When is the best time to book a future vacation?

At least six months in advance can save money. For the ‘last minute’ specials the price may drop but the air fare will be outrageous unless it’s included in the cruise price (Regents/Oceania). There are some incentives offered the last few months and sometimes a lower cost but the choices for which room type you want are limited. Early booking is always a good idea for most all vacations!

How is a boutique type business different than a regular travel agency?

I specialize in oceania and river cruises and spend more time with my clients than most; and I’m picky about who my clients are since we’ll be working closely together. In the past, business has mainly been by word of mouth and client referral as I began early on with simply friends and family. Now, we’re into fourth generation referrals. There is no competition with ringing phones and harried agents dealing with multiple clients.

Isn't it cheaper to book online? Do you offer any perks?

It may initially appear to be less expensive online. But when the final tally appears with taxes and port fees added in – there is very little difference with online pricing and various travel agencies. Perks or freebies? If my host company (Nexion, LLC) offers incentives I’ll know before booking; it’s dependent on the specific line and sail date or tour company.

I also offer a personalized Travel Tips document which walks you through the weeks prior to your cruise as you prepare to leave home; important things you should do upon first boarding the ship, and a thorough packing list. This document is a result of many years of cruising; clients receive it after initial deposit along with a personalized folder to keep cruise documents organized.

If you don't charge for your services - how do you get paid?

The cruise line or tour company has built in commission for each booking. Either they keep the commission (when you call/book online) or it goes to the booking agent (me) after your cruise/trip is over. There is no charge for my services; but there is a minimal cancellation fee if I have done the work for the booking and you end up canceling.

Do you handle flights, hotels, and transfers?

I do if they are purchased through the cruise line or are part of the package with a land tour. With cruises these will be slightly more expensive than booking online; but the advantage is that the supplier takes more responsibility and coordinates getting you from one place to the next. Most of the time transfers are included with air purchases. Some, especially those who are older or traveling solo – find the ease worth the extra cost.

I’ve already booked my vacation - is it too late for Drouin Cruises to handle my booking?

It depends on the date of your booking. Several times clients have transferred their booking but it depended on the cruise line and time frame – it’s just a matter of faxing a form in which ‘releases’ the booking to Drouin Cruises, LLC. Some cruise lines have a 30 or 60-day window while other lines allow you to transfer to me before final payment is made. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask and I’d be happy to make those inquiries on your behalf’. And if my host agency has any specials on your booking – we’ll make sure you get those.

What would be the advantage if I transferred my booking to you?

After initial deposit – I keep my eye on your cruise and sail date and if a sale occurs and you qualify – I’ll re-book the cruise or land tour so that you can take advantage of the savings. There are many steps and a multitude of questions between the times you book and literally stepping on the ship or going on your trip.

Especially for those who have never cruised before; I help you understand cruise life and what to expect during your vacation. Because I book such a variety of lines… I may not know the particulars of the one you choose but I’ll learn with you. Sometimes the wait time for reaching an operator or help desk is 30 minutes +/– but it will be me on hold, not you. Mostly, I provide personal – unique customer service along the way. I guarantee you won’t find that online.

If I’m working with another agency – will you compete for my business?

No, I won’t. If you’re working with someone else – stay with them if you’re confident they’ll work hard for you. It takes hours to research, compare lines or packages, itineraries and prices, which also may include lengthy conversations with the suppliers even after booking occurs. I have high rate of returning clients who desire this unique kind of service and know I’ll have their back. Please, if you plan to use another agent or book online – be considerate of my time.

Do you need a budget range for my vacation?

Not necessarily, but if you would like me to work within a budget make it be for the cruise/package portion only. You can calculate the additional expenses for everything else (flights/ excursions/ alcohol/ spa services/etc.) Please be realistic; some folks want champagne on a beer budget. Balcony cabins – smaller ships – ‘all-inclusive’ and lines with fewer children on board…are all factors that increase cost.

If I book with Drouin Cruises, how will the charge show up on my credit card?

Whatever company we book you with will process your credit card; if it’s a Seabourn cruise your statement will read: Seabourn Cruise Line. Or if we put together an Australia/New Zealand package, it may read Abercrombie and Kent. If it’s a river cruise- perhaps Tauck or AmaWaterways. The same is true with reimbursements – it will be from the supplier you book with.

Have cruise sales suffered due to the recent mishaps at sea or the trouble in Europe?

You would think it would have but it really hasn’t from where I sit. In fact, sales seem to have increased in my little corner of the world. Like certain companies – there are some I choose not to do business with. And there are some lines that I may or may not recommend depending on the client. And when something happens in Europe – it seems the security at the airports and tourist places are increased, which makes it (indirectly) a safer time to travel. Nothing – nowhere…can be 100% guaranteed unless you simply decide to stay home.

Why do you think cruising is a better idea than say, an exotic resort?

Cruising covers many nautical miles and visits various ports without the hassle of multiple flights, checking in, unpacking, checking out, and finding transportation or reputable food venues, all to be repeated the next day.

