Cruising Insights & Travel Hacks with Alex Pinelo

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Dive into the fascinating world of river cruising with Alex Pinelo, Senior Vice President of Sales at Ama Waterways. In this episode, Alex shares his 40-year journey in the cruise industry, revealing the uniqueness of river cruising and AmaWaterways’ innovative plans. Discover personal stories, from helicopter rides over Victoria Falls to his favorite Hilton stays. Plus, gain practical travel tips and hacks to enhance your journeys.

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Mike Putman:
[0:00] Good day, everyone. I’m Mike Putman.

James Ferrara:
[0:02] And I’m James Ferrara, and welcome to No Tourists Allowed, the Christmas edition.

Mike Putman:
[0:09] That’s right. The last podcast of the year.
So, yeah, we’ve got a lot of things to cover this year. James and I both have been out on the road traveling to various travel conferences.
So I’m sorry we’ve been amiss, I think, for last week. I think we were here the week before that, but we didn’t miss last week.
But we’ve got lots of interesting things to talk about, and we also have a very special guest with us today.
And that is the Senior Vice President of Sales of Ammo Waterway, Mr. Alex Pinelo. So welcome to the podcast, Alex.

Alex Pinelo:
[0:45] Hi, James. Hi, Mike. Hey, and if you add my years, that’s 110.
I’ll be celebrating my 40th year in the cruises business actually in April of next year.

Mike Putman:
[0:57] Oh, that is awesome. That is awesome. I mean, you’re in probably a little bit warmer climate than James and myself.
I’m in South Carolina, and it is 43 degrees, which it’s a little, it’s not normally this cool this time of year.
But, and James is.

James Ferrara:
[1:15] I’ve got you beat. I’m up in New York. It’s about 35 degrees.
And I’m dreaming of last week.
I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas. i’m dreaming of last week in cancun mike when we uh you know it’s terrible that we missed our podcast but um we weren’t losing a lot of sleep over it it was beautiful and warm and uh uh it was uh lovely and busy it was a very busy conference so um you know it wasn’t as if we were out by the pool lounging around or swimming in the ocean it was uh it was a lot of work but uh i’m in calabasas california and uh the temperature actually believe it or not is a light rain and it’s 60 degrees so uh light rain which is unusual for us here but we we can use it so that’s for sure oh light rain everyone has to pull off the road there they don’t know what to do yeah.

Introducing Alex, a cruise industry veteran

[2:17] Um, so when we have a special guest, a lot of great things about having Alex here with us.
Um, not the least of which is, as you’ve said, Alex, you have a 40 year career in the cruise industry.
So we want to hear about that. That gives you a really valuable perspective for our No Tourists Allowed listeners. listeners.

[2:40] And we’ve known each other a long time, so good pals in the business.
But also, the travel experience that you represent now is particularly perfect for Christmas season, even though I think we need to talk about beyond Christmas season, because anyone who’s traveling Traveling to Christmas has their plans in place already, but Alma Waterways, famous river cruise line, really lovely experience.
Right now, maybe we’re done now, almost done, with the famous Christmas markets in Europe.
So that’s a real sort of bucket list experience. But the first thing we do with guests here at No Tourists Allowed is we subject them to Mike’s rapid-fire questions about your own personal travel likes and habits because, you know, as a travel industry executive, you’re on the road a lot, right?
You’re a real expert yourself in travel.

Mike Putman:
[3:51] Yeah, and our listeners like to get a little better idea of you as a traveler.
So if you don’t mind, we will, as James said, subject you to this rapid questions.
But just first thing that comes to your mind, and this is about your personal travel, and we’ll move right through these relatively quickly.
So, Alex, do you have a favorite hotel brand or an individual property?
And if you do, can you tell us why?

Alex Pinelo:
[4:19] I do have a favorite hotel brand and that is Hilton.
And I’ll tell you why, because when I was when I started working with Ama, I was living in Miami and their headquarters are in Southern California in Calabasas.
So I was coming to their headquarters one week a month.
So I quickly became diamond with with Hilton, you know, and and, you know, and again, you know, but once you once you get status and, you know, any property, any airline.
You just become accustomed to using them.
All the perks that come with the status for staying there so many nights.
So, so probably Hilton, you know, and, and, and really probably, you know, but, but believe it or not, the, you know, the, the Hilton property in, in Beverly Hills is probably, you know, one of my favorite Hilton properties there. It’s pretty amazing.
And I actually got the opportunity to stay there after I did a cruise.
And of course, using my points, I was able to get one of their nice corner suites, which we all shoot for.
But that would be probably my brand and my property.

Mike Putman:
[5:37] Yeah, I had a company before this one based in Dallas, and I was commuting, and I was staying at a Hilton property.
And I didn’t even realize it, and I wasn’t keeping track, but I became Hilton Diamond, and somehow they gave me Diamond for life.
I don’t know what I did to deserve that, but it is a nice perk for sure.
Alex, tell us about your favorite destination. Do you have something that’s a favorite place to go when you have your own time?

