Welcome Aboard !

I am excited to announce the launch of a new brand for the Wheelhouse Family. I introduce to you, Luna Honeymoons.  Luna Honeymoons "inaugural voyage" will be on March 13, 2011 at the O.C. Premier Wedding Bridal Spectacular aboard the Hornblower Yacht "Endless Dreams" in Newport Beach, CA.

Several months ago, I was doing research for a client, a bride, who was interested in a Destination Wedding to the Caribbean. I had, in the past, done several Wedding Cruises for clients, but to the Resorts I had mostly done Honeymoons. I was amazed at the number and the variety of choices available. No wonder she was looking for assistance. When you don't know all that is available, how are you to make the best decision ?

I started Luna Honeymoons to help answer those questions.

I started looking at Bridal Fairs and I noticed that you find 10 Cake Decorators, 12 Photographers, and dozens of Weddings Planners and Wedding Locations, but no Travel Agents. I remembered my own wedding,  not that many years ago, and thought to myself, "Why isn't anyone helping with the Honeymoons?".  Many people spend as much on their Honeymoon as they do on their Weddings, so why wasn't there someone to help them navigate those waters? I started Luna Honeymoons fill that niche. The wedding couple has enough to worry about without having to keep an eye on the prices or promotions for their cruise or all inclusive resort.

So now, when asked if I help with Destination Wedding planning, I can now, wholeheartedly answer ....... I Do.

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel / Luna Honeymoons
Hi, this is Jack Surber, Owner and Operator of Wheelhouse Travel. I have been in either Retail or Customer Service for over 30 years. I enjoy learning new things and am constantly seeking new information. As a Travel Professional am certified as a Cruise Specialist, a Family Travel Specialist, a Honeymoon and Destination Wedding Specialist, and an Alaska Specialist through Travel Agent University. Plus, I was a Cruise Vacation Specialist at Princess Cruises for nearly 4 years. I have cruised Mexico and Alaska through the Inside Passage. My trip to Alaska was beyond description. Between my wife and me, in 7 days we shot over 19 rolls of film, and over 200 digital images. I still think we barely scratched the surface. I look forward to traveling to Alaska again to see what else can make my jaw drop. :) 

I also have two of the largest Host Agencies, Cruises and Tours Unlimited and Travel Masters Inc., behind me. This gives me additional resources allowing me to offer the deals and promotions of a large agency, while still being able to give you that one-on-one service I strive for.  As I mentioned, I always enjoy learning new things, and being a travel agent definitely feeds that "habit". I thrive on being the "go to" guy for information. So if you have any questions, or if you are considering traveling to Alaska, Mexico, or any other type of Cruise, please feel free to send me an email or call me so we can plan your vacation plans in detail.

Jack Surber
Cruise Travel Specialist

Great Blog about Family Travel:

Jack Surber
As Mentioned in Travel Agent Central e-newsletter, Hawaii was named the world's top honeymoon destination, followed by French Polynesia and Fiji, signaling a trend to stay beach bound, according to a new survey by Signature Travel Network and Brides Magazine.

And the truth is, who doesn't find the beach or the ocean romantic ?

Sitting together with the one you love, snuggling together. Watching the sun set into the horizon, the sound of the ocean lulling you with it's song. Does it really get any better than that ?

Be it on a beach, on a balcony, or on the top deck of your sailing vessel of choice; sunsets, water, and romance have always gone together. I have always loved the sounds of water. From waves crashing to a babbling stream, it has always seemed calming and relaxing.

I look at the list of Honeymoon Destinations, and every one has water related. The human body cannot live without water, and I believe we cannot survive without love either.

So, on this Valentines Day, I hope everyone has been able to enjoy the company of the one's they love. Be it a spouse, mate, family member, friend, or even pet.

By the way, here is the complete list:
1.   Hawaii
2.  French Polynesia
3.  Fiji
4.  Italy
5.  Bali
6.  Bermuda
7.  Costa Rica
8.  Greece
9.  The Bahamas
10. France

Share a smile today, it costs nothing, but you may become richer when the smiles are returned ...

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel
"Vacation's all I ever wanted, vacation, had to get away ...."

Being a child of the 80's (High School), lately, I am reminded of these words from the band The Gogo's. It very well sums up the feelings I get from the people I talk to about travel.

I have been noticing a trend as of late, with customers calling me, looking for that quick get away, that escape from their normal routines.

On the East Coast, it is that 4 to 7 day Caribbean Cruise or All Inclusive Resort, while on the West Coast in seems to be leaning more towards Las Vegas, or even the newer Indian Casinos popping up all over the state. From what I can tell, people are trying to find places to go, while minimizing the travel time to and from the destinations.

Another trend I am seeing is more people planning their travel "last minute".  I believe that is due to the fact that people are either not sure when they can get away that far in advance, or they finally decide "I have to get away", and that's that.

