Sailing Ahead with Celebrity Cruises: A Modern Take on Travel and Sustainability with Katina Athanasiou

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Set sail with us on a voyage through the modern landscape of travel as we host Katina Athanasiou, the Senior VP of Sales and Services for the Americas at Celebrity Cruise Lines. Who better to steer us through the currents of innovation, service, and sustainability in cruising? We kick off with a rapid-fire session, unpacking Katina’s personal travel gems—from her top hotel brands to that nerve-wracking shark and ray feeding adventure.

In this episode, we get down to the brass tacks of what’s shaking up the cruise industry, like how Celebrity Cruises has redrawn the line between cruising and chic, boutique experiences. Ever wondered why cruising isn’t just for retirees anymore? Listen in as Katina demystifies the evolving demographics of cruise goers and unveils the breathtaking destinations Celebrity Cruises has in its arsenal, including their plans for the game-changing Celebrity Ascent ship. But we don’t just keep it afloat on the surface. We also tackle the hot button issue of environmental sustainability in cruising.

Lastly, to feed your wanderlust further, we offer a smorgasbord of personal travel insights and tools that keep us ahead of the curve. From New Orleans’ culinary delights to the seismic shifts in airline ticket pricing, this episode is your compass to all things travel. Don’t just be a tourist, be a well-informed traveler.

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Introducing the Special Guest: Katina Athanasiou

Mike Putman:
[0:01] Hello, everyone. I am Mike Putman.

James Ferrara:
[0:03] I am James Ferrara. Welcome to No Tourists Allowed.

Mike Putman:
[0:08] Yeah, we’re glad you joined us today. We have a very, very special guest, someone we’ve been trying to get on the pod for several months now.
Without any delay, I think I’ll just go ahead and introduce the special guests.
We have the Senior Vice President of Sales and Services for the Americas, for one of the top-rated cruise lines in the world, that’s Celebrity Cruise Lines. So I’d like to welcome Katina Athanasiou.
Welcome to No Tours Allowed.

Katina Athanasiou:
[0:41] Thank you, Mike and James. It’s great to see you both. I’m thrilled to be here.
I love travel better, pay less, see more. I love this.

Mike Putman:
[0:49] Thanks, Katina.

James Ferrara:
[0:52] And we’ve known each other for a while now. It’s been wonderful working with you.
You are a true leader in the industry and important for a lot of women in the industry too, as someone to look up to in the industry.
So really thrilled that you could join us and we can spend a little bit of time helping our audience get to know you.

Mike Putman:
[1:20] Yeah, very much appreciate your time. And Katina, one of the first things that we do with a lot of our guests is we take them through what we call rapid-fire questions.
So these are just some questions about your travel personally, not in your corporate role per se, although it could include your travel when you’re traveling on business.
But just a few questions, and if you’ll just come back with the first thing that comes to your mind, it’ll help our listeners and viewers get a better idea about you and your travel. Sound good?

Katina Athanasiou:
[1:52] I’m ready.

Mike Putman:
[1:53] Okay. So what is your favorite hotel brand or individual property, Katina?

Favorite Hotel Brand and Property: Four Seasons vs Montage

Katina Athanasiou:
[2:02] Oh, favorite hotel brand is a toss-up between Four Seasons and Montage.
Favorite property, I would probably go Montage Palmetto Bluff, which is just gorgeous in the South.
South, Bluffton, South Carolina has this really great mix of elegance but understated outdoor activities and lots of fun, just like good southern hospitality.

Mike Putman:
[2:32] So you would say that’s better than any property in New York.

North-South Divide: New York vs. South Carolina

James Ferrara:
[2:39] This is a North-South thing that we’re drawing you into now.

Katina Athanasiou:
[2:43] Absolutely. So that’s- I do love New York, but my favorite property that comes to mind, and they’ve got this gorgeous dog that continues to stay in the lobby, and you get to go and chat and pet the dog, and it is, I would say, palmetto bluff.

Mike Putman:
[3:02] That wins. Okay. And the great state of South Carolina, I might add.
All right, Katina, what is your favorite destination that you might, and we kind of couple this because James and I are dear lovers of food, as you can tell, but if you’re thinking about a destination that might be food-related, where there might be a really authentic restaurant or a restaurant that you really like, can you couple those two things together for one answer?

