Working with a Travel Professional

In late August, we were looking for a few people to be in a focus group for us.  We wanted to see what our current clients’ and fans’ impressions were when it came to working with a travel professional.  I can tell you that we were very surprised by the responses.  It was clear that many people really don’t understand a lot about the travel agency business from how we work to the value that we provide.

This made me reflect on the industry and how, over time, we have gotten away from what it means to be a professional in this business.  I came to the realization that our industry has done a lot of harm to the professional agencies and agents out there.

There are too many people who I have talked to over the years as a business owner who have said “I want to be a travel agent, you guys all have so much fun.” or “I plan things for my friends already, why shouldn’t I get paid for it?”.  While it might be true that anyone can hang a shingle up and call themselves a travel agent, it takes a real dedicated individual to be a true professional.  And this doesn’t come cheap.

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More Sailing Fun Facts

Last month we went over the Passenger Space Ratio, and this month we will continue on with a few more interesting numbers that describe cruise ships. We’ll take a look at the crew to passenger ratio, why we have nautical miles, some of the dimensions of cruise ships, and a pet peeve of mine.

One easy number is the crew to passenger ratio. I think of this as the “How much will I be pampered?” number. While I wouldn’t use this to decide that I’m not going on a particular ship, it does give an idea of how many passengers each crew member needs to ‘take care of’. Some crew may not be directly involved in guest service, but they need to be included because they keep the air conditioning running, emergency equipment in order, etc. The math for this one is as simple as taking the number of passengers (double occupancy) and dividing by the number of crew.

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Cruise Ship Comparison: Passenger Space Ratio

Editor’s Note: This will be part of a series that presents a few fun facts, figures and comparisons about cruise ships, and how to use them to help with making cruising decisions with your ToaD Travel Consultant.

When I board a ship for a cruise, I’m always interested in how roomy the ship is and how it will “feel” once I’m on board. I’m going to be there for a while and since I’m from the Midwest, I need a certain amount of personal space to feel comfortable.

Before I retired I used to do a lots of math. Now I’ve had some time to look at some interesting and simple calculations that help me to see how much elbow room I’m going to have on a cruise. It is a simple ratio that relates the total volume of the ship to the number of passengers. In simple terms, how much space can I expect?

This magic number is called the Passenger Space Ratio and it is easy to calculate to get a feel for how crowded you might feel on a certain class of ship. It is the simple ratio between the size of the ship (Gross Tonnage) and the number of passengers onboard. It is easy to compare with other ships since these two numbers are generally available across all cruise lines. At least now we can compare apples to apples.

About the numbers involved… Gross Tonnage (gt) is a bit of a math nightmare, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the weight of a ship. Instead, it is a measure of all of the enclosed spaces within the ship. There is a lot of history (and math) behind it, but all we really need to know is that it is a “fair” number that makes a good attempt to represent all ships properly for all sizes and usages. Since we only care about cruise ships, all of that math is done.

Since we usually don’t know how many guests will be on any given cruise ahead of time, we need to have a ‘standard’ number of passengers for each ship. It’s nice that almost all ships have a capacity number that is generally the number of staterooms with two occupants in each. This is sometimes called the ship’s capacity or double occupancy. The ship may hold many more people if every single bed, bunk and berth is occupied, but double occupancy is a reasonable number to use for comparisons, and is often used by cruise lines to determine a “full ship.”

Finally, we can calculate the Passenger Space Ratio. It is simply the amount of space on the ship divided by the number of passengers. There, done. If we only had a table with some of these values filled in, it would be interesting to see how different cruise line ships have designed, built and outfitted their ships and how each design, level of luxury and service offered changes this ratio.

The following table shows the gross tonnage, number of passengers (double occupancy) and the calculated passenger space ratio for several ship classes across several cruise lines.


Many ships fall within a reasonably close range, and some ship design features will affect this number. For instance, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has a Boardwalk and Central Park areas that are within the confines of the ship, but since they are open to the sky the space is not include in the Gross Tonnage figure. On the other hand, the atmosphere of having a few birds along for the ride and having an open park-like setting to eat lunch is amazing.

