What is a Quality Supplier? Eight questions to ask
Quality. There's many different travel suppliers - ocean cruise lines, river cruise lines, tour...
Another day at the Avoya National Conference and we heard from even more travel suppliers. Here's our posts from Day 1 and Day 2. Let's get right to it.
Ever want a river cruise in the United States? How about a small ship cruise to Alaska or cities like Jacksonville, Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina? American Cruise Lines has over 35 itineraries on almost all new ships between 100 and 184 passengers with the smallest cabin a large 304 sq ft. They also have cabins designed for singles and are 100% ADA compliant. While different than the European river cruises, these offer some great alternatives including the Mississippi river, New England cruises, Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and along the Southeast US coast. Cruises feature daily cocktail hours, lectures each day and Americana style entertainment in the evenings. We were impressed by many of the itineraries.
This well known brand of all inclusive resorts has some new properties including the Royal Barbados resort. Their base room now includes beer and wine in the room. Their Montego Bay property has been gutted and completely rebuilt. Several of their resorts now offer over the water villas (at 1800 sq ft, these are no bungalows). As the Sandals representative told us, if you haven't been to a Sandals in the last 6 months, you haven't been to a Sandals. We have always enjoyed Sandals and Beaches (Turks and Caicos especially) resorts and highly recommend them for a true luxury, all inclusive experience.
Paul Gauguin hangs their hat on a couple of things;
We are of course very familar with Paul Gauguin and strongly recommend them. Here's a summary of our Paul Gauguin trip.
We've mentioned Paul Gauguin cruises before: Alternative suppliers, wish list destinations, Travel deals during wave season - how to save money.
This land based tour operator always get great reviews from our guests. They offer premium packages (air, hotel, land transport, tours) that include sedan service to your departure airport, 24 hours customer car, many choices of activities and cancel for any reason insurance. We wrote about land tours here. Our Collette customers are very loyal because of the service they get. In their presentation, Collette suggested seasoned travelers who has been everywhere, even to Italy to try another Italy tour. Why? It's such a large country and even if you've been to Rome, Florence and Venice there's so much more to see. They offer some really interesting off the beaten path tours - not only in Italy but world wide.
Have you ever taken an excursion on a cruise ship and been disappointed - either in the size of the group, cost or quality of the tour? You're not alone. ShoreTrips arranges all sorts of excursions with private, local suppliers all over the world - private, small group and larger groups. They guarantee you'll be back on the cruise ship on time. And they offer both cruise ship excursions and destination specific locations. We have used ShoreTrips for years and generally have had very good success with them.
It seems everyone knows Viking because of their advertising and promotions. They were founded on three key points:
Viking has been aggressively expanding in both river and ocean cruise segments. They will have 10 new ocean cruise ships by 2021! Our clients that have used Viking Ocean have been very happy. Viking truly is one of the top travel suppliers around.
If you've purchased travel from me, you know I feel strongly about getting travel insurance. In fact, before I make final payment I require an email declining insurance, if that's the choice. But even I learned some new things from Allianz. Like they are the 21st largest company in the world! Like they insured the Wright Bros and the Golden Gate bridge.
And they are improving their benefits:
Here's some articles on travel insurance:
This engaging presentation presented case studies and asked us to recommend which of their products made the most sense. Here's a summary:
Something for everyone from one of the top travel suppliers around!
Better known as Hyatt Ziva (for kids) and Hyatt Zilara (for adults) as well as others. They are in Cancun Mexico, Playa Del Carmen Mexico, Los Cabos Mexico and Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Montego Bay Jamaica and Cap Cana Dominican Republic. These are all inclusive resorts in prime locations. We have clients that repeat at these hotels year after year. And that's the best recommendation you can get!
Club Med is the world's largest all inclusive resort. They emphasized three aspects of their resorts:
And we learned a few new facts: 70% of Club Med bookings are families. One of the few adult only Club Meds is the newly refurbished Turks and Caicos resort. And they have some unique locations (Morocco, Sicily) and partnerships (Cirque du Soleil).
We stayed at Club Med's Sandpiper Bay facility in Florida at a previous Avoya conference and can absolutely vouch for the food! Club Med is a top travel supplier and industry veteran. They have really evolved over the years.
MSC dubs itself the sleeping giant in the Caribbean. They will introduced 12 new ships between 2003 and 2013 and another 12 (yes twelve) ships from 2013 to 2026! Talk about expansions! They focus on "Mediterranean style cruising" - which includes not being rushed over meals. If you don't want an American style experience when traveling abroad, MSC cruise lines is a great option. They offer a ship within a luxury ship called the Yacht Club with it's own restaurant, lounge and pool (similar to Norwegians' The Haven). With lots of inventory, MSC is offering some great deals including $699 for a balcony including a drink package for a 7 day Caribbean sailing! They will also match loyalty programs from competitors. Travel suppliers like MSC are not well known in the US but are household names in Europe. Just a matter of perspective.
Amtrak sells domestic vacation packages centered around their train schedules. This includes the national parks - they have allocated space in many of the top National Park lodges. If you've ever tried to book one of these you'll know this is a big deal. Over 32 million people travel by Amtrak each year.
Rail Brokers sells rail vacations in Internationally and allows bookings up to 18 months in advance. Going direct, you can only book 60 - 90 days in advanced. They also provide transfers to the rail stations and hotels and would be perfect for river cruise extensions. We have not yet used this service, but it certainly sounds intriguing. In addition to Europe, Rail Brokers book in Canada as well. While they can book Rocky Mountaineer, they have less expensive options as well. These travel suppliers open up a whole new world of vacations
Well, that's the first part of the day. It's amazing, I've been in the business for 17 years and there's always something I learn here at Conference. Whether it's new products, promotions or suppliers the industry is constantly changing. And now you know about it as well.
Here's a link to the afternoon sessions which also include a summary of all three days.