Favorite destination: France, beyond Paris, exploring other cities

Alex Pinelo:
[6:08] Well, believe it or not now, you know, I love going to Europe. Right.
But it’s, you know, one of my favorite destinations now, you know, is, you know, has has always been, you know, France, you know, and there’s so much to do. And, you know, I, of course, who doesn’t like French wine?
Who doesn’t like some good French champagne?
And of course, the French, you know, restaurants. And there’s so much, aside from Paris, because everybody loves Paris, but you get into some of these other, you know, other cities within France and you go, you know, to southern France and you go to, you know, like Lyon or, you know, Avignon and some of these cities in France that have more, you know, you know, you know, Michelin star restaurants.
You know, per square capita.
Uh, so great food, great wine, full of beautiful sites, beautiful scenery and, uh, and, and wonderful people there.
So probably France is one of my, one of my favorite places to, to travel to.

Mike Putman:
[7:10] Yeah. Mine as well. How about shore excursion? What’s your, uh, what’s the best shore excursion you’ve ever, uh, been on?

Alex Pinelo:
[7:18] The best shore excursion that I’ve ever been on. Oh my God.
I have to tell you, I did, did our Africa product and I did the two-night extension or the two nights that we include as part of the program in Victoria Falls at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
One of the options that you can add is a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls.
For so many reasons, because, you know, one of the animals that I had not, I had not gone yet to the, to the land, uh, portion of my, uh, you know, of my safaris.
So one of the animals that we had not seen was a zebra, right?
Uh, and believe it or not from the helicopter ride on through Victoria falls, which is spectacular.
We actually saw a zebra and we’re like, there were four of us in the helicopter that were on the cruise. Like, Oh my God, there’s a zebra.
Turn that, turn the helicopter around. So it was, it was great.
But, yeah, that helicopter tour of Victoria Falls definitely was definitely up there on my list.

James Ferrara:
[8:24] We are famous here at No Tourists Allowed for talking about the terrifying helicopter experience.

The Pros and Cons of Helicopter Travel

Mike Putman:
[8:34] Reasons not to take a helicopter.

Alex Pinelo:
[8:36] Oh, boy.

Mike Putman:
[8:37] They don’t have wings, by the way.

James Ferrara:
[8:39] That sounds rather beautiful, though, it does.

Mike Putman:
[8:42] And are you an aisle or window guy, Alex, when you’re flying?

Alex Pinelo:
[8:46] Aisle, 100%.

Mike Putman:
[8:47] And do you check your bag or do you carry on?

Alex Pinelo:
[8:51] Oh, my God. I am the worst packer. And you know how hard it is for me to not check a bag.
But I try not to check a bag as often as possible because there are certain airports.
I mean, and I came from Miami, Miami being one of them, Los Angeles, LAX being another one.
If you check a bag, I mean, you can add an hour to your, you know, the plane lands.
It could take up to an hour to get your bag. So try to carry your bag on as often as possible.

Mike Putman:
[9:20] Well, tell our listeners a little bit about your background.
I mean, 40 years in the business.
I don’t know of another cruise executive that has 40 years tenure in the cruise industry.

James Ferrara:
[9:34] Not to make you feel old or anything.

Alex Pinelo:
[9:36] Did you just call me old, James? I don’t know.

From Dream of Being a Pilot to Cruise Director

Mike Putman:
[9:41] But with that, tell our listeners a little bit about your vast experience.

Alex Pinelo:
[9:47] Oh, my goodness. Okay. Okay. And so I wanted to be a pilot. That was my dream since I was a little boy, right?

[9:56] Way back when, as I can remember. So long story short, that didn’t work out.
While I was going to school in Miami, I got a part-time job at the pier, at the port of Miami, and I was checking people in.
This was back in 1984. I started with, back then, Norwegian Caribbean lines.
I was checking people in at the port.
And then I took my first cruise and I fell in love with cruising.
And I kept going to school while working part-time.
Then I moved to headquarters and I moved up the ranks within the organization.
I even worked on board for four years because every time I, you know, I never wanted to get off a ship.
I wanted to go on a, you know, and back then, I mean, we, you know, we would go on back-to-back cruises and it was great.
I worked on board for four years, shore excursion manager.
I was cruise director. I got off the ships. I was in the sales department for them.
I became a BDM, moved to Cincinnati. Then I was an executive.
You know, I became a VP of sales and national accounts and key accounts.
Then I went over. I was on the opening team for Disney Cruise Line for four years, which was great, a great experience.
And then in December of 2016, I guess I retired from NCL.
And two months into it, I’m like, okay, whatever.