With river or ocean cruising – you don’t worry about the cost of each meal or event onboard; food and entertainment are part of the total price (with the exception of speciality restaurants.) Cruising is an adventure on a floating resort – waking up to something new each morning. Your time on the ship can be peaceful and restful (or) filled to the brim with various activities keeping you busy nearly every hour of every day. Some worry they’ll be bored but after they cruise – they never think that again.

What if I don't like being stuck with thousands of people, away from land and on the open sea?

When someone comments “I just don’t like sailing on a large, crowded ship,” I reply “it’s because you haven’t been on the one that’s right for you.” Cruise lines range from unconventional to traditional, fun to fanciful, entertaining to sophisticated and leisurely to luxury. I’ve observed these differences over many years and will find one that is a near-to-perfect match for you. And for those who must see land at all times – the solution may be river cruising, a popular and fast-growing market.

I’m single – can I get a room by myself?

Yes, but because each cabin is based on double occupancy it will likely cost you much more. I’m happy to check into pricing for you. My advice? Bring a friend! One of the lines we recently cruised on had a social director just for solo cruisers. We were impressed with all the events the ship hosted to make sure those traveling alone had a great time. River cruising offers more opportunities for solo travelers as well as a few cruise lines – I’ll be happy to investigate that for you.

What cruise lines leave from Texas ports and are they year round?

Royal Caribbean and *Carnival sail year round from Galveston. But Disney Cruise Line comes to this port a few months of the year – mainly winter months. *Qualified bookings only.

We have sailed on the Liberty of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) out of Galveston and she is one of the best things that has happened to our Texas ports. Instead of Disney characters, there are Dreamworks characters around the ship. I’ve heard a rumor that when she was refurbished in 2016 – that Schlitterbahn was involved in the creation of the children’s water area (Splashaway Bay) and the magnificent slides for teens/adults. Our family and a siblings family who joined us had plenty of space and ate near each other in the evenings. It was one of our best family vacations.

Where have you traveled in your lifetime?

My first trip to Mexico was around the age of ten; between high school and college I did a summer mission trip to Guam and visited Japan along the way. When finishing up my masters degree at the University of Texas, I spent a month in Africa (Egypt and Kenya.) And since then I’ve been to several countries in Europe and many in Central America. My husband Rene’ and I honeymooned in Paris, France. I spoke at a conference in Hawaii and enjoyed visiting a few of the islands (O’ahu, Maui and Kauai)

Several cruises have been to the southern, western and eastern Caribbean islands as well as a few ports in Europe. The Mexican Riviera, Northwest coastal region, and Alaskan cruises were some of my favorite. I was surprised as how much I loved my first river cruise (Basel to Amsterdam) on AmaWaterways. Cruising around Australia and New Zealand, visiting Fiji and Bora Bora, and doing a New England cruise are bucket list items for my husband and me.

What was your all-time favorite ocean cruise?

Hands down – Alaska. In 2000 we were doing the Inside Passage cruise and I remember a particular day at sea. My husband and I were reading in the library settled in cozy leather chairs facing the panoramic glass windows when we looked up and saw a pair of humpback whales swimming by; it was surreal. There is something magnificent and awesome about that particular piece of God’s earth and wonderful that it’s part of the U.S.A. It is truly a sight worth seeing in one’s lifetime.

Favorite river cruise?

 I sailed on AMAWaterways, AmaCerto from Basel to Amsterdam in early April. It was unseasonably warm but two weeks later some friends of ours went on the same itinerary (with Tauck) and experienced snow and very cold weather. I loved how educational, and intimate and easy it was compared to ocean causing. We had about 160 people on our ship and every day we were led by local hosts in France, Germany and ended in The Netherlands. AMA Waterways was wonderful!

Favorite land tour?

Over Christmas week in the early 90’s, I flew into Nairobi with my family and stayed in two different, marvelous resorts, sleeping in tents built on cement slabs in the middle of the jungle (imagine tents having a toilet, shower, sink and beds!) At night we could hear a myriad of jungle sounds, soberly aware that all that stood between man and beast was an electrical fence. During day trips across the extraordinary Serengeti, drivers took us to see animals in their natural habitats. I will always be grateful to my late brother and his wife for including me on that unforgettable trip.

What is your favorite experience of group travel?

Traveling in the company of others is a wonderful way to vacation. Years ago my mother-in-law took our entire family on a New Year’s Caribbean cruise. This was no small matter as my husband is the oldest of ten and all our kids were included as well. We had a fabulous time! The best part was just being together: hiking the waterfalls, swimming with stingrays, or simply sitting down for the evening meal. And when 38 people gathered to eat, it was without the hassle of food preparation and clean up. Now that’s a true vacation!

To this day, the grandchildren fondly remember their Grand-mere and her extravagant gift to all of us that holiday season – cherished memories of a life well spent. My husband and I took our oldest and middle daughters and their husbands on a short cruise that started in Sweden and ended in England in 2008. Then 2016 we took 2 of our 3 girls and their families on the Liberty of the Seas (see Photo Gallery for pic’s) and our grandkids loved – loved cruising. Who wouldn’t?