Local experts guide customers to perfect cruise vacations
Anthony Garofalo and Jonathan Gersh are co-owners of an Expedia CruiseShip Centers franchise in Suntree.
Booking a dream cruise or vacation just got a lot easier in the Suntree-Viera area.
In March, entrepreneurs Anthony Garofalo and Jonathan Gersh opened an Expedia CruiseShip Centers franchise at Pineda Landings shopping center, 6375 N. Wickham Road, Suite 103. And the Canadian-based, full-service travel agency that specializes in cruises has done well so far, Garofalo said.
“We had probably one of the best months we’ve ever had last month,” Garofalo said. “And we’re hoping it keeps going.”
The Suntree franchise is one of more than 220 Expedia CruiseShip Centers across North America and the first in Brevard County. Its parent company is Expedia, an American company which owns and operates a group of worldwide online travel brands featuring discount pricing and special offers.
Although Garofalo, Gersh and their staff of about 15 vacation consultants can book any type of vacation for customers in person, by phone or online, the franchise focuses mainly on cruises, Garofalo said. Some 70 percent of cruises are booked through travel agencies, and Garofalo said that’s likely because the process can be complex.
“People don’t necessarily understand the difference between cruise lines, the difference between the ships in the cruise line,” Garofalo said. “You could be looking at 25 different cabin categories, so that’s why they want to use a travel professional.”
Before they launched their Suntree franchise, Garofalo and Gersh amassed extensive experience in the hospitality field. Garofalo, a Long Island, N.Y. native who earned a degree in hospitality administration from Boston University, spent years working at hotels and on cruise ships. Gersh, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., spent more than a dozen years in hospitality before accepting Garafalo’s offer to move to Florida and open a franchise.
“We always wanted to be in business for ourselves and we both loved cruising,” said Gersh, who earned a hospitality administration degree from the New York Institute of Technology. “All the business ideas he’s pitched me, I’ve always said no. But this is the one that I said yes to.”
The pair chose Suntree because Garofalo spent time in the area years ago and because of its proximity to Port Canaveral and ports in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, he said.
“This demographic in Suntree-Viera is the right demographic for travel sales,” he added.
The franchise is preparing for its busiest time of the year in January and February as cruise lines roll out their best deals and customers start making plans for summer sailings, Garofalo said.
“We have that buying power of the number one brand in travel, but we’re a local business,” Garofalo said. “It’s just Jonathan and Anthony and our consultants, and that’s the great part. That’s our strength. We have the best of both worlds.”
Business hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to cruiseshipcenters.com/en-US/SpaceCoast/home
or call 321-233-1400.