All Aboard for Amazing Journeys

The Blueprint
April 2005

Ever wish you could snap your fingers and be whisked off on a VIP cruise that would take you to exotic locales.

Amazing Journeys, in partnership with the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, offers such trips.  Jewish singles in their 20s, 30s and 40s from around the world – especially from New York 0 have participated in them for years.  Past destinations include Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Russia, the Bahamas, Hawaii and Costa Rica.

“Over half the people who travel with us once will travel with us again,” says Bill Cartiff, travel director for Amazing Journeys, which was created in 2000.  “On any given trip, we have about 35% to 50% repeat passengers.”

“You get waited on hand and foot,” he explains.  But it’s more than that.  These tour packages provide a unique service, allowing singles to travel as part of a group for whom everything is planned and simplified by a highly experienced team.

Malori Asman, president and founder of Amazing Journeys, has 20 years’ experience in the travel industry and has operated groups as large as 800 passengers at once.  Both she and Cartiff personally escort the eight trips offered yearly by Amazing Journeys, which average 70 to 80 people a trip.

Lost your luggage?  Lonely for someone to share a meal with?  “You just go along and have a good time, and we’ll take care of all the problems,” Cartiff says.  “We have icebreakers and orientation on the first night; we do roommate matching; we have a private section of the dining room for dinner; we host a hospitality desk.”  Kosher food is available, as well as Shabbat and Havdala services.

Passengers can choose from specific group activities every day, both on board and ashore.  Professional guides provide tours of city landmarks and points of interest, and the travel directors are known for coordinating events efficiently, while catering to travelers’ personal needs.

“I’ve been on five cruises with Amazing Journeys,” says Jeff Krukin of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, “and I enjoyed every one.  Alaska was the best for sheer natural beauty, and the Caribbean for major partying.  Australia was… well, you have to see it to believe it.  Just don’t miss the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk and the penguins coming out of the sea at night.”

It may be the sea air, or the excitement of sailing to Greece, Turkey and Italy.  Whatever the cause, singles who travel with Amazing Journeys seem prone to bonding. Many speak of having formed lifelong friendships.  In addition, 30 marriages have resulted from the trips – “that we know of!” says Cartiff.

Even after September 11, 2001, when plenty of Americans were canceling travel plans, Amazing Journeys did more than stay afloat.  Their December 2001 cruise to the Caribbean took place as scheduled, with a group of 50 passengers receiving upgrades and perks onboard a half-empty ship.

“Since then, my group has continued to grow,” says Cartiff. “We sell out on almost every trip.” Having been on over 30 trips himself since teaming with Asman in 1993, when she was with a corporate travel agency, Cartiff calls Alaska his favorite place to visit.

“You’re seeing the vast landscape of Mother Nature. The wildlife, the glaciers – it’s untouched, unchartered territory. Not a single minute of any day goes by that you can’t see something that will stop you dead in your tracks.”

His vantage point as a seasoned travel director affords him an understanding of passengers’ enthusiasm over the social aspect of Amazing Journeys. “It’s a whole different experience to be with people for a week, living and drinking and eating and touring, and doing everything on a daily basis, than it is to go to an event for a night, where you only have a couple of hours to meet.” On a seven-day cruise, “you tend to see the deeper person.”

Jewish singles are signing up already for the next trip, scheduled for Labor Day Weekend. The group sails on September 1, from New York City Harbor, for a five-day cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Triumph.

For reservations, pricing information, and upcoming travel opportunities, log onto www.amazingjourneys.net or contact Bill Cartiff at 1(800) 734-0493 or e-mail him at info@staging.amazingjourneys.net.

by Leslie Kaplan, printed in The Blueprint April 2005