Monday, 10 September 2012

Travel Agent Extraordinaire

Her name is Beth and she is amazing. Yes this is a shameless plug about my travel agent but I don’t care because she deserves it.

Beth was first recommended to me by a fellow DISboards member about one year ago. I wish I had known about her existence earlier. On that fateful Saturday of October 22 in 2011, I sent her my very first electronic correspondence after being increasingly frustrated at the lacklustre efforts of the various local travel agents. It would prove to be an excellent move on my part. Lo and behold, less than 24 hours later, I received my very first reply that would begin a most satisfying partnership. And what a magnificent reply...

She informed me that she was on vacation at Walt Disney World (already a big nod of approval here. Someone who vacations here must be good). However, she would reply to me at length after the weekend. In the meantime, she had provided a quote for the cruise that I was interested in. She gave us a rundown of our onboard credit, deposits and balance payments with relevant due dates, as well as cancellation policies. This was followed closely by a note that the insurance policy that is offered by the cruise line specifically states that it’s for residents of the US and Canada. She would investigate this further on my  behalf if I was interested in insurance directly from the cruise line. She would also confirm that pricing would be the same for Australian residents.

Bing bing bing bing bing bing... I have hit the jackpot! My heart leapt for joy. She had earnt my respect as a capable and thorough organiser immediately. The emails that followed confirmed my initial impression. She covered dining, transport, visas, pre and post cruise arrangements amongst many other things. She has the uncanny ability to think one step ahead with our interests in mind. Her replies are also always friendly and detailed. She would always specify if there was something that she didn’t know and would then look it up without prompting usually before she sends her next email to me!

As an example of her superb skills, I recently sent her a rather vague email outlining our interest in a Caribbean cruise on one of the new ships for Jan 2014. She replied with a brief run down on the pros and cons of the new ships available and then asked targeted questions to help narrow down our choices. It came down to Allure of The Seas or the Norwegian Breakaway. Remembering our preferences on cruises already booked, she gave us quotes for several options on both ships and asked if we were interested in suites as both ships had some ‘cool’ suites and that it may work out to be good value as there were 7 of us travelling.

I gave her the green light. Of course, as with anything important, it happened late on Friday night. The time difference between Australia and the US didn’t help. The quotes returned shortly complete with photos of the suite on Allure of The Seas that that she had placed on hold for us, as well as a pamplet of the inclusions. There were only 2 suites left and she had pro-actively put one on hold for us as she suspected that we were quite interested. Yes, she suspected correctly! After we had time to look through the suite in more detail, we were so excited that she had secured it for us. However, we had to pay the fully refundable deposit before Beth left for her vacation on now it was Saturday Beth’s time. I sent the email nonetheless...”Please put a deposit down for us if you happen to get this email”. We sent her another email the following day letting her know that it was ok if she doesn’t get to do this after her return. If the suite is no longer available so be it. We were loathe to give the commission to someone else. Amazingly, a reply returned.

She had called and took two people off the reservation so we only had to pay the deposit on five people instead of 7.  She will then add those two back later (at the same price) and pay for them at that time – assuming that we end up keeping the suite.  She knew that we were going to sail on Norwegian soon and that our cruise experience may change our minds. She had also acquired for us information about the kids activities and will get us a copy of the daily newsletter of activities that all cruise lines have.
What a champion!

It is clear that she loves what she does and takes pride in her work. Why can’t the local travel agents offer the same level of service? Beth has won me over. I now happily give her as much business as I can. For me its a no brainer.

I should mention that I have another wonderful travel agent, also American, by the name of Karen. She is a Disney specialist and manages all our Disney reservations. Unfortunately, she doesn’t handle any other travel outside of Disney. This is a shame as she is also amazing!

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