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.

Montrose Travel’s 2012 Educational Conference, Returned!

The farewell dinner with all the agents, suppliers, and Montrose Travel team.

Wow!  What an amazing conference.  Our agenda was jam-packed full of learning activities and the Montrose Travel team was hard at work making them all happen.  I learned so much and met so many of my fellow home-based agents, and I know I will be a better travel agent because of it.

From the moment I checked in to get my conference materials on Thursday afternoon and met all my support staff for the first time, I knew I was going to be learning much of what I needed and having a great time doing it.  Later that evening at the welcome reception, I had my first opportunity to meet all my fellow HBAs attending the conference and began what I know will become life-long friendships.  There were close to 80 agents in attendance this year.

All the great people I learned so much from during the conference.

Friday morning was an early, 7:30 a.m. start of learning sessions and supplier roundtables with a working lunch in between.  Then it was on to Bavarian Bingo hosted by Viking River Cruises where a 7-night river cruise was given away to multiple agents.  How awesome is that!  Unfortunately, I was not one of them.  Bummer!  We then moved on to Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney where several suppliers hosted us in small groups for dinner.  I was asked by the BDM (business development manager) for Princess Cruises to join his group.  While the venue was quite loud, I was able to meet more fellow agents and Jansen, the Princess BDM.  Meeting the supplier BDMs was great because aside from my Montrose support team, they are an added asset to call on to help develop my business and grow it.  Being able to meet them in social settings such as this makes me feel more comfortable about calling on them for help.

Saturday morning began with another early start with supplier roundtables and a learning session followed by a working lunch.  After lunch, we had two great sessions.  Show and Share was focused on learning from our peers, discussing and showing what has worked and what hasn’t.  I got a lot of great ideas to bring home from this session.  The second session, Beating the Internet was focused on how we as travel agents are competitive with the online companies like Expedia or Travelocity, and we can provide the same vacations for the same prices; however, they can’t provide the personalized service and intimate knowledge of the product that we can.  The day wrapped up with a tech lab for help with computer-related questions.  Disney was kind enough to provide us with a one-day Park Hopper ticket so I spent the evening with some of my new friends at Epcot and ended it at the Magic Kingdom.  A fun night was had by all!

My group with which I toured the Disney Dream.

Sunday morning started with a couple of short learning sessions on growing group business and Ensemble Travel before boarding the buses to Port Canaveral to tour the RCI Freedom of the Seas and Disney Dream, both fantastic ships.  Upon returning from Port Canaveral, we changed for our farewell dinner and headed over to Fulton’s Crab House in Downtown Disney.  Dinner was delicious!  Afterward many of us stayed out and had a few drinks at the Raglan Road and enjoyed the live music.

Monday morning I checked out of my room before heading down to my last learning session on how to build an FIT (building segments into one trip).  We then wrapped up the conference with an open forum discussion about how we thought this year went and what we would like to see for next year.  Our last activity was heading back to Port Canaveral for one more ship inspection of the Carnival Ecstasy.  Our stop on the way back was at the airport so we could sadly say goodbye to all our new, and for some, old friends and head back home to start implementing all we had learned.

Yes, it was very exhausting, but it was well worth it.  I learned a great deal.   One of the things I liked about the conference was the supplier BDMs being there and most stayed the whole time.  It was great to establish a relationship with them so I would feel comfortable about calling on them for help.  Besides that, they were a lot of fun! 

Small group dinner at Planet Hollywood.

I also liked meeting other agents just like me who have the same struggles and concerns as I do.  I don’t feel so overwhelmed and alone, one of the things I wanted to accomplish by going to this conference.  I now have many new friends that I know I can call on for help.

Some of my new friends.

There are many other things that I liked and the great thing is they all will make me that much better of an agent for my clients.  The money and time I invested in these 5 days was worth it and much more.  I look forward to next year’s conference and seeing all my friends again.  Until then, I have a lot of new knowledge to start implementing.  The sky’s the limit!

Me and Rachelle from the Montrose team.

A few of us at Raglan Road. You guys rock!

My wonderful support team at Montrose Travel.

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