Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 4/25/9

Hello everyone, I think today I will tell you all about my recent cruise experience with Holland America. We originally had other plans for Lindsey's spring break, but decided that since I had never cruised before along with the fact my parents had already booked themselves on this cruise as first-timers it would be a great experience. I am very glad we did because we ended up having a blast.
Our cruise was set to depart on Sunday, March 22 out of Tampa, FL. My nephew Tanner's birthday is the 21st so on Saturday morning we went to his birthday party. Immediately following his party the four of us headed out toward Ocala, FL. The reason we left a day early is mostly because me and my dad are just alike. Being that is was our first cruise and not knowing exactly what to expect or how to get there we felt like it would be a good idea to get pretty close to Tampa the night before. We later found out that you can make the trip to Tampa in 5.5-6hrs which isn't bad at all but it would still require an early wake up call to drive in the day of the cruise. I had booked us into a room at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Ocala based on price and location. I didn't really have a clue about the hotel other than the chain had a good reputation. This ended up being a home run choice. The hotel was the most unique thing I had ever seen. It basically had an atrium all the way to the top floor and was very modernly decorated. The room was very nice and had Temporpedic mattresses! It was located right on the interstate in a very safe location with access to just about any restaurant you could want. All for about $110.00 including taxes.
On Sunday we took our time getting to Tampa, it was only a little over an hour from Ocala, and arrived at the port about 11AM. Boarding didn't start until 12PM so we figured we would just have to mill around the port area and see what we could find. A co-worker of my mother's had told her about an aquarium there and we had that on our minds. When unloading our luggage we were told we could go ahead and check in to our surprise. Being the on top of it, don't want to miss anything guys we are we went upstairs and checked in. Between parking the truck, unloading, and going through the security and check-in process it was already 11:45. That was just enough time to go to the bathroom and get some free refreshments in the terminal. Shortly after 12 we were on the ship exploring!
The name of our ship was ms Veendam. It is a small ship compared to the newer ones that are being built. The Veendam is just over 55,000 tons compared to Royal Caribbean's new ship, the Oasis, coming in at 220,000!! After exploring and checking our cabins out the first order of business, as with all cruises, was the life boat drill. Then it was off to the navigation pool for a sail away party with a band! That night by the time dinner came around we had made it far enough into the gulf to feel the motion. If you have never been on a cruise and your friends that have has told you "oh you don't even know you are moving"...THEY ARE LYING!!! I know what some are thinking, well ya'll felt it because of the size of the ship. Wrong, only after the cruise would all of the people who had told me you couldn't feel it admit that "well maybe you can feel it". I seriously think it is like a secret cruise society lie. The good news is no one got sick at all and you do get use to it as the cruise progresses.
I could give detail after detail of each day of our 5-night cruise but it would take entirely too long. From here out I will hit the highlights. Day 2 of our cruise was at sea and there was plenty to do. Lindsey and daddy primarily hung out by the pool, I played in a poker tournament, and mother played bingo. BTW me and my mother won! Day 3 was a port of call, Georgetown Grand Cayman. We all absolutely loved it there. G.C. is by far the nicest foreign country I have ever visited. If I had the time and money I would go back tomorrow. We did an island tour for an excursion. It was great as well and out tour guide was the best part. He was very friendly and would answer any question you could think of. The next day was another port of call, Cozumel Mexico. Lindsey and I went to a local beach club for lunch and a beach day. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but I can't say the same for the parents. They decided to go to lunch and shop in town. Their lunch they did enjoy but the shopping had my dad about to loose it. If any of my readers know my dad you know exactly what I am talking about. I think as soon as they started shopping a local was screaming at them to come in his store and then kind of grabbed my dad's arm to pull him in....thank you God for not having to bail him out of Mexican prison! That pretty much ended their day in Cozumel and they went back to the ship. The final day was spent at sea and we all primarily relaxed. I did enter another poker tournament that day to defend my title unsuccessfully, I placed 4th. On the final morning we debarked the ship around 8:45AM and was headed home.
I feel like this post doesn't do justice to the cruise and what a great time we had. We went to the live shows every night and loved them along with a lot more entertainment. You can eat all day if you are a mind to and the activities are pretty much non-stop. All in all I would give my first cruise experience a two thumbs up. I highly recommend everyone try cruising just once, then you will be hooked.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New at Walt Disney

Here is something Disney emailed me this morning that they are doing now at the Animal Kingdom park. It sounds like a pretty neat idea, especially if you have the dining plan(which I highly recommend).
Enjoy a Picnic in the Park at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park


Your Clients on the Disney Dining Plan now have a new way to use their Quick Service Meal entitlements at Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park: The new Picnic in the Park option lets them take their adventure a step further by dining in the wild!

Each Picnic in the Park is packaged in an "Every Tree Has Character" reusable bag, and includes plates and utensils so Guests may enjoy their meal at one of the many picnic spots in the Park. Meals include a choice of entrées, side dishes, desserts and bottled water. Your Clients may select their entrées from one of two tiers:

•Tier 1 features a choice of chicken wrap, ham grinder, tuna pita or turkey focaccia sandwich for each member of the party.
•Tier 2 offers a choice of rotisserie chicken or ham.
Depending on the number in the party, your Clients may select from one or more the following side dishes: chips, coleslaw, corn medley, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, orzo pasta, oven-roasted potato wedges, seasonal fruit salad, or tomato and cucumber salad.

Dessert options include an apple, orange, brownie, cookie, cornbread or crisped rice treat.

Guests may order a Picnic in the Park at a podium located at Guest Relations in the front of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, or at Tusker House Restaurant. Picnic in the Park is available for same-day orders only. Orders must be placed at least two hours prior to the desired pick-up time. Payment will be due upon pick-up of the order at Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery in the Africa region of the Park.

Pricing for Tier 1 begins at $24.99 USD plus tax for three Guests. Pricing for Tier 2 begins at $29.99 USD plus tax for three Guests. Prices vary by party size. Guests on the Disney Dining Plan will need to use one adult Quick Service Meal entitlement per Guest (e.g., a meal for three requires three adult entitlements).


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 4/18/09

Good morning to everyone today! I hope everybody had a productive week and have had the opportunity to enjoy some of the beautiful weather we are having. As all of you are well aware, this 75 degree sunshine will only last maybe a couple more weeks here in Southeast Alabama. This week I am going to talk about the one topic that I feel has been touched on WAY more than others, but I have to do it again because every single week I have been in the travel industry I hear the same thing: Why should I use a travel agent instead of booking myself online?

This is a very fair question that 2 years ago I asked myself. Linds and I wanted to go to Walt Disney World for a few days during her Christmas break. So, just like I am sure most of you would have done I went to the Disney website and begin to click away. Two days later and what seemed like a million clicks, I had at least 10 different quotes on what I thought was the same trip and gave up and called a local agency. I told the young lady what we had in mind for our trip and she said to give her a few minutes and she would call me back. Sure enough, about an hour later she called with everything laid out for me along with a price that was a little bit lower than any of the ten quotes I had gotten online. Whew! How easy was that? Also I knew if there was a problem of any kind that I could call her, a local person in a local office with my issue. Trust me on this one...try calling an 800 # and understanding the language the person on the other end speaks. Plus if you do manage to master their language what happens if you get cut off? I know, you call back into a huge call center and no one has a clue what you were just discussing with the other guy. This one experience two years ago is where the idea of becoming a travel agent myself was born.

I am going to try to explain exactly what I do and how I get paid for my services as shortly as I can. First of all, let me explain my name sake. The name of my business is Wiregrass Travel, the franchise I purchased is Cruise Planners. I am assuming the reason the founders of Cruise Planners took on this name is because of the fact that they had worked in the cruise industry all of their careers and the fact that cruising has become the most popular, profitable form of vacation. To me, however, the name is very misleading. It tells, in my opinion, the customers that we only plan cruises. Cruise Planners is partnered with American Express travel and we have the same access to everything AMEX has to offer. I am sure all of you know that American Express has been the leading authority in travel for years and years. We book just about anything you can think of (European tours, hotels in NYC, Disney, all-inclusive, ski packages) at the same, or most of the time a few dollars cheaper than you can doing all the work yourself online! It does not cost you one penny more to use an agent, plus you get to talk to only one person, me. The only thing I would like to add to this is if you just need a standard hotel room for a couple nights in anywhere USA(not a major city or resort), yes it is easy and yes you may as well book it yourself.

Now here is the next question out of every one's mouth after hearing all that: Wow that's great but how much of a fee do you charge for your time? NOTHING!!!!!!! The tour companies, cruise lines, resorts, hotels, ect. pay the agents a percentage of the amount you spend in commission. Well do they raise the price to us the consumer to offset that percentage? NO!!!!! The vacation companies realize just how vast the travel industry is and they feel it is worth it to them to lower their amount of profit by the amount of commission paid to have us, the travel agents, help the customer sort through everything out there and recommend their form of travel. It is very literally a win win for both you and me.

Please do me a favor, if you hear anyone talking about any form of travel, tell them about this blog and how a travel agent can help. I promise it will help them feel better about their vacation and help me be successful. Like I said win win.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Customer Review


I just wanted to drop you a line and say how great our cruise to Cozumel was over Spring Break! We were able to keep it a complete surprise and the kids were so excited! I know Carnival's "Holiday" may be one of the smaller and older ships, but the room was great. The nightly shows were top-notch - we didn't skip one! Our kids made friends easily with other kids and kept themselves entertained. The highlight of the trip was definitely our excursion we booked through you. We did the "3 reef snorkeling trip" and I swear it was like swimming right in the middle of a huge aquarium stocked with thousands of beautiful fish. We got to eat at a beach club and it was delicious - even better that it was included in the nominal price of the snorkeling trip!
I'm so glad to have rediscovered what it's like to have a REAL travel agent... after so many years of thinking I could do it all online, I have fallen in love with your service and the personal touch Wiregrass Travel provides! (You know I have because I've already booked another cruise with you!) We will be repeat customers for life! Even though we're hundreds of miles away from your office, we feel like we're right next door. Thanks for being available and for figuring and refiguring a zillion packages before we decided on one. You get an A+ for patience as well as service!

Paula Brahan
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 4/11

Good morning everyone. I hope you all slept better than I did last night. It is 6:10AM on a Saturday morning and I have been up since 5:30. It really hacks me off when this always happens on the days I could actually sleep in. The good news this week is that I actually do have a cup of coffee near by but the bad news is my brain hasn't absorbed it yet.
This week has been an interesting one concerning business. The phones and email have been relatively slow but the few that have contacted me were all serious and most have booked. If there are any men reading, I think most of you will appreciate what I am about to say from here on. When I started the travel agency, well actually before, I figured out exactly how many dollars in bookings I needed to make each week to make this a successful business. If I fall short one week I will drive myself nuts the next week trying to make up the difference. I said all that to say, this week I exceeded my goal which should be and is a great thing! The problem is since everyone pretty much knew what they wanted and I have learned more about the best companies to use to find what they are looking for, these did not take up enough of my time. Lindsey was reading a book at some point early in our marriage about what makes men and women tick. As with ALL books she reads, she feels a great need to share everything she has learned with me. Well surprise, surprise she told me that we men take the most pride in our work and the fact that we provide for our families. I have accomplished the providing part this week but I still feel like I have cheated on work or something. This is the first time since starting the business I have felt this way. I have had slow days but normally the next would be very busy and at the end of the week I felt as if I had worked enough hours(usually more than 40) to consider myself a manly man. That ain't happened this week! I dare say that I haven't put in 20 actual working hours this week with the exception of having the phone near by and checking email frequently.
I know this has been a very random post that probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but to sum it all up I'd like to say: Thank you Lord for providing for my family and a successful business but next week, even if the customers are not serious let them call so I can feel like a manly man.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our Honeymoon

Here is a post that I composed back in December for my website, but I felt it worthy to be added on here as well:

My wife Lindsey and I went to the Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, Bahamas for our honeymoon in June 2006. We flew out of Tallahassee, FL, made a connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina, and landed in Nassau. The total flight time was less than three and a half hours. From the airport in Nassau, it was a 15-20 minute drive to the resort. Our ride was made easier because a Rolls Royce took us to the resort to begin our honeymoon and back to the airport when our vacation was over. We stayed five nights and had an incredible time.
Because we were on our honeymoon, we decided to stay in the Royal Bahamian Ocean View One Bedroom Suite. It was one of three butler service level accommodations. Included with this accommodation was the Rolls Royce pick up, fully stocked mini-bar, a candlelight dinner on the pier, and butler services from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. The room had a large balcony, separate living room, and a spacious bathroom. For anyone who knows Lindsey and me, you know that we are not "butler kind of folk". It was quite an experience having someone wait on us hand and foot. He probably had it made with us because we really did not utilize him as much as others may have. However, he was helpful in making our dinner reservations for the week the day we arrived. He also brought breakfast to our room every morning, and gave us tips about leaving the resort and exploring downtown Nassau. I have just brushed the surface on what he could have done and did do. I will end by saying that we had something special in our room every night. From chocolate covered strawberries, to rose petals on the bed, it was always exciting to see what was waiting for us!
There are eight restaurants and nine bars at the resort. My favorite restaurant was The Crystal Room. They serve international cuisine and was the most formal dinner we experienced while there. I had the Cornish game hen and Lindsey's left over grilled pork chop. Unfortunately, I cannot recall all the sides, but it was by far my favorite meal. Lindsey's favorite restaurant was Kimonos. She had the hibachi chicken, steak and rice. As with most Japanese restaurants, you are seated with other couples. We had a great time meeting and talking with a couple from Canada. Overall, we were pleased with all the food we ate while there, but just wanted to mention what we liked best. As for entertainment, you can do as much or little as you would like. You can lounge on the beach or in the pool all day. They have a daily list of activities that you could participate in if you are so inclined. At night, you can hang out in the piano bar, sing karaoke, dance in the club, or catch a live show.
There are many other details about our honeymoon stay at the Royal Bahamian that we could share with you. However, that would take up a lot more space and more of your time! Our main point is that we had a wonderful time!


p.s.- All-inclusive really does mean all-inclusive!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee-late edition

Good morning everyone,
I hope you are having a good weekend so far and as excited about the sunshine as I am. I normally hate yard work, but the sun following days of rain has me motivated. I have decided that each Saturday morning while I drink my coffee that I will sit down here and just kind of throw out what ever is on my mind. As you see it is 9:35AM and I have just gotten around to this edition. No coffee in hand, that was about 2 hrs ago. Lindsey wanting the computer in combination with NCAA baseball on the playstation calling my name has resulted in being late my very first Saturday. Any of you that know me personally already knows that I am not the best speller,punctuater, or any thing that would make you confuse me with an English professor. On my first blog "what its all about" I was trying really hard to make everything just right and had Linds double check everything and give her blessings. Well, most likely to her chagrin, I will be winging it from here out.
I have a couple headed to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica this month for four nights(Mon-Fri) for a total of $1600. Why did I tell you this? Because most people do not realize just how affordable some vacations in exotic places can be. I did a little number crunching before I signed on to compare what a Destin area vacation would cost. Taking everything I could into consideration (condo,meals, drinks, entertainment) I estimate this couple spent about $300-400 more than a similar vacation would cost in north FL. Yes, money is money, but considering most people only vacation 1-2 times per year isn't it worth a little more to experience something totally different!
Well, this concludes the first edition of Saturday morning coffee. I hope you have enjoyed it. I guess it will be weed pulling and grass cutting for the next couple hours.

Friday, April 3, 2009


(FEBRUARY 28 – 7 MARCH 2009)


Thank you so much for your assistance in one of our most fabulous vacations. It was a pleasure working with you and your company. Your “hands on” treatment from researching a cruise within our parameters through the return trip gave us tremendous comfort at all times.

Since we had previously visited the western Caribbean, we knew we wanted to visit the eastern Caribbean departing from Port Canaveral on the Carnival Glory around our anniversary date. You immediately found us the perfect cruise with a price that quite satisfied us.

If you have the opportunity to depart from Port Canaveral, I recommend eating lunch at Rusty’s Seaford and Oyster Bar. You can observe your boat from the restaurant and the food is excellent!

We headed to the ship around 2:00 p.m. since the boat departed at 4:00 pm. I feel like boarding the ship earlier just makes you stand in line for check-in much longer. This seems to be after the initial rush of passengers.

As is customary, the ship departed on time (as it does from all ports, at all times). The first order of business is the mandatory muster call for the safety briefing. Listen to the announcements and you will learn everything about where to go and what to do.

After returning from the muster call, we were greeted by our room steward, Rey. She introduced herself, annotated our first names which allowed her to always address us by name, and unlocked the mini-bar refrigerator……pay attention that the water, soda, and liquor is going to cost you if you use it, plus a 15% restocking charge. Bring your own water and refill the bottles from the water fountains on board. At some time after boarding our bags were delivered to our stateroom.

We found plenty to keep us busy from unpacking our bags to getting to the dining room for dinner. The food, as usual, was superb. It still amazes me that I can order as many of the appetizers, entrees, or even desserts as I want just because I can’t make up my mind – AND it doesn’t cost extra. Even the desserts with the word “diet” in them tasted great.

The first morning we arrived in Nassau, Bahamas along with several other cruise ships. I found it so interesting to see the other ships. I wanted to remember their names just in case I might want to cruise on their line one day. Nassau has a lot to offer. You can take excursions offered, or go out on your own. When you exit the ship you will go through a market type area where people have booths set up to sell you anything from food to souvenirs. On the other side of the market are taxis willing to take you anywhere. You can take a taxi tour of the island or take a taxi over to Atlantis. Downtown and plenty of shopping is just past the taxi stands.

Our second full day was a day at sea with plenty of on board activities you could participate in, watch or just relax on your own. There was music or entertainment throughout the ship. And the nightly show in the grand theater was outstanding. They perform the show twice nightly.

Our stop the third full day was in St. Thomas, Virgin Island. We did not take an excursion, but again took a taxi downtown to shop and enjoy the sights. Our cruise director warned us that there were more taxis in St. Thomas than there were taxi drivers and to make sure our taxi had a driver. The cruise director was absolutely correct!! As soon as we were dropped off downtown and began walking, all the taxis passing us would holler our “going back to the ship”. It did become annoying after a while, but of course they are out to make money. I think I counted five cruise ships in port. We ate lunch at an outside table at Coconuts Bar and Grill. The hamburger was huge and so tasty. I highly recommend it. It sits in one of the alleys off Main Street. On the way back to the ship we asked the taxi to drop us off at Paradise Point (within walking distance of the ship). We bought our tickets onboard for $19 each, and found out that at the location it would have cost $23 each. Paradise Point is a bucket sky ride that whisks you 700 feet above the town of Charlotte Amalie. The view from the top is breathtaking. They have exotic birds that perform three times a day, unique shops to explore, and a great little restaurant where we enjoyed their family “Bailey’s Bushwacker” drink. EXCELLENT.

The next day found us in St. Maarten, N.A. This island is half French and half Dutch. The port is on the Dutch side. Again, there were numerous ships in port. We began our day by shopping in the small area around the port. (You can take a taxi to the larger shopping area, but this area is quite enough shopping.) Afterwards, we took the Explore Cruise and Island Tour for $61 per person. We boarded an air conditioned bus that began on the Dutch side tour and took us to beautiful Simpson Bay Lagoon where we boarded a double-decked excursion boat for a tour of the lagoon. There were plenty of shady or sunny areas to sit and you can enjoy all the rum punch you desire free of charge. We saw more sailboats and yachts than you can ever imagine. Everyone was arriving for the start of the America’s Cup Regatta. After our tour of the lagoon, we landed in the city of Marigot on the French side where we had an hour to enjoy the sights. Naturally, we ate again. This time we were at a sidewalk café and thoroughly enjoyed a lobster pizza. Be forewarned that on the French side their currency is the Euro, so we had to convert our cost. They do take American dollars, but you better know how to convert. We were told that some of the restaurants have the cost in both American dollars and Euros. We weren’t that lucky. The prices were rather high. A lobster pizza and one coke cost $32.

Our last two days were spent at sea. These days could be as busy or as relaxing as you desire. One day the wind was blowing so hard that the ship closed the top two decks. This did not prevent people from enjoying themselves. The sun was shining, the music was playing and everyone was having a great time. High winds such as that will have the same effect as a storm on the way the boat feels. It was an experience to walk around feeling as though you must have drank way too many cocktails. No one was walking a straight line. However, it did not make us sick or uncomfortable.

The last night of the cruise we packed our bags and sat them outside our door for the porters to pick up. Of course, make sure you keep an overnight bag with clothes for the next day or you may be leaving the ship in your pajamas. Our ship arrived back at Port Canaveral early Saturday morning. As customs cleared the luggage, you are called by the number you received the night before from your room steward. After you hear your number, you are free to make your way to the departure area. We enjoyed our last breakfast in the dining room before departure, then scanned our sail and sign card one last time to show we had departed.

Another wonderful cruise!

Sharon Duncan

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What It's All About

Hello everyone!
Well it seems to me that more and more people are getting into this, so I figured I may as well jump in and figure it all out. My name is Jeremy Lee and I am the owner of Wiregrass Travel, the Wiregrass area's newest, fastest growing full service travel agency. Some of you may already know or follow my wife's blog, Lindsey's Life. She and I have been married for almost three years know and we both really love to travel. Like most young couples, we do not have the means to get to travel all that often. But have been blessed enough to take a few trips. I will tell you all about those later.
My goal for this first blog is to let everyone know what my format and objectives will be for this blog, as well as let you in on a little background on Wiregrass Travel. I will make no bones about it, this blog has been created primarily for marketing purposes. What I hope to accomplish is a very open and honest format that everyone can participate in without beating my readers over the head with promotions and specials. I have already started asking customers that have returned from their vacations if they would like to blog about their experience and allow me to post it. I asked them if they do, to please be honest and tell the good and the bad, and if there are any negatives. I will post these exactly the way they are sent to me, pending there is no profanity or inappropriate material of any kind. By the way, my first taker is my aunt and I will post her blog in the next couple of days.....there is probably, hopefully, some bias in that one.
I would also like to allow anyone who would like, to start any travel related discussion of their own on this site. Since I am still learning how blogspot works I am not sure the best way to do this. I am guessing you may have to email me your topic starting post and let me post it on this page. If there is an easier way, Lindsey hasn't taught me yet :). My email address is if you would like to contact me. Even if you are not a customer of mine and would like to participate please feel free to do so. I want this blog to be a place where people can come to learn about travel, ask questions, and get travel advice from both the "professional" and customer's points of view.
Now for a quick history of myself and Wiregrass Travel. My wife Lindsey and I were born and raised in the Wiregrass area. I grew up in Hartford, AL and she grew up in Slocomb. I graduated from Geneva County High School in 1995. Lindsey graduated from Slocomb High School in 2000. We met in 2002 on a blind date and were married in June 2006. We now live and work in Dothan. Lindsey works as a speech therapist for Dothan City Schools. Even though we don't have any children yet, we do have two nieces and a nephew that we love like our own.
I began working full time in 2000 after college. My first job was selling GM vehicles at Nichols in Enterprise, AL. After two years at Nichols, I began working at Action GMC in Dothan and was there for three years. I thoroughly enjoyed my years at Action; however, it was while working there that I began to realize how much I wanted to start my own business. In January 2006, I started my first business by opening a Roly Poly restaurant in Dothan. That was a learning experience I will never forget! One of the best things about Roly Poly, was the opportunity it provided me to meet and get to know so many wonderful people. After selling the restaurant in December 2007, I quickly realized that I missed working for myself and daily interaction with customers. When the opportunity presented itself to start my own travel agency, I knew it would be the perfect combination of sales and customer service. I started Wiregrass Travel in November 08 by purchasing a Cruise Planners franchise. Cruise Planners is located in Ft Lauderdale, FL and that is where I spent a week training along with countless hours training online. So far I am so pleased with my decision and business has far exceeded my expectations. I will explain exactly what Wiregrass Travel does in a later post.
If you have stuck with me this far I would like to thank you. I would love to hear from you and would appreciate any feed back you have to offer.
Until next time,