My Summer Vacation has revived my faith in Cruising, Thanks Norwegian Gem!

August 20, 2013

Over the last 30 years it has been kind of fun to watch the cruise industry develop, grow and refine what was a brand new vacation alternative.  Of course, transportation on ships has been around for a very long time but offering the marketplace a variety of floating “hotel” experiences is vastly different than my Grandfather’s “cruise” across the Atlantic.  I dare say he wasn’t worried about reviewing his experience, he simply considered it a great trip because he made it to Ellis Island even if the journey was hard, long and unpleasant. 

Unlike my Grandfather who saw the ship as purely a vehicle to a desired destination, we have been witnessing an industry which seems more and more like their sole focus is becoming the vehicle as the primary destination.  Huge ships offer potential cruisers everything you might find in a “destination” with multiple food options and a wide variety of recreational experiences all while moving you from one place to another.  Sitting in a lounge chair taking in the sea air seems passé when it comes to today’s ocean voyages!  It is easy to understand why cruise lines want to create their own destination so you can happily spend a much greater portion of your discretionary vacation dollars.  The more stuff you can do and pay for, the better.  All in all, it is a pretty smart strategy particularly when you understand the amount of money being spent to plan, finance and build these amazing vessels. 

My most recent voyage wasn’t on one of those brand new mega ships, it was on a much more comfortable, smaller vessel.  The Norwegian Gem isn’t brand new, but it is newer.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of these gigantic Royal Caribbean ships, but it also doesn’t have the extra several thousand guests jammed inside it either.  It comfortably blends the style of cruising that some of us long time cruisers are used to, with a much better range of dining options and activities.  All in all, this is about as big a ship as I like to sail on.  That is my personal preference and certainly not a condemnation of anyone who wants to ice skate or ride waves or climb rock walls at sea.  It gave me space to relax and a nice group of fellow vacationers to interface with.

A cruise isn’t just about the vessel, it is about the experience.  I was extremely happy with the staff in every capacity during my week.  They were efficient and friendly and honestly seemed happy that we were sailing with them.  The food in a word was amazing.  As I have been on many NCL ships this was the single largest improvement I experienced.  My family and I don’t eat in the restaurants that charge more, we eat in the main dining areas so this wasn’t as a result of paying more, the food was flat out better than I have had on almost every ship I have been on.  That covers many lines including some of the much more “exclusive” ones.  The only issue I had is with the casino that took my money and didn’t give me any back in return.  Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything.

So I spent my family vacation sailing from NYC on board the Norwegian Gem.  I received excellent value for the money I spent and I high recommend cruising for the sake of cruising.  You can enjoy it without climbing any walls, or zip lining just stay away from the casino!

 

My Summer Vacation has revived my faith in Cruising, Thanks Norwegian Gem!

August 20, 2013

Over the last 30 years it has been kind of fun to watch the cruise industry develop, grow and refine what was a brand new vacation alternative.  Of course, transportation on ships has been around for a very long time but offering the marketplace a variety of floating “hotel” experiences is vastly different than my Grandfather’s “cruise” across the Atlantic.  I dare say he wasn’t worried about reviewing his experience, he simply considered it a great trip because he made it to Ellis Island even if the journey was hard, long and unpleasant. 

Unlike my Grandfather who saw the ship as purely a vehicle to a desired destination, we have been witnessing an industry which seems more and more like their sole focus is becoming the vehicle as the primary destination.  Huge ships offer potential cruisers everything you might find in a “destination” with multiple food options and a wide variety of recreational experiences all while moving you from one place to another.  Sitting in a lounge chair taking in the sea air seems passé when it comes to today’s ocean voyages!  It is easy to understand why cruise lines want to create their own destination so you can happily spend a much greater portion of your discretionary vacation dollars.  The more stuff you can do and pay for, the better.  All in all, it is a pretty smart strategy particularly when you understand the amount of money being spent to plan, finance and build these amazing vessels. 

My most recent voyage wasn’t on one of those brand new mega ships, it was on a much more comfortable, smaller vessel.  The Norwegian Gem isn’t brand new, but it is newer.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of these gigantic Royal Caribbean ships, but it also doesn’t have the extra several thousand guests jammed inside it either.  It comfortably blends the style of cruising that some of us long time cruisers are used to, with a much better range of dining options and activities.  All in all, this is about as big a ship as I like to sail on.  That is my personal preference and certainly not a condemnation of anyone who wants to ice skate or ride waves or climb rock walls at sea.  It gave me space to relax and a nice group of fellow vacationers to interface with.

