Tag Archives: CTC Travel

Teach Google to Help You Travel

Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas

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.

CTC – Tell Sandra I sent you

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.

Go Googling

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Travel Show Treats

TRAVEL HERE: VACATIONS START HERE

Remember when they tried to tell us travel agents were going to disappear, because everyone was going to shop for their travel online.  Well, go ahead and shop, but when it gets time to buy, call your travel agent.  They haven’t gone anywhere and they still book the greater majority of travel.  Besides that, they are free and that’s my price.  My travel agency is CTC  and my travel agent is Sandra Rubio.  Let me tell you about their recent travel show.

What I Didn’t Know

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, but it would be impossible to know everything about the travel industry, because things change all the time.  The the more you know, quite frankly, the better you will travel.  Most of the things I heard at CTC’s travel expo I already knew, but as always, I picked up little tidbits.  Some things help me get better value for my travel dollar.  Others introduce me to exciting new opportunities.

Here’s some of the new tidbits I can picked up this time:

  • BOOK CRUISES EARLY and the more you care about when, where, what boat and what cabin, the earlier you need to book.  2019 is already filling up and some of the best things in 2020 are already gone.  And the industry is very, very serious about this.
  • Yes, you can get short cruises.  Used to be the norm was 14-21 days, but that doesn’t work for Boomers or Millennials and that’s who’s driving the industry now.  There are lots of short 4-5 day cruises leaving American ports and 8-10 day cruises all over the world.
  • Say good-bye to losing your boarding card.  Royal Caribbean will be giving you a watch programmed with all your essentials.  Another line is working on a piece of jewelry that can be worn in several ways that will hold you essential info – not just your beverage program, but how you like your martinis!  Thank RFID technology.
  • Being single is becoming less of problem.  Remember those Boomers and Millennials who are driving the industry?  Well, most of them are single and even if they are not, some of them prefer traveling alone.  The travel industry has listened!  There’s an emerging market of single bookings available.  Price quoted double occupancy is still the norm, but you’re no longer required to make friends with a stranger or put up with your crazy cousin to afford traveling alone.  You’ll still have to do your homework, for now.  There are limited choices, but watch for this to pick up momentum.  For now, check out Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Cunard.
  • Get a passport!  Changes are coming.  Security and documentation for travel, even domestic travel, is quickly getting more and more demanding.  While for the time being you can still enjoy closed loop cruising or domestic flights without a passport, the clock is ticking.  They’ve got things in the works that will make flight documentation so cumbersome that you’ll want a passport – even if you’re just flying from Dallas to San Antonio for a long weekend.  And by the way, 13 airports in our world now have bio-metric security measures.  Expect it on your travels soon.
  • Thank Millennials for  community spaces in your hotel.  Have you noticed business centers have moved to the front of the hotel?  There was a time when finding the business center to check your email or send a fax (Ha! remember faxes?) meant wandering into the bowels of your hotel and you’d be very alone when you got there.  If you’ve visited a new hotel or a newly renovated one, then you’ve probably noticed bright, comfortable workspaces near the entrance.  These inviting communal spaces, the snack/wine bar and other property amenities are there to lure Millennials.  Since so many of them are self-employed, tele-commuting from home or working in other alternative spaces, they crave getting out of the four walls of their hotel room.  They want places to meet with their clients without taking them back to their room or going to Starbucks.  Their demand is our gain.  Not only is there a more attractive place to check your email, chances are there will be an inviting buzz in the lobby around 5 o’clock, the workout room will not be a grungy place where old gym equipment goes to die and who knows, there might even be grill on the patio!
  • All the new fees are not a product of your imagination – get used to it.  It started with the airlines, but it didn’t stop there.  First, it was baggage fees and box lunches.  Now, there’s fee for having an assigned seat or legroom.   Who knows when they’ll figure out how to charge you a fee for the air you breathe!  But that’s not the worst part.  The hotels, resorts, car rental agencies, tour operators, etc., etc. etc. of the world observed what the airline industry did and now you’ll find they are adding fees to their tab, too.  Tickets represent only 71% of airline revenue and with Spirit Airlines, that goes down to 60% – everything else is fees.  Hotels took in $2.7 Billion (with a B!) during a recent year and the number is just beginning to climb.  Bottom line, that online price is just the beginning.  Another reason to get to know your local travel agent!
  • New ships coming!  Cruising just gets more popular everyday.  Ninety-seven new cruise ships are scheduled to be launched from 2017-2025.  Yes, some of them are huge, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class, but smaller ships are wildly popular, too.  Ritz Carlton will be launching 298-passenger yachts. Emerald,a river cruising enterprise, is about to enter the small ocean-going ship market.  Celebrity is about to launch a new ship concept with The Edge.  Viking is churning out longships and small ocean-going ships as fast as it can.