If you are looking up the Gross Tonnage for yourself, be sure that it is the Gross Tonnage, and not one of the other similar numbers that only help with the confusion (Gross Register Tonnage, Net Register Tonnage, Displacement, Compensated Gross Tonnage, etc.). Gross Tonnage is the number to use for all ships built after July 18, 1982, but sometime sources may round up, or the number could change over time if the ship has a major upgrade during dry dock that affects the number of passengers or the volume of enclosed space within the ship.
I wouldn’t make a decision to not go on a ship because the Passenger Space Ratio seems too low, or is a few hundredths lower than another ship, but it is useful.

Remember that there are several other numbers and statistics that we can look at that give us more information on everything from how a ship will ride in rough weather, how many crew are there to serve you, and a host of other things that can be compared across cruise line, ship classes. Taken together these can help to give an improved perspective on what you can expect on your cruise.





Did You Know? Payment Plans Possible with Travel Agents

One reason we have heard that potential clients are unsure about using a travel agent is because they need to make a payment plan.  They feel the only way to do this is by dealing with the various travel company directly.

While some travel agencies may not be willing to do partial payments, we certainly can handle payment options.  There are a number of ways to handle this with you.

You can set up a regular payment by authorizing us to use your credit card on file to make a regular payment on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

Another option would be to submit payment information to us when you want to make a partial payment.

The only exceptions to making partial payments are with the deposit as these are usually required to be paid within a short amount of time (usually 3-7 days after booking).

Under nearly all cases, payments are made directly to the travel company through your agent.  This means that any form of payment accepted by the cruise line/travel company, will be accepted through us.

Check with your agent if you are interested in making a payment plan.  Some travel companies may have minimum amounts that we can do in a partial payment, but those would be the same restrictions you would find going to them directly.

Many of our clients do this to make bite-sized payments on a regular basis so final payment isn’t quite as difficult to chew.

The Evolution of the Travel Agent

Today, Travel On A Dream turns six years old.  A lot has changed in the last six years and we continue to change as necessary to meet the demands of our clients.  We have sent thousands of clients on vacation, helping them plan the details of their trips.  We have helped to plan countless vacations as if they were our own, getting excited every step of the way along with you.  We have received many photos and stories telling us the fun you all had, many bringing us tears — of joy!  We have been there with you when things didn’t go as planned and shared in those feelings as well.  You have all been a part of our family and we wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss where we have come as an industry and where we are going.

Before the internet became popular, nearly everyone who traveled used a travel agent.  It’s what you did.  Some may have called an airline or cruise line direct, but most used a travel agent.  Then along came the internet.  As people got more familiar with it, it was fun to search for everything you could think of.  Vacations were no exception.  Instead of having more and more ads in magazines and on television, travel companies were starting to go to the internet more with banner ads, pop ups, etc.  You could book anything practically in an instant.

For many though, a travel agent was the only way to go.  We found some clients coming to us, but instead of not knowing where to start, they pretty much had decided due to the research done before coming to us.  During this time, we also had a lot of folks questioning “travel agents still exist?”  After all, you can just go online and book everything, right?

While you certainly can, what we have discovered is that there is so much information out there right now, the decision-making process has once again made it more difficult for folks planning their trips.  Everyone reviews their trips, their destinations, hotels, cruise ships, meals, etc.  You can watch videos of wonderful trips, and horrifying ones.  I read two reviews once from the exact same sailing where one person said “It rained the entire trip.” while the second person said “the weather was great”.  How can two people on the exact same trip have two totally different experiences?

It’s simple.  Everyone experiences things in their own way.  The first person who complained about the rain may have been someone who spends a lot of time at the pool during a cruise.  Since it was raining most of the days, they had to find other things to do.  The second person may have enjoyed going to activities indoors, the casino, shopping, napping, etc.  They may not have gone on deck at all during the rain and never even noticed that it did rain.