A cruise isn’t just about the vessel, it is about the experience.  I was extremely happy with the staff in every capacity during my week.  They were efficient and friendly and honestly seemed happy that we were sailing with them.  The food in a word was amazing.  As I have been on many NCL ships this was the single largest improvement I experienced.  My family and I don’t eat in the restaurants that charge more, we eat in the main dining areas so this wasn’t as a result of paying more, the food was flat out better than I have had on almost every ship I have been on.  That covers many lines including some of the much more “exclusive” ones.  The only issue I had is with the casino that took my money and didn’t give me any back in return.  Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything.

So I spent my family vacation sailing from NYC on board the Norwegian Gem.  I received excellent value for the money I spent and I high recommend cruising for the sake of cruising.  You can enjoy it without climbing any walls, or zip lining just stay away from the casino!

 

Skyauction.com, still as relevant as ever.

July 24, 2013

 

In the world of purchasing travel everyone has been taken for a ride once or twice.  Even the most frugal and savvy amongst us don’t know, and can’t know what pricing surprise is about to occur a day, a week or a month from now.  The entire industry has gone through what can only be called a dynamic rearrangement of consumer behavior in the past 5 years.  Advance planning is on the wane, and last minute impulse (hey, I still have a job) is growing each and every day.  It is true that some of the more paranoid individuals do things way, way in advance but that crowd is now down to a fraction of what it was ten years ago.  Sure people understand that travel product spoils like fruit and the older or closer to utilization it come, the less it is truly worth.  These days, even products that never discounted now are creating more and more, “specials” because it is important to get every last dollar of revenue possible. 

Understanding this new dynamic, Skyauction.com is in the perfect place to help intrepid, engaged travelers save money.  We do require a certain, higher level of engagement than most other “deal centric” sites, but in our case that extra work converts directly to dollars saved by the consumer.  If you want to save, you have to take these simple steps:

  1. Read the offer carefully
  2. Study the value of the product you are interested in on some other sites.
  3. Bid with your head, not over it.
  4. Understand that the entire process from initial bid to confirmation can take a bit of time.

These four easy steps have been managed by millions of winners over our tenure.  Sure, some people come to the site and want to win for the $1 starting price but while we control the starting price we don’t control the ending price, all of you do that.

So if you are serious about purchasing travel for less, by now (after 14 years) you should have gotten to know us.  If you haven’t and somehow you come across this piece, click here to see our latest round of $1 offers.  We are only just getting started!

When common sense loses out…

July 18, 2013

 

After being in this crazy tourism business there are a few unstated rules you understand but never fail to ignore.  One of the understood principles it that travel is a subjective experience and what is great for one really sucks for someone else.  There is little you can do to prepare yourself for the inevitable complaints about something you have sold hundreds of times before flawlessly, only to have it blow up on you when you least expect it.

Review sites point out this in a very dramatic fashion.  I know that of course, many of these sites are loaded with brilliant, glowing endorsements written by contracted staff or “ghost reviewers”. By the same token many of the glaring bad reviews are written by competitors employing “blog saboteurs” whose only role is to make the other guy look really bad.  On some occasions however, the actual guest sees everything in a very different way.  Perhaps he is used to staying at Ritz Carlton, but just decided to check out the motel 6 for this particular trip.  Just maybe they got such a good deal they thought, “What the hell” and purchased something outside of what they would do normally.  Either way, it is usually quiet impossible to tell as with all things blog, track record could be completely fabricated and fictional or totally non-existent.

I have written on the dangers of review sites before, yet they grow in strength and numbers every day.  I have even made the mistake of directing customers, friends and family to do their own research prior to purchase only to end up with shock, surprise and dare I say, crap as a result.  Aren’t we all responsible for our own choices?  Is there anything objective about travel other than getting someone to a place, getting them a room and services they paid for?  Even these elements aren’t a slam dunk, usually due to what someone “thought” they would be getting.  How it looks when you are there may not be entirely the picture you had in your mind’s eye.  Travel is about the experience, and expectations and perceptions are just that, not real.

I know it is wrong to rant, to blame others for their misconceptions and expectations.  Dream on, book that $1,000 per night hotel room for $100, I am sure it is the same, exact thing!  Maybe, just maybe value isn’t at all in the place or the food or the room, maybe it is in the experience you have with those you are travelling with or those you meet along the way.  That is the only real reason to travel, after all.

