Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with Kathy Trafford, Director of Sales of Blount Small Ship Adventures. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us, we know that 2017 is showing promise as a GREAT year in the Travel Industry, can you give us some exciting things that are new with your line? Thank you for featuring Blount Small Ship Adventures. We are thrilled to share some Blount happenings with you. For starters, in 2017 we are welcoming aboard a record number of new travelers. And we don’t foresee any slow down for 2018. We are very grateful to our strong network of agent partners in helping spread the word about our different style of cruising. Blount Small Ship Adventures has so many new and exciting things happening that will impact 2017 and beyond. First, we are launching our Cuba programs in 2017 and believe that agents and travelers alike will find our Cuba experiences to be unique. No other company is currently doing anything like what we have planned for this area. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months. In 2017, we are also test-launching a shorter cruise program geared toward a younger market of Millennials. This 4-day cruise is more of a long weekend getaway and takes travelers to the very popular islands of Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island and Newport. While the magic of these destinations is their quaint charm, traveling there on your own can be costly and it can also be difficult to even secure accommodations. With Blount, travelers don’t need to worry about getting rooms or even transportation, which is also limited, over to the islands. Focusing more on social and active components like local food and drinks; and beach, hiking and water activities, the cruise will start at $599 pp. Also in 2017, we will be launching new itineraries for 2018 travel. We have 5 completely new programs that have been developed as a collaborative effort with our product, sales and marketing teams. This year, we asked our trusted agents and former passengers where we should go next; we talked to our partners in the tourism industry and we commissioned research on the small ship cruising trends. We combined all of those insights and are proud to be releasing 5 newly crafted itineraries. They will cover in-demand destinations and offer round trip gateways from easy-to-get-to cities like Boston. And in keeping with Blount’s history, they will also continue our tradition of taking travelers to the out-of-the-way places that other ships can’t get to. In addition, we have reworked a few favorites like Great American Waterways, which merges 4 Great Lakes and the Erie Canal together. Starting in 2018 we will start and end that program in either New York City or Chicago depending on your departure date. What unique value proposition does your line bring to the consumer? For example, destination, culinary, onboard experience, etc. BSSA specializes in small ship cruising through the rivers, lakes, canals and coasts of North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. The company has been in business for 51 years and is still owned by the family of its founder, Luther Blount. Because our ships are built to be different, we go to places that are inaccessible to larger cruise ships. BSSA is the only overnight vessel that can travel to certain destinations, like through the Erie Canal; or into Bahamian docks where only private boats can go. We are a truly casual experience, where you feel like you’re cruising on a friend’s yacht in search of discovery. We have always been family run, and we think our passengers and our agent partners feel like part of that family. What do you expect to be your most popular itineraries in the next year? We believe Cuba will be very popular, especially given the program’s design. Also, our Saguenay River trip that travels from New York City through the Erie Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway is spectacular. We showcase the scenic wonders of the 1000 Islands and then the Saguenay River; combined with great cities like Quebec City and Montreal. As more people discover this option, they will want to explore this amazing route. Plus, with Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary there will many extra benefits to traveling there in 2017. Speaking of celebrations, 2017 is also the start of the 200th anniversary of the building of the Erie Canal- our Great American Waterways cruise is a perennial favorite and we believe that interest will be amplified in 2017. As far as your line, what is the best advice you can provide to Travel Professionals in terms of educating their clients on the benefits of Small Ship Cruising? Small ship cruising affords travelers exploration through a more personal travel experience. The ships are easy to get on and off- there are no long lines when you travel with just 83 people. Small ship cruisers love the views—they enjoy seeing the scenic vistas as