Katina Athanasiou:
[3:32] Oh, goodness. I would initially say Sicily comes to mind at first because there is such an authenticity and uniqueness to Sicilian Italian food that I haven’t been able to really find in duplicate many other places.
So that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And I love traveling, I love traveling and I love food as well.
And I love the opportunity to find unique places that I can’t get other places in the world as well. So Sicily is one that comes to mind first.

James Ferrara:
[4:12] So it’s so interesting that you say that. I just got back last night from New Orleans and sort of improbably, I found a beautiful antique and art store there, called Sud, S-U-D, which is the Italian word for South.
Everything in the store is from Sicily.
And by the way, the store owner, the proprietor, corrected me several times when I said, Italian.
He said, no, no, not Italian, Sicilian.

Katina Athanasiou:
[4:48] It’s Sicilian.

A Store Filled with Sicilian Treasures

James Ferrara:
[4:52] And this is part of my heritage, so I’m very proud of it.
But the store was filled with with incredible food things and incredible artwork and incredible antiques from Sicily. Might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Sicily, but I wanted everything.
So Sicily is a beautiful place.

Katina Athanasiou:
[5:17] You know, to me, there’s a nuance because similarly, I’m of Greek descent and I have extended family members that are actually from Crete.
And it’s similar in terms of when you talk to somebody from Greece and you reference Crete, no, we’re not Greek.
We’re Cretan. And the way in which Sicilians and even Cretans prepare their food and serve their food, there are similarities.
But there are differences in herbs that they use, differences in how they prepare some of the fare.
And so there are nuances to me that I’ve found really tough to duplicate elsewhere. So, yep, excellent.

Sharing Memorable Shore Excursions

Mike Putman:
[6:01] Well, moving, moving along. What is the best shore excursion you’ve ever been on?

Magical Glacier Hiking in Juneau, Alaska

Katina Athanasiou:
[6:09] Oh goodness. What should have been the best or what was the best?
Let’s see what was your choice.
What was the best? Definitely. The first thing that pops to mind is glacier hiking in Juneau.
And why I loved that is because it was like you get on your helicopter, you’re all suited up, and you’re on a four-seat helicopter that takes you up to the glacier.
You walk out, there’s tents set up on the glacier.
You put on your clamp-ons, you’re harnessed up to a super small group, and you literally begin to glacier hike, tethered to your guide and tethered to a small group.
And you’re going through crevasses and you’re literally climbing and hiking on the glacier for probably a good hour and a half to two hours.
And you drink glacial water, you sit and you have some hot chocolate and tea and coffee.
And it was the most magical, quiet, beautiful experience that I still live through in my head a lot. So that went to me, and it’s like God’s country in Alaska was really something super special.

James Ferrara:
[7:27] And what was the one that should have, been?

Katina Athanasiou:
[7:32] Should have been was our honeymoon in French Polynesia, and we were really, really lucky, and we did a combination of Bora Bora, Marea, and we also did a cruise throughout all of the French Polynesian Islands.
And what should have been the best was the shark and ray feeding that so many people talk about, and how wonderful it is to have all of the stingrays and the sharks come, and you’re literally in the water swimming with them and doing all these beautiful things, and I panicked.
I literally got in the water, and within seven seconds I panicked and was flailing my arms and had to get back on the boat. And my husband, because we’re four days married in, I think he looked at me like, this is what I signed up for?

Mike Putman:
[8:14] Hey, I’m with you.
That has never really appealed to me. I have swam with rays before, but the sharks, not interested.

Katina Athanasiou:
[8:25] It appealed to me. It did not appeal to my person once I got in that water.

Travel Preferences: Aisle Seat and Carry-On Luggage

Mike Putman:
[8:33] And so, Katina, when you travel, are you an aisle person or a window person? Aisle.

Katina Athanasiou:
[8:38] 100% of the time. It has to be an aisle. Yeah.

Mike Putman:
[8:40] How about carry on or check your luggage?

Katina Athanasiou:
[8:45] Oh, carry on. Yep.

Mike Putman:
[8:48] You’re in my court.