And, the travel suppliers (cruise lines, hotels, resorts, etc.) are offering great "last minutes deals" to fill the beds, so why not take advantage of it. I do have to say though that booking earlier, rather than later, gives you a much better choice of accommodations, and "most" will honor the discounted pricing, but ONLY if you ask them.

So, how is the travel business doing ? I think the travel business is doing well. People may not be taking as many long trips, but they are taking multiple smaller trips over the course of the year. People will always need their "escapes" for their sanity to survive.

Where are they all headed, where are they escaping to ?

Our Lips are sealed .......

Jack Surber
Travel Consultant
Email: info@wheelhousetravel.com
As the Summer Sailing season approaches, I am reminded of a client who called me regarding a quick "getaway".

He lived in Seattle, and was interested in spending a "special" night with his wife and a few friends for their 25th Wedding Anniversary. He wanted it to be a surprise and was looking for perhaps a nice Hotel with a nice restaurant in the Hotel. He was not opposed to a little travel, as long as it was easy for his guests, but it had to be  in early to mid May.

I asked him where they were married, as being it was a big anniversary, I would like to tie the Anniversary to the Wedding memories, and he told me they were married in Seattle, but he proposed while on a cruise.

Well that was all I needed to hear as from my time at Princess I knew that early May was when the Cruise Lines reposition their vessels for the Alaska cruise season, and had just been looking at the repositioning voyages. I proposed to him a 1 Day (overnight) cruise in a Penthouse Suite from Princess from Seattle to Vancouver, as it would be as nicer than most Hotels, have a continual ocean view, and an amazing dinner would already be included.

Well, what started as a "few" hotel rooms and dinner reservation, turned into 15 Balcony Cabins, a Penthouse Suite, and a Coach Car on Amtrak (Vancouver to Seattle) for 32 guests. He gladly paid for it all as he didn't have to pay for, or arrange, the dinner. All he and his guests had to do was, a) Keep it a secret from the Wife, and b) Show up with their passports.

As it turns out, the wife was VERY surprised at just going on an overnight cruise, but almost passed out when all her friends were there too.

I very much enjoyed booking this trip for them. It was fun trying to keep 31 other people from telling the wife about it. In the end, an amazing time was had by all and I even received a gift basket with an 8x10 of the group,  after the cruise, as well as 15 new couples as clients.

Sometimes, you just have to make "alternate" suggestions for your passengers. They as relying on your knowledge  to guide them, otherwise they could do it themselves online.

Man ..... I love this business ..... What better job is there than to send people places to enjoy themselves ?

I do not had ADD, I have a rare condition called ..... Oh look ..... a squirrel ...

Jack Surber
Twitter : http://twitter.com/WheelhouseTrav
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/WheelhouseTravel
One of the first things people remember about a cruise is the food, and with today's cruising vessels the dining choices are practically endless, and no one ever leaves the table hungry. I have often said, we board as passengers, and leave as cargo.

Start off with the ever present, Main Dining Room. Every ship has at least one, and some have as many as four. This is the Dining experience that most people associate with going on a cruise. Traditional Dining usually consists of a table assignment, with table sizes ranging of usually six or eight seats, (though you can request tables for two or ten also on some cruise lines).

You usually sit at the same table, at the same time (early or late dining), and sit with the same people, and have the same wait staff member. The menu changes each evening of the voyage, but there are always "standard"  items available (a steak, a fish, and a chicken dish).

But now many cruise lines are turning away from this "traditional" model, in lieu of "Anytime" Dining. This has the same menu as Traditional Dining, but you decide when and with whom you wish to dine with. You may have to wait for a little bit for a table if you go at the same general time as Traditional, but hey, you ARE on vacation, so a little time waiting never killed me or any passenger I know of.

There is also the ever popular Buffet Dining, which generally has the same foods as the seated dining, just without the waiters, and who ever dresses up to go to a Buffet?

There is ALWAYS the choice of 24 hour Room Service, (at no addition cost), which is great for those days at sea that all you want to do is relax on your balcony and have lunch.

The newest trend though in Dining on the ships though is the Premium Dining Choices. They are Restaurants on the ships that you pay a nominal cover charge, but a five star dining experience. Most vessels have at least two of the Premium Dining choices onboard. Be it an Italian Seafood Restaurant, a Premium Steak house, Sushi, and any number of eclectic dining experiences, I have never spoken to anyone who left unsatisfied. The cover charges can range from $10 to $75 (for the Chef's Table).

So with everything available, from hot dogs to caviar, I will close with the words of my Grandfather as he looked across the buffet spread across the table for Thanksgiving ..... If anyone goes home hungry, it's your own fault.

Bon Voyage, and Bon Appetit !!!!!

