NEW LONDON - After the last brutal Midwest winter, Minnesotans may already be eyeing a cruise to a tropical beach for the coming winter.
But Chuck Miller says: Why wait until winter?
Taking a cruise in the summer is also a popular vacation option, said Miller, a New London man who specializes in booking cruises for clients with his new travel advisory business. Miller launched iHeart Cruise Vacations in February.
Miller, who had been the director of marketing, communications and branding at an information technology services company for 17 years, turned down an offer to relocate with his job to Manhattan, New York.
Instead he decided to stay put in Minnesota and turned his passion for cruises into a business.
He's trained with all the major cruise lines and many all-inclusive resorts, for which he also provides advice as part of his business.
The name of Miller's business comes from personal experience. Miller and his family of four are regular cruisers, with two cruises planned for this year.
"We just really enjoy it," he said.
Because his wife, Kari, is a teacher and their two children are in school, Miller said summer cruises give them the time to take longer trips.
"Lot of families and a lot of teachers have time off," he said.
Another bonus is that cruises to hot-weather places like the Carribean - that are typically popular venues when Minnesota weather is below zero - are much cheaper during summer months.
Summer cruises are prime time for some locations, like Alaska and Europe.
In an age when booking vacations can be done with a few clicks on the smartphone, Miller said working with a travel adviser can be a smart move.
Some trips can easily be planned on your own, he said, but most can benefit from calling in the experts.
He said, for example, because Alaska is so big with numerous options for itineraries and about 30 different ships from which to choose, it can be overwhelming for travelers who view the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Travel advisers "know all of the cruise lines and know all the different attractions," he said.
He said about 80% of people taking cruises use an adviser, with baby boomers and millennials using the services. About 50% of people taking land trips use a travel agent, he said.
"They feel they're getting the best deal" and can "leverage the expertise" of an adviser to maximize their vacation.
The value isn't just about money, Miller said.
He said he can get the "lowest price available" but also helps people get their "wants, needs and expectations" for their trip met.
Miller said an increasing number of millennial-aged travelers are taking cruises to adventurous locations like Antarctica, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands that benefit from the research of a travel adviser.
He said one client told him they wanted Miller to serve as a "trip leader" who would make their large-group trip convenient for everyone.
Miller has one client looking to book a land-based Disney trip that they "didn't know where to start and didn't want to know where to start" with planning the vacation.
Another woman had never been out of the country before and wanted to go to Mexico and wanted a place where her group could snorkel, see dolphins and be safe.
He gave her several options of locations and resorts with a safety rating for each place to help "ease her mind," he said.
Planning a big trip "stresses people out," Miller said.
Problems experienced during a trip can also be solved with the help of a travel adviser, who is "on the clock 24/7 to help with that," he said.
Because he receives a commission from the cruise lines and resorts, Miller said there is no cost to customers for using his service.
Miller works from his home and can be reached at www.iheartcruisevacations.com.
He's also editor of a cruise blog (www.cruisenewsnow.com) that includes tips on taking cruises, reviews about the food, activities and accommodations of different cruise lines and the latest cruise deals.