Do us all a favor and spend some money on a vacation this summer.

June 20, 2013

Aren’t we all just a little tired and in need of a nice vacation.  It doesn’t really have to be anything lavish or even expensive, just some time away from our everyday existence and out of ear shod of the 24 hour news cycle.  Is it just me or could we all do with a few less glances at our smart devices over the course of a few days?  I think the answer is definitely yes, but how can we do that without an intense amount of work to find a deal in a hurry.  Shall I look through the stacks of emails I have from every purveyor of travel for whom the word; deal, is a relative term.  I have my top 10 deals, top summer deals, top group deals, my socially delivered deals, which one shall I choose? 

I know what you are thinking, that it is easy for me because I am in the industry, I have an inside track on what is what and where is best.  Unfortunately, I think like a consumer and I have only one real criterion when choosing a vacation, value for money spent.  This makes it easy, I look for what I want to do, potentially a destination and then I work backwards to really see what value I can get for the money I am about to spend.  I don’t want to spend $10 for something worth $5, so sometimes cheap trips don’t hold any real value at all.  It is easier to recognize value at the highest end of the market because these “deal” sites don’t regularly bang around bargains for 5 star resorts so when I see value there, I know it instantly.  In fact, this is a large part of the reason we have so much success at Skyauction.com with our higher end product lines.  People recognize the value and they relish the opportunity to save real money on products not normally found shopped around as a “daily deal”.

Value for money spent, I want everyone to remember those words of wisdom.  To me, it means getting the most out of every vacation dollar. The most of what you want on your precious time off.  So whether you want more beach or better beach, or more activities, or less activities, you should size up what you pay against what you receive.  I think most people end up with a vastly better understanding and experience when they don’t let price drive their decision making process exclusively.  You can pay less but are you really getting what you want, or even what you pay for?

So do us all a favor and go on a trip this summer and remember what I told you, discounts are nice, but don’t ever discount what you really want.

A Father’s Day Travel Blog

June 15, 2013

I wrote this blog a few years back, but it is as relevant as ever today.  I think my theory of a “genetic” link to the travel industry has been proven correct, even if just in my own family!

 

On this Father’s Day I will be remembering the man who introduced me to travel and helped put me on a career path that while difficult has been rewarding and a lot of fun as well.  My Dad was kind of an aviation pioneer, of sorts.  He began his airline career back in the 1950’s before it expanded into the mass transportation system it is today.  He wasn’t CEO or even an executive, he was guy who worked the ramp at a very small airport in NewarkNJ for that great by-gone airline Eastern Air Lines.  As a child I remember riding the tractors with him across the ramp (pre-high level security) and how cool it was to pull up to the airplane and watch the well dressed people climb the stairs to all kinds of exotic destinations. (Miami)  I can still remember how proud I was of my Dad and how special I felt to be there with him working on giant airplanes.  I used to dream of being one of those people capable of traveling anytime to virtually anywhere in the world without boundaries but I knew how expensive it was and that the only way a kid like me could accomplish that was to get a job like my Dad working for an airline, preferably Eastern Air Lines. 

 

I am happy to say that I was able to do that and much more.  Working for many different airlines I always enjoyed being able to follow in my Dad’s footsteps in basically working in a business that allowed people the freedom to live their lives by moving from place to place for any number of reasons. The excitement of the business and the constant urgency that seemed to be “ever present” I feel was the perfect lead into our fast paced online travel present day.  Although I have left the airline business behind, I still have great respect for the difficulty, responsibility and the pressures they have to keep themselves afloat and provide jobs for the hundreds of thousands of guys (and Girls), who like my Dad, worked so hard so all of us could simply, fly.  I salute them all and my Father’s Day wish is for the return of better days for the aviation industry so they will be able to continue to do exactly that.  Working for an airline isn’t easy, but sometimes, it can be really cool!  Thanks Dad.

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A safe and effective way to enhance your travel performance without the use of steroids or any type of enhancement drugs. (By using your Brain)

June 7, 2013

With all this talk about people using all types of substances to enhance this or that performance you can rejoice in the fact that you can enhance your “travel” performance without the use of any outside stimulus.  That is correct, each one of us possesses the tools we need to travel and save money like the most seasoned professional, and we only need to use one thing, our brain!  (You might need your fingers to type with or maybe not) 

I am not trying to be sanctimonious or pass judgment on those who feel injecting themselves with hormones or smothering themselves in product reviews and brochures might somehow bring them to a greater state of travel enlightenment, quite the contrary.  Go on, go through whatever ritual you feel works for you but no matter what you do, you aren’t getting the most for your travel dollar unless you understand how auctioning travel changes the very game itself. 

