Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Travel Leaders Survey Finds Holiday Bookings On Par or Higher Than Last Year

The following article is from an industry organization called ASTA (American Society for Travel Agents).
I thought it would be good to post, with the hopes of providing some guidlines for booking holiday travel.
Travel Leaders Survey Finds Holiday Bookings On Par or Higher Than Last Year

By Mimi Kmet
September 10, 2012 2:09 PM

Travel Leaders Group has released a survey on trends for the upcoming holiday season that reveals that holiday travel bookings are on par with, or higher than, last year. Moreover, the survey, which polled Travel Leaders Group travel agents, indicated that the timeline for booking holiday trips — particularly those requiring travelers to fly to their destinations — is tight. Agents’ advice is to book holiday travel six months or more before departure, which means those still on the sidelines for Thanksgiving or end-of-year holidays need to act fast. Agents also are advising clients planning to travel over Spring Break 2013 to begin planning shortly.

This data is based on responses from 653 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents who specialize in leisure travel. The results are part of the larger 2012 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group from July 30 through Aug. 23, in which 871 travel agents participated from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with Travel Leaders Group’s Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Tzell Travel Group and units.

“The holiday travel advice of our travel agents throughout the U.S. undoubtedly factors in peak travel costs and restricted airline availability,” Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben said in a statement. “While we have been known to ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat’ for many last-minute requests, it isn’t in our clients’ best interest to take those chances, and it certainly isn’t cost-effective for them, either. If travelers want maximum flexibility with travel dates, times and prices, action is required.”

According to the survey, 72.3 percent of agents reported that Thanksgiving travel booking is on par or better than last year. When asked, “Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their Thanksgiving airline tickets,” 58.6 percent of agents surveyed said clients should book their Thanksgiving airfare six months or more prior to the holiday. Thanksgiving is now less than three months away.

When asked to compare end-of-the-year holiday travel bookings (those immediately before Christmas and through the New Year’s holiday) to their 2011 bookings at this time, 76.7 percent said 2012 bookings are equal to or higher than last year. When asked, “Based on your knowledge and expertise, when would you advise clients to book their airfare for travel taking place immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday,” 74.9 percent said they would advise booking six months or more prior to the desired departure date.

However, some clients are taking a chance that their desired flight dates, times and price-range will still be available closer to the holiday. When asked, “When does a majority of your clients start inquiring about Thanksgiving airline tickets,” 45.3 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents indicated three to four months prior to the holiday, while 21.8 percent said two months prior to the holiday. When asked, “When do a majority of your clients start inquiring about air travel for dates immediately prior to Christmas through the New Year's holiday,” 68 percent said clients inquire four months or more prior to the holidays.

For Spring Break 2013 travel, agents were asked, “Typically, how far in advance do you advise your clients to make their Spring Break reservations?” Of the respondents, 62.3 percent said they advise clients to book more than six months in advance, while 33.9 percent said they advise clients to book four to six months in advance. When asked, “What are the top three reasons why clients should not wait until the last minute to book their Spring Break travel,” the top responses were: reduced airline seating capacity (75.9 percent), lock in airfare costs (61.7 percent), and lock in hotel/resort pricing (39.4 percent).

Finally, the top ways agents said they are counseling clients on getting the most value for their dollar — particularly for peak air travel dates — are: be flexible on dates to travel (84.4 percent); be flexible on time of day (59.5 percent); and book air as part of a tour or cruise package (58.4 percent).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Royal Princess - June 2013

The spectacular Royal Princess joins the Princess Cruise Line fleet in June 2013.  As a travel agent, I have had the opportunity to preview some of the design and construction over the past few months, and am in awe of the new features and improvements since Princess’ last ship was built (Ruby Princess 2007).    Princess has finally released some new marketing materials, so here are some of the highlights:

Construction of Royal Princess began on 15 March 2011 at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy when the first plate was cut.  She was launched in August 2012; fitting out continues, and Fincantieri expects to deliver her to Princess Cruises in June 2013.

The ship will measure 141,000 GRT and will have a capacity of 3,600 passengers. Her amenities will include a pair of public areas cantilevered over the side of the ship on the top deck. 

“The Sea Walk” will extend 28 feet off the edge of the ship, and is about 128 feet long. 

In addition, much like previous Princess Cruises ships, the new ship will feature expanded public areas, including the movie theater, the "Sanctuary" bar and the central Piazza atrium.

The Central Piazza is 50% larger than any other ship in the Princess Fleet, and includes eateries, unique to the Royal Princess.

Improvements to “The Sanctuary” include new offerings such as private cabanas with flat screen TVs, and refrigerators.  

Spa fare and refreshing drinks are available to guests, and are served by Sanctuary staff members that will be known as Serenity Stewards.

