Have you thought about going on a cruise someday? Maybe you’ve already been.
If you didn’t love it, I’m guessing you didn’t try one of the options we’re talking about today.
After all, traveling is fun but it can be a lot of work…moving suitcases from here to there, catching flights, packing and unpacking, and scheduling each day.
Cruises bypass most of these issues and they have the added bonus of state of the art workout facilities, educational programs and spa services all onboard your ship.
If your idea of a cruise is The Love Boat, you’ll be surprised by the latest options. Husband and wife travel experts Eve and Thomas Chauvel are here to enlighten us. They are certified specialists with Regent 7 Seas Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Ama Waterways, and many others.
The minute you hear his charming accent you’ll guess that Thomas was born in France. He’s worked in the hospitality industry as a sommelier in France, the UK, and Australia. He also spent 5 years working on small luxury cruise ships around the world.
Eve is a business woman with a big heart. She has an MBA from the University of California, Irvine’s Merage School of Business and has served on the board of directors at non-profit Human Options.
Together, Eve and Thomas invested in a Cruise Planners Franchise 2 1/2 years ago. They’re based in Corona del Mar.
N: I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that everyone listening wants to travel. They want the perfect trip and they don’t want to make a mistake when they’re planning their vacation. Can you tell me how you help people with their vacation plans?
E: We are passionate about travel and we’re so happy to share our knowledge with others.
T: First, we like to meet our customers one on one so we get a deeper understanding of what they are looking for during their vacation and we want to make sure we send them on the right cruise line and get the destination correct for them.
E: We are travel detectives. We determine the perfect vacation for a client by asking a series of questions. What is their budget? How long do they want to be gone for? What is their level of interest? Do they want the ship to be the destination or are they more interested in immersing themselves in the ports that they’re visiting?
N: I recently talked with someone who went on a Disney Cruise and they said they felt the ship was the destination. It changed the way they looked at cruises.
What are some common misconceptions people have about taking a cruise?
T: People think they will get sea sick going on a cruise but the new ships built in the last ten years have stabilizers on the sides of the ship. That limits the rocking when you’re on open sea. If you feel a little motion on the ship, you can use wrist bands and also patches for behind the ear.
E: Another common misconception for someone who has never cruised before is that they will get bored but the beautiful thing about the cruise ships is that they have numerous activities scheduled every day like language classes, cooking demos, trivia, wine tastings, and even bridge tournaments. It’s highly unlikely someone would get bored on a cruise ship.
N: People love taking specialized cruises like National Geographic because they’re so interesting.
E: Those expedition style voyages have naturalists on board and special lectures on board to talk about current political issues as an example or the destinations that people are going to. Expedition cruising is growing exponentially. Places like Antartica are selling out years in advance.
N: Are small ships better than big ships?
T: Yes. Small ships will take you to places where the big ships cannot. Even if the big ships can get to those places, you might not be right in the center of the destination. You might be far away. You want to be in the middle of the destination.
The quality of the food on the smaller ship is better. It’s quality over quantity. Most of those small ships have Michelin star chefs creating menus especially for those cruise lines.
The attention and service you get onboard is better. The crew will remember your name so when you go to pre-dinner cocktails, they will remember what you like. They will come to you every night and already have your drink ready for you.
E: That feeds into another misconception about gaining weight on a cruise. Many people think of those large ships with midnight buffets and food everywhere you turn but just like any restaurant, it’s about what you choose to eat. You are in control. There’s food everywhere so there are several options and the portions are actually smaller in the restaurants onboard.
We’re also seeing a lot of cruise lines are offering more healthy options for people who have dietary restrictions on the smaller ships. They can meet with the chef and talk about their limitations so they can have a customized meal plan while onboard.
N: Are the small ships on the river or are they open sea cruises as well?
T: River cruising is getting very big now because you can cross Europe and six or seven countries, stopping in small villages on the river.
You also have ocean cruise lines with small ships between 60-300 passengers. Those ocean cruise lines can get into smaller ports and that’s the benefit.
E: There are two different segments that you’re referring to. There’s river cruising and there’s ocean cruising. Never does a ship that’s on a river, go out to the big sea. The river cruise boats are specifically designed just to sail the rivers.
N: What are some special things people don’t know about that you help your clients with?
E: We are the travel detectives and knowing their needs is very important. We have close relationships with cruise lines so we can talk with the sales staff or even the cruise management onboard and have special things arranged for the client. We can help with personalized excursions onshore. Most cruises offer excursions but they can be limited or only offered with large groups. If someone wants something more personalized like one couple and a tour guide, we can arrange that.
N: What destinations are really popular right now?
T: Mediterranean cruises are always popular. Cruising around Italy, Croatia, Spain, and France attract a lot of people because it’s a great way to see Europe.
We see that people now want to be immersed in the destination and they want to see something else so Africa is a big destination, even for cruises. You can do a river cruise in Africa on the Chobe River with a safari before or after your river cruise. You can get close to the gorillas in Rwanda.
People who want to get immersed into a country or a continent can join a cruise that offers intensive cruising around a specific country so if you want to see Japan, instead of cruising and stopping once or twice and then going to South Korea or China, you can do a whole cruise only in Japan so you would spend fifteen days only cruising around Japan. That gives you a lot of time to immerse yourself in that country. New Zealand and Ireland can be seen this way.
