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,