they pass through various locations. Not having to tender to and from ports and sites is always appreciated; as is unpacking once and the casual onboard environment Are you seeing any new emerging markets for your line? Yes we believe there is a market for a younger, active client who wants the ease of cruising but the feel of a smaller more intimate trip. A few years ago we added snorkel equipment to the vessels; then kayaks and recently bikes. Now, we are planning to have more coordinated excursions that include these and other kinds of activities. It is clear that travelers today want the option to explore …and to engage in some kind of physical activity while exploring. We also have seen a trend toward shorter durations in some destinations. Are you seeing an increase in family vacation bookings? We have seen a small bump in inquiries and bookings for smaller family groups; but the majority of our clients continue to be a combination of solo travelers and couples. With Travel Professionals on the rise, will you be offering any new training or incentives for Travel Professionals to focus on your offerings? Yes, BSSA has already increased our webinar training schedule in 2017 due to high demand. Also, in my role as Director of Sales, I will be out in the field attending about 15 trade shows as well as meetings with many of you in person. Please feel free to call me or email me at [email protected] for personal training whether online or in person. What three things would you like to share with our Travel Professionals to assist in selling your line? BSSA was named by USA Today and 10Best as one of the 10 Best River Cruises for 2017. On a Blount cruise, guests will never feel lost in the crowd. With only 83 passengers, every cruise experience will always feel casual and personal. We build our adventures based on the concept of personalizing the journeys for your travelers. Kayaks and bikes are available for individual discovery in port; and a welcoming BYOB policy allows travelers to avoid high bar tabs. Options for local tours, wine tastings, photography and history workshops, and culinary demonstrations allow clients to customize their trips based on their interests. With an executive chef onboard, every meal is a feast for the senses with homemade breads and pastries and dishes that represent local areas. Different by design, an ingenious retractable pilot house allows ships to glide gently beneath the lowest bridges and through locks, earning BSSA the distinction of being the only overnight cruise line able to transit the entirety of the Erie Canal. A 6’ draft allows navigation through shallow rivers, harbors and canals, bringing travelers to places only private yachts can go. And, the signature “bow ramp” takes adventurers directly from the ship onto shore. We have great things for agents too. BSSA offers travel agents competitive commissions and chances to earn more through our STARS program. An agent travel program allows up to 75% off sailings for themselves and up to 50% off for companions. A BSSA customers looks a lot like active tour takers and European river cruisers. Small ship cruising throughout the Americas attracts adventurous travelers and offers an alternative to long-haul river cruising and escorted touring. They are:55+ years oldCouples and Solo travelersCollege and Post College EducatedExperienced European river cruises and escorted toursActive and curious; interested in history and cultureInterested in going deeper into a destination, learning from the locals One extra tip—Book Early! We are selling out many departures much faster than previous years. With limited space, it’s important to call early to get the cabin your client wants. Small Ship Cruising has come a long way over the years. What do you see as the next advancement in this growing marketplace? We believe the appeal of small ship cruising will continue to grow throughout the world. Travelers are interested in micro moments, filled with seeing and doing unique things. For us at Blount, we feel like future advancements are actually going back to our roots with personal, authentic and local experiences. Do you have any additional information you would like to say before we end our conversation? We would love to hear from you! Give us a call at 800-556-7450 or visit www.blountsmallshipadventures.com/agents. For access to an agents-only website, featuring marketing and sales tools, email us at [email protected] Blount is easy to do business with and we promise you will love our down-to-earth, fun team and our office dog Remington.