[11:22] I’m not ready for this. I miss, you know, the travel advisor, miss you guys, you know, of course, the traveling.
So I knew, you know, Christine Karsh, who’s the co-founder, one of the owners of Alma Waterways.
And I would meet her at all the conferences and events that we would travel together.
We started talking and she didn’t really have a position for me, but anyway, she created one.
I started as their director of Latin America based out of Miami.

[11:49] And little by little, I grew grew within the organization. And then I moved to national accounts and then I became, you know, VP of national accounts and VP of sales.
And then now, uh, senior vice president of global sales, running the sales for, for the whole organization.
Uh, and, uh, so I really, uh, I went from ocean to river, uh, and I just love cruising.
Uh, you know, there’s not a bad, you know, cruise product out there, but we’re different.
There’s not a bad river cruise product out there, uh, but we’re We’re different, of course, we’re biased, we’re the best, but we can talk more about that later.
But yeah, I just fell in love with the business, with the industry.
And really, there’s really, in my personal humble opinion, there’s really no better way to travel than by cruise.
Because there’s so much that the cruise offers, and especially with the river, you’re right there in the heart. It’s easy, right?
The ships are small. all you, like we say, oceans take you to the destination, rivers take you through them.
And we stop in the heart of the cities where you get out right off the ship and, you know, everything’s pretty much included.
All the excursions are included, the food, you know, and you really have a truly immersive experience to really see so much.
And it’s really like traveling in your own private yacht through these beautiful, you know, countries and cities and in towns throughout the world, really.

James Ferrara:
[13:14] Well, River Cruise has been one of the hottest places, the hottest growth in the travel industry for a while now, for years now, and continues to be.
And we just see this real interest coming out of travelers.
And it is a more intimate experience.
And tell us, Alex, a little bit more about Ama then.
Within that experience, what is it that makes Ama different, makes Ama stand out?

Alex Pinelo:
[13:49] Oh, boy. How much time do we have? But no, for sure.
So really, and I have to say, you know, we have, you know, as you know, James, we were together, you know, last week at a big, the Academy Awards of the travel industry, right?
So we were really excited seeing everybody there, seeing you there.

James Ferrara:
[14:09] Looking great in our black tie.

Alex Pinelo:
[14:10] There you go. There you go. Exactly. Exactly. And then, of course, the wonderful awards that we got, which we’re very proud of, you know, from Best Cuisine, of course, the Best Ship with Alma Magna and the Best Overall, you know, River Cruise Company.
Now, when our owners were a family owned and operated business, we started, they started the company back in 2002.
And it was, you know, Rudy Schreiner, Christine Carson, the late Jimmy Murphy.
And I have to say, when they started the company back then, they were, they didn’t own any ships, right? They were, they were leasing a ship.
And then they, they, their dream was one day, one day, we would like to have three ships.
That was their, you know, their dream, their goal. Well, by 2025, Mike and James, by 2025, we will have 29 ships.
And the beauty of that, too, is that, you know, they’ve always run a very disciplined company with very, you know, conservative business practices. There’s no debt.
So all the ships are paid for. So they pay as they as they build them.
We’ll have 23 in Europe alone.
Of course, in Europe is the Danube, the Rhine, France.

[15:15] You know, of course, we’ll have a.
A couple ships in uh including there in portugal on the dura river we’ll have three ships in africa uh two on the nile and then one on the chobe river uh you know one in southeast asia on the mekong river visiting vietnam and cambodia and a brand new destination for us that will start uh in 2024 next year and is colombia uh in south america right on the magdalena river but to answer your question uh i know i’ve rambled a bit but you know what differentiates us it’s really you know, the fact that, you know, we’re family owned and operated and our owners are so involved in the day-to-day business.
We’re a financially stable company and it’s all about the people, right?
The crew that bend over backwards to ensure, you know, our guests’ expectations are not only met, but exceeded at every step of the way.
Everything that we include, right? All onboard dining is included.
All shore excursions are included. So, you know, some river cruise companies just include one daily excursion.
We all, all, you know, of course we have professionally trained wellness hosts on board the ships. We have complimentary wifi.
We even have a specialty restaurant on board.
You know, the, the, the chef’s table that’s also included.
You know, we, you know, of course our big commitment to sustainability, which is second to none, all of our European ships have the greens have been certified the green certificate by the port of Amsterdam.