That should be enough to tempt you off your sofa (even with all the fees).  So come on out and choose a vacation.  You’ll be glad you did.  Tell them Jane sent you!

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

From No Vacation to River Cruise – BAM!

Budapest here we come!

Budapest here we come!

AT HOME IN HEATH: JUST WHEN I LEAST EXPECTED IT, A RIVER CRUISE

We choose to live a frugal life.  Sometimes we run into a financial boundary I find inconvenient, but I get over it pretty quickly.  At the end of the day, I love laying my head on the pillow of financial security.

Travel is a Luxury Item

In late December I asked Bill if we’d have room in the budget for travel in 2016.  Family concerns and budgetary constraints have dominated our lives for a number of years.  We’ve enjoyed a few vacations, but there have been blinders on our imagination.  I had my parents’s health to consider, we’ve built a house and there have been other issues.  Bill was ready to put travel back in the budget, but with limitations.

His first suggestion was Myrtle Beach.  I grew up going to Myrtle Beach and loving it, but on my last trip I was dismayed by the number of miniature golf parks and beach towel emporiums.  My memories of Myrtle Beach involved a cozy beach shack and driving to Calabash for fried flounder.  A few years ago with my mom, I discovered that Myrtle Beach no longer exists and I wasn’t crazy about spending the money to confirm it again.

To me, Destin sounded like a better beach target.  I started researching Destin and proposed several road trip itineraries, but none of them floated Bill’s boat.  So, we discussed other items on my American short list.  At the top of that list is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Belle Grove Plantation on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia and perennial loves, like Sedona.  Bill still wasn’t buying into it.  Then I mentioned Washington State and reminded him of all the places we’d fallen in love with when we were researching the Pacific Northwest for other potential vacations.  I was given permission to start thinking toward a fall road trip in Washington, which would include a visit to Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC.

Then There Was the Travel Show

Even when we are not in the market for a home, my husband loves walking through model homes and open houses.  I’m the same way about travel shows.  Even though I’m not going to put down a deposit on a cruise or a tour, I love to go and acquaint myself with the possibilities.  I love sharing what I learn here on my blog and enjoy creating wonderful travel fantasies in my head.

So, I went to the CTC travel show and brought home tons of brochures and spread them around my den to enjoy.  To my surprise, Bill picked up one of those brochures and fell in love with a price point.  A clipper ship cruise has always sounded intriguing to me, even if it wasn’t at the top of my wish list, but if that’s what Bill wanted to do, then I was all for it.

I called the travel agent and she gave me additional information about the clipper ship cruise with the great price point, but she also invited us to a Viking Cruise wine tasting event scheduled for that evening.  From the minute the Viking presentation started, it was all over for the clipper ship.  For several days my email box and my phone were very busy.  The bottom line?  Sandra Rubio booked us for Viking’s Danube Waltz Cruise in mid-April and she did it for a price I would have never dreamed possible.  If you are even thinking of a cruise, then I suggest you give Sandra a shout.  Her email is Sandra@CruiseTourCenter.com, or you can call her at 214-206-4488 or 800-447-4435.

I’ll be exuding my joy over this trip in the days to come and then I’ll give you all the details when I come home, but for now, I just wanted you to know who to call if cruising was in your future.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Wine and Cruising, What’s Not to Love!

BPS02172016_0001TRAVEL HERE: CTC TEMPTS TRAVELERS WITH TOTAL WINE TASTINGS

Do I ever have a mailing list you’ll want to be on!  When I catalog my favorite things, travel and wine get top billing – along with food, but that goes without saying.  I’m not exactly alone in my preferences.  CTC Travel figured this out and capitalizes on it in a big way.  If the Dallas area is your hometown, you need to get to know CTC. 

Shifting Through Information Overload

In recent weeks I’ve mentioned CTC Travel several times.  It all started with their travel show back in January.  I came home with armloads of travel brochures and my husband browsed through them while he was on the exercise bike.  Long story short, we ended up booking a cruise, but along the way we discovered the wine tastings.