Katina Athanasiou:
[8:51] How do you do it? You know, it takes, it takes practice.
It takes, it takes a lot of trial and error, but I’m also, you know, my, my dad was 35 years in the airline industry. And so he taught us really young, carry on. And he taught us really young, if you can’t lift it, don’t carry it.
So that’s one of the rules that I try to live by. I have to make sure that even though I’m vertically challenged at a good 5’3″, I have to make sure that my carry-on is light enough that I can lift it over and put it up in the overhead.

Mike Putman:
[9:26] Good for you.

James Ferrara:
[9:27] This is one of the constant debates here on No Tourists Allowed, but I’m a big guy and I’m traveling with suits and sport jackets and shoes.
I need a bag just for my shoes.

Mike’s laughter at the age difference

Mike Putman:
[9:41] Mike is laughing.

James Ferrara:
[9:42] I thought he was 12, Mike.

Mike Putman:
[9:44] It’s 12, Mike. All right. It’s not that much different.
I’m getting ready to go. I’m getting ready to leave this week, as a matter of fact, for about 19 days, and I’ve got one carry-on that I’m carrying on.
James traveled with him, and he’s been gone for three days, and he has two, not roller boards, but family suitcases, and he has to have someone go with him to help him get his bags.

James Ferrara:
[10:09] Yeah, I used to say that my father traveled like a pasha and had like sherpas with trunks with him wherever he went, and that’s how I met him.

Packing Tips for Traveling Light

Katina Athanasiou:
[10:26] Okay, but this is not about me, Mike. That’s impressive, 19 days with a carry-on.
I don’t know that I’ve done 19. I would have shipped clothes to where I was going before I would have checked the luggage in.

Mike Putman:
[10:38] Well, and I did 21 days in Scotland this summer, and the same thing, but there’s some tricks to it.
I actually have a packing video, if you look back years ago, that’s been on YouTube for a long time.
But but there’s a science of kind of planning ahead and having your clothes laundered and so forth. So, you know, it’s not everything gets worn a couple of times, typically, I’ll put it that way.
But but it’s it’s always a challenge for sure. But Katina, let’s talk a little bit about your company.
You know, I’m sure most of our listeners have heard of Celebrity, but for those who haven’t, can you talk a little bit about just in general the Celebrity brand, which happens to be probably my favorite cruise line?
And how that falls into kind of the premium cruising category.

Katina Athanasiou:
[11:28] Thanks for that. You know, we are, I’m very, very lucky. I have what I consider to be the best job in the entire world, and I get to lead this great sales organization at Celebrity.
And every day, we really focus on the core value of how we can show up and be the best premium cruise line.
And when we talk about different types of cruise lines in the space, and I like to compare a lot from hotels because most consumers, most travelers are used to the hotel kind of portfolio.
So when you look at the family of brands, if you compare it against the hotel segment, right, and you look at Marriott as a corporation, you’ve got your Marriott brands, you’ve got your JW Marriott, which is a little bit of a higher echelon, and then you’ve got your Ritz-Carlton.

[12:18] We fall into that middle segment, so what we call in cruise the premium segment, which is much closer to the luxury level of service and cuisine and quality, but you have the size of the vessels that could be perceived in the contemporary space.
So there’s a lot of activities and entertainment and offerings.
So it’s kind of the best of both worlds.
And the way that we look at premium experiences is really important in terms of how we show up in an elevated way with everything that we do.

Elevating the Cruise Experience with Design

[12:53] Elevated service, bespoke service, elevated food and drink offerings, experiences and activities. We wanna show up better for our guests who are looking for an elevated product.

James Ferrara:
[13:07] You’ve also elevated design in the cruise industry as well, though, right?
I mean, something I think of, the celebrity ships are just stunning, you know, and not in that old style way of, you know, just bling and sort of entertainment architecture, the kind of old style of cruise They’re stunning in that they look like boutique hotels in New York, or high-style clubs and restaurants in New York.

Contemporary and airy aesthetic combined with creature comforts and travel style.

