It’s the flu, people

Portrait of young man drunk or sick vomitingYou may have heard that late yesterday, the Oasis of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships in the world is skipping a day at sea and coming home early due to…norovirus. I say you may have heard this because it was on all the nightly news on about every network and it will be covered by the other media. This is another thing I get asked about all the time by our non-cruising friends. “Aren’t cruise ships dirty? Everyone keeps getting that norovirus thing.”

Well I just have to say this…it’s the flu. The 24-hour stomach flu that you and I have been getting since we were kids. (See the CDC description here) But because people are in such close proximity to each other on cruise ships it tends to multiply a little quicker than other places. But not all other places. Schools are just as bad. Colleges, especially dorms and Greek houses. Then why do we only hear about it when it happens on cruise ships? My guess is that it’s because they actually do something about it on cruise ships. They take people home early. They stop and clean the entire ship. They sanitize beyond belief…because no one likes to be sick on vacation. Take it from someone who got a horrible cold on our last vacation, it’s a terrible place to get sick. All you want is your own bed, your own medicine, your own TV shows and books to distract you and you feel like you have to struggle through.

But it just frosts me that every time this happens, a huge deal is made about it. On the Oasis this time, 277 people are sick as of a day ago. 277 out of more than (counting crew) 8,000 (quoting ABC Evening News). And it makes headlines. Now let’s take any 8,000 random humans. My guess is that there are pretty close to that many of them sick at any given time. But because this happens on a cruise ship, we make a big deal about it.

Yes, Royal Caribbean did choose to cut the cruise short by one day so they can completely disinfect the ship. We have seen them do that and they do an awesome job. And yes, the  people on the cruise will be disappointed. But Royal is refunding them for their entire cruise and they can take their next vacation pretty much free. And for all but 277 of those 5,000+ guests, they got a pretty decent vacation to start with and they get another one for free later on. Do you think if any of those folks had been on a land-based vacation at a hotel and they got the flu, that the hotel would have given them a free week’s stay? I doubt it.

So the next time you see a news report that there is a norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship, just remember this message—It’s the flu. Brought to you by this guy who loves to cruise.

 

I’m on the radio…again

Seth1On Christmas Eve I wrote about how we got into the travel business so quickly because of a guy named Seth Wayne. I mentioned that Seth is the morning meteorologist on KOMO-TV here in Seattle. But he has another job. He hosts a weekly radio show all about travel. He has become the go-to guy for travel and cruising here in Seattle. His show, Adventures Await, is on KOMO radio every Sunday at 2:00 pm PST. If you aren’t here in Seattle to listen to it over the air, it is available online through TuneIn by clicking here. every Sunday. Even if I’m not on the show, it’s great with lots of super travel tips, interviews and facts.

Earlier this month Seth and I taped a show that was broadcast for the first time two weeks ago and because of the holidays, it was repeated again today. On the show he and I  discussed the upcoming 2019 Alaska cruise season. I thought the show went really great and I tried to tape it to put in on my website so that everyone could listen but due to technical difficulties it wasn’t on the web and the only radio we have in the house sounds like garbage. But it was rerun today and I grabbed it. You can listen to it on my JKBellomo site by clicking here. Please keep in mind that due to legal restrictions I have to leave the show as it is on the radio with all ads and news/weather/traffic but you can fast forward through those if you want to. Hope you like it if you get a chance to listen.

One last thing. You can also get the show as a podcast on iTunes. Just search iTunes on a computer or in the Podcast app on an iOS device for Adventures Await. But keep in mind that they are about three months behind in posting the episodes so my first show that was taped back in July just got posted recently.

 

Where should we go next?

ask-blackboard-356079So if you read my last post about all the places we have been, we want to know—where we should go now. Here is our dilemma. One of the smartest ways to purchase a cruise is to buy it onboard your latest cruise. The cruise lines often offer some really great deals to get you to purchase your next cruise while you are enjoying your current one.

While we were on our last cruise in November, we bought a Celebrity cruise credit. We have bought one of these before because it allows you to take advantage of some great perks and lower prices on your next cruise as well as on the cruise you are on currently. It’s not an actual cruise. When we purchased it in October, we didn’t have to pick a time or a destination until later. The deposit is low and refundable but here is where we need your help. The current Celebrity cruise credit rules require that we choose a destination by December 31 of the year we buy it. So we have until this coming Monday to choose where we want to go.

