TRAVEL TALK: GET OUT THERE!
This afternoon I’ll be boarding Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas for a short cruise in the Gulf. We dreamed up this idea one recent Sunday evening to celebrate Bill’s birthday and by Tuesday afternoon our cruise was booked. I would have had it booked the next day, but Bill needed a day to cogitate. Three weeks later, we’ll be on board.
How’d You Do That?
Moments after booking our cruise, I shared my glee on Facebook. That Sunday a friend asked me how I had done it, because she figures that’s the only way she’ll ever convince her husband to go – a last minute decision. I was a little surprised at the question. I am so travel-focused I thought nothing of booking a cruise on short notice. I Googled around Sunday night, had a list of the best bargains ready for Bill Monday morning and called my travel agent Tuesday morning.
Let’s start with the travel agent. Use one! Mine is Sandra Rubio at CTC and I highly recommend her, but wherever you are, find one and use them. I like to do my own preliminary research, but when it comes to booking, I trust Sandra.
See, I have booked online. It takes forever. I’ve booked on the phone. It takes even longer. What’s worse, you cannot trust anything they tell you. They don’t know. They’ve never been there. They may never have been out of their small town in Minnesota, but they are advising you on how to book your cruise. You’ll have this one-time transaction with them and you could never find them again if your life depended on it. Yet you are willing to trust them with at least $1000 of your money and more importantly your vacation!
Any deal you see online, your travel agent can get for you for the exact same price and you don’t pay them a penny in commission. It’s their job and the cruise lines are so happy for them to do it, they gladly pay them for it. So please, once you have an idea of your budget and where you want to go – call your travel agent!
What Not to Do!
Amazed that my friend needed coaching on booking a cruise, I asked a few pertinent questions, trying to find out what her issues were. There were two. She was using her phone to click Facebook advertisements. Don’t do that! Google what you want and do it on a computer – either a desktop or laptop.
My friend said, “When I click on the link, what I get has nothing to do with the ad. It’s called click bait. Just don’t.
The other issue is space. There is only so much you can see on your phone – even if the site is optimized for it. On a cruise site, whether it is an actual cruise company, your local travel agency or a travel consolidator, there are all kinds of tabs, buttons, searches. You can look for places, ports, dates, ships – all kinds of stuff, but if you are looking at your phone, its like kissing through a screen door. You can’t fall in love that way.
Just for fun, I googled “I want to cruise” as I wrote this post. The first three listings were ads. Ignore those. They are actually marked as ads on the results page, but you have no idea how many people I discover who are amazed at this. They’ve been looking at it for years and never saw it.
The next four results were for a site called “iwantacruise.com.” Ignore those, too. Somebody paid big bucks to get that url, but that doesn’t mean they know anything about cruising. Suspect all sites that mirror your query. In addition, I usually ignore everything from Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Thumbtack, Expedia and such until I know more. All these types of sources let companies pay to get noticed. It might as well be a straight out ad. Yes, there are reviews from consumers, but until you know more, you aren’t ready for reviews.
Below that is where the good stuff is – the actual cruise lines and Cruise Critic (which is a great resource). Because it was a non-specific query, I then got a You Tube video. A few responses later I found Carnival Cruise Line and found out they have a pretty good website crew, because they dominated the next 10-20 listings. That still doesn’t tell you whether Carnival is going where you want to go or even if they are a good cruise line, only that they invest money in SEO (search engine optimization) specialists.
In the search above, the first cruise line I got was Royal Caribbean. You want to know why? It has to do with what I’ve been looking at recently. I’ve been all over the internet looking for information for my cruise. I’ve researched shore excursions, looked for reviews of the on board dining, maps of the ship and the price of beverages. I’ve been in and out of the Royal Caribbean ‘My Cruises” site, booking my cruise extras. I’ve got emails in my Gmail from my travel agent about my cruise and an email from Royal Caribbean about my Crown & Anchor membership. In case you hadn’t realized it yet, Google is nosy. It makes itself aware of what I am doing on the internet – whether it’s online searches, emails or even social media. When I asked about a cruise, it assumed I wanted to know about the cruise I was about to board. A little creepy, but true.
So, to find out what you want to know on the internet, you first have to know what you’re looking at. What’s clickbait? What’s an ad? What’s real? I live and breathe this stuff, but Google is gambling that we don’t. If you’re going to use Google as your resource, invest the time in getting to know it.
Long-Tailed Keyword Phrases
This day and time, the more specific your query is, the more likely you will get the information you want. These types of queries are called long-tailed keyword phrases. You may not care what they are called, but they are your friend. When I came home on that recent Sunday night, I didn’t google cruises. I googled “3 day cruises from Galveston,” because I knew that’s the port I wanted to depart from and because I wanted the shortest cruise I could find. I also googled a couple of other things like “cheap Galveston cruises.” I usually try several queries to see which gives me the best responses. Then I start shopping, but I’ve already gone on too long about this for one post. Come back next week and I’ll tell you more.