AmaWaterways focuses on guest experience and amenities

[16:43] And really, you know, even when you do a pre or post extension, that cruise manager is with you every step of the way.
And I love to say, you know, many companies out there are making their decisions based on how they can put an extra buck in their pocket.
At AmaWaterways, we’re making our decisions based on how we can provide a better guest experience, right, for, you know, for our guests, your clients.
And as a result, we are, you know, the most awarded, You know, River Cruise Company, and, you know, we carry fewer guests than many of our competitors, allowing us to have, you know, more amenities on the ships, you know, like a fitness center, a beauty salon, a spa, a specialty restaurant, even a heated pool on the sun deck.
So lots of lots of amenities, lots of inclusions. We even have, you know, of course, all the wine, beer, soda included during your meals, even champagne at breakfast.
And we even have a one hour open bar every night before dinner.
So it’s as I like to say, it’s not what you pay to get on the ship is what you pay to get off the ship.
With Alma Waterways, we include so much.
We like to say we may not be all inclusive, but we’re more inclusive.

James Ferrara:
[17:51] And look, we know Christine and Rudy. In fact, Christine has been a guest in our first season, I think. Right, Mike?
Here. But they are warm and lovely and personable people, and they exude this sort of gracious hospitality.
And that, I think, what you’re saying and what I’ve seen is that that makes its way through the whole organization and the whole experience.

Mike Putman:
[18:21] 300 well actually this time last year i was actually on the magna uh doing the christmas market cruise myself so i can testify uh firsthand the um what a wonderful first of all what a wonderful experience i’ve been on i think 63 cruises that was my first river cruise believe it or not and uh just uh i had a wonderful experience and um i would just underscore everything alex said i mean um but the thing that was most interesting to me about that cruise Other than just the experience of the river cruise and porting at a city, and you’re literally…

[18:59] You walk 100 feet or 100 yards, and you’re in the center of town oftentimes, which is just such a nice, nice experience.

River cruises offer unique stops and cultural experiences

[19:06] And I’ll also say, even someday, well, one day of that cruise, we did two different stops in one day, which you would never consider on an ocean-going vessel.
You might do three stops or four stops in a seven-day period, and I think we did eight different stops during our time there.
But anyhow, the thing that really made it super special for us were the people.
And as James said, you know, the culture that has been created by the executive team there, it definitely flows down, right? You can see it.
People are sincerely happy to be working there. Um, you’re, you’re, you’re greeted with people that are really trying to give you an exceptional customer service experience.
Not that they’re being told to, it just seems like it’s part of their DNA, part of their culture.
Um, and it was just a, a magnificent, unique experience for me.
Um, I really appreciated it.

Alex Pinelo:
[20:10] Did you, uh, did you do any, any bike tours? Because we do carry bicycles on our ships. So, uh, those are very popular as well.

Mike Putman:
[20:17] You know, it was snowy in a lot of places. And also I was being drugged by my wife and my daughter through every Christmas market in Europe.
So I was trying to trying to get away from those things.
But we did some great experiences, though, beyond the Christmas markets. And, you know, and there would have been a lot of these, you know, short excursions I typically would not do on an ocean going vessel because they seem kind of they do seem kind of touristy, you know, like being drug through one of these markets that’s made up for.
Travelers, you know, and they’re selling you stuff that’s made in China, even though you’re in Jamaica, uh, as an example, but, but these really, the, the tours that were provided on, on by the, uh, uh, AMA were, were actually really educational.
And again, I wouldn’t have done several of them had they not been included.
And, um, but, but I did, and I’m really happy I did. It was a fantastic experience.

Christmas markets and the charm of river cruising in Europe

James Ferrara:
[21:17] Well, and this time of year, the Christmas you’re in the land end of Christmas, right? You’re in Austria, you’re in Germany.
This is where our idea of Christmas in the United States comes from, right? All the images that we have.
And these Christmas markets are really beautiful and charming.
And it is the highlight for a lot of people of river cruising at this time of year.
But we’re looking forward now into at least the spring and probably further than that so you mentioned some travel experiences that I were not I was not aware of in Africa the Nile of course but but you said the Chobe River oh my god I have to tell you you know and we’re blessed right we’ve traveled to a lot of places in the world in April I did our Zambezi Queen on the Chobe river.

Alex Pinelo:
[22:16] And I have to tell you, it has, it was by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I mean, it’s, it’s unbelievable.
And, and, uh, how that works is the you’re on the Zambezi queen and, and it’s our smallest ship, 28 guests or 14 suites.
Uh, you’re cruising four days on the Chobe river.
Uh, the only ship in our fleet that doesn’t follow a nautical schedule, you’re actually following the animals, you know, where you get to, you’ll get to see the big five, You know, the leopards, the lions, the rhinos, the buffalo, the elephant.
And I have to say, so the trip, so it’s a four night, but then you combine it with, you know, five different land options because you’re doing safaris by water, safaris by land.
You start, you know, three nights in Cape Town.
Then you fly to, you know, Victoria Falls and you go to, you know, to, you know, the ship on the Chobe River where you spend four nights doing, you know, two safaris by water each day.
Uh, you know, you start off, you can go fishing, birdwatching, then you do your safari by these boats and the boats only carry like 10 passengers.
So they’re very intimate. You’re going, you know, face to face with, uh, with the animals, which is great. One day you get to go to Chobe national park.
Uh, you know, that’s, you know, my God, you’ll never see more elephants in, in, in your lifetime.
Uh, it’s amazing. Uh, a whole day there that you have a game drive. Um.

