Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘travel agent

Happy New Year, everyone!  In 2012 and beyond, our blog entries will appear directly on the Celebrations International Travel Web site, at www.celebrationsinternationaltravel.com/blog

Thank you for reading, and please do visit us on our new page!  Happy New Year, and here’s to your travels in 2012!

This article in The Washington Post was brought to my attention this morning:

Travelers Turn Back to Travel Agents

Taj Mahal    Normally I don’t read articles like this in detail, but what got my attention was that it recounts the experience of a traveler who asked his travel agent to book a 10-day trip to India on short notice.  When we first opened Celebrations International Travel in 2005, we booked itineraries like this every day.  The reason was that we worked with adoption travel at that time, and most of our clients departed within 7-10 days of purchasing their arrangements.  With that being said, we had several clients who left within 48 – 72 hours of completing their arrangements.  No, that is not a misprint!

We know and understand that as travelers, you always have a choice as to how, where, and with whom you book your travel arrangements.  I’ll be the first to admit there are great travel deals to be found online, and travelers can indeed book on their own.  However, there really is no substitute for the expertise that a good travel agent brings to the table.

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Here’s another interesting and fun episode in Princess Cruises‘ video diary.  We get a glimpse of how the crew working on the Grand Princess’s renovations get to spend their free time while in the Bahamas.

For cruisers, it’s a nice, brief overview of the destination, except for the white sand beaches the Bahamas are famous for.  Let Celebrations International Travel’s Princess Cruises Certified Experts help you plan your next cruise vacation!

Celebrations International Travel is pleased to announce that Adrienne and Agni Mitra were recently sworn in to the Professional Profit Producers chapter of BNI (Business Network International) in Chandler, Arizona. 

We invite you to explore our blog to learn more about Adrienne and Agni and their travels, or click here

We are excited about this new opportunity, and we look forward to getting to know as many of our fellow BNI members as possible.  Please contact us at your convenience.

“They don’t care what you do!” my BNI (Business Network International) trainer emphasized repeatedly.  He was referring to the fact that in most cases, your profession emphatically implies what you do.  He wanted to impress upon us the fact that it’s not what you do, but the benefits you can offer people that captures their interest.

With that in mind,  you all know that travel agents help arrange travel. 

Here are some things that you may not know that some travel agents do, including myself and my agency, Celebrations International Travel:

– Meetings/Events at Sea or On Location:  My agency can help you organize a meeting or event on a cruise, or at an all-inclusive resort or a hotel in the city of your choice and take care of the details!

– Group Pricing Without A Group:  Who says you always have to travel with ten of your best friends to qualify for group rates?  At Celebrations International Travel, we’ve reserved space on many popular cruise sailings that allow us to offer the savings of group rates to our clients, whether you’re traveling as a couple or bringing all your friends and family along.  With some notice, similar arrangements can be made at all-inclusive resorts or for escorted tours.

– Fundraising:  That’s right….You can help raise funds for your favorite charity or cause through your travels.  Contact us to find out more.

– Itinerary Planning:  Even if you have a good idea about where and when you want to travel, a good travel agent can provide you with good tips and advice on things to see and do (and the best days/times to do them), the best ways to get around, and good places to eat and shop.  Especially for international destinations with which you aren’t familiar, your agent may be able to give you practical advice on currency exchanges, taxi services, money-saving ideas, and general travelers’ safety.

– Special Occasions & Celebrations:  We believe in Celebrating Life Through Travel!  If you’re celebrating a special occasion on your trip, let your travel agent know so that he/she can do their best to help you celebrate!

Here is another “cruise tip” I wanted to tell you more about:

Topic Statement: Before booking, check deck plans online to confirm your cabin isn’t beneath a well-traveled area. Many ships have a lido deck buffet, where diners eat poolside. When they drag around chairs, it can make quite the ruckus in rooms right below.

My Viewpoint: This statement is somewhat erroneous, and there are a number of ways to avoid an unpleasant experience like this:

1) It isn’t possible to confirm the location of your cabin (stateroom) before you book it because you won’t even know what is or isn’t available until you ask.  Cabin choices are made while you’re booking.

2)  Work with a travel agent.  Any good travel agent who’s working to make your cruise experience the best it can be shouldn’t choose a stateroom for you that isn’t as ideally located as possible.