Katina Athanasiou:
[13:44] They have that feel to them. Thanks. Yeah, thank you for that call-out.
There is a contemporary element and a light and bright and airy element in terms of the aesthetic that we really try to bring to the product.
And the way that we’ve looked at design as well, you know, when people go away on vacation, they like to have a little bit of creature comforts and travel in the style in which they live.
And they like to do it in places that they can still test and try new things in new destinations.
So we try to really bring the best of both of those worlds together.
And in terms of even the elevated style in what we look to do, just this year we were actually recognized in the first in the entire cruise industry to be recognized and receive four star ratings from Forbes Travel Guide, which is like unheard of in the cruise space.
And it’s been amazing and fun because it’s allowed us to talk to a non-cruiser in a way that validates the level of product to match their expectation before they sail?

James Ferrara:
[14:53] I think that’s been really important for younger generations too, right?
Because there is, I used to have a friend who was a model in New York and sort of one of the cool kids, beautiful people, right?
And one time he said to me, oh, cruising, 5,000 people on board and not one good pair of shoes.
Like he had a real snobbery about cruising.
And then I got him on a celebrity ship and he was blown away.
Blown away by the look, the artwork on board, the innovation.
It was on edge, which happens to be a great example, right?
So you’ve got this traveling platform on the outside of the cruise ship and you’ve got these incredible spaces, a three-story entertainment space on the back of the ship.
It felt like a club in New York which was perfect for his 30-something year old, you know, group.
And that’s an age and this sort of profile that I think contemporary cruising on these big ships had a hard time addressing and attracting that profile, right?
But I think celebrity has really done something special.

Depth of product, number of ships, and marquee destinations.

Katina Athanasiou:
[16:21] Yeah, no, thank you for that.

Mike Putman:
[16:23] Oh, sorry. Katina, talk to us a little bit about depth of product, number of ships, ships, regions of destination, things like that.

Katina Athanasiou:
[16:33] So we are about to welcome 16, number 16, into the fleet, and we’re excited about that, 16 ships across the world that we deploy.
I like to say that we follow the sun. So what we really do is focus on being able to bring our guests to marquee destinations in the right time of year in which they want to visit the destination.
Our top four, I like to say four because one, while though it’s small in volume, is really truly magical, but our top four destinations really are Alaska.
It’s a bucket list for people. The best way to see it is on a cruise because you can really get in depth and you can marry that with a beautiful land program.
Europe, of course, because it’s a great opportunity to see and experience multiple countries within one trip.
Caribbean, mostly because it’s quick and short getaways, so that’s where the ship becomes a bit more of the destination, because many people may have traveled to the Caribbean, but they can travel better on on our ships.
And then the fourth, I would say, is the Galapagos, because it really is a unique sustainable destination in which we can bring both outdoors and indoors together in a holistic and beautiful way that still speaks to the destination in itself with an immersion aspect.

The Enchanting Experience of the Galapagos Islands

Mike Putman:
[18:00] Awesome. And for our listeners as well, I mean, the Galapagos is such a special place. Can you talk just briefly a little bit about the experience there, where the ship departs, how long the journey is, et cetera? Yeah.

Katina Athanasiou:
[18:14] So we have seven night voyages. We have three ships that are actually sailing in the Galapagos, and we have two small, what I call a yacht-like experiences, a 16-passenger vessel, a 48-passenger vessel, and then a hundred passenger vessel.
So when you’re traveling to the Galapagos, you’re traveling on one of these three voyages with us or ships with us in very small numbers.
And we do that very intentionally.
Our entire Galapagos product is in partnership with the government of Ecuador and everything that we do from crew to procurement, food and beverage is all sustainable within its own ecosystem in Ecuador.
So, it’s really important to us that we have a very immersive and authentic experience when traveling to the Galapagos.
And it’s a beautiful blend of enrichment.
It’s a beautiful blend of flora and fauna and great wildlife.
And kind of a learning experience that you didn’t go into thinking that you would really enjoy from a learning, but you come out so much better and enriched as a result of seeing the full ecosystem unchanged and untouched, and we really work hard to make sure that we keep that there.

Mike Putman:
[19:32] That’s great.

James Ferrara:
[19:34] Only certain cruise lines are licensed to operate in the Galapagos.
It’s such an important treasured asset in the world that you have to be qualified, the practices are reviewed and approved, right?
So it’s a big deal that celebrity is such an important player in that part of the world. And it’s a lifetime memory, right?
So once in a lifetime thing to do.