Let’s face it, travel is expensive, especially luxury travel, like cruising.  Some folks may cruise at the drop of a hat, but when we’re about to drop a chunk of change like that, we need to be very sure we’re getting plenty of bang for our buck.  The cruise we just booked will be our sixth, but the more I’ve cruised, the more I’ve realized how important it is to book the right cruise.

The more you know before you go, the better you will enjoy your trip.  When it comes to cruises, there’s a lot to know and there’s also a whole lot of information out there to wade through.  After awhile it all begins to run together.  Everybody has a gaggle of awards.  Everybody has beautiful websites.  Everybody has boatloads of great reviews, but then they all have scathing rants posted, too. How do you turn all this information into a decision?

The Psychology of Buying

I spent several years as a residential real estate agent.  I learned one thing very well from that experience.  For most people, making a purchase is an emotional decision that has to be supported by logical data.  Though there are rare exceptions to this rule, people who can’t get excited about anything until something pencils out, I think most of us would agree.  We may start out with a budget and a list of criteria, but what usually gets us to buy a home is the sun shining into a gorgeous kitchen or a rope swing like the one you used to have at your childhood home.  Once you’ve seen that, if your agent helps you confirm the logical side of the transaction, you’re making an offer.

Cruising is the same way.  Sure, you have a budget and you want to get the best deal, but until you can imagine yourself on the deck of the cruise ship, pulling into a harbor you’ve always dreamed of, your travel dollars will either stay in the bank or you’ll be loathe to let them go.  If you’re a do-it-yourself type, like me, you could research cruises until you are blue in the face and still end up on the wrong cruise.  It’s time to call the travel agent!

Let’s Drink to It?

After a short conversation, Sandra Rubio of CTC Travel had me figured out.  I didn’t really want to go on the clipper cruise with the perfect price point – at least not until I had scratched a few more items off my bucket list.  As luck would have it, they were having one of their wine tastings the very next day and she encouraged me to go.

I already knew about the wine tasting, because I am on their email list, but had ignored the invitation.  I already knew about Viking river cruises, right?  My mailbox and inbox were flooded with their advertising.  I had all their brochures.  I’d visited the website.  I offered some lame excuse, but Sandra told me to go – so I did.  Thank goodness!  If there’s anyone who needs for his emotional decision to be supported by logical data, it’s my husband.  He really wanted to go on a cruise, but he was still stuck on justifying the expenditure.

For a $5 per person investment, you can taste a number of great wines, learn more about a cruise line and qualify for some amazing deals.  What’s not to love!  Total Wine is a great liquor store which deserves a visit, with or without a cruise event.  If you are familiar with them, then you know they have a lovely education room at the back of the store.  That’s where you go for the CTC tasting event.

At the beginning, the owner of CTC gets up and makes a few announcements, like what kind of promotion they are offering on that particular evening.  Then the cruise rep gets up.  With gorgeous video filling the screen in front of you, the cruise rep gives you some logical data to support your imagination – but only for about 5-10 minutes.

Let the wine tasting begin!  A Total Wine guy serves up the wine, while you chat with your companion about cruise options.  There are about half a dozen wines to taste and the pours are quite generous.  There are even snacks to enjoy with the wine.  While pouring, the wine guy educates you on the wines you’re tasting and it’s not the same old thing.  We tried Chantegrive, Carvalhas, Ripasso and Renieri among others, and I’d never heard of any of them.

After you’re halfway through the wines, the cruise guy gets another stab at it.  The focus gets tighter and you really do begin to see yourself on board.  Then the other three wines are offered.   At the end of the wine tasting, you can book a bargain cruise and/or get a deep discount on the wines.

The wine tasting was just what Bill needed to get him over his hesitation about the Viking River Cruise.  A month later I enjoyed another tasting and that time the cruise line was Celebrity Cruise Lines.  I went with my bestie who was teetering between the Dutch Antilles and Alaska.  The wine tasting pushed her over the precipice and she’ll soon be on her way to Alaska.  I learned about a cruise to Canada and New England that hadn’t been on my radar at all.

So, go here and sign up for the CTC newsletter.  Soon, you too will be receiving newsletters with invitations to wine tastings.  Then I guess I’ll be seeing you at a tasting, because they have become one of my favorite evenings in Dallas.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning