Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 8/29/09

Good morning to the Wiregrass area and beyond. It has been a pretty good week here at Wiregrass Travel. I did have one major hick-up yesterday with my computer. For several weeks the monitor would go to sleep and then not come back on until we re-booted the system. Well bright and early yesterday it was off and didn't come back on. After lots of great advice and tips from my Facebook friends and a visit from my neighbor who is an IT guy for an engineering firm, I knew it wasn't going to be a cheap fix. Long story short, two trips to Best Buy and $130 later I was back in business about 12:30. For those who are wondering what it was, the video/graphics card was dead. Apparently there is a fan mounted on it to keep it cool and the bearings had gone out causing it to over heat, which explained why it went out slowly.
Enough of the technology talk, I have some major news about a Carnival ship. The Fantasy, that is being moved from New Orleans over to Mobile late this year is undergoing a complete renovation in January and they are adding 98 balcony state rooms! This is really big news for me. A ton of my customers who have never cruised always want to sail out of Mobile. As some of you already know the Holiday that is in Mobile now, is Carnival's oldest and smallest ship, not one I would necessarily recommend for a first time cruiser even though some still choose it. I have been knowing for a long time about the change to the Fantasy which is a good bit larger but the fact that they are adding the balconies gets me excited. I think everyone should get a balcony state room every time they cruise. Yes it is more money but the benefit versus the cost is not comparable. The problem with the class ship the Fantasy is in is older and the only balcony state rooms available were in the form of a suite, which was quite a bit more expensive. Now I believe I will be able to book my customers on a nicer ship, closer to home, in a great cabin! Have a great weekend.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 8/22/09

Good morning everyone! I hope all my readers have evaded the swine flu this week and continue to do so. It seems that is all that is being talked about this week. For those of you not located here in "LA" we are hearing astronomical numbers of kids getting sent home with the flu and of them several confirmed cases of H1N1. By my best guess I figure that puts about 80% of us at a very high risk of at best getting the regular ole flu this year.
I know you are thinking what in the world does this have to do with anything? Lucky for you I will tell you. I am just sitting here thinking this morning about a blog post I made some time back before June about the swine flu. You probably remember that Mexican ports were closed for several weeks and everyone was freaking out about H1N1. In that post I basically said that I wouldn't wish it on anyone but that I felt everyone was over reacting and even though some people had passed away from it, there were people that die every year from the"normal" flu. I ended the post back then saying that my personal opinion was that is was perfectly safe to travel to Mexico, but you should always use good common sense. Well low and behold just before school starts back up this month the CDC comes out with a statement saying there most likely will be a major outbreak here is the U.S. but that closing schools would not affect the outbreak either way. They also said the best way to avoid getting it yourself was lots of hand washing and bathing in general! Boy I hate to say I told you so.....but I did. It's almost like since it is here in the U.S. like we perceive it as not as bad. Folks it's the same nasty flu that was in Mexico in May, it did not take a bath,cut it's hair, and put on a suite just to come into the states. It's all about perception and I believe, just like I did before, that the media here in the states are so starved for stories/dramatics that they LOVE to blow things way out of proportion and stir our citizens into a frenzy.
In closing, let me say this to everyone who thinks I do not have a heart. I hate that the H1N1 has come into the world in general. I do not wish being sick, or worse, on any one. I personally may be the next one catching the H1N1 and reserve the right to change my mind. I am simply saying that we sometimes need to take a deep breath, relax, and think before we absolutely flip out believing every thing that the media reports, causing us to make rash decisions like closing ports and rearranging cruise itineraries. I haven't heard one single report, now that it is here, about anyone thinking about stopping business in any way. Perceptions, perceptions...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brand New Sandals!!!!!

Hello everyone,
I am copy and pasting an email I just got from my Sandals rep. Yep there is going to be a new Sandals next year in the Bahamas. Here are the details!!!!

We are most excited to announce that Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas has officially become the fourteenth Luxury Included® Sandals Resort! Please see the official announcement release below which will be distributed to media this afternoon.

~Sandals Resorts’ Luxury Included® Concept featuring 18-Hole Golf Course and Marina
Set to Debut in New Year~

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, August 20, 2009 – Sandals Resorts International (SRI), parent company of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, The Royal Plantation Collection and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, today announced the purchase of the recently shuttered Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay for an undisclosed sum. According to Sandals Resorts founder and chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the 500-acre property, which features a championship Greg Norman golf course and world-class marina, is set to become a Sandals Resort and will be called Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas. Following certain enhancements customary to the Sandals Resorts brand, including an expansive new pool complex and additional dining establishments, the resort will open January 22, 2010.

“This is a remarkable moment in the history of Sandals Resorts,” Stewart said. “We are acquiring one of the most spectacular pieces of real estate in the Caribbean, which was operated by one of the world’s most highly regarded hotel companies. This is a reflection of all that Sandals Resorts has accomplished and a tremendous opportunity to further demonstrate our commitment to providing the very best vacation in the Caribbean. We look forward to bringing our Luxury Included® experience to this special property, which has been kept to impeccable standards.”

Unfolding like a grand estate, Sandals Emerald Bay is set along a one-mile stretch of white sand beach on Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas. According to Stewart, the all-suite resort will offer a selection of 190 “magnificently-appointed” luxury accommodations with styles that range from beachfront villas to charming bay house settings – all oceanfront, all extremely spacious and all serviced by butlers trained by Sandals Resorts through the company’s exclusive partnership with the Guild of Professional English Butlers.

Other amenities include a fully-equipped tennis center featuring six Har-tru courts lit for night play with professional stadium seating fit for competition; a full-service Red Lane® Spa with 22 indoor treatment areas and six exotic outdoor sanctuaries; plus six gourmet restaurants including four new concepts introduced by Sandals Resorts, a fine-dining seafood restaurant, an authentic Italian brick-oven pizzeria, a French-style café and a traditional British pub complete with a pool and snooker room. To complement its sublime ocean views, the property will also debut three pools including a brand new freshwater pool. Encompassing over half an acre, this spectacular pool will entice guests with a Jacuzzi, swim-up pool bar and unique fire-pit seating area in the center. Flanking the pool will be misting columns and luxurious cabanas equipped with wireless Internet access. Whether poolside or on the beach, all guests will receive a full complement of butler services. In addition, the resort will cater to business and meetings customers, offering 13,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. This includes three large ballrooms with separate event entrance that can be converted into smaller rooms, all with access to a dedicated conference facility kitchen and two meetings rooms, which are all supported by round-the-clock conference and technology services.

Unique to the Great Exuma property is a stunning 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, reputed to be among the best in the Caribbean as well as a 17-acre, stand-alone Emerald Bay Marina by Sandals, the first-ever marina for any Sandals Resort. This fully-protected, deepwater marina offers 133 slips and is equipped to accommodate and service yachts up to 300 feet in length. Open to the public, the marina also features a welcoming clubhouse with a full-service restaurant including al fresco dining on a spectacular wraparound terrace, pool, a world-class Lane® Spa and facilities to accommodate families with children.

Continued Investment in the Caribbean
Sandals Emerald Bay is the fourteenth Sandals Resort in the Jamaican-based company’s portfolio and the third investment the company has made in The Bahamas, already home to Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island in Nassau and Royal Plantation Island at Fowl Cay in the Exumas. “We have deep roots in The Bahamas. We know the people and these islands well and it is our distinct pleasure and honor to further our partnership in tourism here,” Stewart said.

Stewart credits receivers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the government of The Bahamas on their efficiency in bringing this deal to a speedy conclusion. Stewart recognizes the impact the closing had on the local economy and is anxious to get people back to work. “We take enormous pride in our Caribbean legacy and specifically, our Jamaican heritage. Through job creation, real training and community involvement, spanning healthcare initiatives to education and the environment, we have worked hard to improve the countries where we operate and in turn, have become a better company and our employees, better citizens. Our commitment to the people of The Bahamas remains strong,” added Stewart.

Unwavering Confidence
“This resort has captured the imagination of trendsetters around the world, gracing the pages of influential magazines and welcoming some of the world’s wealthiest to its vast amenities. We will reignite this excitement because we know the Caribbean better than anyone and we know when we’ve found something extraordinary. This is that resort. We are incredibly proud to add Emerald Bay and are confident that our tradition of exceeding expectations through innovation and unwavering service, which is the hallmark of the Sandals Resorts brand, will continue to serve us well. We are eager to share the magic we found here with our guests,” Stewart concluded.
# # #

Sandals Resorts:
Sandals Resorts has earned a worldwide reputation for providing two people in love with the most romantic vacation experience in the Caribbean. Currently, there are 14 Luxury IncludedÒ Sandals Resorts located in Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia and The Bahamas. Each offers stunning beachfront locations; a choice of à la carte restaurants, from white-glove dining to barefoot elegance; all premium brand wine and spirits, including an exclusive partnership with California's legendary Beringer Vineyards; luxurious accommodations in a range of categories; unrivaled watersports including the Caribbean's largest PADI certification program; Butler Service for truly indulgent pampering; Preston Bailey Signature WeddingMoons® and signature Red Lane® Spas, with services and treatments inspired by the region. In July 2007, the five-star, all suite Mediterranean Village debuted at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa, offering two people in love the ultimate romantic getaway

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 8/15/09

Good morning and happy Saturday to everyone. I hope you have had a good week this week and are having a good weekend so far. It has been a good week here at the Lee's for the most part. Linds had a birthday yesterday so we went to the movies last night to see the Time Traveler's Wife. It was pretty good for a chic flick if you have a decent imagination. I say decent because I generally do not like movies that are too "out there" with things going on in the movie. For example I will not watch Star Wars but really enjoyed the movie K-PAX. Both are about things out of this world but K-PAX seemed more believable in my twisted brain. Switching gears, I got the tickets I purchased on EBay for the first Auburn game this year yesterday! I am more excited than I thought I would be. I haven't been to a game in Auburn in three years now. If you would have told me that ten years ago I would have told you that you were crazy. I still love them and watching them just as much but the hassle of going up there and fighting the crowd to sit in the blazing heat has really lost its excitement for me the older I get. Give me my recliner, the fridge, the bathroom, and Auburn on the TV and I am as happy as they come. The main reason I even looked for tickets to this is because I met a good friend at our training to become travel agents last November in Ft. Lauderdale who's son is the place kicker for LA Tech. We actually sat next to each other in a class of about 30 and along with about 5-6 other men in the class bonded and became friends for the week, still keeping in contact fairly regularly. His family are really excited because this will be his son's first college game, he is right out of high school. I think they are bringing about 20 people to the game from Texas and Florida. I can't even imagine how it would feel as the kid, or his family to get to experience college football for the first time as a player in Jordan-Hare...umm it just give me chills. Any way his name is Matt Nelson, if you are there or watching, you can tell who ever you are with when they say his name on ESPN that you kind of sort of know his dad through your travel agent :). Am I the only one who does stuff like that...becoming a fan of a team or player because I kind of sort of know someone that knows someone???
Oh yea this is a travel blog. This will be short and sweet. I have a book your own feature on my web site now. It has a link on the left side called "book your own trip". It is operated by Travel Impressions(American Express Travel)with whom I book 95% of all my land packages through anyway. Now, if you are just kind of wondering what it would cost to go somewhere or do something and are not ready to call me you can use this feature to get some ideas of what it may cost you. If you are really comfortable booking your self you can do it here as well but I still recommend giving me a call to let me look it over because I do it every day and may spot something in the booking that could be a potential problem and fix it for you. The good news for me is I get credit either way you choose to go, but I much prefer personal interaction with my customers. Here is the link directly to the page if you would like to play around with it and see what you come up with.

Via my web site :

Thank you,

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 8/8/09

Well I can tell school is back, or almost back, in session! It amazes me just how much we, as humans, typically follow the same pattern of planning and spending. This is the second business I have owned in two completely different areas, but I now have watched business turn on and off like a water spout in both when school is in session or out. I have been hoping all summer that this would be the case because it has been pretty darn slow. Well out of the blue yesterday the phone started ringing off the hook! I had four bookings, two very good possibilities, and when I got back in last night from a social I had four messages that were left after 7 P.M. Thank you Lord for getting school back in session way before we use to have to go when I was a kid. It actually excites the heck out of me to know that I will spend most all day today working. My only concern is how early I should call the four back on a Saturday morning??? I am thinking I should wait until at least 9. Oh well, I have plenty of paper work/emailing to catch up on from yesterday to keep me busy until then.
I also wanted to share with everyone today that I have started a fan page on Face book for Wiregrass Travel. It is amazing that as of this morning there are already over 250 fans! Even more amazing is the fact a large part of them are either not my personal friend on FB or I do not know them at all. If you are a part of the page I would like to thank you dearly for your support and if you are not I would like to ask you to join. I will post the link below for you to see. I have posted a couple things so far pertaining to travel but primarily been spending most of the week pushing for new fans. Ideally I would love for fans to post their pictures and tell about their vacations and experiences. Everyone loves to know what everyone else has done and look at their pictures...hence the Face book craze. I will also use the page to put up any specials or articles I think fans would be interested in. I have made a commitment to all fans, however, to only make one post per day hoping they will keep my news feed up. I know I really hate to have one person/company to post stuff all day and that is all I see when I sign in. Well that wraps this up today, here is the link and I have to get busy now.

I hope that works and Thank you all!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday Morning Coffee 8/1/09

Good morning to you all. It is hard to believe it is August already and football season is only 1 month away!!! Today I am going to post something very different. I am copy and pasting an article from Travel Trade magazine on July 30, 2009. It concerns my home office and their effort to support our veterans and it makes me very proud to be a part of Cruise Planners. Another unique quality my home office has versus so many other large franchise systems out there is that I have met and talked with Michelle Fee, our co-founder and CEO. Anyway here is the article and I hope you have a great rest of the weekend!

Cruise Planners/Am Ex Donates Franchise, Charitable Partnership
Thu Jul 30 2009, by Travel Trade Staff

Cruise Planners/American Express is celebrating the donation of an $11,000 Cruise Planners franchise to an Air Force veteran and the announcement of the company's year-long charitable partnership with Royal Caribbean International and the Fisher House Foundation.

In late 2008, Cruise Planners hosted a nationwide franchise giveaway to celebrate the launch of the company's CP Cares program, which provides veterans with more than $2,500 in discounts toward purchasing a franchise. As the deserving recipient of the franchise, Air Force veteran Chris Silman was presented with the "key" to his new business as well as a $500 donation towards his marketing efforts by Cruise Planners co-founder and CEO Michelle Fee. In addition, Royal Caribbean International matched the contribution for a combined donation of $1,000.

Cruise Planners also announced "Voyages for Veterans," its yearlong charitable partnership with Royal Caribbean International and the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that provides no-cost housing to families of veterans who are undergoing extended medical treatment at VA medical centers. Cruise Planners and Royal Caribbean executives kicked-off the partnership by presenting the foundation with a $2,000 donation. In addition, Fee announced that charitable efforts will continue into next year with the companies donating $50 for every booking made through a Cruise Planners agent on select Royal Caribbean Voyages for Veterans sailings throughout 2010.

"Cruise Planners believes in bringing positive impact to our industry, customers and the community that we've called home for our entire 15 years in business," said Fee. "Not only is it our civic responsibility, it is our privilege to honor those that serve our country."

Event attendees included representatives from Broward County's Veteran Services and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"Companies like Cruise Planners and Royal Caribbean set the bar for social responsibility," said Marjorie Valdes, public affairs specialist for the Miami VA Healthcare System and Fisher House Foundation representative. "Much of what the Fisher House Foundation accomplishes is a direct result of charitable contributions, and we are so honored to be the recipient of their generosity."