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.

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Is this going to cost extra?

I started my travel business in February of this year, and the question I have been asked the most has been, How much extra will it cost to book my vacation through you.  In general, the answer is nothing.  I was very surprised to find out how many people had no idea how a travel agent got paid.  But if they had never booked with one why would they know?

With the dawn of internet booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity, fewer people turned to travel agents to book travel.  The role of the travel agent became less understood along with their method of receiving compensation.  That’s completely understandable, which is why I decided to write this post.

I think a lot of people avoid travel agents, assuming it will cost them more to book with them than getting on the web and doing it themselves.  Hopefully, this post will clear some things up for some people.

My main source of revenue comes from the suppliers themselves.  When I book a cruise or hotel package for a client, that cruiseline or hotel company pays me a percentage of the trip cost as commission.  That percentage can range from 10-15%.  The client still pays the exact same amount for their vacation, but the supplier, i.e. Sandals, Royal Caribbean pays me for booking my client with them.  Sometimes they will offer bonus booking incentives of a certain amount ($25, $50) per booking to give agents an added reason for booking their clients with them.

The other source of revenue would come from service or consultation fees, which I have not found the need to implement thus far.  I got into the travel business because I am passionate about travel, and I am blessed to do this as a supplemental income to my husband.  I am not worried about making as much money as I can.  I enjoy it that much!  The only time I would charge a service fee would be for airline tickets, and that is only because airlines do not pay commissions any longer.  Generally, service fees are very nominal for the help and guidance you receive from an agent.

A service fee that I would implement but have not done so yet is a Plan-to-Go fee.  This would only come into play with people who have called me before and wanted me to look into a trip for them.   I researched and got prices and sent them a quote, then never heard from them about booking.  If this were to happen more than once, I would charge a Plan-to-Go fee of $50 or whatever I decide.  Remember, I haven’t had to do this.  If the people end up booking, the fee would go towards the cost of their trip.  If not, I would keep it as compensation for my time spent on the research.

I hope this has cleared up the question of how travel agents get paid.  For more information on this, check out this great article for a bit more in-depth information.

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