Written By: Tom and Joanie Ogg CTC MCC – Travel Professional NEWS Joanie and I were invited to cruise on the AmaLea Christening cruise and accepted the invitation. It was a delight to rekindle an old friendship with Rudi and Kristin, the co-owners of AmaWaterways. We always fly in at least a day early on every cruise and we were glad that we had on this occasion. We flew Air Canada from San Diego to Toronto, Canada and then connected on Air Canada’s Rouge airline. Upon arrival in Budapest we waited for our luggage which did not appear. After filing a missing luggage claim with a completely inept agent we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. \Budapest, HungaryWe stayed at the Budapest Marriott Hotel which proved to be a wonderful choice both for its location and its amenities. It is located on the Danube River just a short distance away from where the river boats dock. With their excellent evening hospitality suite with superb hors d’ oeuvres and wine and a full breakfast buffet included in our room category, I wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Budapest. There is also a Starbucks in the hotel for those looking for a familiar coffee brand. Since Joanie had been to Budapest several times, we decided to simply explore the city itself and forgo many of the tourist attractions. Budapest is a fascinating city with so much to offer. It is stunning. It is a very walkable city and even climbing the stairs to Buda Castle is not as challenging as one would think. Of course, most people take the funicular but the climb up to the castle offers tremendous views of the Danube and the Parliament in the distance. We had a wonderful lunch at one of the many restaurants on the Danube and then headed back to our hotel to hopefully find our lost luggage. Unfortunately, it had not shown up. We logged onto the Air Canada lost luggage site to see that it appeared that the luggage was indeed lost. Of course, Joanie was excited at the idea of shopping for new clothes in case the luggage didn’t show and we were then advised by the front desk that all of the stores in Budapest would be closed for the next two days because of a religious holiday. We waited for the last minute to check out of the hotel, which is where the luggage was going to be delivered and headed to the AmaLea to board the ship. Check in was a breeze and we were assigned a category BA cabin which had a “twin balcony”. Once in our cabin we went to the cruise manager and let him know of our luggage situation. He followed the same process and concluded that it probably wouldn’t make it. We had been invited to have dinner in the Wine Room with the Amalea’s Godmother, Filomena Andre. Joanie and I explored the AmaLea from top to bottom and were completely impressed with its design, decor and obvious attention to every detail. Since dinner time was rapidly approaching we headed back to our cabin to freshen up. There was a knock at our cabin door with someone saying “luggage delivery.” and all of a sudden, our luggage caught up with us. Totally relieved, we hurried to get ready for dinner very happy to have fresh clothes on. The dinner and conversation were completely enjoyable. When we finished dinner it was time for the AmaLea to cruise from her existing dock through Budapest to a new location. Cruising the Danube in Budapest at night is simply something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. The city lights up and is impressively beautiful. We eventually docked close to the Budapest Marriott with all of the other river cruises. We enjoyed listening to the piano music and enjoying some wine before turning in for the night. There are two cappuccino machines, one in front of the lounge and the other was located in the Captain’s Table Restaurant which was convenient to our cabin. The coffee drinks it produced were excellent and Joanie started every day with a cappuccino that I would get for her. It was truly one of the highlights of the cruise. We got ready for the day and had a very enjoyable breakfast in the main restaurant. The selection of fruit was superb and there was something for everyone. I found the local dried apricots to be exceptionally delicious. We decided to simply walk to Buda Castle and hike up to it and just enjoy the day. The castle offers stupendous views of all of Budapest and is well worth the visit. We found a local market on the return trip to the AmaLea and tried some of the local dishes. We were back on the ship in plenty of time for the 5pm departure. Cruising out of Budapest is the highlight of the cruise. We had been to dinner at the Captain’s Table with the Godmother of the AmaLea, Filomena Andre. We dined with some wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at the Captain’s Table. This is a “must do” for anyone sailing on the AmaLea. Bratislava, SlovakiaWe woke up docked in Bratislava, Slovakia. After a wonderful breakfast we decided to explore Bratislava on foot. Bratislava is a wonderful city with the perfect blend of old and new The main square is the focal point of shopping streets loaded with high quality fashion and other unique boutiques, shops and stores. It is sparkling clean and very enjoyable to explore. Arriving at the main square is breath taking and after shopping we stopped to sample the Slovakian beer, which was ice cold and excellent. Since the AmaLea was departing