It's a Great Big Beautiful World! Let's Discover it Together

Showing posts with label Continuing Ed & Certifications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Continuing Ed & Certifications. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Continuing Education Update - Active Vacations

More continuing ed taking place in my house recently.  For all your ACTIVE adventure vacations, I'm your guy as a newly minted Backroads Certified Specialist!  From biking/cycling trips to multi-adventures that also feature hiking, rafting, kayaking, and more.



I've added a page on my website about it as well where you might learn more.  Please feel free to share this info with anyone in your sphere who loves ACTIVE vacations and experiences! I would love to help them find some incredible options around the US and when international borders re-open, around the globe!




Friday, February 26, 2021

Continuing Education Update - Virgin Voyages

 More continuing ed taking place in my house recently.  Never stop learning. Today I am the newest Certified Travel Professional with Virgin Voyages as a Certified First Mate!  I am absolutely ready to help you discover all that the world's first adults-only (18+) cruise line has to offer. 

#virginvoyages #seacademy


Friday, February 19, 2021

Continuing Education Update - Faith-Based Travel

My newest certification is all about faith-based travel. Israel anyone?

More ongoing education taking place this month. My newest certification is all about faith-based travel. Israel anyone? Their borders are getting closer to re-opening now that 30% of their entire population has been vaccinated. Individuals and groups will be returning to visit the Holy Land later this year. I have some incredible opportunities for those interested to join on their own, or as a small group, including a custom group I'm putting together for early 2022.


I would love to help you celebrate your faith like never before with our spiritual guided tours, designed to take you all over the world exploring the deep roots of your faith. These dual-purpose tours not only let you explore new places and cultures but also explore the bigger questions of life and spirituality. We're ready to help you discover more with your travels. Check out this video, and then reach out when you are ready to plan an incredibly moving journey of discovery for you, and your faith community.  I would also welcome an introduction to your pastor or priest to talk about how they might lead a trip to the Holy Land themselves. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Continuing Ed - Hospitality & Tourism Management

Using part of this crazy time to do some additional coursework and learning. This is one of the programs I've been working on. The other will still take a while but continuing education is important, and with all travel shut down yet for a while, it's a great time to get it done.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Continuing Education Update - Silversea Expedition

Each December I work on continuing education for the coming year. I've brushed up with Silversea, as well as adding Silversea Expedition Cruise Specialist to my resume. Where would you like to go? Do you consider yourself more of a Careful Traveler, or an Adventurous Explorer? If adventurous, then an expedition cruise is for you!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Selected for 2020 Family Travel Advisor Forum



As a trusted authority in the family vacation market, I've been hand-selected out of hundreds of travel advisors to attend the 2020 Family Travel Advisor Forum in January. During this exclusive event, I will be meeting with representatives from the most sought after family destinations, properties, attractions, and more to forge important relationships experience an array of the most sought-after properties in and around Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and strengthen my position to better serve all of my clients’ vacation dreams.

And, because I've been recognized as a leader in family travel, I'll be taking part in important idea exchanges with like-minded professionals who are committed to making their client's family vacation dreams a reality! Adding to the excitement, it's happening in Jamaica! So I'll be able to share more details with my clients on properties like Moon Palace Jamaica and experiences that can be had at places like Blue Hole and Konoko Falls!

 #selected hashtag#traveladvisors hashtag #familytravel hashtag#destinations hashtag#jamaica

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Australia is the #1 Apirational Destination for 2020

This was an incredible adventure that I got to enjoy while Down Under last month. I'd love to help you enjoy it as well. Australia is the #1 aspirational destination for 2020 according to Travel + Leisure. If you haven't been Down Under yet, as an Aussie Specialist, let me help make your Aussie Holiday dreams come true. Reach out and let's chat.

Monday, September 12, 2016

More Than Just Cruises!

I just returned from Beaches Turks & Caicos, and the AMEX More Knowledge Conference. During the conference, I was able to update and renew my Certified Specialist status for the Sandals & Beaches Resorts, and expand upon my first-hand knowledge of that particular resort, which goes a long way when talking with clients and potential clients about their vacation experience desires and needs. Attending on-site conferences, seminars and tours is an important part of continuing education within my chosen profession, just as it may be in yours.
I'm pleased to be a certified specialist, as well as a WeddingMoons Certified Specialist, which I first earned at Sandals Royal Bahamian, where I also had the pleasure of serving as best man in a wedding! Feel free to ask about that one!
Many people get easily confused by the name of my franchise - Cruise Planners. They tend to think that selling cruises is all we do... but it isn't. Did you know that my personal selling mix is actually about 60% LAND vacations, and only 40% CRUISES? I sell a lot of all-inclusive resorts, Disney & Universal vacations, honeymoons, rail, golf, and more... all in addition to the cruises that I sell. Please don't rule me out for your next vacation just because you see Cruise as the first word in the name!! Your business and referrals are greatly appreciated! You can learn more about what I do, and what I can help you with at: and it would be awesome if you would like my business page at