The Lotus Spa was not forgotten when designing the new ship.  An exclusive area of the spa, The Enclave at Lotus Spa, offers warm stone beds and a soothing hydro pool in addition to airbed recliners, neck and body massage jets and circular rain showers that alleviate stress almost instantly.    

The Royal Princess’ maiden voyage departs June 16, 2013:

7-Day Maiden Iberia Voyage


Southampton, Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Gibraltar,

Málaga (for Granada), Barcelona


Caribbean sailings start out of Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of November 2013.

Want to know more about the Royal Princess? 
Contact me through 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dear Joe Gripp........

Dear Joe Gripp,

I will be boarding the Allure of the Seas later this month. There will be two formal nights. How formal is "Formal Night?"

Thanks for your help Joe Gipp.

Chrissy from Long Island

Dear Chrissy,

My advice is to take the following into consideration:

It is what it is. But it will be what you make of it.

My traveling companions and I have been on several cruises, through varying cruise-lines. Believe me, we have seen it all. Beaded floor length gowns, ultra mini dresses, jeans, flip flops, sneakers, suits and tuxedos. Not to mention men wearing tuxedos and flip flops at the same time.

Ultimately, it is your vacation, and you can dress up or down as you see fit.

Things to keep in mind:

Some cruise lines will not allow you in the dining room if you are not within acceptable limits of what they think is acceptable. A bathing suit and hawaiian shirt is not considered acceptable dining room attire.

Don't become angry if you are wearing a very formal gown, and the person next to you is in sneakers. It's thier vacation also.

Gentlemen can get away with wearing the same suit twice. No one will notice!

Don't be afraid to change into something less formal after dinner. Everyone else does.

I hope my suggestions help. Enjoy your cruise.

Bon voyage!

Joe Gripp

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dear Joe Gripp,

I decided to post a few questions from some of my favorite clients. I hope you find them helpful.

Dear Joe Gripp, Which cruise line is the best? I am planning a summer vacation for my family, and want to make sure my teenage children will enjoy themselves.

Thanks, Oscar, Holbrook, NY

Dear Oscar,

Believe it or not, all of the cruisline in business right now are great. Each cruiseline has its own target market. At Gripp Travel, we ask probing questions to try and find out exactly what you want out of your next best vacation, then present you with a cruiseline and itinerary that best suits your needs.

Royal Carribean ships offer you and yours a true "adventure" on board. Most of their ships are equipped with rock climbing walls, "Flow Riders" (Which are surfing simulators. Oscar, if you try this, make sure you properly secure your bathing suit, I lost mine on the first attempt. It was very embarrassing), ice skating shows, over the top entertainment, Dream Works characters onboard, and on some ships, zip lining!

I hope this helps, please let me know if you would like some brochures.

  Joe Gripp

Dear Joe Gripp, I just got engaged, and am interested in a destination wedding. What do cruiselines offer brides and grooms who want a simple wedding at sea?

Thanks, Anastasia, Malverne, NY

Dear Ana,

Many of the major cruiselines offer a full assortment of wedding packages. You can have the ceremony on board prior to departure, allowing your friends and family to be with you as you exchange vows, then disembark before the ship sets sail.

Other options include a ceremony officiated by the Captain on a day at sea, or have a beach ceremony at the island of your choice. Each cruiseline offers different packages that include flowers, photos, dancing, and drinks. You can have as much or as little as you want.

Please contact me for more information. We can make you big day, truly spectacular. Congratulations!

Joe Gripp

Dear Joe Gripp,

My life partner and I want to go on a cruise, but are nervous about being onboard a ship with people who may not be accepting of our lifestyle. We are from a metropolitan area, where same sex couples are accepted as equals. Is cruising a good idea?

Jimmy - NYC!

Dear Jimmy,

Cruisers come in all shapes and sizes. Cruising is very social, where in most cases travelers make new acuantences and enjoy being away from the stress of their everyday drama.

Cruiselines are very sensitive to the environment of the GLBT community. They typically host a GLBT Meet and Greet within the first two days of sailing.

Not ready for a mainstream cruise? There are a few promotion companies that offer GLBT cruises. They typically serve specific groups within the GLBT community, and offer specialized entertainment, and have gay friendly corporate sponsors. BEWARE- these cruises can cost almost DOUBLE the price of a regular cruise.

If you have any questions, please contact me at

  -Joe Gripp

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Customer Feedback!

Dear Joe,

I wanted to thank you for planning the perfect cruise for us. We had a wonderful time! You did a wonderful job in helping us choose the cruise that met all of our needs. You gave us great advice that really helped to make this vacation very special.
The Norwegian Star was a beautiful ship. The itinerary of the cruise was fantastic. We spent 3 days in port in Bermuda. This gave us the opportuntiy to really see all that Bermuda has to offer. It is a beautiful island with pink sand beaches, lovely towns, and plenty to see.
So, once again, thank you for your professionalism and for planning such a great cruise for us. We look forward to having you take care of all our future vacation needs!