Celebrity Ascent: A New Ship with Innovations and Entertainment

Katina Athanasiou:
[20:09] It is. It’s a bucket list. It’s a magical experience.
And what I love about the Galapagos is it can be multi-gen and it doesn’t have to be multi-gen.
Like, it serves and services a broad range of both demographic and psychographic because of all of the enrichment opportunities.
There’s hiking every day, there’s landings every day. So it can be as active as you want or as enriching as you want it to be depending upon who you’re traveling with.

Mike Putman:
[20:41] Yeah, and Katina, I know you’re really excited about the launch of a new product that you had briefly mentioned before. Can you share some more detail about that with our listeners?

Katina Athanasiou:
[20:51] Yes, Celebrity Ascent, you know, we, uh, ships typically in the maritime industry are, are, are female, they’re feminine in nature. So we always refer to them as she or her.
So we get to welcome her in just a couple of weeks. We actually take delivery on November 7th, but she’ll arrive in the U.S. on November 20th, if I’m not mistaken.
And I, I, I get on the 21st and I’m really excited.
This is the fourth in our EDGE class series of ships with a lot of great new innovation in terms of public spaces and opportunities to bring kind of the ship life and the entertainment and activity life to light.
And she’ll be making her debut with the Caribbean sailings this winter, seven-night sailings out of Fort Lauderdale.

Mike Putman:
[21:42] And when will she be available for consumers or sailors to join?

Katina Athanasiou:
[21:49] Yes, she’s available right now. So her first maiden voyage is December 1st.
We have a couple of kind of pre-maiden voyage activities and festivities that we’ll be doing leading up to that. But her first maiden voyage is December 1.
It’s available to book right now.
And we’re booking into 2025 currently.
And then we have some new deployment coming up in December that will open up the rest of our 2025 season into 26 as well.

James Ferrara:
[22:17] So, look, I want to address something because I think it’s kind of in the minds

Cruise Lines’ Efforts in Protecting the Environment and Destinations

[22:24] of our listeners who are travelers, who are cruisers, and who are lovers of the world, there’s been a lot of criticism about the cruise industry and the effect on the planet, right?
On, maybe people have seen news stories about Venice limiting cruise ships or about other destinations in the world.
And I think that most people don’t understand how much cruise lines do to protect the places that they sail to and to protect the ocean and the ocean life.
So, could you just share with us your thoughts? What do you want on this?
About celebrity in this idea?

Katina Athanasiou:
[23:20] Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s an important one because guests and consumers today ultimately want to make sure that as humans, right, that we’re doing our best to show up in a way that doesn’t further impact negatively what we’re doing in the world in which we live.
And for us at Celebrity, We do believe that making our mark on the world and being able to bring guests to these amazing destinations across the world means that we have to do it with less of a footprint.
It’s really important that we do that. So while we strive to provide the best vacation possible, we also care about making sure that we make a positive impact to the lives of the people that we’re visiting in the destination, to our crew who are from more than 300 countries around the world, and in the destination itself and that we’re doing.

[24:17] So for us, we really want to make sure that we can create the right environment on board.
We have a great what we call GROW program and GO GREEN program in terms of how we can make sure we’re minimizing not only waste, but we’re looking through the things that we are not, we don’t have to print anymore and the multiple things that are shown on board anymore.
The difference with cruise versus hotel, which I find super fascinating, is that we have really strict regulation, global regulation that we follow, unlike hotels.

Cruise Industry’s Commitment to Environmental Protection

[24:55] So sometimes the cruise industry may get a bad rap, but actually the regulation that we follow can be even stricter than in that in different countries and in different locations of the world.
So super important for us and an overarching pillar for sure to make sure that we leave the world a better place.

James Ferrara:
[25:12] Great, and I think that makes all of us feel more comfortable about our choices when we travel, to know these things, to know there’s such innovation in the cruise industry.
Lower emission fuels, special paints that go on the hull, the way cruise lines use or treat wastewater or treat recyclables, and on and on.
I mean, there are many, many millions of dollars spent in protection.
And I think you’re right. We sort of don’t understand the different standards.
That the cruise industry holds itself to versus other parts of the industry, right?
Yeah. So that’s great. Look, let’s take this back personally, Mike, and to our No Tourists Allowed theme. We try to help people have more authentic experiences, right?

