Archive for July, 2012

Top Pick for Costa Maya – Maya Chan Beach

Last week while we were on our Carnival Dream cruise, we thought we would check out a private beach in Costa Maya that we had heard of on Cruise Critic.  I read a number of reviews and decided to get more information.  I contacted Mark at Maya Chan Beach by email for more information.  I was concerned as to what would happen if we didn’t make it in to Costa Maya.  I had read that this is sometimes a problem for Carnival with the winds.  Mark quickly responded indicating that they will refund 100% if the ship doesn’t make it in.  He also provided information about the resort and included some photos.

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Is Customer Service Important To You?

It is to me!  There is a Honda commercial on television where the “other” car dealer is saying how reliable their warranty is and the customer says “It sounds like its the warranty that’s reliable, not the car”.  I feel the same way about a lot of things.  I don’t want a computer that has a great warranty if it means the computer is going to break weekly, even if they fix it quickly.  I don’t want the computer to break down, period!  I don’t want to have to complain about service I am receiving (or not receiving) from a company on their Facebook wall or a discussion forum to get them to respond to my needs.  If I have a problem, I expect it to be handled quickly and effectively, but I also don’t want to have the problems in the first place.

When we decided to cruise on Carnival Cruise Line, I did so with a cautious but open mind.  I really didn’t think a Carnival Cruise was for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a good line for many people.  I have some clients that love Carnival and I don’t think any differently of them because of this.

On the first morning onboard, I was reminded why I had low expectations of Carnival.  I attempted to log in to the internet and found it was misreporting my package.  I tried several times, restarting my machine and clearing cookies and cache, to no avail.  There was no information on the flyer about who to contact, other than during business hours, so I called Guest Services.  I used the preprogrammed button on the phone.

There were five choices on the first menu.  First was to hang up and push a different button.  The other four were options to select.  I selected “2” for onboard services.  Next was a menu with at least six choices, none that fit.  Option “0” was to go to the main menu.  Frustrated with all the options and menus, I listened longer and option “9” was to talk to someone.  I explained the problem and was told the computer manager would be at his desk at 9:00 am, in two hours.  I explained the error, said that the system likely just needed refreshing (based on my IT husband’s assessment) and was told that I should just purchase a new package.  I refused to do that as I didn’t believe that it would solve the problem.  She offered nothing else.

What bothered me was not the non-functioning internet, but rather the way Guest Services handled it.  As someone who is in Customer Service, I never want to say “there’s nothing that can be done” as a first response, especially when clearly there is something that could be done.  Tell me you’ll contact the manager and let him know, even though it might take time to get the system running again.  Do something!

We had a mostly enjoyable day and later that night we ended up talking to the cruise director as it was elegant night and he was chatting with many guests.  He asked how our cruise was going and I told him honestly.  He was apologetic and understood where I was coming from.  He sent a note to our cabin a night or two later, thanking us and wishing us an enjoyable cruise.  I thought it was nice.  It certainly helped us feel better and enjoy the cruise more.

We kept an open mind and things seemed to get better.  We enjoyed all the trivia.  There was always a lot of trivia, but it seemed like not much else was going on.  On port days, nothing happened.  An hour or two before all aboard, trivia started.  We did go to a few shows.  The main theater times were 8:30 and 10:30.  It was tough to stay up so late.

We did have a few other small issues, but had a good time with our shore excursions and meeting other guests.  What happened next was not Carnival’s fault.  Every night our neighbors across the hall would come in at midnight and talk loud outside our room.  Finally, I had enough.  I opened the door and asked that they take it inside.  I went back to sleep, only to wake up at 2:40 am by the phone.  No one was there.  I hung up and it immediately rang again.  After the third time, I called Guest Services (by this time I saw in the FunTimes that we could dial “7777” to get right to a person in Guest Services).  The agent said she would alert security and they would trace the calls, but to call again if it continued.  Unfortunately, taking the phone off the hook would not work as for security reasons, the phones would ring even if off the hook.  The next call happened a few minutes later.  I called again and while I was dialing I heard other phones nearby ringing.  The agent said security was alerted and she got other complaints.  They would trace who did it.

We went back to Guest Services the next afternoon to see what happened.  We weren’t asked for our name or cabin number and were told measures were now in place if it happened again that night.  They didn’t have measures in place before this, a trace needed to be set up, etc.  I may not know how each cruise line handles it, but I do know that they log all calls, all uses of key cards and videotape many if not all public areas.  I accepted the explanation, knowing it would just frustrate me more to argue.  Personally, I think it was a mistake the ship made with their system of automated calls and they didn’t want to tell us.  This was the final confirmation I needed to realize that Carnival just isn’t up to my expectations.

Customer Service is very important to me and this just didn’t measure up.  My full review of our Carnival cruise will be in a separate blog.  We did have a good time overall, it just isn’t a cruise line we will go back to in the near future.

