The Virtual Balcony: Royal Caribbean’s way of making the interior room more appealing.

I am not a fan of the interior rooms on cruise ships.  Out of the many cruises I have been on,  I have only stayed in one interior room.  The main reason I don’t care for them is because I like to wake up to see the natural sunlight shining around the drawn curtains.  It helps me to wake up.  I could probably sleep the cruise away if I was in an interior room and I didn’t set an alarm to wake myself up.  I once had someone give me some good advice for getting an interior room but still getting some natural light (sort of).  They said before you go to sleep set the TV on the ship’s outside view channel and mute it.  Because it is a constant, real-time view, usually out the front of the ship, it will be dark at night and get lighter as the sun rises.  I thought that was a genius idea!

Royal Caribbean Virtual Balcony Room

Royal Caribbean Virtual Balcony Room

Well, Royal Caribbean apparently found it to be a genius idea as well because in 2014 they began offering interior rooms with a virtual balcony.  When they refurbished Navigator of the Seas they incorporated the concept in a select number of interior rooms and Quantum of the Seas set to launch in November will have a virtual balcony in all the interior cabins, 373 to be exact.  Voyager, Adventure, and Explorer of the Seas are slated next to receive the upgrade.

The concept is basically the same as what I described above, but on a much more high-tech level.  An 80-inch, High-Definition display will be framed to look like a real balcony that will stretch nearly from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall depending on the room.  What will be viewed on that display is a real-time view of one of the ship’s cameras giving the room’s occupants a virtual view of the ocean on sea days and the surrounding port on port days.  How fantastic is that?!?!  To make this amenity even more realistic, actual sounds of the sea in real-time will be piped in to enhance the authenticity.  (There will be volume control)  A-mazing!!!

Another interesting feature the virtual balconies will include is a banister to offer a feeling of safety.  Apparently, the display is so HD that it was making people feel like they could fall right into the ocean! There was a lot of details that the creators of these virtual balconies had to deal with that frankly, I got bored reading about, including how to keep people from feeling seasick.  But basically, there are a lot of really smart, tech-savvy people working on this project to bring it to all of us cruise lovers and make the interior room more appealing.

Now Royal Caribbean is not the first cruise line to come up with this virtual-view concept.  When Disney launched the Disney Dream in January 2011, many of the interior rooms boasted a virtual porthole.  The virtual portholes display a real-time ocean view on a 42-inch monitor and once in a while a popular Disney character peeps in.

Of course, it all boils down to price.  I found that on average for a 7-night Caribbean cruise a virtual balcony room was about $100 per person more expensive than an interior room.  Interestingly, I found the virtual balcony room to be the same or slightly higher in price for the lowest category ocean view room.  Honestly, I think if I was paying the same price I would rather have a window with an actual view, but I have not had a chance to see a virtual balcony yet so my opinion might change once I have.

So tell me, what do you think of this virtual balcony concept?  Would you like to stay in a virtual balcony room?  For more information on booking a cruise in one of these rooms please visit www.alovefortravel.com or email me at tmay@alovefortravel.com.

Should Travel Agents Be Specialized?

Before a doctor ever enters medical school, he usually already knows what field of medicine he wants to specialize in for his career.  As an attorney graduates from law school,  she has already begun to look for a firm that specializes in the field in which she is interested.  Why is that?

The human body is a complex being that requires vast amounts of knowledge to understand all its systems and how they work.   Because our knowledge of the human body has greatly increase over the last 60-70 years, doctors have begun to specialize in specific areas and focus all their study and research on a specialty in order to become successful in that area of treatment.

The same can be said for the reason why attorneys focus their work in specific areas of the law.  There is so many different areas of law and so much to know about each area that it would be very difficult to be successful in multiple areas.  It doesn’t make sense for you to go to an attorney that specializes in criminal law to handle your divorce!

Having a specialty should be no different for travel agents.  Think about how big this beautiful world is and how many amazing destinations we have to visit.  How could I possibly know everything about all of them?  I couldn’t, if I wanted to be successful.

When I chose to start my travel business, one of the first things I was told was to have something you are known for and build on it.  I have always loved the Caribbean, warm destinations, beaches, and cruises.  I was good at planning those types of trips because I had done them for my family for years.  I knew I could be successful as a travel agent that specialized in cruises and all-inclusives, so that is what I chose to be known for.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t book a Vegas trip or a trip through Canada on the train if I feel comfortable enough to do a good job for those clients, but I want to be known as a cruise and all-inclusive agent because I know I can successfully plan those trips and make clients happy.

I love being successful at my job, and the way I am successful at my job is making my clients happy.  If a client comes to me with a request for a destination I am not very familiar with,  I may not be able to make them happy, and that means I am not being successful at my job.  For that reason, I may tell clients I would rather refer them to a fellow agent instead of handle their vacation myself.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Why would I give up my commission to another agent?    I would rather have clients be taken care of by a fellow agent who can do a good job for them than me do a mediocre job for them and lose their future business and any possible referrals.    I think my clients would agree with me.

I do a lot of training, but I focus it on the destinations and topics in which I have chosen to specialize.  I can’t be every kind of agent to every kind of client.  I would rather focus on making great vacations happen for some clients than be just a booking engine to the masses.

So what do you think?  Should travel agents be specialized?

Interested in a vacation?  Tell me about it.

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