[26:14] And to travel in a way where they get a truer sense of the places that they visit.
So is there something you do, Katina, when you’re traveling yourself, like some kind of personal hack in the airport or the hotels or when you arrive in a destination that makes things easier or more enjoyable for you?
Anything you can share with us?

Katina Athanasiou:
[26:42] Yeah. I’m a list maker and creator, so I like how Mike said earlier that he’s got his kind of packing list and things that he does and I do similar.
So for me, travel insurance is number one. Like before I even think about anything that I’m going to do on a personal level, like I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got travel insurance because you just never know what the heck is going to happen at any given time.
And then, you know, from a pre-trip, I guess, I follow Mike’s lead.
I have a default packing list that I have all the time.
I have my staples that I always pack and bring, which I always have two of everything as well, which is really kind of weird when you say that, but it’s two of every toiletry and every item that I use every day.
So I literally have toiletries that are just for travel and toiletries that I have at home. And I have the same with hair products and all kinds of stuff.
So I never have to pack and repack.

Time-saving travel tools and Michelin Guide app

[27:40] I would never go anywhere without TSA, Global Entry, or Clear, because such a time saver in the airports.
When I get to the destination, you know, someone turned me on a couple of years ago, and now I love it and I always check it. I use the GuideMichelin app, which is like the Michelin-starred restaurants.
And it’s not just Michelin-starred restaurants. They have recommends in there as well. So anywhere in the world that I am, because I love to try new food and new restaurants, I’ll use that app frequently.
So I say, hey, where’s the best restaurant that I can go to? So I use that a lot.

James Ferrara:
[28:19] I think you and Mike are brother and sister.

Mike Putman:
[28:21] You know, it’s really, I got to tell you what’s really bizarre.
Two things that you said. One is that you’ve got a duplicate of everything at home and in your packing.
I do as well. And you can’t see it, but if you were able to look at my home screen on my phone, you would know that the Michelin Guide is the number one.
I mean, it’s number two. So, you and I.

James Ferrara:
[28:46] And we’re always, when Mike and I travel together, Mike is always telling me, come on, we’re gonna go here. It’s a Michelin starred restaurant. It’s so, yeah.

Katina Athanasiou:
[28:56] Or a recommended, it doesn’t even have to be a Michelin star.
It’s not like I need to eat fancy all the time.
And they’ve got some really great casual places, but there are places in there that I would have never, ever found on my own or even in talking to a hotel concierge.
So for me, it’s super fun to use that.

Mike Putman:
[29:13] I think we’re gonna have to check the 23andMe. We’ve got some related DNA. That’s amazing.

Katina Athanasiou:
[29:22] And earplugs, I cannot travel without earplugs.

Mike Putman:
[29:25] Yeah, well, I really wanna thank you and I know James does too for taking some time out of your busy schedule to share your personal travel likes and habits as well as the amazing story about your amazing company.
So we’re very appreciative for you spending the time with us, and I know our listeners will really enjoy it.

Katina Athanasiou:
[29:45] Thank you guys. Travel’s a critical component to all of our lives, and whether or not we do it for business or for pleasure, it’s really the way I find.
I’m a mom of two, and I feel like it’s my obligation to my kids to travel with them so that we can open up, they can be opened up to different people, different cultures, different ways of living and thinking.
And travel does that for all of us. Travel just makes us better humans.
So I say it’s our obligation that we travel.

Mike Putman:
[30:16] Yeah, I like that.

James Ferrara:
[30:17] Amen to that. Yeah. Thank you so much, Katina. Thanks for being with us.

Katina Athanasiou:
[30:23] You got it, bye. Bye-bye.

New Orleans dining experiences and Mardi Gras World tour

Mike Putman:
[30:26] All right, that was Katina from Celebrity Cruise Lines, and I am not taking another crack at her last name. We’re just going to call her Katina for the rest of the show.
But, hey now, James, you’re just back, freshly back from a trip down south. Oh, yes, sir.