What Makes a Snorkeling Trip Successful?

We have been cruising for the last ten years, snorkeling every chance that we can get.  We have snorkeled at St John, St Thomas, two different Buck Islands, Bahamas, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Antigua, Barbados, Belize and Isla Roatan.  After a couple bad experiences with masks leaking, we bought our own and have been much happier.  When you are cruising and selecting shore excursions, you have no idea what the weather will be like.  Obviously if you have a storm with lightening, the excursion will be cancelled, but what about rain or clouds?

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All Cruises are Not Created Equal

I love to cruise!  In the past 10 years, I have been on 27 cruises across six different cruise lines.  This was on nine different ships, though I have also toured eight other ships.  What I have learned is that no two cruises are created equal.  I mean that from a standpoint of itineraries and cruise lines alike.

I have some friends who are very happy with one cruise line and won’t venture onto another ship or line.  I have others who used to feel that way and then tried another and were pleasantly surprised.  The important thing is to keep an open mind and work with a travel agent that knows cruises.

When I started expanding my business to cover many different cruise lines, I heard from other agent that you don’t need to experience a destination to be able to sell it.  I find that to be true, but with many limitations.  I don’t think you can sell a vacation product without experiencing it first.  I heard about a Hawaii expert who had never been to Hawaii.  She was a top seller.  I think you can learn a lot about a destination without going there with all the media available these days.  However, recommending a specific resort or vacation package without knowing anything about the companies you are dealing with is another thing.  I can’t just say “oh, it’s a XX brand resort, it must be good” and book my clients there.  Of course after a long time working with a destination and having clients return with reports about their stays, you do develop a great knowledge of a product.

I took many classes offered by various cruise lines.  I do feel that I have a good understanding of what each has to offer.  However, I realized that a cruise ship is much different than a destination.  Because a cruise ship moves from place to place, you need to learn about the itinerary destinations as well as learn about the cruise line and the ships in particular.

Take for example Disney Cruise Line.  I have been on all four ships in various itineraries.  I have been on the same itinerary with different ships.  I have my preferences of which ship(s) I like best and which itineraries I like best, but I also recognize that not everyone is like me.  I can ask the appropriate questions to the cruiser to get an idea of what they might like best.

If I only cruised on Disney though, I would have a harder time with different lines and how to recommend one to someone else.  For instance, if you like to hang out by the pool and participate in the pool games/deck activities, certainly you don’t want to be on an Alaskan Cruise and probably not a Canada/New England cruise.  If you aren’t big on touring on land, you may not be interested in a Mediterranean Cruise.

I also have found that by cruising on other lines, you learn more about the people who do the same.  I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “Disney?  Those ships are loaded with kids!”.  My response is always “there may be a lot of kids on board, but you don’t see them as much as you do on other ships”.  That is so true!  I found that many other ships have more limited adult only activities and less extensive of children’s programming so you end up seeing the children onboard much more often.  The time of year and itinerary also make a difference for this as well.  We are cruising on the Carnival Dream during the summer and I would have to say this is the most kids I have seen in a long time on a cruise ship.

I think the important thing to remember is that using a travel professional will help you make the right decision with a ship and itinerary that is right for you.  One who has experienced the lines first hand also helps.

Magical Memories

My love for Disney is different than most.  I didn’t grow up with all the movies or frequent trips to Disney World.  A friend of mine went to Disney World when I was a kid and brought me back Mickey ears.  Really didn’t matter much to me.  Maybe it was because my parents didn’t like to travel so going to Disney World or Disneyland was out of the question, not even a consideration.  We made annual trips to Marriott’s Great America (now known as Six Flags Great America) so why did we need Disney?  That was an amazing park!  I loved the boat and log rides plus the Model T car rides.  It couldn’t get any better than this.

Shortly before getting married, my husband had been going to conferences for work.  I tagged along on the trips to see different parts of the country.  We went to Boston, New Orleans and Palm Springs.   After we got married, he had a chance to go to Anaheim California.  This would be the chance to see Disneyland so I definitely wanted to go.  We brought my sister with us and Deb and I spent the days exploring Southern California and joined Bill after his conference to visits Disneyland.

The following year, we returned to Disneyland, again for the conference, but this time just the two of us.  This time it was much different though.  The trip focused on Disneyland for me rather than other locations in Southern California.  I did more research for the trip to set our game plan.  I would have time during the day to go to Disneyland by myself and Bill would join me in the evenings.

I still recall first arriving at Disneyland that second year.  As soon as we walked through the turnstiles, I turned to Bill and exclaimed “This is the Happiest Place on Earth!”.  I felt like a little kid again!  While Bill was in his conference, I even went on Splash Mountain by myself!