A light sleeper will complain about the noise in a particular hotel room location while a heavy sleeper may never notice it.

What a travel agent does is look at the travel plans from a more objective and professional standpoint.  A particular cruise line might not be right for myself as an individual, but as a professional, I can evaluate my client’s needs, personality, likes and dislikes and recommend that cruise line if it is a good fit for them.  I wouldn’t recommend a family with children who normally love the children’s programming to a cruise line that doesn’t have activities for the kids.  Likewise, a couple who doesn’t want to be around children on vacation would not be recommended to go on several lines due to the prevalence of children onboard.  That doesn’t mean that the cruise lines not mentioned are no good for anyone, it is my job to know who they are good for.

Today, we are finding more people reaching out to us because we are experts in the destination, type of travel, etc.  We give a mostly unbiased opinion and fit you with the right vacation.  At times this comes at a cost to you, our client, due to the type of travel we are booking for you, but many times there is no additional cost.  We have found though that many of our clients put a higher value on their time and put their trust in our expertise to help them sort out all the options and plan the best vacation possible for their needs.  At times, we have also surprised clients with lower pricing than they are able to get on their own.  We can routinely do this with international airfare, hotels and even cruises.

Another way to look at this is the process itself.  To find a vacation package for yourself, you go to the internet and start your search.  If you are average, you will plan one to two trips a year.  This means that one or two times a year, you are actively searching for the best options for your family.  Travel professionals daily are looking for travel plans for someone.  If I handle only one booking per day, that’s 365 plans a year!  Things are changing on a regular basis online, so again, if you are only doing one or two a year, you may be learning a whole new way to book the next time you are looking at a vacation.

When you have the right travel professional on your team, the process never changes.  My clients contact me and tell me what they want.  In many cases, I have all of their information on file and just need to verify if things have changed.  If your preferred cruise line changed their website since you last booked a cruise, chances are good that I’ve already booked more than a dozen cruises with the new site and know my way around.  If you are planning to go to an area where there are travel warnings or advice you should get, I’ve probably already given the same advice to a handful of travelers.  The beauty of this is that you can still do your research if you want, but the time constraints and pressure are off you.

Travel agents are still around and we are busier than ever, helping to make dreams come true for many.


ToaD’s Unforgettable Journey

As we continue to celebrate our 6th birthday, we thought there was no better time to announce another group cruise.  We brought you information from our recent Azamara Journey cruise over Easter this year.  While onboard, we had to book another trip on this incredible ship.  We floated the idea of making it a group trip and had some great interest, so we are doing it!

Azamara Journey

November 24, 2018, we embark on a 10 night Caribbean Sunsets Voyage.  With Azamara Club Cruises, we will spend more time in port than on most other cruise lines.  Additionally, since the ship is smaller than your contemporary cruise line ships, we can get in to smaller ports of call.

Itinerary Map


An Azamara Club Cruise is like no other contemporary cruise you have been on.  So much is included in the cost of your cruise, leaving less to take care of at the end of your voyage.  For all guests, your fare includes a complimentary AzAmazing Evening event, select standard spirits, international beers and wines, gratuities, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas, self-service laundry, shuttle service to and from port communities, where available, and concierge services for personal guidance and reservations.

Select a suite and in addition to the above, you’ll also receive English butler service, 235 complimentary internet minutes, per guest, one free bag of laundry service per suite, each seven days, complimentary seating in specialty restaurants, afternoon tea service in-suite.  Guests in the Club World Owner’s and Club Ocean suites may also choose a complimentary Insider Access or Nights & Coll Places Land Discoveries excursion.

Reserve the Club Spa Suite and receive all of this plus a $200 spa credit per suite, Nights in Private Places for one night and daily delivery of healthy snacks each afternoon.

Booking early also qualifies you for an onboard credit of between $300 – 1500 to be used for Land Discoveries.  Amount is based on the room type booked.

Prices for this cruise start at $4294.80 for two in an inside room.  Deposits are $550 per person ($50 of which is non-refundable).  Click here to request your quote today!