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dining at the Carthay Circle Restaurant

Recently I dined for the very first time at the Carthay Circle Restaurant inside Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland® Resort.  I was there for an Earmarked Agent Education Program, and they treated us to a wonderful meal before heading over to the Paradise Pier area for our viewing of World of Color.  Our menu was pre-selected for us with appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert, though we could choose between three different entrees.  

Here's what I enjoyed: 

  • Signature Fried Biscuits stuffed with white cheddar, bacon, jalapeno, and apricot honey.
  • Carthay Circle Salad with heirloom apples, roasted walnuts, winter greens, bacon, dates, and creamy citrus vinaigrette.
  • Choice of entree: I went with the Angus beef Delmonico, with chipotle sweet potatoes, bacon, and onion ketchup.
  • Chocolate Cookies n Cream Cake with winter orange chantilly (but I was too full to partake of that - a couple of bites only. Good but heavy).

Dinner at the Carthay Circle was so very good and so very filling. It was a nice touch for our hosts to enjoy a delicious meal. It's definitely not what most people think of when they think of eating inside theme parks!

Monday, February 25, 2013

stopher's stuff - Tile, Awards and More

This past week has seen me spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  No, I haven’t been sick, nor do I have weak kidneys. Rather I’ve been working on floor tile - putting in a new floor in our rental property.  The last time I did floor tile was about 6 years ago, when I redid the floor in my own house’s master bathroom.  It’s a time-consuming job, but very rewarding to know that you can do it yourself.  My dad first showed me how to do flooring many years ago in the house that I grew up in, as we redid rooms numerous times through the years.  I’ve done vinyl, ceramic, laminate and parquet floors multiple times through the years.  I may not be able to repair my car, but I can redo floors, and I like that. 

Other notable things that happened this week include replacing a vehicle that we’d had for 12 years, painting, designing posters & graphics for the business, and receiving another certification – this time from Universal Parks & Resorts.  I am once again thrilled to share the news of a new certification.  

And then there was the annual spectacle and celebration of film last night with the 85th Academy Awards telecast.  I still have fond memories of my days long ago working at the Los Angeles County Music Center, (when the Oscars were hosted at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion), and I worked as an usher.  It was a fun time of my life, and watching it on tv brings back some of those fun memories.  My favorite film, and second favorite both won several awards…did yours?

Monday, February 18, 2013

stopher's stuff - Exciting News and More

Happy Presidents Day!  In my former life within corporate America, this was always a day off holiday for me, as both companies I worked for all those years observed all Federal holidays.  So if YOU have the good fortune of having the day off… enjoy it!  If not, make the best of your Monday, and try to enjoy the day as best you can.  

This past week was full of interesting, fun and exciting things for me.  One item that happened has to do with things to come yet this fall, another has to do with the here and now, and the other has to do with both the recent past and the future.  I’m excited about all three.  What are they you wonder?  Well of course, since I’m writing this blog entry, I’m going to tell you!

First up – I’m headed to Africa this fall!  That’s right, Africa; specifically to Kenya.  I’m very excited about the trip, and what possibilities it holds for me as a person.  This trip has nothing to do with my business, but rather is entirely about my faith, beliefs and my ministry.  As a Christian I take the words of Jesus to heart, and therefore this is just one way of living out my faith and trust in Him.  I am going on a mission trip with my church in to Kenya.  I’ve been wanting to make this trip for the past 3 years that our church has been going to Kenya, but haven’t been able to make it happen… until now.  I know it will rock my world in many ways – but I’m looking forward to the transformative nature of the trip.  I’m open to what God wants to show me, and do through me while on this trip.  I pray that I will not be “in the way” – but rather be used as He sees fit as we go in to the Mathare slums and interact with those who live there.  My church has been sponsoring a school there for the past 3 years, providing much needed funds for construction of new facilities, as well as the construction of a well to provide clean drinking water to the community.  It will be very exciting to be there in person and experience for myself what friends who have been on this trip in previous years have described. But I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't also say that I'm a bit excited about going for one day to the Maasai Mara and experiencing a real safari.  As part of the total trek, the team will be going and seeing the real savannahs with some of God's incredible creatures... not just the recreated version in the Disney parks and at the Animal Kingdom Lodge... but the real deal!  I love staying in savannah view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge... I can't wait to be able to experience the savannah in person!  Plus when we're going will be during the traditional period of the annual migration, so it will be amazing to behold if we're truly able to see many of the animals en route.  