 WWW.skyauction.com has been around for many a year now. (Since 1999)  We have helped millions of customers to develop their full potential when it comes to the confusing world of purchasing travel.  Our formula is quite easy to relate to:  Find the best price you can on the trip you want to take and then come to our site and bid for it, or any like product.  I know you are getting bombarded by tons of sites telling you this and that about what a great deal they have for you.  You are receiving daily deals, deals with groups of other travelers, deals for jetsetting people, deals with prices on the line, deals for bookings and so many more, you just don’t understand which one is the best for you.  That is where we make it easy, you put in the bid amount you want to pay, simple. 

You use your brain to determine the best price on a deal and that is what you bid on www.skyauction.com.  We have luxury products that can save you hundreds on your purchase.  Of course we have cruises, hotels, packages, vacation rentals (no one has them for less) and even shows and attractions.  What we don’t have are a lot of fixed prices that steal your individualism by forcing you to join some kind of “group” to get a real deal on travel.  Besides, no other company makes you a winner in the process! 

So bulk up on your knowledge and come and bid on your next trip.  Don’t worry we don’t test for any banned substance either!

Don’t let a hurricane ruin your vacation, really?

June 2, 2013

I am sorry, but reading articles like this makes me wonder if the people who write them know anything about travel whatsoever.  I think the title pretty much describes something which is virtually impossible.  It is obviously a really slow news day when major news sites publish articles which any 10 year old could have written. 

My summer Sunday morning reading began with a check on nbcnews.com in order to grab the important headlines of the day and there it was, above the fold, glaring for all of us who make our living selling travel, “Don’t let a hurricane ruin your vacation”.  It isn’t a badly written article it is simply a total waste of cyber-space.  It doesn’t offer any ground breaking news or information or even any helpful tips that could save, money, time or perhaps even your life.  All this article does is rehearse the fact that hurricanes do occur at a time when individuals are making summer travel plans.  It doesn’t talk about the fact you can save huge money traveling to the Caribbean during the summer months and that your chances of being caught in a hurricane are really, quite minimal. 

My favorite part of the article talks about Hurricane Sandy which struck New Jersey in October of last year and made it sound as if there was something that people could have done to protect themselves from what could only be described as a once in a lifetime storm. The premise is basically stupid, storms happen, rain, snow, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves and everyone should be aware that if any of these happens it could ruin your vacation.  Personally, I can’t live my live worried about the potential for disaster either at home or on the road.  If you are engaged in marketing travel products you don’t highlight each and every conceivable, possible situation which could negatively impact someone’s trip.  You might expect, as I do, that people use COMMON SENSE and understand that if something bad is happening you do your best to KEEP YOURSELF SAFE.         

So there you have it, I have condensed the article into a sentence.  I would humbly request that would be travel writers stop trying to scare potential travelers with idiotic articles of no real value.  It hurts the industry, clouds the minds of consumers and offers them nothing in return.

Hot Trends, why Vacation Rentals are cool

May 21, 2013

Whenever I am relaxing with a group of friend they always get around to the subject of travel and they pick my brain about what is “hot” in the marketplace.  Over the past few years there have been more deals available than travelers to occupy them, but not so much in 2013.  First of all, airfares are crazy high right now and it is really cutting down on the type of long distance family travel this summer.  People are still going, but they have to dig a lot deeper into their pockets if they want to board a plane.  The one constant area of growth for this year is in the area of vacation rentals.   What is a vacation rental you ask, it is more like a hotel/apartment than your standard hotel accommodations.  In many cases they are substantially less money that hotel rooms and they allow you a lot more room and flexibility and they are usually concentrated in great locations at all the major tourist destinations.  Here is what I see as the major benefits provided by using a vacation rental for your next trip.

Benefits of Vacation Rental

  1. Size matters: larger accommodations at the same or lower cost as a regular hotel room.  If you travel in a large group of friends or with extended family, a vacation rental apartment is a practical option.

 

  1. Location, location, location: Good locations near local attractions, restaurants and transportation.

 

  1. You gotta eat:  Most of our vacation rentals come with a fully equipped kitchen and private dining space which means you can save money dining in and plan meals around your family’s schedule.