When we purchased the cruise credit on Summit in October, the 2020 autumn deployment schedules were not out yet. We hoped that there were would be a cruise in that new group of Celebrity cruises announced between when we bought the credit and today that would appeal to us. We were specifically looking for a Pacific Coastal cruise for the fall of 2020 that would take us from here in Seattle to California. We have done these repositioning cruises before (some of our favorites) that often take place when the cruise lines move their ships from summer in Alaska to winter in the Caribbean. But so many of the cruise lines no longer send their ships on that route and Celebrity has stopped all together. While she has three ships in Alaska in the summer of 2020, two will go to Asia, one to Hawaii and then on Down Under. We have done these cruises before and are not interested in going back. Plus we really want a short, fairly inexpensive cruise. One that we can drive to and not have to fly. All of our options from Seattle or Vancouver are more than 10 days which is too long for us.

So nothing like that is available for the fall of 2020. We already are fully booked between now and then. We have our June 2019 Ireland/Iceland cruise, our July/August 2019 Alaska cruise with our grandkids and finally we are going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in February 2020.

So, let’s open it up and say we are pretty much willing to go anywhere, anytime in the next two years. Based on all the places we have been, (see the previous post) where would you go? We have until Monday to decide. If you have an idea, please post it in the comments. I will let you know on New Year’s Day where we decided to go.

PS: Only qualifiers are that our destination must me someplace a cruise ship can go anytime after June 2020 and before April of 2021.

How did this happen??? Part 2

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 4.15.09 PM
Meet Jason and Seth in one of their favorite places, on a trip.

So a couple of days ago I gave you the first half of how we wound up in the travel business…this fast. As I mentioned in my first How did this happen” post, we were just going to start training last January and Kathleen might get into the actual business in March or April and I would follow when my time with my other business was over in two or three or more years. But a year ago, on Christmas Eve (2017), we met two of our favorite people for breakfast at my favorite breakfast place, Lola in downtown Seattle.

First let me introduce these two guys—Seth and Jason. We first met Seth on Twitter about six years ago when he moved from Eugene to Seattle to become the morning weather person on KOMO television news. From the start he would talk about cruising and traveling on the air so we started following each other on Twitter and then he followed us and we began a dialogue that led to a friendship. In the morning when I would ride my exercise bike, Seth and I would text back and forth with Seth about cruising and travel because I might have been the only person texting him at 4:30 am. We had never met but we were becoming friends.

In November 2014 we (Kathleen and I) went on our second Panama Canal cruise with our buddies the Martini Mates. When we arrived in our stateroom on Celebrity’s Infinity in Fort Lauderdale we found two bottles of wine. One was from our travel agent at the time (the amazing Norma Jean) and the other was from Seth. He had tracked us down, ordered wine and had it delivered to us…and we had never even met him. What a guy.

When we returned from the Canal we thanked him and told him that we just had to meet sometime. About six months (and a lot texting and Twitter) later he asked us if we wanted to join him and his husband Jason for lunch on a Holland America cruise ship while it was in port for a media day. We jumped at the chance as we would finally be able to meet him and talk in person. Since then we have met up with Seth and Jason a whole bunch of times, they have been to our place, we have been to theirs and we have become friends.

Which brings us to last Christmas Eve. We had told the guys that we had a surprise to tell them about when we met. You see the biggest thing that Seth and I have in common is that we both LOVE to plan travel. We will literally both grab computers after dinner and price airfare just for fun (seriously…much to Kathleen and Jason’s exasperation). When we met, that morning we told them we were going to be travel agents/consultants with Expedia.

They were thrilled for us and Seth asked me a kind of a strange question. He asked, “Will you be doing group travel?” I told him, “I guess we will. We haven’t really started yet.” That was the extent of it. We spent the rest of breakfast just talking about travel and stuff as we always do.

Then about 10 days later, Seth called me and asked if now that we had started our training, if we would be willing to help him plan and book a cruise for some friends to celebrate his 40th birthday in September 2018. He figured that we might end up with 20 or 25 people on a three-day Royal Caribbean cruise on Explorer of the Seas. First, I was beyond gratified that Seth would trust us with this. He has never been a huge fan of travel agents. His feeling was (and I can verify that it is the truth) that he knew more than they did about travel and cruising. Second, I was scared to death that we might screw it up. I had booked a bunch of cruises over the years but just for us. And I had never done a group. And we had done about three hours of training at that point. YIKES! But we said yes. How hard could it be? One of those situations where we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

The first thing I learned was…we couldn’t do it half way. We couldn’t book a group cruise with Kathleen starting in March or April or with me starting in 2021. We had to go all in right then. We really had no choice but to go all-in in when Seth invited more than 80 people thinking he would get 20-30 people and we wound up sailing in September with 62. If I do say so myself, the cruise was a HUGE success. There will be more about this cruise in future posts but for now, I just need to thank Seth and Jason for putting their faith in us. And for being our great friends.