James Ferrara:
[30:43] I was in New Orleans. Again, I’ve talked about New Orleans here before, so I won’t take a lot of time, except to say that Every time I go, I eat at incredible restaurants.
So of course, that’s one of the reasons why New Orleans is so famous.
But it’s just such a vibrant mix of things. It’s the food. It’s the architecture.
It’s the shopping. It’s the parades.

[31:13] Everyone thinks about Mardi Gras, but there are parades actually all year round.
And one of the nights I was there, we were trying to get to dinner, and we came across the Crue de Boo, which is the name for the Halloween parade in New Orleans.
I had to get out of the Uber because he couldn’t get across, and we had to snake our way through, run through the dancers in the middle.
So I was actually in the parade for a moment.
I will say this, I ate at a couple of new restaurants.
Emeril Lagasse has a new restaurant there called Merrill, which was excellent, like all of his restaurants are.
I ate at a very fine restaurant that you would love, Mike.
If it doesn’t have a Michelin star, it’s the kind of restaurant that does.
It’s called August, and it’s right outside the French Quarter in the warehouse district.

[32:14] The food was spectacular.
So beautiful, so beautifully presented. Very sort of precious approach to food, but the food was all delicious.
The wine list, incredible. So I recommend it very much. We ate one night in the famous Grill Room at the Winter Court Hotel.
So that’s very old New Orleans and very, very fine. G.W. Finn’s, another perennial favorite in New Orleans.
And one night, we ate in a riverside, which is an area sort of uptown in New Orleans, and most tourists probably wouldn’t get up there, in a restaurant in a small Victorian cottage.

[33:00] And the chef, it’s called Bridgson’s, and the chef worked for Paul Prudhomme as sort of second in command to Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace and then later at Cape Hall.
So this is, you know, New Orleans royalty when it comes to restaurants.
And his food was great in such a charming little place. So.

[33:24] Did all that and the one thing that I did, the one activity that I did that I want to share with everyone, is the exception that proves the rule for us here at Notorisa Lab.
It was actually a touristy thing to do, and that is to visit Mardi Gras World, which is the company that makes the floats and what they call the props, all the figures that go on these floats, not only for 50 or 60 parades in New Orleans, but for parades in New York, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade.
And then they make characters and figures for Disney and for Universal Studios and so on.
And you’re actually in the facility and they tour you through the artists carving and creating these things, some out of carved and painted styrofoam, some out of fiberglass, you know.
And then you walk through the warehouses of all of their stock.

[34:31] All of the stuff from last year, all the stuff that’s being built for this year.
It’s an incredible experience, really.
And it’s on everyone’s sort of tourist list of New Orleans, but here’s a good example of one that’s actually very much worth doing and gives you a real sense of New Orleans because it’s such an important part of the culture down there. So another great tip.

Mike Putman:
[34:59] What was the best thing you ate there?

James Ferrara:
[35:02] Oh, that’s a good question. I’d say the best thing I ate was the duck breast at August.
Well, it was duck three ways, August.
And it was a seared duck breast, a duck confit, and a foie gras, a duck liver mousse.
And it was just prepared and plated beautifully.

Mike Putman:
[35:30] Well, nice. Nice. Well, good. I know you enjoyed your time there.
I thought you were only gone for three nights. It sounded like you had five or six dinners.

James Ferrara:
[35:38] We did. My weekend, it was supposed to be parents’ weekend at Tulane University, wound up being Wednesday to Monday. It was quite a weekend.

Mike Putman:
[35:45] Oh, okay. Stretched it out a little bit. Well, good for you.
Good for you. Well, Well, glad to have you back and one other topic I wanted just to share with our listeners a little bit just to give a little information about is there’s been a pretty seismic change in the airline business.

Changes in airline content distribution and its impact on travelers.

[36:07] And I’m going to talk about this from a perspective of a travel industry person, and then I’m going to share with you what the outcome is and how this might affect you as a traveler.
But over the past several years, there has been a change in how airlines distribute their content.
Their content. So when we talk about content in the travel space, we’re talking about not just pictures and things like what you would normally call content, but pricing and availability.
So these are two components that as intermediaries of travel, travel sellers, we would need to have to be able to, you know, say this flight is available and it costs this much money as an example.
So up until recent years, all of this information had flown, flowed through what are called the GDSs, which are global distribution systems.
So all the travel agents around the world would subscribe to one of these three or four different GDSs, and then they would get their information from that.
And then when when travelers came in to a travel agent’s office, then they could pull up the flights from here to there and tell you what the price would be.
Or in the case of OTAs or online travel agents, they would do the same thing, but do it through API. So this that’s how this communication would happen.