at 1pm for Vienna, Austria we made our way back to the ship in plenty of time for a special BBQ on the Sun Deck. Cruising in the afternoon up the Danube was simply wonderful and relaxing. Vienna, AustriaWe arrived in Vienna and docked late in the evening and spent the night dockside. Joanie had signed up for a bike tour so I decided to take the Hop On Hop Off bus into Vienna on my own. The HoHo bus stops right in the middle of the river cruise docking area so it was an easy decision to make. While there were tours I could have taken I always like to take off on my own to see what I can find. I explored an older area of Vienna and then decided to make it back to the ship to greet Joanie as she returned from the bike tour. It worked out great. After a wonderful lunch onboard, Joanie and I took the first shuttle into Vienna and really enjoyed the city and its shopping and culture. We had decided not to do the Opera and elected to simply stay on the ship for the evening. Vienna is such a rich place with history and cultural events it would take weeks to really explore all it has to offer. We departed Vienna around midnight for our next port. Weissenkirchen to Grein, AustriaWe arrived at Weissenkirchen, Austria around 9am. This port is really just a drop off place for the various tours and activities offered on the ship. Joanie and I had signed up for a 21-mile bike tour of the famous Wachau Valley. I would highly suggest this tour for anyone as it awards its members with astonishing views and a unique experience. The ride meanders through small villages, grape vineyards, apricot groves and every kind of flora known to man. It follows the Danube for most of its route and we kept seeing the AmaLea as she worked her way up river. All in all, it was an exceptional experience. The bike tour terminated in the village of Melk where there was free time to shop and have a glass of wine, or two. We then boarded a motor coach and made our way through the countryside to the village of Ybbs where the AmaLea was waiting for us. We departed Ybbs and cruised to Grein for a short stay. Linz, GermanySince we had already visited Salzburg, Joanie and I elected to take the tour into the Czech Republic and a village named Cesky Krumlov. While the motor coach ride was lengthy, the scenery was stunning. We crossed the border and made our way to Cesky Krunlov, circled the village and then parked a distance from the park that conceals the walled entrance into the old city. Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is easy to see why it is. We enjoyed exploring the village and also got some grand daughter shopping accomplished. We found a quaint little restaurant and had a very enjoyable meal with wine. Finally we all met in the main square and returned to the motor coach and Linz. We had another wonderful evening and slept like babies. Passau, GermanyWe arrived in Passau right after breakfast and Joanie and I decided to simply explore Passau on our own. Joanie was familiar with Passau and knew right where the best shopping was so off we went. Passau is a wonderful port with high quality shopping and quaint sidewalk restaurants. There is a lot to see and do in Passau, but with our limited time we focused on doing some final shopping for our grand daughters. We grabbed a beer and a snack before heading back to the ship for our departure to Vilshofen and the Christening Ceremony. Vilshofen, GermanyAs we approached the dock in Vilshofen you could hear the band playing and see tents waiting for the AmaLea to arrive…..and what an arrival it was! The band was playing celebratory music and at the end of the gangway there were tents and decorations galore. Captain Jan de Bruijn, Rudi Schreiner, President and Co-Owner and Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways greeted each and every passenger on the gangway as they debarked the ship for the christening ceremony. The local community was there in force and were serving local specialties to the guests. One booth was serving local donuts that were being cooked on the spot and were simply delicious. One of the coolest things that was going on was the raising of a huge May Pole that was designed and built specifically to celebrate the christening of the AmaLea. The telephone pole sized May Pole was lifted by a group of men using nothing more than their strength and some braces that they moved up the pole as they lifted it each time. There was another local band playing German music and the festivities really set the stage for the christening. The formal christening ceremony started with the introducing of several dignitaries who all praised AmaWaterways and the new AmaLea. A Priest then officially blessed the AmaLea and those in attendance by sprinkling holy water on the guests and the ship Rudi Schreiner, President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways spoke to the gathering in both German and English. Rudi was followed by Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of