Second, my wife and I recently acquired a home for investment purposes, to rent out.  I have spent the past couple of weeks doing the various tasks of getting the house ready to rent, and this weekend was able to get the last “big” thing done with the replacement of the non-functional water heater.  Now I just have to replace the master bathroom floor tile, and do some painting and we’ll be ready to roll for new tenants to be able to move in.  Tiring, yes.  Rewarding, yes.  Exciting, yes, yes, yes!

And third – and this was a big one causing me to do a little “dance of joy” – I am now officially  an Accredited Cruise Counselor, by CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association).  This was no small feat to achieve either.  Basically, when you enroll in the certification program, you have 2 years from enrollment to complete it.  Thankfully I was able to achieve it in less than a year (about 10 days shy of one year).   From their press release information…  “The Accredited (ACC) Cruise Counselor designation is conferred by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) upon dedicated travel professionals who have completed an extensive program of classroom training, cruise experience, ship inspections, and a combination of video training and attendance at industry events. A CLIA Certified Cruise Counselor is your best resource in choosing a perfect vacation.”    The Accreditation, according to CLIA, goes a long way too, as the average certified agent experiences some fairly substantial increases in their sales with industry-wide increases as much as 261%.  So even if it only helps to increase my business by 25% or more, I’ll be pleased, mainly because of the rigors of completing the program.  But I’m not stopping here, as the next level of certification, the Master Cruise Counselor (MCC) is in my sights.  I want it, and will be going after it as well.

So there you go.  A big week.  An exciting weekend.  And a very exciting fall on the horizon.

What’s new and exciting in YOUR world?

Monday, February 11, 2013

stopher's stuff - Universal Reflections

While on my recent sojourn to Florida and the Caribbean, I enjoyed a day at Universal Orlando Resort – well, actually PART of a day, not the entire day.  I was there specifically to complete the on-site portion of the Universal Specialist Program for travel professionals.  Another program designed to better understand the destinations that we sell, and thereby boost our individual business for a particular destination.  The Universal program includes an online and an on-site portion… I’d completed the online portion last summer.  Now it was time for the on-site. 
The last time I had been to Universal Orlando was in 2007, with my family.  On that trip we’d stayed at the Nickelodeon Suites over on World Drive, near Walt Disney World.  This time I was staying at Walt Disney World at Disney’s Old Key West Resort – and was going solo.  I arrived at the Universal Orlando parking garage in my rental car at around 8:50 am, knowing the parks opened at 9 am.  My plan was to visit Islands of Adventure first, and then head over in to Universal Studios Florida afterwards.  By the time I got to the park entry, passing through the CityWalk area, and enjoying looking around to see what was the same and what was different from my last visit, it was a little after 9 am. 

As a park, Islands of Adventure hadn’t changed a whole lot, with one large exception… and entire new land had been built… the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Though I will say that new land itself, wasn’t all completely new, as part of The Lost Continent was area was given up for this new land.  The Wizarding World boasts two different roller coaster experiences that were existing attractions, simply re-purposed for the Potter theme.  Dragon Challenge was formerly known as Dueling Dragons – and Flight of the Hippogriff was formerly known as The Flying Unicorn

Full disclosure time – and go ahead and let your jaws drop in disbelief if you so choose – but I have never read a single Harry Potter book in my life.  Nor have I seen any more than about 20 minutes of one of the films when it aired on television.  That’s it.  I am not a Potter fan, nor do I plan to become one.  But I did have interest in seeing the land for myself.  I wanted to know what I sell, and be able to answer questions that my clients might have.  So when the opportunity to visit the parks presented itself, I jumped at it.  And I will say, that even though I am not a fan, and I do not know the different storylines or backstories behind the various elements of the land itself – it was beautiful .  And I believe, very well executed.  The folks at Universal Creative apparently got it right, because I definitely heard a lot of “high praise” from guests all around me, oohing and ahhing at the various shops, backgrounds and scenic elements throughout Harry’s community.  I knew some of the characters from magazine articles and conversations with friends, but the backstories... no.