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel
Today, I would like to talk about Princess Cruises from a personal viewpoint; from a Passenger's viewpoint.

As some of you may know, I used to work for Princess in the Sales Department, and it was a wonderful learning experience for me. I learned quite a bit from the training I received from Princess, but the most important and pertinent things I learned were from talking to and listening to my clients.

The most important thing I learned from my clients, (and from my own personal experiences on ship), is that the best thing on the ship is the Crew Members. I cannot even tell you how many people when I asked them how their trip was, that the first thing they raved about was the Customer Service they received on the ship. From the Newest to more "Seasoned" vessels, from the 680 passenger small ships to the mega 3100 passenger ones, people ALWAYS talked about the professionalism and attentive nature of the entire crews.

Next was the food and the entertainment. When I was on the Sun Princess going to Alaska, have to say, the food was fantastic. My wife and I ate at the Horizon Court Buffet, the Main Dining room (Personal Choice Dining), Balcony Breakfast (a gift), and even used Room Service quite a bit (especially for Breakfast). We were never disappointed.

Though Princess has some wonderful Children's Programs, I would say that the clientele usually leans towards Baby Boomers and beyond. It has a little more "mature" feel to it than say Carnival (it's parent company), but that said it is a little more relaxing.

Princess sails all over the world, and has everything from 1 day overnight trips to 118 day World Cruise trips, and generally the least expensive 7 day trips will run you about $299 (plus taxes and fees).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel
As a travel agent who specializes in cruises, I follow the news and trends in this niche closely, and I have begun to notice a new trend in voyages on West Coast. I have noticed that most of the major cruise lines are starting to promote their "Pacific Coastal" voyages. Now, these are not to be confused with the Baja or the Mexican Riviera itineraries though. These are voyages that start as far down as San Diego, and travel as far as Lower Canada.

There are itineraries as long as 14 nights with stops all up the Coast, and as short as 1 night going between Seattle and Vancouver. Most of these itineraries are in April, May and September when the ships are repositioning for the Summer Season, but one line, Princess has a roundtrip Los Angeles, U.S. Pacific Coastal trip in October as well.

Any of these are great values for a great quick "getaway". As an example, even the one night trip, would be great financially speaking. Think about it, you are staying at a nice "hotel", ocean views, amazing dinner, even a Broadway style show, all starting at about $49 per person (plus taxes). Any piece of this I mentioned above is worth more than $49 per person.  A couple years ago I had a passenger book a 3 day voyage for his 10 year anniversary, and he invited and paid for 25 of his family and friends, and the total bill for the party was under $4000, and the cruise line even had a private cocktail party for him. You want to try that with any other "hotel"?

I have found these trip just a great way to get away from it all for a few days, and enjoy myself, and above all, relax.

Has anyone one else tried these out? If you have, let me know about your experiences, and if you want to go on one let me know.

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel
The year was 2006, and my wife's family decided that since that year we were celebrating 50th and a  70th birthdays, a 25th and two 20th wedding anniversaries, and a majorly delayed honeymoon, that we would all go on an Alaskan Cruise together. Being as I am a major city boy, born and raised in Los Angeles County, I had never really considered going there, but that was the destination of choice from the group, so who was I to argue. Being as my wife and I are both photographers, I figured at least we might be able to get a good couple of rolls of film out of the trip. Well, "a couple of rolls" turned out to be 19 rolls of film and over 250 digital shots, and that was just from our cameras, let alone the over 500 images we received from the other family members traveling with us.

The funny thing is even with all those pictures, and all the family members giving descriptions of what they experienced, those picture and words cannot fully encompass the majesty that is Alaska. I could write this blog for the next month and still not feel like I am doing it a fraction of what it deserves. Anyone who has been to Alaska will understand what I have just said. Alaska must be "experienced", it is beyond description.

Always the highlight of any Alaska Cruise is seeing the glaciers. Whether you are going to Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord, or Tracy Arm, you cannot go wrong, and some voyages may even go to more than one. Any and all of them are absolutely breathtaking.

The one thing to remember about viewing the glaciers is, and I know this is obvious but, they are made of ice. Which means that when you are viewing them on the top deck or from your balcony, it is going to be REALLY cold. As I stated above, I am a Southern California city boy, so I learned that I really should own a pair of gloves and a cap to view things comfortably. BUT, I also learned that the average temperature for most of Alaska in the Summer in in the 60s to the 70s, so carrying that big winter coat just cost you more money in baggage fees. What you need to do is brings clothing that can be worn in layers, that way you can control how warm you stay.

This Summer Season will see Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney Cruises as well as other Lines sailing in the Alaska Territory, so your choices are wide open on itineraries to choose from.

Alaska must be seen to be believed, trust me. Ask anyone who has been there.

"The world is a book, and those that do no travel, are only looking at the cover"

Jack Surber
Wheelhouse Travel