[37:37] Well, these GDSs charged a gate fee, if you will, for the airlines to have access to all these travel agents.
So every time a travel agent sold a ticket, then the GDS who sits in the middle, who’s providing this infrastructure, would charge the airline for each segment that they had.
And so the airlines felt constrained and felt like that they were paying a lot of money for this service, which they were, and that the GDS has kind of had a noose around their neck because that was the only way to distribute or sell their airline tickets other than themselves.
And so several of the airlines kind of broke away with this concept of what is now known as NDC, which stands for New Distribution Capabilities, which basically allows or is a new system that the airline can then connect directly to a travel agent or a travel distributor.

[38:37] And so this did not make sense 10 or 20 years ago when there were a bunch of small travel agencies travel agencies, or even kind of medium-sized travel agencies, because the travel agency wouldn’t have the core competency or the resources to do this type of connection to the airlines, because it’s a pretty complex connection.
But now that we’ve got distribution through large OTAs and there’s some more sophistication within the travel agency world, the airlines are doing this.

NDC content leads to price variations, tips for travelers.

[39:06] So what happens and how this impacts you as a traveler is that prior to this kind of coming of age of NDC content, whenever you walked into a travel agency or went online, you would find, or went to an airline site, could be American or USA or United or whoever, you would find virtually the same price.
You’d find the same price no matter what channel you looked through.
But now with this NDC content, you might find that a price for the same flight from one source is different as the same flight on a different source. And we did not have that.

[39:49] We did not have that in years gone by. So it’s, it’s always good, especially in today’s time as a traveler to do some comparisons, you know, look at when you’re looking for airfares, you know, look at a couple of different sources to make sure you are getting the, you’re getting the best rate.
So that’s just a little bit of a tip. I know it gave a lot of background, which might’ve been somewhat boring or, or very clinical to get to a point.
But I did want you to understand how we’ve got to this place and how the marketplace has really, it has changed over the last couple of years and you will find some differences.
But it’s always good to check with your trusted travel agent.
Generally, if they don’t have the best rate, they can direct you to a place that does.
But anyhow, just a little bit of a tip and explanation on NDC content.

James Ferrara:
[40:43] Mike, doesn’t it also allow travel agents and websites to now sell some of the things that were previously only available directly through the airline, right?
So some of these fare families, these bundles that some airlines call them, or maybe priority access on the plane, priority seating, premium seating on the plane, extra luggage and so on.
So it brings, I think for our, for travelers, for our experience, it brings, makes it easier for us to book some of these things that are fairly newly available from the airlines, right?

Mike Putman:
[41:28] Absolutely, upgraded meals, all that kind of thing. This is now becoming more of an open marketplace and that is one of the benefits of the NDC content as well.
So good point. So just a reminder, we do have a raffle going on.
And if you go to, you’ll be able to enter there. We’re giving away a fabulous seven night cruise for two on Virgin voyages.
So if you go to the website, there’s a way you can register there.
There’s some other things that you can do to get some additional entries, but this is a fabulous cabin on a fabulous cruise, and you can even choose your own sailing any time between when we give this away and June 24th.
And you can pick your friend and pick your date, pick your cruise ship and have a blast compliments of no tourists allowed.

James Ferrara:
[42:24] Maybe you can increase your chances by telling your friends and family and having a little side deal that if they win, you get to go on the cruise too.
So get everyone to listen in to No Tourists Allowed, and it increases your chances of winning an incredible Virgin Voyages cruise for two.

Mike Putman:
[42:48] Yeah. Well, thanks again for listening, folks. We’ll be back with you next week.
And please share our podcast and please provide us any feedback.
If there’s anything you’d like for us to cover on a future episode or if you have some specific questions, there’s a place to input those on as well.
And ciao for now, and we will see you next week. Bye-bye.

James Ferrara:
[43:11] Thank you, everybody.

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