N: The image I have of cruises is that you’re seeing a lot of different countries. I never thought of an African Safari tied in with a cruise.
E: Another place that’s becoming very popular is Asia as an immersive experience. That market has been growing 20% every year for the last five years. It includes Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines. Some people if they have the time will add on Australia since they’re already in that part of the world. You can see a lot of places over the course of a month.
N: You don’t have to pack and unpack your bags as you go.
E: That’s the beauty of cruising.
N: If you’re new to cruising and you want to do something iconic, what should you consider?
T: I would recommend seeing the Baltic's in Northern Europe. This is a beautiful way to see this area of the world. You can go to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and the highlight of that Baltic cruise is St. Petersburg in Russia. Most cruise lines will stop for two to three days in St. Petersburg so you have time to visit all the museums and churches.
E: There are some beautiful, luxury, all-inclusive lines that take a maximum of seven hundred guests in that area. The challenge is that the season is quite short, similar to the Antartica experience. Those Baltic cruises tend to sell out rather quickly.
N: How far in advance should people plan their trips?
T: If they want a small luxury cruise ship, plan your trip eight to twelve months before the sailing date to make sure they can select the state room they would like. If they want to be in the middle of the ship and not the front or the back, you have to book then.
N: Cruises really work well for big groups ~ families or several families ~ because you’re not having to make dinner reservations every night. Is that a misconception?
E: We’ve had the fortunate experience of booking some multi-generational families, grandparents, parents, and grandkids all going together. It’s a beautiful way for a group of any size to travel. There’s a huge trend in more group travel ~ perhaps a gardening club, a book club, a reunion, multi-generational families, and those celebrating events.
I’ve heard stories about people celebrating their divorce. A group of women would get together and go have a fabulous time seeing the world together. There are benefits we can provide for a group that wants to go together like discounts or onboard credits or special activities that we can help with.
N: What if I’m a single woman and I want to go on a trip?
T: Solo travel is getting big as well and cruise lines understand this. Usually solo travelers have to pay for a second person because the price is based on double occupancy for each state room.
Some river and ocean cruises have specials for solo travelers. Every day around 6:30 in the evening they will do a meet up for single travelers. You will make connections during the cruise. You can have time for yourself but also you can connect with people.
N: You have a lifestyle where you travel a great deal and you live in a beautiful place but you can go without worry.
E: Last year was a big year of travel for us. We made the decision three years ago to downsize. We live in a 750 square foot cottage at the beach. It’s very easy for us to lock up and get away. We have no children in the house and no pets. It’s easy. We don’t have to concern ourselves with the maintenance of things.
We think it’s very important to travel to destinations and explore them to get first had experience and experience the cruise ships so we can talk intelligently about them. It would be like going to a restaurant by a recommendation of someone who’s never eaten there. You don’t know if the food’s gonna be good.
We have the opportunity to do research and development on behalf of our clients. Last year we were in the Caribbean to see how the islands were recovering after the hurricane. We did the immersive experience in Japan and most recently, we were in South America visiting Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
T: Our lifestyle is exactly what we wanted. We have the flexibility to be able to leave. We left for Argentina and Brazil and we decided just one week before.
N: There are a lot of people who want to travel extensively and one of the big challenges is that they’ve got a home that requires constant care and maintenance. They’ve got pets and while children are mostly grown, all these other things impinge on their ability to go and feel carefree without worrying about the water level in the pool or the watering of plants or other things that need care. The idea of downsizing and traveling is a great resolution for people who want to adopt this kind of lifestyle.
E: For me, it provides a level of balance in my life that I hadn’t really achieved until we got into this business. It’s been the most beautiful opportunity I’ve had in my life. To work with my husband is wonderful.
N: What are three takeaways for listeners?
T: Leave your preconceptions at the dock. Go with an open mind and a positive attitude. You will have a wonderful vacation.
E: Be flexible and embrace uncertainty. There was one port in our most recent trip that the ship couldn’t get to because of weather conditions. You have to go with the flow and know where you’re on a cruise, the captain and crew are focused on the passengers’ safety. That’s number one.
When you’re in parts, go where the locals go. Get past all that touristy stuff. Go a little deeper into the city and find a restaurant where you see locals. Maybe they’re speaking a language you don’t speak and they don’t speak yours but it’s so much fun. You’re getting that quintessential experience of whatever culture you’re in.
When we were in Japan, we went off the beaten path and found a restaurant. The menu was not in English. The people did not speak English. We just looked around at what people were eating and pointed and said we want that. That’s how we ordered.
T: And it was delicious!
N: Do you have any other memorable stories from your trips to share?
E: This helps people understand how we can manage our business while traveling. We were on the Caribbean cruise early in 2018 and I was trying to help a family of thirteen book a trip to Hawaii so here I am sitting in St. Lucia on the beach with my cell phone, my notepad, using Skype to book thirteen people on a trip to Hawaii.
N: It’s the new way. I was on a call with a consultant and he said he travels all over the world with his computer and internet connection and all the technology so he can do his tech job from anywhere. This is great for people to remember. If you’re going on a cruise, don’t feel like you’re going to be isolated. You can do work if you need to.
Contact Eve and Thomas Chauvel at www.seaviewvoyage.com