Best Regards,

Scott & Carmine Rosen

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gripp's Travels - Aruba

Gripp's Travels - Aruba

"It never rains in Aruba" is what was written on every wall and sidewalk on our first visit to Aruba a few years ago.  This trip, not only did it rain, but the slogan was changed to "I Love Aruba" much in the style of "I Love NY".  

What makes Aruba Different than other islands?  The Divi-Divi trees, its desert like atmosphere, great shopping and size.  Travelers can see all the major attractions of Aruba in an 8 hour span. 

Our stay in port this trip was only about 6 hours, so our focus was on the attractions we have not seen.  We docked in Oranjestad, Aruba's capital city, and opted for a shore excursion offered through our ship (Island Princess).   Aruba is tourist friendly, we probably could have gotten more bang for our buck going on our own, but the time constraint worried us.  We let Princess do all the transportation arrangements, leaving us free of the worries of returning to the boat on time.

We we're picked up by a tour bus, then were driven around the island. "Papa" was our tour guide, who immediately bonded with our group, and provided us with a well appreciated summarized history of the island. 

First stop:

 The Butterfly Farm Home to hundreds of exotic butterflies. 

"You guys are so Lucky" said the butterfly specialist.  The rainy weather will provide us with the opportunity to see rain forest varieties of butterflies and moths, which normally don't come out in the sun. 

I started to silently sing Rain, Rain, go away! Come back another day!

How exciting can Rain forest butterflies be?

We sat through a 15 minute lecture, where we learned all the specifics about the lifespan of a butterfly.   We then took about 20 minutes to try and get a few photos - not easy! 

(Butterflies really don't follow direction well. )

We saw amazing sights, and now consider the transition from caterpillar to butterfly more magic than science. The picture above is of a cabinet used to protect the future butterflies and moths while developing

The Rain forest variety of butterflies and moths are absolutely stunning.   Maybe rain is not so bad?

Aloe Vera Factory -
Our next stop was the Aloe-Balm factory.  We were brought into a building, to an observation deck, that looked down into the factory and laboratory, much like the observation area of an operating room. 

Our tour guide explained what each machine did, what their products were, and brought us right into the retail store, where we were given the "Great Opportunity" to purchase their products.

 We learned that aloe is cheaper at CVS, Wal-Mart, Eckerts, etc. 

Ayo Rock Formations- 

Our tour bus and guide then transported us to the Ayo rock formations.  It was a series of boulders, and natural gardens a trail made of slate pieces. We took some pictures, stretched our legs, walked around, and then got back on the bus.  The formations are interesting to look at, but, there are other rock formations on the island that are far more impressive. 

We were back on the ship as promised, by noon.  We have now completed our list of the must see sights in Aruba.

We have not yet planned our next trip to Aruba, but we plan on spending at least a week at sipping frosty drinks on the beach, trying to figure out a way we can grow a Divi-Divi tree in our yard.

High Tides: (Aruba itself)

Great weather – even when it rains!

The Butterfly Farm

Friendly people

Safe environment

Nice blend of history, entertainment, and culture

Low Tides: (Specific to this excursion)

Low energy / low excitement activities

Tourist trap factory tour

Limited picture taking opportunities

Aruba is an exceptional vacation destinations.  Please do not let this review dissuade you from visiting this fabulous island.

We are currently working on Joe Gripps Guide to Aruba.  The document is a complete review of the island, activities, and resort suggestions.  

If you would like a copy of the information, or have questions about cruising, please contact us through our website:

More to come in our next blog entry Gripps Travels: Cartagena, Columbia

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gripp's Travels - The Island Princess

Gripp's Travels -The Island Princess

We boarded the Island Princess on March 8th, 2012.  We were unsure of what to expect, because this is one of the smaller ships we have sailed.  Please keep in mind, our last sailing was on the RCCL Allure of the Seas. Prior to that- the Celebrity Solstice.

Much to our surprise, we liked it.   A LOT!

By the end of day one, I nicknamed the ship "The Miniature Manor."  Upon boarding, we felt like we were on the Caribbean, Crown, or Ruby Princess, just half the size.

The ship is easier to navigate around than its bigger sisters, and in my opinion, is much more beautiful.  The Horizon Court on the Island Princess surprised us with its décor.   We particularly liked the skylights and high ceilings.  The dining rooms were decorated in typical Princess style, with an Italian theme, and fine finishes. 
The on board activities included all the cruise standards:  Sexy Leg Contest, Bartending Competition, Scavenger Hunt, Karaoke, and BINGO!  I think the jackpot was over $2,000.