In my mind, “ideally located” could mean any or all of the following, (just to name a few) depending on the travelers’ particular needs or desires:

– Avoiding staterooms near potentially noisy, high-traffic areas;

– Avoiding staterooms with obstructed or partially obstructed views;

– Avoiding staterooms on the promenade deck (where walkers or joggers might be able to see in);

– Advising travelers who may be sensitive to motion to opt for staterooms located as mid-ship as possible;

– Reminding travelers that the “cheapest” available staterooms may not be ideally located and why; and

– Being mindful of any other specific needs or requests the travelers may have.  The difference is often in the details, and can make a big difference in your overall vacation experience.

At Celebrations International Travel, we pride ourselves on the personalized service we provide to each client.   Contact us for help in planning your next cruise or other travel experience.  Until my next post, cruise on!

This is the first in a new series of posts I would like to write about tips for savvy cruisers.  I frequently come across articles, ideas, questions, and advice by and for cruisers.

As both a travel professional specializing in cruises and as a family of avid cruisers, I’d like to begin sharing tidbits of my findings with you, along with my own take on them, whether I agree or disagree.  And I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on each subject.

Topic Statement: “You are almost always charged extra for soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails at meals.  But if you stick to juice, you can drink for free (on most ships).”

My Viewpoint: I completely disagree with this statement.  While the speaker makes a correct statement regarding soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails, I don’t agree that “if you stick to juice, you can drink for free.  No, in most cases, unless you have purchased a soft drink and/or juice package, juices are only free during breakfast and at self-service beverage stations, if the cruise line offers them.

To further clarify, I would suggest that savvy cruisers keep the following tips in mind with regard to beverages:

1) The idea that you “almost” always have to pay for certain beverages most likely stems from the fact that some cruise lines offer complimentary house cocktails (i.e. one or two specific types) to passengers on formal nights.  At all other times, when you are asked to sign a slip when presented with your drink, it gets added to your stateroom account.

2) If you are ever caught off-guard by a crew member asking you to sign for a beverage charge, but you were unaware that there was a charge for the item, remember that if you haven’t sipped the drink, you can decline the charge and let them know you do not wish to authorize the charge.  This knowledge could come in handy if you’re suddenly ambushed by crew members offering a “Welcome Aboard” drink that they don’t openly state carries a charge.

3) Every cruise line has their own rules as to which beverages are complimentary and which are not.  For example, some cruise lines count lemonade as a soda, while on other lines, it flows freely.  Ask your travel agent for specifics and commit them to memory.  If you decide you can’t do without juice, soda, or specialty coffee, consider buying a beverage package that’s good for the duration of your cruise.  This could help save you time and money.

4) For wine connoisseurs, wine packages are also available, giving you the opportunity to select different wines to enjoy during your cruise and enjoy significant savings compared to purchasing each bottle individually.

5)  If you’re ever in doubt about whether something costs extra, always ask before you consume.  Better that than an unpleasant surprise on your stateroom bill at the end of the cruise!

Celebrations International Travel offers a wide variety of oceanliner cruises and river cruisesContact us with any questions.  Until my next post, cruise on!

As a follow-up to my post on the use of professional travel agents, I’d like to talk about an innovation that my agency, Celebrations International Travel,  introduced last year.  I should stress that I think this, or any other online travel site, is best used when travelers have a good idea of what they want and are familiar with the destination and type of travel involved.  For all other trips, I highly recommend contacting a full-service, professional travel agency directly.

The Internet has become an indispensable tool for the majority of us, and I think it’s fair to say there’s no turning back now!  But a pet peeve I’ve always had about booking travel on the Internet is the lack of human interaction and contact.

Buying travel isn’t like buying a book or CD.  You can always return or have an item replaced, but if something happens to cause your hard-earned vacation plans to go sour, what then?  If it was booked through an online mega-agency, chances are you’ll have to call the customer service number on the Web site and speak to a rep who doesn’t know you or your travel plans, and could very well be reciting to you from a manual.

In an effort to improve the travel booking experience, Celebrations International Travel introduced Celebrations Travel Online, an automated booking site that allows travelers the flexibility and convenience of booking travel via the Internet, but with the added convenience and peace-of-mind that comes with the personalized service of a professional travel agent.

Agents are on hand to answer any questions prior to booking, and all bookings made via Celebrations Travel Online are serviced by an agent of Celebrations International Travel, our full-service agency.  We always contact the traveler to answer any questions, and to make sure they’ve received and understand their travel documents, procedures, and who to call if they need anything.  We think this combined automated booking and personal service gives travelers the best of both worlds:  modern technology and dedicated, personal service.

