TowPath Travel Blog
As a responsible travel agent, I need to make sure that my clients see all sides of a decision. The positive sunny side, and the negative downside. I won't just book someone on a cruise, without discussing both sides with them. Some of my clients come to me with an idea, and when we discuss it, a few will change to a different option.
Why do they change? They find out information about the experience, the company, etc, and they decide it isn't for them. Take MSC cruises for an example. You won't find much on my site about MSC and I don't openly encourage most people to take them. They are cheap... often time really, really cheap. Plus they often toss in free beverages, and sometimes more.
MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company, you may see MSC on the side of shipping containers... same company) is new to the US market, they have been sailing Europe for a long time. They are safe, and reliable. They are however, a European style cruise line that is trying to "Americanize" and have struggled to do it well. The food can be a different that what you may be used to, the customer service is much more blunt and difficult, and the entertainment, is very different that what N. American cruisers are used to.
You pay a lot for evan a cheap cruise, and you deserve to feel comfortable and at home on your cruise... and with MSC the chances of that are lower than with other cruise lines. Can you have a great time on MSC? You sure can! Some people have a great time no matter where they are. Will I sell them... yep, but we need to talk first so that you know exactly what you are getting into.
All of that said... they have GREAT SHIPS!!!! Wow are they nice! MSC ships are new, and state of the art, and spectacular. The expensive, semi private area on the ships called the "Yacht Club" is also very good. The other good news is that they are learning from the feedback. They seem to be heading slowly in the right direction, I hope in the near future I can delete this blog post as out of date.
I recently did a Globus Escorted tour of the Western US. More on that in another blog post, but it gave me to time to explore some places. It's important that when you travel that you don't just look at the cliche post card view. You take the time to dig just a little bit deeper. You will bring home different memories, different photos, and maybe even a different perspective of the place.
Let's explore a few of the photos I took while in South Dakota, at the Crazy Horse Memorial as well as Mt. Rushmore.
Starting with the cliche photos... you got to take them...
...just don't stop at the cliche... for me these photos take the carved mountain, and puts a personal touch on it, you can see the carving, you feel the art of it. The scope of how much work went into it.
The same can be said about the Crazy Horse Memorial. The detail that they are putting into the sculpture is beyond what I expected.
The detail on the eyes, the curve of the nose ... it brings the face to life.
So when you are traveling, look closer, look from a different angle, and just look. Open yourself up to seeing, it takes time, and you need to force yourself to do it. But you will be rewarded for it.
There is a myth, about some travel agents that we are not interested in you, just trying to get you to spend as much as you can.... nothing is further from the truth.
#1 - we charge no fees, except on certain rare airline situations, you don't pay me a single penny.
#2 - I am always working to save you money.
Let's put our cards out there... we make money through commissions we get from the travel suppliers.
There I said it...BUT, since most pay roughly the same amount we don't push you into something that is more profitable for us. It's all the same for us.
Another point is that the sale in general is more important to us that the commission amount. There have been trips where we made almost nothing. It happens. A lot of people get a piece of that commission (often even you get some of that commission in the form of discounts and perks!).
A quick story...
I have been working with a client for about a year on a trip. We are getting close to final payment and I realized that if they did the pre-night hotels separate from the cruise line, they would save a lot of money. We discussed the pro's and con's and they decided to do the hotels on their own rather than through the cruise line. That courtesy conversation cost us a lot of money in commission, but more importantly it saved the client well over $1000. I am proud of being able to do that for them, and I woould do it again without hesitation.
We take care of you! The rest works its way out in the long run.
Many cruise lines are aggressively recommending using travel agents... because for them it's 75% of their bookings, and we give far better service than their large call center.
Picking the right cruise line, the right cruise ship, to match your personality as well as the environment you are heading off to visit. A good example of the little stuff that can make a big difference is the main pool area. Depending on who you are and what you enjoy the main lido pool area will be something you visit often, or at the very least it is an area that you will walk through on your way to the buffet on most ships.
Take Alaska for example... it is a rain forest. It never rains heavy, but it can rain a mist like drizzle everyday. Even when the weather is clear, it is rarely over the mid 60's and with the breeze of the moving ship, it can be chilly to say the least.
To account for this (and other weather anywhere in the world), Holland America Ships have a retractable roof over the lido pool... on every single one of their ships.
On a sunny, warm day you get an outdoor pool, with the sun shining though (above)... but look close, you see the dark rain clouds approaching. A few minutes later (below) you can see that the roof is closed and the pool area is still a great place to be.
These photos were taken on the Holland America Koningsdam, in Fort Lauderdale. The majority of the people by the pool are on a back to back sailing, and they are waiting for the next set of passengers to join them. The Koningsdam is a beautiful ship. More to come in future blog posts.
We are here to help you find the right ship for you, and where you are heading.
Everyday I hear from clients, and I read in the news people who are confused about passports, and other ID requirements. This blog post is not intended to say "If you go here then you need this document" as that would be unfair. Everyone's situation is different. But in general the following guidelines apply.
Flights (from anywhere to anywhere!) Starting in October 2020 you will be required to have either a REAL ID compliant ID or a passport. A Real ID is a state issued drivers license or state ID with a star in the corner (see image below). Every state has a way to get a Real ID, and in most cases they are the same cost as the standard ID. They do require more documents to get however. You will not be able to fly anywhere after October 2020 without a Read ID or a passport.
International travel... requires a passport. There are a few minor exceptions (see below) but assume a passport is required. They also must have 6 months or more left prior to expiration by the end date of your trip to qualify.
Exceptions... certain closed loop cruises can be done with just a birth certificate and an ID. Depending on the cruise line, these are generally not very common. There are strict rules for these cruise to qualify. If you have an emergency you could have serious problems not having a passport. But if everything goes well, you will be fine in these cases.
Passport Cards - these are intended for commuters who live on the border and cross it regularly. I do not recommend them, you cannot fly with a Passport Card.
What happens if I don't have a passport or some other document required? You will be denied going on your trip. Period. This is a matter of US and international law, there is nothing that can change it. If it is required then you MUST have it. No travel insurance will cover these denials, and no refund is typically give by the provider. However, working with a professional can avoid these issues all together. We ask the right questions, and give the right advice to ensure that you know what to expect.
How about Emergencies? For a vacation, there is no such thing as an emergency. The government will make no exceptions for personal travel. What if I lose my passport, etc. while out of the country? You can have an emergency temporary passport created so that you may continue to travel. This is an expensive and time consuming process. You will be stranded in the country where you are until the new document is issued.
What can I do to reduce the risk? Have copies of your passport info page in multiple locations. Place one copy of each passport info page into at least 2 different pieces of luggage. Also, leave copies where you can have a friend or family get them at home. Finally, take a photo of your info page on your phone. If you have the numbers on the info page and can prove you have a passport, the process is much easier in an emergency. You may even be able to travel home on your copy of the passport.
My personal routine... at the first stop sign from my house.. I ask my wife to show me her passport, and I show her mine. This way we know 100% that we left the house with them and they started the journey with us. (the most common thing to happen is to leave the passports at home and not notice until you get to the airport and its too late!)
In the end... speaking with a professional travel agent/adviser can prevent these problems... and since we at TowPath Travel work for you at no cost... why not let us take care of you! We will take great care of you.
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