This husband-and-wife team’s in business to provide smooth sailing for folks who want to enjoy a slice of life at sea.
Jack and Joan Fingerman have gone on more than 30 cruises in the last 25 years and believe they know what makes a good experience.
The couple from Castor Gardens are now in the cruise business. They were recently accredited as cruise and travel specialists for Cruises Inc.
“We love cruising and want to share it with the world,” Jack said.
Joan, who formerly worked in the day-care business, has been serving as a cruise and travel specialist since January 2010, having traveled to Fort Lauderdale for her initial training.
Jack retired in December from the city, most recently working for the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
The couple took part in an intensive, four-day training session in October during a national industry conference aboard the Allure of the Seas. The cruise took 6,400 passengers and crew to the Caribbean.
The training curriculum included sales and marketing seminars, “webinars,” product briefings by major cruise lines, hands-on computer orientation and onboard ship inspections.
The folks who run Cruises Inc. believe that specialists such as the Fingermans, rather than general service travel agents, are the go-to people because the cruise industry is so large and complex.
“We get all the latest information and deals,” Joan said. “If the rate lowers, we’ll call the client and let them know, and they’ll get a refund.”
Speaking from experience, the Fingermans believe anyone who has not been on a cruise is missing out on something special.
Cruising is relaxing, gives people a chance to see the world and takes travelers on a fantasy and to a paradise they have never experienced.
The onboard service is exceptional.
“It’s easy to get hooked,” Joan said. “It’s a great way to travel.”
One barrier to cruising can be fear of getting seasick, but Jack and Joan explained that ships are so big these days that travelers are generally immune to illness.
“It’s not a ferry boat,” Jack said.
Another barrier to cruising can be the cost, but the Fingermans said they can find savings for clients. Travel, lodging, meals and entertainment are paid up front, usually a little at a time.
Middle-class people make up a large percentage of cruise passengers.
“The myth is that cruises are expensive,” Jack said, adding that souvenirs, alcoholic drinks, side tours, photographs and gratuities are added expenses. “You don’t have to be wealthy to have a nice vacation.”
Although the economy has generally been lousy for the last five years or so, the Fingermans see the cruise industry as being a survivor.
“There are thirteen ships being built for 2012 and 2013,” Jack said.
Individuals, couples and families who have never been on a cruise often vacation in the same spots, like the Jersey shore.
“The world is larger than Ocean City, N.J.,” Jack said. “You can go anywhere in the world, just about.”
The Fingermans can help clients select cabin types, cruise ships, destinations, lengths of trips and departure dates and ports.
For people who don’t like to fly, they can drive to ports in Baltimore, Manhattan and Bayonne, N.J.
Families can cruise together, because ships offer so many activities for children. The Fingermans took their adult son Eric on his first cruise when he was an adolescent, and in August joined their 17-month-old grandson Matthew on a cruise to Bermuda. And for people traveling without youngsters, the other kids on the ship are usually well behaved.
Ships are also accommodating to people with physical disabilities. There are wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and even hospital beds on board.
“There’s no need to stay home. All your needs are met. People with disabilities are not missing out,” Joan said.
Honeymoon cruises have been popular for many years, and the Fingermans have a way for family and friends of the bride and groom to make it happen. Engaged couples can register online, and loved ones can contribute toward the vacation in $25 increments, payable by credit card.
At the wedding reception, there will be a souvenir photo album displaying the names of those who donated.
“Instead of giving them dishes that pile up in cabinets, you can give them a free honeymoon,” Jack said. ••
The Fingermans do not charge a fee for their service. Instead, they get commissions from Cruises Inc.
For more information, call Jack and Joan Fingerman at 215-941-7661 or visit www.valu-cruises.com