Safari and Victoria Falls: Unforgettable Experiences

[23:38] A safari there. Then of course, after that, you go to Victoria Falls for a couple of nights, staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
From there, you go to Johannesburg.
And then, you know, you, then you can select, you know, whether you go to one of the Tinswallow Lodges, where you go to, or whether you go to Kruger National Park, whether you do the Rovo’s Rail.
We did a Tinswallow Lodge, which was unbelievable, amazing.
I mean, with the safaris, I mean, you’re having private cocktail parties in the bush with rhinos behind you and it was magical.
Then you can even add the Rwanda extension for the gorilla trekking.
So really, if you’re going to do a safari, there’s no better way of doing it because you’re really getting the best of both worlds, seeing the animals keep in mind the animals are coming to you know the the river to drink water so you’re seeing the animals face to face uh you know so you’re having safaris by water safaris by land and then just an amazing intimate experience on the ship like i said that’s just following the animals all the time and it’s truly truly the most incredible thing i’ve ever done Wow.

James Ferrara:
[24:52] And you mentioned Thailand or Vietnam, and those are very popular destinations now.
And also you said the Magdalena River in Colombia and South America. What happens there?

Alex Pinelo:
[25:08] So that is starting in November of 2024.
So we’re in the process of building the two ships.
We’re going to have the Ama Magdalena, which will come out November of 2024, carrying 60 passengers. And then the Ama Melodia, which will come out in June of 2025, which will carry 64 passengers.
We’ll be doing seven-day cruises on the Magdalena River, cruising from Cartagena to Barranquilla and then the reverse.
And then we’ll have some wonderful land extensions, you know, in Medellin, you know, Cartagena, even Panama City. Uh, you know, it is selling so well.
Uh, and it’s, you know, again, we’re, we’re the first, you know, we’re, we tend to always be the innovators, you know, in the space, but we’re the first to, to cruise in that area.
So, uh, uh, we’re right now developing the, the whole program, the, the, the whole, uh, you know, land program in Columbia.
What an amazing destination from the culture, the people, the food, the rum, the dance, the wildlife, the coffee that, you know, I can go on to chocolate.
So we’re so excited with that, with this new destination, James, that we have an office in Barranquilla and and Shakira.

James Ferrara:
[26:28] It has a house in Barranquilla. That’s where she’s from. That’s not why we have an office in Barranquilla, but just an interesting fact.
And I just love going there. The people are lovely in Colombia.
The music is great. The food is great.
The scenery is beautiful, right? Really just a great destination.

Alex Pinelo:
[26:52] For sure. Yeah, so that’ll be so. So, Colombia, the Mekong, you know, that we talked about, and those are the cruises through Vietnam and Cambodia.
And you can add the extension, of course, in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Siem Reap with Angkor Wat, you know.
So, and of course, Ho Chi Minh City in Saigon.
We have Africa. We have Egypt on the Nile as well.
So, you know, again, those are our, you know, our exotics.
And of course, our core still is Europe, right? Right. With the like I said, the 23 ships that we have in Europe out of our 29 ships.
So we’re really that’s our core destination.
And, you know, again, there’s no better way to see and visit these amazing countries.
I mean, the core the core of our business has always been to provide these unforgettable cruise experiences for our guests.
And it’s all about creating those those guests and those customers for life. Right.
That will keep coming back to us time after time because they’re having such a wonderful experience on board.
And, you know, we are so proud of what we offer. We’re so proud of our relationship, right, that we have.
I mean, you guys are great partners, great friends, you know. Thank you.

James Ferrara:
[28:04] And it takes a good travel advisor, right, to get the right person into the right experience, onboard the right ship, so that they have a truly great experience.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say, I don’t like cruising.
And then when I drill down, it becomes clear to me that somebody put them on the wrong ship, you know?

Alex Pinelo:
[28:29] You know what? You just hit the nail on the head because, and as I mentioned earlier in the podcast, right, there’s not a bad cruise product.
There’s not a bad river cruise product out there, but we are different.
And it’s so important to make sure that at Ama Waterways, the majority of our business comes from our valued travel partners, our friends, you guys. And we’re more, we consider ourselves more than a supplier.
We’re your partner, we’re your business partner. And together, you know, we’re going to make sure that we are putting, you know, your customers first.
Or your clients, our guests on the right product, on the right ship.
And I have to say, you guys do my hats off to you guys, because you guys do an amazing job.
And we just love working with your entire team. And, and, you know, again, we have no, no doubt that we’re going to continue to do great things together and, and together, right?
Let’s continue to show, you know, your, your, your pants are the world one river at a time. We’re going to do it together.