Lastly, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” —Thomas Aquinas

How did this happen???

So Monday is kind of the one year anniversary of the day that kicked off our entire travel agent/consultant odyssey. And I am going to save that story for Monday or Tuesday. But I did want to mention how we got to a place where last Christmas Eve was even possible.

As many of you know, I have a day job. One that I have been in for about 37 years. I do marketing and sales for a big yearbook printing company. It has been an amazing career and I have loved much of it but I am also getting to the point where I can see the end of that career. I have never been the kind of person who could just sit around and be retired. Can’t imagine playing golf or reading or even taking pictures all day. I would go stir crazy. I need a challenge. Plus, even though Kathleen and I are pretty set for retirement financially, if we go it on our savings and Social Security alone, we will do fine but we won’t be able to travel like we are used to. And we do love to travel.

Over the years I have imagined myself in lots of post-career jobs. Or as Mark (our franchise partner with Expedia) likes to say, “a Funtirement job.” I considered being a tour guide here in Seattle. I know I would love that and I kind of have a gift of gab for it. Thought about doing something with photography. Took an online class on taking corporate portraits and thought that might be pretty good. Heck, I could drive for Uber or Lyft. Or deliver for Amazon. I was truly up in the air about it and I was thinking that it was surely at least 5 years away at this point last year.

But Kathleen was retiring last December 15 (2017) and about four months before that, we received an e-vite from the aforementioned Mark and his lovely wife Kim to join them in exploring the possibility of us becoming travel consultants with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers right here in Redmond. Well, not exactly here in Redmond, but up on Redmond Ridge about 15 minutes away. They had seen our posts about cruising on Facebook and Twitter and had sent us the e-vite. After corresponding a few times with Mark and having a long discussion with Kathleen we decided that we should go ahead and attend a meeting of prospective consultants at the soon-to-open office. That’s right, at that point, the Redmond Cruise Ship Center wasn’t even open yet.

(An aside here: I just asked Kathleen when she thought we had gone to the first meeting at the Agency and she and I both thought it was mid-November. Went back and looked it up and it was Thursday, SEPTEMBER 14!)

We liked what we heard at the meeting and we liked the business plan so we decided that we would consider it down the road. Maybe Kathleen would think about getting involved in March or April of 2018 and I might start doing some training around that time as well and then I would jump in further, sometime in 2020. I mean, I had a full-time business I was running. In the meantime, we thought we would have access to tons of travel info, maybe get some discounts and certainly learn more about one of my favorite parts of traveling—planning it.

We made a verbal commitment to Mark and Kim in early November that we would be going forward but at a very slow pace. When we did that, Mark made a suggestion that we go ahead and get signed up so the training was available to us and so that we could attend the one face-to-face class we needed to do—selling travel insurance. The state requires that if you are selling insurance, you have some training so we signed up and did the insurance class in November. We were fully intending to not get overly involved (beyond the online training) until at least March or April for Kathleen and maybe a year or two down the road for me.

And then we had brunch on Christmas Eve.

To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publilius Syrus

Grumpy?

So my incredible bride thinks I am being grumpy because I keep criticizing my favorite cruise line, Celebrity. We have taken almost 20 cruises on Celebrity, and they have long been our favorite cruise line. They have just launched a new ship, The Edge, that two of our best friends are sailing on in the Caribbean as I write this.

My “brother from another mother” Bob (Kathleen says that’s what we are because we are so much alike) is live-blogging their cruise and I have not been responding to it well. For that reason, I have been designated as, “grumpy.” You can see Bob’s posts by clicking here.  But I don’t think I am being grumpy. I think I am being proactive about my favorite cruise line.

Yesterday Bob got to meet and take a quick selfie with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo (not sure if I spelled that right), the CEO of Celebrity. He was really excited about it. I just asked him if he got a chance to ask her about the problems that X (that’s what long-time Celebrity cruisers call the line because all their ships have HUGE Xs on them) is currently having on all its ships—a qualified crew.

This is such an ongoing thing that I am going to give it a rest today and write about it a lot later on. Not just as it effects Celebrity but the entire cruise industry. And about that, maybe I am grumpy?

“There’s a fine line between angry and grumpy. Angry isn’t nice, but grumpy is funny.”–Rick Wakeman