The Hogwart’s castle that they created, which sits high atop the feature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was simply stunning.  I loved it for its beauty and grace as a thematic element to the land.  Many of the folks at Universal Creative were once Imagineers for Disney, and were certainly trained well in the art of the show, and the theatrical immersion that comes across so well in many theme park environments.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter definitely comes across well in its immersion.

Now to get to the actual attraction, and my experience with it - I had read and heard many things prior to my visit, including get there as quickly as possible in order to minimize the wait time, otherwise expect a very long line.  I did just that, and was pleasantly surprised to see just a stated 10 minute wait.  Now the reality is my wait time was a little less, since I got into the Single Rider line, but in the end, it turned out to be more, simply because it took me about 10 minutes just to finally decide to ride it after I stood inside the center of the queue area watching the video which demonstrates what the ride technology actually does.  Let me just state emphatically that I love roller coasters, and I don’t mind many different spinning rides (though Mission: Space at Epcot did make me very nauseous) – but I’m not one to jump up and down about being turned nearly upside down…backwards.  And that’s what the video was showing.  So hemmed and hawed for a while, trying to decide what I would do.  Ultimately my curiosity won out, and I did go on the attraction.  However – I will say – that as an attraction, it did not in the end make me nauseous – but I just didn’t like it.  I didn’t care for many of the thematic elements included, nor did I care for how very dark and foreboding the overall attraction was.  I can see how fans of the series might enjoy the attraction, but I didn’t.  And that’s okay.  It just means there’s one less person to be in line ahead of you the next time I’m in the Islands of Adventure park.  Oh yes, and one more thing... with my apologies to the die-hard HP fans out there... I didn't like the Butterbeer either.  

Pretty much everything else about Islands of Adventure was the same as my last visit.  Although The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman over in Marvel Superhero Island had been updated, and I was sure to ride that one to see how it was different.  I really enjoyed that one, just as I did the last time I rode it nearly 6 years ago.  I wish that Disney had an attraction similar to it, as it really is a cool attraction.

Over in Universal Studios, more has changed since our last visit, as the new Transformers attraction is getting closer and closer to completion.   Since our visit, the Jaws attraction has closed, and the real estate it once sat upon is currently under construction bringing a “bridge” between the two parks with some sort of Harry Potter connection (I’ve read about it online, but don’t recall exactly what it will be at the moment - something having to do with a Hogwart's Express or something to that effect);  Back to the Future The Ride made way for The Simpsons Ride; Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit  debuted; and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem replaced the old Jimmy Neutron ride.  PLUS they have a cool new nighttime water & laser show on the central lagoon called Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, which I might have enjoyed seeing had I stayed there until nightfall.  It looks really cool, though I know I would stand there comparing it to World of Color at Disney California Adventure way too much.   

While in USF, I did enjoy the Lucy: A Tribute exhibit (I have been a die-hard Lucy fan since I was a very small child...and now my kids are as well.  We love watching "I Love Lucy" every Sunday evening with our dinner, going through episode by episode, as they were originally shown on tv all those years ago).  I also had a nice piece of pizza at Louie’s Italian Restaurant in the New York section, but I really didn’t ride anything.  I had no real desire to. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit looked really cool, and in retrospect I wish I had ridden it, but alas, I did not.   While I really like the backlot feel of the New York and San Francisco sections, I must admit I don’t care for Universal Studios Florida as much as I do for Universal Studios Hollywood.  The Hollywood park is different, in that it sits inside an actual, functional, movie studio whereas the Florida park only simulates one.  Plus I have an affinity for the Hollywood park, as I worked there in high school – it was actually my first paying job back in the summer of 1987.  So for me, USF just falls a bit flat.  Of the two Universal Orlando parks, I much prefer Islands of Adventure. 

Alright, I’m going to call it quits for now, but will write more about my Florida adventures in the next installment of stopher’s stuff.

Until then make it a great week! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

stopher's stuff - WONDERful Memories, Fun & More

Wonderful is truly the best word that I can use for my experience on board the Disney Wonder last week.  The sailing was smooth, the food very good, and the service was once again exemplary.  Disney Cruise Line has certainly earned the various accolades from within the cruise industry that they have received. Regardless of how much I spent on my cruise, which was a lot less than the average guest since I was on board for educational and research purposes – the service provided not only met my expectations, but exceeded it. 

I was able to participate in an Agent Education Program, or AEP, where the host line brings travel professionals onboard in order to experience a particular ship for themselves, and then be able to better share the ship and the line with clients and potential clients, making recommendations where appropriate. Being onboard with nearly 90 other travel advisors and agents might make one think that we were receiving special treatment, but I can gladly say that I observed time and time again the same or better service being provided to the full fare-paying guests. 

