Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 30-December 4

My former roommate turns 31 years old this week and his fiancee has organized a big dinner at Ninja restaurant in downtown Manhattan. I was at that very same establishment for a 30th birthday party in June. Hopefully, someone will invite me to a 32nd birthday party sometime soon for a full trifecta. Two notes to those of you who ever plan on attending Ninja for a meal:

1. You enter the dining area by being lead through a crooked maze where staff, dressed as ninjas, jump out and try to scare you, so be prepared.
2. Be careful with their sake carafes. The were passing them around at my friend's 30th and they both look and go down just like water. Needless to say, I had plenty of calls to Dr. Aspirin the next day.

But on to other non-personal matters— like Oasis of the Seas, tango lessons in Argentina, Caribbean crime sprees, and some people in their 20s— that have been a topic of discusson here at TravelAgentCentral.

Oasis: Blows You Away or Overblown?

We've been writing about the highly-anticpated Oasis of the Seas ship since last year all the way through its recent debut. There's been plenty of buzz in consumer and trade media about the new cruise ship, and we recently asked our readers to vote in our poll and share their thoughts on the vessel. As of now, most seem to think quite favorably of Oasis. But a few have commented otherwise.

For starters there's Mark Casey, who was a little upset with some food pricing and shared his thoughts on Susan Young's piece "Blown Away by Oasis" noting:

cupcakes are not free

Free cupcakes are always great, and to read that you must pay for one aboard is a little saddening. However, after reading this feedback, Susan shared some insight with me via e-mail, writing:

yes, they charge. But the donuts at the donut shop are free. For most onboard experiences, there is a free experience that is comparable or very similar to a pay experience. Some exceptions of course. But it's all about choice. I have no shortage of food on that ship, and I only patronized those "free spots" the normal guest would.

Apples to oranges I guess, or I guess it's cupcakes to donuts.

On the same story about Oasis, one reader was a little more thorough with criticism and Susan was ready to respond to that as well. birdsnworms wrote:

To be sure, the Oasis of the Seas is something to behold. It is grand, and it stands on its own as an architectural and maritime achievement. But, amid all the pre-inaugural buzz out there, I feel there exists a great dearth of real -- read that to mean not PR scripted and stuffed down the throat -- news about the ship and the actual circumstances surrounding the launch and viability of the product RCCL claims is a 'game changer'.

Apparently, the product the vast majority of non-paying travel agents and media assembled for these junkets cruises prior to the December 1 inaugural saw was decidedly different from the one I was introduced to.

Not that I was not wowed. I was. Anyone should be, even the harshest critic. It is more that most folks are ignoring some pretty obvious voids. No entertainment was previewed, the now-staid ice show aside. The gym is downright crew-like. The crowds controlled byRCCL through invitation only events.

After reading that feedback, Susan responded via e-mail with the following:

I know everyone's personal opinion of the ship is just that -- their opinion. Some of us will like it, others won't. Journalists and agents also don't al;ways agree. But the real test of Oasis' success will be "Can they sell it and fill it on a regular basis -- when the inaugural hoopla has died down." That will be the big question moving forward, particularly when sister ship Allure of the Seas launches and they have to fill both week in and week out from the same port.

Some day, I'll take a trip on Oasis (and to be honest that day is probably decades from now), but until then I can't share much of my opinion on the ship. I can, however, offer my opinion on one of the ship's SEVEN godmothers. But first, let's see what reader Clara had to say, commenting:

I don't understand. Nothing personal against Daisy Fuentes but she is currently endorsing a very, very low end cruise line. I've read the comments on Facebook and many others agree.

Clara, why are you singling out Daisy and not Gloria, Tara, Jane, Keshia, Shawn and Michelle? In my pre-high school years, Daisy Fuentes was my MTV goddess who introduced me to new videos I never remebered because I was so lost in her eyes as my appreciation for Latino presence in mainstream media in the U.S. increased rapidly. So, admittedly, I'm a little defensive. As for calling Royal Caribbean a low-end cruise line, I've never been on a cruise so I can't comment. But that doesn't mean you readers can't. What are your thoughts on Oasis of the Seas, its godmothers, and Royal Caribbean. We started a discussion on AgentNation on this matter and all always interested in your comments either here or there, and don't forget you can tweet us @travelagentmag.

Tango All the Way from Argentina

Although it's not quite industry related, we received a quaint comment from a reader named Tiffany about her experience in Buenos Aires after she read our feature piece on the destination. She shared:

Hey, last year I went to Argentina and had the best of times. I enjoyed Tango so much, that when I went back to my country, I started tango lessos. I had stayed in an apartment in buenos aires which was near the downtown and La Boca. I want to go back!

Has dance travel just become a new niche agents can pitch to their clients? My father was born in Argentina and although I've never seen him tango, the man can cut a rug. Neither I nor my brother can, so it's not genetic. There must be something in the air in Argentina for dancers.

Like, Hooray for Young People, Word

We recently shared our list of Travel Agent's 30 best agents under the age of 30 and while the story has been one of the more popular items in our content list as of late, it appears that two of said agents are the most popular among those commenting. Both Katie Brower and Brooke Johnson got some shoutouts.

Helena Iorio wrote:
LOVE KATIE BROWER!!! She's an awesome agent and co-worker! YOU GO GIRL!

Kimberly D'Acunti shared:
Brooke Johnson is my daughter, so I would very much love a copy of this issue. Please let me know if this is possible. I am very proud of her! She is such a go-getter!

Congrats to Brooke, Katie and all the other young professionals. And Kimberly, send me a mailing address via e-mail to [email protected] and I'll, like, hook you up girl.

Antigua: Luxury Destination or Death Trap?

While covering the Luxury Travel Expo this week, Joe Pike spoke briefly with Renee DeSuza, tourism officer for the Antigua and Babruda Department of Tourism, about Antigua promoting it's upper-scale side. Almost immediately, a reader named pellucid chimed in on the island's reputation with crime, posting:

Antigua has a hell of a job promoting it's tourism product considering there have been several high-profile tourist murders in the last two years and the overall murder rate is ten times that of Manhattan and 20 times that of London.

To note balanced reporting with Pike's report from Luxury Travel Expo, he wrote a brief about crime on the island earlier this year. Sounds like Antigua does indeed have a tough job. However, I'd like to ask Mr./Mrs. pellucid from where he/she got such statistics. I am sure agents are aware of crime on the island, but does anyone out there have some sources to cite some information to share?

So in quick retrospect, here are three general topics covered here that warrant more discussion: Oasis of the Seas: good, bad, ugly, or great?; dancing and travel: a possible niche when combined?; Antigua: potential luxury destination or place where tourists go to get beat up?

I want to hear from you readers about these topics. E-mail me (address above), tweet us (see above), post a comment below, start a discussion on AgentNation. Seriously, do this. Why? Because I'm getting a little tired of reading "holiday travel trends" as an item of discussion. I think the world's biggest cruise ship, selling travel to dancers and whether one should be terrified or excited to visit Antigua are worth talking about for the benefit of clients and agents, and I'm not even a travel professional. Hit me up people.