 

  1. Home away from home:  A vacation rental apartment for a family means parents do not have to worry about their children being in another room down the corridor. A vacation rental apartment will function like a second home, making it easier for you to monitor your children.

 

  1. Laundry: This is a huge benefit. Most vacation rentals have a washer/dryer in them. This means you can pack less and save on baggage fees if you are flying. You can also do laundry mid-week, or if you are like me, do all of your laundry while on vacation, so you come home with two big suitcases full of clean clothes! (Don’t forget to bring laundry detergent with you.)

 

 

  1. Selection:  No one offers you a wider selection of vacation rentals to choose from than Skyauction.com.  We have them, all over the world at amazing discount prices.

Many vacation rental destinations in the USA are easily accessible by driving which is also a huge benefit to traveling families.  Just pile the family in the car and off you go.

Skyauction.com has been offering a huge variety of highly discounted vacation rental units for many years now.  We have sold many hundreds of thousands of weeks all over the world but many in your favorite USA destinations.  Orlando, Las Vegas, California, Atlantic City, Williamsburg, and up and down both coasts and to many, many places in between, we have something for everyone that will save you money and provide a great vacation that you can indeed afford! Image

The airline business is having their 1980’s dreams come true.

May 18, 2013

Back in the early and mid-1980’s the airline business was reeling from deregulation, fuel prices and emerging low cost competition. The world as it had been know in this industry was turned upside down by a Government who while hiding behind the benevolent stance of increasing competition and lowering prices for the consumer, was really playing Russian roulette with this country’s transportation system. It was never a mystery to me that many of these “consumer advocates” went on to become low cost airline entrepreneurs. It was kind of like creating your own game where you understood that no established player really would be capable of competing due to many of your previous actions. In my opinion, there should have been a bit of a grace period for airlines who had been pressured into purchasing equipment to help out ailing manufactures by the very same government. Some of these junk planes were the gas guzzlers that made profitability over the next 10 years virtually impossible.
There were other factors, of course, that proved to condemn some airlines from the very outset. Politically palatable CEO’s, like at Eastern Airlines (one of my Alma Mata’s) were not business savvy enough to run a small store, never mind a multinational transportation company. I witnessed, first hand our marketing reaction to our fresh and nimble, new competitors and it was like an elephant chasing a chicken, if we caught it we could kill it, but you weren’t ever going to catch it. Those of us doing the actual chasing were well aware of that fact but our politically savvy friends at the top thought consumer loyalty actually applied to air transportation in the pre-frequent traveler world. (Foolish men) “People love us and our service”, was my favorite quote from our CEO. What he didn’t realize was that they loved saving their own money more. We were clandestine to bleed from every spending orifice until alas, there was no more blood to give. Changing mindsets, labor agreements, chairs at the top were too little, too late and Eastern’s post mortem serves as a lesson in how not to run an airline in the deregulated world.
Many other carriers lived to fight on with the understanding that the world changed and they would need to evolve as well. Several of the issues we struggled with would finally be tackled, things like: frequency on unprofitable routes, travel agents’ commissions, labor cost and fuel efficient aircraft. The world kept turning and with frequent fuel cost spikes airlines have finally gotten the consumers attention by cutting, cutting, cutting service and forcing them into a position of competing with fellow consumers for precious few seats to many popular destinations. In 2013 load factor numbers are spiking to all-time highs, and that is the sweet spot for any carrier, less flights, and the same amount of passengers means higher fares, simple. If you combine this with all of their new fees and lack of new competition on most routes you have the very scenario we dreamed about back in 1985. Oh yeah, cutting travel agents was also a big part of that dream. We just didn’t have any way to deliver tickets directly back then so the invention of the “E” ticket and Internet booking took care of this quite nicely.
So for everyone that supported deregulation you now see what you have created, an industry that finally is controlling their own skies, with no one to rein them in. They can maneuver you to book how they want, when they want, and provide you no more than a high altitude bus ride, for which you will pay much more than you did just a few years ago. Oh yeah, checking that bag, eating that snack, having a drink, that is all going to cost you as well. All this while the employees you count on to clean and maintain your aircraft are paid thousands less per year than in 1985.
Less flights, less service, more travelers, lower costs, no commissions and a free an unencumbered ability to do whatever you like, ah dreams do come true after all…..


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