Some of the many AEP participants from Cruise Planners,
 inside Diversions, one of the adult spaces on board,
following the first class session
Throughout the week, as a group, we were in seminars for 2 to 3 hours each morning.  It was a great experience to be able to meet so many fine people, who like me, enjoy putting together remarkable vacations for their clients, helping them to create memories to last a lifetime.  And through it all, I have made several new friends for a lifetime.  We enjoyed sharing best practices with each other, learning tips and new ideas for sharing the magic of the Disney brand with our clients and potential clients, and got to have some fun together as well. This AEP was put on by the good folks at Disney Destinations, and included three great presenters, one of which has been with Disney for 24 years.  (She certainly knows her stuff!)  Following the morning seminars, we were free to enjoy the ship (or ports of call when appropriate) until show time in the evening.  Then we had the shows, a few informal meet & greets, and second seating dinner after that.  Both were on our agendas, and we were expected to partake of them all, though a couple of times during the week the presenters said attendance at the shows was optional. 

Though our group did have a few pairs of husband and wife, the vast majority of the participants in this AEP were traveling solo.  All of the single travelers had a roommate – some we knew from previous experiences – and others who were meeting for the very first time.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I already knew my roommate, and we’d been planning for this trip for the week or two leading up to the sailing.  It was fun to further cement that friendship, while also meeting new friends along the way.   
Just as the families and friends sailing together onboard do, we ate at the same table each night with assigned table mates, and enjoyed the rotational dining program in each of the beautiful dining rooms on the ship. Just because it was a special program, didn’t mean we received special treatment.  (On this cruise, my favorite meal came from Parrot Cay, unlike when I sailed on the Disney Magic with my lovely bride in October – where my favorite meal came from Animator’s Palette).   Many fun conversations and much laughter came during our dinner conversations.  Table 7 certainly had some fun times together. 

Here I am, in Cozumel, with some rain clouds in the background
In each of our ports of call – Grand Cayman and Cozumel – a number of the agents went off to enjoy and explore the ports together, while others did so solo.  I enjoyed both ports on a solo basis, and then later enjoyed hearing of my various compatriot’s tales about their experiences in both ports.  I will share more about my personal experiences in another entry yet to come. 

The weather on our sailing was mostly superb.  We did get some rain on and off throughout the day we were in Cozumel, and our last at-sea day was windy – very windy – not just the regular breezes you feel as sailing along either – but very windy, which did produce a little more wave action.  Even though I didn’t, a few members of our group were feeling a bit nauseous for the first time all week as a result of the stronger winds.  The sunshine and warmth was a welcome sight after dark grey clouds and rain in Cozumel.   

College of Disney Knowledge sling backpack,
Disney Parks branded pedometer, small tin of DCL logo
bookclips, Graduation Certificate, 3 pins & lanyard, our
choice of one onboard photo, and the training manual
Exclusive AEP Graduate Pin
I will say though, that even though we didn’t receive any special treatment throughout the week, we were given a small tchotchke at the conclusion of each seminar, and at the end of the week treated to a nice reception / graduation ceremony on the final afternoon of our cruise.  It was a nice cocktail reception, and we each received our completion certificate and a special pin.  Here’s a photo of the few things that we received.  Other than these things just mentioned, nothing special was done or provided.  Will these things by themselves help me to promote the Disney Cruise Line over any other line?  

Absolutely not – but – the experience and additional knowledge gained about the ship itself and the rest of the DCL fleet – will help me to recommend DCL whenever appropriate.  There is such a perception out there that DCL is just for families, and that is certainly just not true.  When working with clients, I always want to make sure that I am recommending the best experience for their individual needs and desires.  I want to make sure that my clients have the best possible time and get the best value for their hard-earned money.  Many times that will include DCL in my recommendations, but there are times that it just won’t.  Bringing home a couple of pins, a certificate and the like won’t change that.  After all – it’s their vacation at stake, not mine.  The best value and experience to one client will not be identical to another client – so being able to match them up with the best possible experiences is critical.  And AEPs such as this one that I just completed help those of us who sell travel to be able to speak from experience – not just be items to select from on a nameless, faceless website.  I like to treat each client with friendly, personable and professional one-on-one service.  I don’t just view my clients as another number or sale.  I appreciate each and every one, and at the end of the day, want to know that the recommendations that I make truly are the best for each client.  So these types of familiarization trips are not only nice, but necessary. 

So with that, I will bid you adieu for now, or as they say on board… til we meet again,