James Ferrara:
[29:27] Yeah, no, I love that. Let’s touch on just one more topic, and that is sustainability, because it is so, well, let’s say it gets talked about a lot.
Anyhow, we’d like to see a little more action around it.
But one of the interesting dynamics here, especially if you compare to ocean cruising or to any other kind of travel, really, is that river cruise does seem a bit more gentle on the planet, doesn’t it?

Alex Pinelo:
[29:56] Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, again, we’re for the most part, we’re not traveling as far as some of the ocean cruises. We’re not consuming as much fuel as some of the ocean cruise lines.
But we take sustainability, you know, really, really, really serious in our company.
It’s at the core of everything that we do, continuing to improve, I mean, and things that we can eliminate easily, you know, like eliminating, you know, single-use plastics on board and adding, you know, even the technicals, the engines of the ships have come such a long way since we started back in 2002 to the point where, and I know, Mike, you mentioned you were on the Alma Magna last year, which is great.
It’s our it’s our you know our biggest ship it carries 196 guests which is the same number of guests that some of our competitors put on their smaller ships but anyways uh.

Alma Magna’s Sustainable Features and Enhancements

[30:52] We have, you know, on the Alma Magna, you know, on our regular twin balcony, you know, ships in Europe, we normally have two engines.
The Alma Magna has 10 engines. And what does that mean is like when we’re going downstream, we may only have to use one or two engines versus when you’re going upstream. stream.
We just, you know, added, you know, installed solar panels on the Alma Magna all throughout on the balconies, which is, you know, generating a big portion of our electricity on board.
You know, and there’s so much that we constantly are doing and will continue to do, and we’ll continue to make improvements and enhancements.
You know, we have some, even we even have some gardens, you know, on board that, you know, you know, for, you know, certain types of, you know, herbs and spices and what have you that we can, we can grow on the ship.

[31:44] You know, so again, it’s something that, you know, you know, we’re, we’re continuously improving, you know, from, you know, even the, you know, the, the glass throughout the ships that we use now and the special tinting that we use to, to really save on energy.
The fact that, you know, again, because most of our ships do have the, you know, outdoor balconies and even in Europe, aside from the Magna, we have our signature twin balcony staterooms, as we call them.
And that’s the best of both worlds with a French balcony and a step-out balcony.
When you open the balcony door, of course, the air condition turns off in your staterooms.
You need the key card to put into the slot when you go into your room to make sure that if you’re not in there, the lights are going to go off.
So we’re really continuously improving.

James Ferrara:
[32:33] That’s great. And I think what our listeners want to know is that you’re mindful of it, right?
And it’s a thoughtful approach and it is clearly, and we could feel good about it.

Alex Pinelo:
[32:47] Yep, for sure. For sure. I mean, there were, you know, days, you know, or years in Japan where you’d go on a cruise and you’d get a ream of paper on your stateroom, everything that was Right.
And many times you end up throwing that away.
And now we have a state-of-the-art app, right, that we can, you know, we can provide all the information.
We can allow our guests to stay connected. The documents there, the daily crews are there instead of print.
If you want to print it out, you can tell the reception you want to print it out.
But if not, we deliver it to the app, which, you know, probably 90% of our guests will go that route, you know.
And, you know, so again, making it easy all around for our guests.

Mike Putman:
[33:27] Assuming this new ship that’s destined for Columbia is not being built in Columbia, how do you get it there? Because these are not ocean-going vessels.

Alex Pinelo:
[33:38] Believe it or not, we are actually building it in Columbia.
Oh really it’s a smaller you know it’s a smaller mind you it’s a smaller ship uh so it’s not you know obviously the the large ocean liners that you that we tend to think about uh it’s a smaller ship so yes they are they are both being uh built there in colombia okay that’s interesting it is interesting so alex when you travel let’s bring it back home because we we promise our listeners here that we’re going to give them some tips, some hacks, and to help them have more memorable travels.

Tips for Memorable Travel Experiences

James Ferrara:
[34:15] Is there anything you do in your personal travels when you arrive at the hotel or when you go to a new destination or even go to a familiar destination?
Anything you do to have a better time, to get a better sense of place?
Any kind of tip that you can give us when you’re traveling?

Alex Pinelo:
[34:35] Absolutely. So I’m going to give you a couple tips and one being, and especially that we talked about packing, right? Which is so important.
What I tend to do when I pack, and especially if you’re going to try to carry on your luggage, I try to leave my clothes in the hangers and in the laundry plastics because they tend to not wrinkle when you keep them in the plastic.