The sun decks are paved with the typical Princess blue indoor/outdoor carpet, resulting in a more comfortable bare foot environment.  There were plenty of lounge chairs, with room for all.    (Another big surprise!)

High tides:

Decor and ease of locating venues

Movies Under The Stars - great variety of movies and concerts

Phenomenal specialty restaurants

Attentive and friendly staff

Outstanding Cabin Stewart

Active and visible young adult/ children's programs. 

Low tides:

Wind noise on deck, not sure if it's the weather or ship design. 

Limited food selections at Horizon Court Buffet.  (typical of any cruise ship)

Technological accommodations- WIFI service was expensive, no iPod docs in staterooms, very few electrical outlets in rooms.

Corny entertainment


All in all, we enjoyed our voyage on the Island Princess.  The few disappointments were outweighed by the many positive experiences.

Longer cruises yield mature travelers.  Late nights at the disco were not part of this vacation. In fact, there was no disco.  By 11:30pm, 95% of the travelers were in bed, leaving the ship empty and quiet.  

Unlike the typical Caribbean cruises, our evenings were used for resting, our sea days for sun bathing, while our days in port were an adventure.

 More to come in our next blog entry Gripps Travels: Aruba.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Avoid Seasickness in Three Easy Steps

Seasickness. For many of us, the word itself is enough to make us feel queasy. The mere possibility of it has likely kept many from booking cruises. But before you relegate yourself to a life of land vacations, check out these tips. Avoiding seasickness IS possible!

1)      Make wise choices before you go. Larger, newer ships have been built with improved technology, resulting in ships that rock less because they have better stabilization systems. When booking your cabin, select a room in the lower, central part of the ship. Occupants of cabins on higher decks will feel more movement. Finally, be aware of ocean conditions. You’re more likely to experience seasickness on rough waters. While it’s impossible to always accurately predict the conditions, most regions have their calm seasons.

2)      Medication is your friend! If you have a history of motion sickness, see your doctor and get a prescription. These medications come in pill and patch forms. Over-the-counter choices include Dramamine and Bonine. If you prefer natural options, Vitamin B6 may be effective. Ginger, which can be obtained in many forms, including Altoids, is another natural approach to stem the nausea that usually accompanies seasickness. Sea-Bands, which are worn on the wrists, use acupressure to relieve nausea.

3)     Take care of yourself once on board. Be mindful of alcohol consumption, as it can cause dehydration, which can intensify nausea. Large amounts of caffeine can also cause dehydration, and make you jittery. The temptation to indulge in your ship’s excellent culinary offerings may also be hard to resist, but overeating and a tendency towards seasickness…well, you get the picture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cruise News

For the techie cruisers: How technology is making cruising safer by improving navigation and emergency response.

Don'toverlook smaller ports. They have a lot to offer, with fewer crowds.

Another reason to use a travel agent :Using rewards from a credit card you probably already have in your wallet can save you even more money. Travel agents are well-versed in deals you can earn with your credit card.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The images of the capsized Costa Concordia off the Italian coast have held our attention for over a week. And you may be asking yourself, “Is cruising safe?”

The answer is yes.

Here’s a sampling of recent articles about cruise safety:

Contact us today. Let us find you a great deal!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?

Why should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?

In our do-it-yourself Internet world, it’s easy to think travel agents may as well go the way of gas station attendants and milkmen. Here are three reasons why you should get over the do-it-yourself mindset and go directly to a travel agent.

1) A travel agent can get you the best deal

 It’s a common misconception that the only way to get a great deal is by booking directly with the cruise line. Before booking directly with your cruise line of choice, get in touch with a travel agent. Often, they have access to unpublished deals and upgrades you can’t get on your own.

2) A travel agent has expertise

Have you ever looked at a cruise line’s website and felt overwhelmed by the choices? An agent can help you navigate the options. In addition to knowing the lingo (what’s an interior stateroom?) they also know the specifics of the different ships and cruise packages. Finally, agents can also educate you about ever-changing passport and visa requirements. No question is too obscure for a travel agent.

3) A travel agent is your consumer advocate

When you book a cruise, or any vacation, problems are likely the furthest thing from your mind. Unfortunately, they are also unavoidable. If your flight is delayed and you fear your ship will leave without you, your agent will do whatever possible to help. But if you booked it on your own, there will likely be multiple 1-800 numbers and robotic voices involved before you get a person on the line.

Good travel agents know relationships are the key. They want to give you a hassle-free planning experience so you can have a relaxing getaway. At Gripp Travel, we are committed to handling the details so you can have a great cruise experience. Contact Us

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year to the 5 people who have read my blog. More entries to follow.