Celebrations International Travel...Celebrating Life Through Travel

With the advent of the Internet, travelers have greater access and more options than ever when it comes to booking trips.  I’ll be the first to admit that using the Internet is indeed a convenient way to book travel.  But I don’t think it’s always the best option, especially if you’re considering an extensive or detailed trip, or if the trip involves a destination or type of travel that you’re not familiar with.

In these cases, why not consider using a professional travel agent?  A good, knowledgeable travel agent is trained to ask the right questions, make suitable recommendations based on your needs, wants, and travel budget, and make your arrangements in a way that best ensures a smooth and hassle-free trip.

At many agencies, including Celebrations International Travel, it does not cost you extra to use our services.  Then how do we get paid, you ask?  The travel suppliers we work with pay us.  So there is no extra cost to you, our clients; and it is in our best interest to find you the best deal possible on travel experiences you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

The next time you have the urge to get away, to enjoy some much-needed time off, why not leave the planning to the pro’s?  Celebrations International Travel’s agents would be more than happy to help you plan the perfect vacation.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

Celebrations International Travel...Celebrating Life Through Travel

This is an article I wrote that was published today by Travel Research Online, a resource for travel professionals.   I write columns for consumers as well as industry-related articles whenever possible.

Enjoy!

A Travel Pro Dares to Dream
June 26th, 2009 . by Adrienne Mitra

As travel agents, much of our time is spent planning clients’ trips, solving logistical challenges, and researching.  I am often drawn to itineraries or locales my clients choose, resulting in a long list of “someday” trips I’d like to take.  When it comes to my “dream trip”, there is no question:  a cruise around the world, complete with a land tour component in each major city.
My goal for this trip would be to experience the countries, cultures, histories, peoples and cuisines of the world first-hand, not just to sightsee.  With that in mind, I have a strong preference for shore excursions that provide travelers with a tangible experience to treasure, rather than whirlwind bus tours that leave travelers with little more than a panorama of discombobulated images. Unfortunately, working in a full land tour in each area is next to impossible, but since I am dreaming…

I wish I could combine all the wonderful ways to explore Alaska into a single tour.  In Hawaii, I imagine an inter-island tour encompassing the sunrise over Mount Haleakala, touring the natural wonders of Molokai, an authentic Hawaiian luau, and leisure time on Poipu Beach.  Next would be visits to the pristine islands of the South Pacific.  In Australia and New Zealand, apart from seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the Outback and the major city highlights, I would tour some of the best estate wineries, visit Kangaroo Island, and witness the ritual of the fairy penguin parade on Philip Island.

After that, my tour of exotic Asia, land of my family’s heritage, would begin.  I would immerse myself in all the unique sights, events, culinary delights, and possibilities for one-of-a-kind experiences the Asian countries have to offer.

Continuing westward, I would want to visit my husband’s native India. To avoid extensive overland travel, I would insist on flying to the most popular destinations from the port city and touring fully escorted, possibly requiring a multi-night stay in each given city.

The opulence of modern Dubai, navigating through the Suez Canal, and visiting the ancient wonders of Egypt would all present opportunities for new adventures, the conclusion of which would be our entry into the Mediterranean.  Having traveled extensively in this region, I would plan more unique, less touristy experiences.  For example, enjoying authentic paella cooked over an open fire on a beach in Spain or a walk through a lavender field in Provence.

Sailing north, I would like to spend a significant amount of time exploring northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia.  I would be tempted to debark from our oceanliner in Bergen, and take Hurtigruten’s 12-day round-trip voyage to experience the Norwegian Fjords, no matter what time of year.  And when it comes to Russia, I’m not sure the overnight in St. Petersburg would do it justice, especially during White Nights.

Owing to the fact that I would eventually have to come home, after concluding the tour of Europe, I would set sail back across the Atlantic to Nova Scotia.  Hopefully I would arrive in time for the fall foliage, which I haven’t seen in years.  Then it’s down the eastern seaboard, paying homage to my childhood origins in the south before heading to parts of South America for experiences new and different, then transiting through the Panama Canal, and finally ending my journey back in Los Angeles.

Would this be a dream trip or my ultimate challenge as a travel professional?  Both.  As there is no single supplier or cruise that can offer this type of voyage, most of this trip would have to be pieced together—if it even could be. But a girl can dream, right? And, should something like this ever come to fruition, I believe  I would be my own toughest client indeed.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, Inc., an independent agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, and group travel. Phone:  (480) 272-6020


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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