[35:01] So then you fold them and you put them in your in your suitcase.
So that’s a huge tip that has really helped.
Another thing that that we take for granted, especially, you know, you know, you you’re going to be, you know, tipping, you know, a lot of people throughout your journey, you know, so don’t get stuck with having, you know, twenty dollar bills and fifty dollar bills.
So so my tip and what I what I did before I went to to my cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia Cambodia in September is I went to the bank and got a pack of single dollar bills and $5 bills.
And another thing to make sure that when you’re traveling to some of these countries, and especially like Vietnam and Cambodia, if the bills are a little torn or old looking, they won’t take them.
So make sure that you have fresh bills. So when I was able to go to the bank and I was able to get some fresh, you know, bills without any tears, without any rips, you know, so I think it’s little tips that what you can do to plan ahead and always, always, always make a copy of your passport and have it, you know, aside, you know, something, you know what I’m doing and I’m going to give away. way.
You know, I hope my, my family’s not listening.

Travel Hacks for Peace of Mind

[36:17] You know, but and, and, and I heard that I give credit to you know, somebody else in the industry that I was talking to Vicki.

[36:25] But you know, I’m doing a passport holder with, you know, an Apple tag.
It’s, it’s really, really, you know, that way you’re not going to lose your passport. So hopefully, and then one thing that happened to me, and this is a little bit of a funny story.

[36:40] You know, how many times you check in at the counter at the airport and you get your boarding pass and you didn’t even look at it to make sure that it’s your name on it.
So I was in Europe coming back from a trip and I checked in and I got my boarding pass and I’m walking to go to security.
And I happened to look down to see the boarding pass and it said Edamame Jones.
I’ve never forgotten the name. So I’m like, Edamame Jones.
I’m like, what? So I had to go back. So again, when you get your boarding pass, check, make sure it’s yours.
When you get your passport back when you’re traveling, and sometimes the cruise lines keep your passports, when you get it back, even though they put the sticker outside the passport with your name, open it up and make sure it’s yours.
The last thing you want is to get somebody else’s passport and you figure that out when you get to the airport and you get to customs or immigration.
So little tips to really help make your travel a little bit more seamless and provide that peace of mind so that you know that you’re not going to get in a bind once you get to the airport.

Mike Putman:
[37:45] That’s some great advice, Alex. I really, really appreciate that.
And I’m sure our guests or our listeners will as well.
Thank you. You’ve been really gracious with your time and sharing about your personal travels and your product that you represent so well.
So really appreciate having you on and hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Alex Pinelo:
[38:07] I’ll close in saying the same thing as I said earlier.
First of all, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year.
But your clients are lucky because you guys really are top-notch, class act, and nobody takes better care of their clients.
And we’re so lucky to be working together as partners, and the future looks great for us. us.
And, you know, I just want to say thank you for all that you do for us and for the industry, because it does make a difference.

James Ferrara:
[38:39] Thank you, Alex. Very kind of you. We’ll all see each other on our next Alma Waterways cruise, right? Thank you so much, Alex Piniello.

Alex Pinelo:
[38:48] Sounds good. Thank you so much. Bye-bye, everybody.

Alex’s Vast Knowledge of the Cruise Business

Mike Putman:
[38:51] It was great having Alex on board. Man, has he been in the business a long time.
What a vast plethora of knowledge about the cruise business.

James Ferrara:
[39:01] We could have him back to talk about the early days of Norwegian-Caribbean cruise lines and then Royal Caribbean, which came out of that, and Royal Viking lines.
He was around for an early part of the industry. That’s interesting.
You and I just came back from Cancun.
And although we were on a business trip you know it’s never all business with us we always find find a little time for fun we were at moon palace resorts which is enormous it’s this wonga resort there are three different resorts on the property um a whole bunch of restaurants lots of stuff to do we had a lot of private events and cocktail events and so on we did put on a drone show which was pretty good pretty groovy that yeah that was that was neat and actually i posted that a video that to my instagram but for clarity though we didn’t put it on the venue put it on just for for clarity but well excuse me i paid for it.

[40:07] But anyway there it was this i’d never seen anything like it but there were i don’t know 50 to 100 drones that they had in sync and they flew around together and they made different objects in the sky it was really interesting and they did make our company logo and the palace resorts logo it was i just noticed whenever you see a drone show there’s always that one drone that’s the program has gone off and it’s off over somewhere over here it’s not the other drones but But anyhow, we had some big parties while we were there.
And one of the interesting experiences that I think our listeners enjoyed.

[40:48] Get some value out of is we went to a facility that was just built by Ryu Resorts.
And they’re another very big brand in Latin America and Times Square in New York, too.

