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.
American Cruise Lines
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 Cruises
Paul Gauguin hangs their hat on a couple of things;
- They are the only ship to sail French Polynesia 365 days a year
- If a large ship is scheduled to arrive in port, they will divert to somewhere else
- The ship is small – only 332 passengers. The staff will absolutely know you very shortly
- The itinerary features longer stays, more overnights in port and two private beaches
- An excellent children’s program offerred seasonally (when kids typically sail)
- It’s much cheaper to sail Paul Gauguin than it is to do a land vaction in one of the islands
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.
Viking Cruises – one of the top travel suppliers around
It seems everyone knows Viking because of their advertising and promotions. They were founded on three key points:
- Be destination focused with no nickel and dining
- Be the lowest cost provider of quality experiences while ensuring high staff retention rates
- Focus on the mature, English speaking passenger (defined as over 55 years old; average age is 65)
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:
- There’s no need for a doctor’s statement for existing conditions
- Allianz will be able to track air line flights and will proactively email the client a list of benefits if the flight is late
- Baggage delay benefits will start if the baggage is only 12 hours late (was 24 hrs) and no receipts are required to claim $150 value
- There’s now new covered reasons for trip cancellation or interruption: transfer jobs and mandatory evacuation if NOAA posts hurricane warnings
- Pricing will use smaller age bands so as not to penalize younger clients as much.
Here’s some articles on travel insurance:
Travel Corp: Contiki, Cost Saver, Trafalgar, Brendon Vacations, Insight and Luxury Gold
This engaging presentation presented case studies and asked us to recommend which of their products made the most sense. Here’s a summary:
- Contiki: Social trips for 18 – 35 year olds
- Cost Saver: A light touch tour with less inclusions, lower quality hotels and more time on your own
- Trafalgar: Flagship brand of escorted tours including “be my guest” activities where customers eat at the home of a local resident. Great for a first time visitor or someone that wants an overview
- Brendon Vacations: Tours of Ireland anyway you’d like
- Insight Vacations: Deeper dives into specific regions. Includes some relaxed starts. Perfect for the repeat customer who has already done the overview tour
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:
- Club Med operates the world’s largest sports program
- Club Med has absolutely great food. For example, breads are baked fresh three times a day. It’s the French influence.
- Club Med has an outstanding kids program
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 and Rail Brokers
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.