AmaWaterways. Kristin introduced AmaLea Godmother, Filomena Andre who spoke about the travel industry and AmaWaterways. Filomena has a rich history in the travel industry and is currently the Vice President for AAA Travel Products & Services. Kristin also translated Filomena’s speech into German for the audience. Following the speeches the Godmother, Rudi, Kristin and others made their way ship side and the awaiting bottle of Champagne dangling from the ship’s davit. Filomena’s first attempt to break the bottle glanced off the bow, however the second attempt produced a very satisfying sound with champagne flying everywhere. And, the AmaLea was now a blessed and christened ship. The AmaLea lounge was packed with people and the mood was very festive. Our final dinner on board was extremely satisfying and was followed by a sound sleep preparing for our early morning transfer to the Munich airport. AmaWaterways even provided a tour guide on the transfer and assistance in getting to the appropriate check-in counter. Before we knew it we were in the air heading to San Francisco, California to connect with our flight to San Diego. With wonderful memories of our christening cruise on the AmaLea and the old and new friends that we touched, we had a very excellent experience and want to thank AmaWaterways for making the trip a reality.
A family of four, including a differently-abled child, was badly beaten and terrorised after three armed bandits invaded their Herstelling, East Bank Demerara (EBD) home on Tuesday evening.The victims are Bibi Shaneeza Ali, 58; along with her son, Mohammed Ali, 32; her daughter-in-law, Ameena Hassan, 29; and her differently-abled grandson who is 13-years-old.The women were badly beaten while the teenager’s face was covered with a piece of cloth to muffle his screams.The bandits carted off with in excess of two million dollars worth of cash and jewellery.INews was told that the family operates a grocery shop at their home and at the time of the incident, the gunmen posed as customers.Hassan was in the shop when a man entered and requested a pack of cigarettes.However, another voice was heard coming from the side of the shop saying “they don’t sell cigarettes”.An alerted Hassan reportedly decided to lock the shop door, however, in doing so, she was immediately confronted by another man who had already entered the yard.Hassan, and her 13-year-old son who was also in the shop at the time, were accosted by the three men and taken into their house.It was at that time that Mohammed Alli and Bibi Alli were held at gunpoint.Mohammed Alli told this publication that he was lying on a bed in the living room when he was attacked and his phone was taken away.He was then instructed to get on the ground and his son, who was at the time screaming, was placed next to him.But the perpetrators were annoyed with the child’s cries and attacked him in a bid to make him stop screaming. They subsequently covered his face with a cloth to muffle his cries.The father recalled having some money nearby which he gave the bandits but they demanded more.Meanwhile, the 58-year-old woman recalled being extremely terrified.“I pee up! The man then come and collect me and said if I scream, he will kill me so he took me into my daughter-in-law’s bedroom,” she related, noting that Hassan was also dragged into the room.While inside the room, the gunmen demanded valuables which she refused to hand over. As such, she was severely beaten about her face and body, which caused her to fall semi-unconscious.“I started to see blur, because the licks was too much and after that, even though me tell them that I will cooperate, them still beat me…my daughter-in-law end up handing over plenty money after they threatened to kill the Bia (the teenager),” the woman recalled.One of the perpetrators reportedly went into another room where he found close to one million dollars and a large quantity of jewellery including eight gold chains and rings, a cricket band, twelve gold rings and several other electronic items.“The money I was saving for long because my son gave me permission to build behind his house and now all gone…I don’t know what I will do, I have to start all over,” the woman cried.After feeling satisfied with the valuables they obtained, the three gunmen quickly escaped.The police were called and the women were escorted to the hospital where the 58-year-old woman received several stitches above her left eye.The traumatised family is calling on the police to carry out proper investigations since up to late Wednesday afternoon, the family was still waiting on ranks to return to dust for fingerprints. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedArmed bandits storm home at Good Hope, ECDAugust 21, 2016In “Crime”Bandits threaten to kill 5-Y-0; rob, terrorise Meten-Meer-Zorg familyDecember 10, 2015In “Crime”Kick-down-door bandits posing as Police terrorise Herstelling familySeptember 29, 2016In “Crime”