[41:04] And they built a, I don’t know what you call it, a party palace.
They built next to one of their hotels.
This is an Ibiza style party facility it’s built around a swimming pool in the middle and then bars and balconies and lounges and dj booths and whatever and then they had foam cannons and go-go dancers and confetti and balloons and just put on this like incredible party right yeah yeah and that was and they asked everybody to wear white that night so all of the like that was the theme so for that night it was the white party and there were i’ve never seen anything like it uh that’s been coordinated i’ve seen some uncoordinated things that turned into things like that but uh really remarkable i mean This facility holds several thousand people, and we were there with that many people.
And what’s interesting is if you’re a Ryu guest at one of their hotels, and they have several hotels in Cancun, they produce these parties like four nights a week, and they’re free.

[42:27] You know, you’re a guest. And then depending upon what level of plan you’re on at their hotels, like there are different levels of all-inclusive and then deluxe, all-inclusive, so on.
You go to certain bars in this facility and you get the same kinds of stuff included as you would back at your hotel.
So anyway, I thought it was a big investment they made and it was a really cool venue.
And then, Mike, you were off on your own one night.

Mike Putman:
[42:56] Yeah, I was just going to talk a little bit before that, I mean, still about this Ryu facility.
They have these, I don’t know, 50 or 60 dancers that are, some are on pedestals, some are on the stage.
They have these really elaborate costumes. costumes.
Um, it, it, it is, it is something I would say, like, if you’re thinking about going to an all inclusive in Riviera Maya or Cancun area, I would consider that as certainly a plus to maybe consider you if that suits your fancy.
And a lot of people, it’s not going to their fancy, but, um, but it was loud club music, uh, but it wasn’t over the top, but it was, was it was really supremely well done yes one of those go-go dancers beautiful men and women one of them came over with a a big water gun rifle thing and squirted tequila into my mouth i just want to say.

A Food Adventure in Cancun

[44:03] Yeah it was quite an experience um so uh i did go out to uh one of my well my favorite not one of my favorite my favorite restaurant in cancun so you know cancun for our listeners many of you have been there it’s a very popular destination very popular destination to have all-inclusive, resorts um so a lot of times people don’t get off the resort to go try some other things Um, but even when I do, uh, I go to, there’s a place called Lorenzio’s and it’s a, uh, it’s on the, the Bay side of Cancun and the hotel zone.
And, um, it’s this beautiful complex that’s over the water.
Um, it’s got several, a couple of stories.
It’s a big complex, but it’s built out over the water.
And they have a big live lobster tank, but not like one you see in a grocery store.
This is huge and they have like five, six pound lobsters in it. Really remarkable.

[45:07] Very upscale menu, which you wouldn’t expect in Cancun, but really nice alfresco dining inside and outside and nice wine list with some really good Mexican wines, which they have some great Mexican wines now.
But I would really suggest you give that a try. Not overly expensive, not by U.S.
Standards, maybe by standards, but it’s great food.
But that was not a lobster that i saw swimming next to your table yeah they have evidently a pet 12 foot crocodile it’s not a pet it just lives in the in the bay but i’m assuming people probably customers who don’t eat their food throw it over even though there’s signs that say not don’t feed the crocodiles but uh it just swam and stayed i mean it was 18 inches away from my foot he looked looked well fed too that was not a skinny crocodile no he’s he’s not has not gone hungry anytime anyway that that’s a nice uh experience to have had down there and a big news in that area is that in the first week of december the new airport in tulum about two hours south of cancun opened.

New Airport in Tulum Opens

James Ferrara:
[46:28] So you used to have to fly into Cancun and then drive all the way down to Tulum which is another great resort along the um, The coast there, sort of Maya coast in the Yucatan.
And now you can fly directly into Tulum.
It’s gotten so popular that this is a big deal that this airport has opened down there.
Through the last couple of years, more than a couple of years, Cancun has been either number one or number two destination for travelers traveling internationally out of the United States.
And the other big one is Jamaica, typically Montego Bay, Jamaica.
And they kind of vie the last few years with first and second place.
But that’s how important Cancun is.

Mike Putman:
[47:21] So it’ll take some pressure off that airport because that airport is maxed out.
I mean, I was waiting for a few hours for my flight and it’s crowded.
So that will take some congestion off of the airport, which will give a better experience for everyone.

James Ferrara:
[47:39] Yes, agreed.

Mike Putman:
[47:40] I think we’re going to wrap up our season here, or at least for 2023.
So thank you, listeners, for being part of No Tourists Allowed.

James Ferrara:
[47:49] And one of the highlights, Mike, was we gave away that Virgin Voyages cruise for two.
And our lucky winner, maybe he’s going to join us after he takes his cruise in the first half of 2024.
But when we come back after the holidays, guys, we’ll come back with another offer like that for you.
So tell your friends to join us here at No Tourism Alone.
In the meantime, we appreciate you. We thank you for being with us through 2023.
And we wish you happy holidays, those of you who are celebrating at this time of year. And we’ll see you in 2024.

Mike Putman:
[48:32] Yeah, look forward to it. Happy holidays, everyone. Thank you.

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