaurant, Queen's Room Digital Workshop (Microsoft), Ocean Bar, Future Cruises Desk, Explorer's Lounge.


Some of their amenities, such as Spa & Salon Services, Wine Tasting & Beverage Events, and a copy of the Daily Itinerary are all here for you to look at as well, just click on the link:
Overall Review: The ship is midsized and designed for more of an intimate, enriching cruise. This cruise is not designed with kids in mind. It is more for the seasoned cruiser who enjoys learning about the destination, the culture and history of the destination, and quite time. There were some passengers that either liked to sit out on the pool or just read a good book. There is not a lot of loud excitement or food options and the ship needs to be refurbished as the décor is quite outdated.

I hope you all enjoyed our visit on HAL Veendam and stay tuned for more visits with Maraloha Travel!

Please feel free to comment as I would love to hear from you.

Click here for more recent Cruise Ship Visits!

Subscribe to our Blog Page and Don't forget to follow us on LinkedinFacebook and Twitter LIVE feed!