Since that trip to Disneyland, we have been back many times, each with their own memories.  We watched Disneyland get a bit larger and the addition of Disney’s California Adventure.  A favorite of mine was in 2005.  My husband was celebrating his 50th birthday and so was Disneyland!  We were taking our first trip through the Panama Canal on the Disney Magic but first a few days at Disneyland.  We invited my mom and sister to come with us for the Disneyland stay.  This was just a couple years before mom passed away.  She was definitely slowing down and at times we needed to get a wheelchair to help her get around.  Two rides stick out in my mind.

We went on Soarin’ Over California.  Now my mom was very fearful of heights.  Somehow though we convinced her to go.  The closer we got to the ride, the more nervous she was becoming.  As soon as she sat down and locked her strap in, she started to panic.  She was almost crying.  Just then a castmember came around the corner and it was like a switch turned her off.  She was quiet as a mouse!  As soon as the castmember went around the corner, she started to panic again.  I just looked at her and said “that was your chance!”  She made it through the ride though reported that her eyes were closed the entire time.

The other ride was Pirates of the Caribbean.  My mom trusted my husband more than the rest of us.  He told her that Pirates was an art gallery.  Why she never questioned the line to get in escapes me!  As we approached the building and went in, she saw the boats returning to the start.  She turned and said “This isn’t an art gallery, is it?”  We told her it was a boat ride and she asked “just tell me it doesn’t have any drops” so we did.  She didn’t ask for the truth after all!  For those who haven’t been to Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean there actually has two drops!  In the end she enjoyed the ride and while she screamed on the drops, we laughed.

Great memories of Disneyland!  We also have great memories at Walt Disney World and on our many Disney Cruises. With my job, I am lucky enough to hear great stories from my clients when they return.  Not only do they make me smile, but they remind me of my memories too.

Now it’s your turn!  Share with us a memory that you have of a Disney visit.

Attention Runners! Free Dining Now Available for Disney’s Wine & Dine!

November 9 & 10, 2012 will be the annual Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.  Today free dining opened to the general public for select dates in the fall at Walt Disney World resorts.  This promotion will coincide with dates for the Wine & Dine!    This is a great savings for your weekend stay at Walt Disney World.  We have a number of clients taking advantage of this deal.  Arriving on November 9, for three nights, they are receiving a free dining plan with their room and ticket package!  You can too!

Information on this runDisney event can be found here.  To get your reservation, just contact us at info@TravelOnADream.com. With a value resort, you will qualify for the quick service dining plan for free and with any other Disney resort, you will qualify for the plus dining plan for free! You can upgrade plans for just the difference in cost between the free plan and the plan you select. Packages require a three night minimum stay and two day base tickets for each person in your party. Deposits of $200 are required but are fully refundable until 45 days prior to arrival, so what have you got to lose?

Complete a half marathon at Walt Disney World, finishing in Epcot with an exclusive after-hours party in the middle of the International Food & Wine Festival. Enjoy free dining during your stay. This is a winning combination!

Disney World 2013 Dining Plan Pricing

This morning Disney opened up bookings for its resort packages in 2013.  We know that ticket pricing increased in May, and expected an increase in the dining plan.  We just didn’t know how much of an increase until now.

The dining plans for 2013 will be the same as the plans offered for 2012.  The only change is the price.  For the Magic Your Way plus Quick Service dining plan, each person in the party will get 2 quick service meal credits and 1 snack credit for each night’s stay and a resort refillable drink mug.  The pricing is $37.58 for 10 and over per night and $14.32 for 3-9 year olds per night.  More information on the Quick Service Dining Plan is located here.

For the Magic Your Way plus Dining plan, each person in the party receives one snack credit, one quick service meal credit and one table service meal credit for each night’s stay and a resort refillable drink mug.  For more information on this plan, click here.  The pricing during value and regular seasons is $55.59 for 10 and over per night and $17.16 for 3-9 year olds per night.  During Peak and Holiday seasons the pricing is $56.94 for 10 and older and $18.16 for 3-9 year olds.  These peak and holiday season dates appear to be:

  • February 14 – 23, 2013
  • March 8 – April 7, 2013
  • May 31 – August 3, 2013, and
  • December 20 – 31, 2013

Finally, we have the Magic Your Way plus Deluxe Dining plan.  This plan gives you three meals and two snack credits per person, per night of your stay.  You also receive a resort refillable drink mug.  The pricing during value and regular seasons is $99.97 for 10 and over per night and $26.84 for 3-9 year olds per night.  During Peak and Holiday seasons the pricing is $102.27 for 10 and older and $28.91 for 3-9 year olds.  More information on this plan is located here.

Speaking of dining….  tomorrow the fall Free Dining promotion is available to the general public.  With non-discounted package reservations, we can add select dining plans for no additional cost! Details can be found in our blog from Monday, http://toadstravels.com/2012/07/09/fall-free-dining-offer-at-disney-world/.

Contact Travel On A Dream today for your 2013 package or Fall 2012 free dining package!

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