Running a cruise-centered travel agency floats his boat

Entrepreneur opens a branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in the Clear Lake area


Riyaz Momin owner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a travel agency franchise specializing in cruise vacations opened the office about a month ago in Webster. Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Webster. The Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Webster is the first retail store of Expedia Cruise ships in Texas according to Momin. // Photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle

By Sandra Bretting

As a young pilot studying at the Bombay Flying Club in the mid-1990s, Riyaz Momin loved nothing more than to embark on new journeys.

Although he ultimately passed on the dream of becoming a commercial pilot, he said, he never lost his love for travel. In February, Momin opened a Clear Lake-area branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a travel agency that books cruises and more with a staff of eight consultants.

“The best thing about booking a cruise or trip through a travel agent is that we know what specials are coming up six months from now,” said Momin, 38. “We can tell you what cruise ships will be offering next season and the season after that.”

While his office also offers air and land trips, Momin said most of his business involves cruising.

In the Houston area, tourists can board cruises at either Galveston or the Bayport Cruise Terminal.

Cruise companies began coming to Galveston in 1974. Today that port’s home to Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

“The Port of Galveston was the second fastest-growing cruise port in the United States in 2012,” said Virginia Sheridan, a spokesperson for an industry trade group called the Cruise Lines International Association.

Overall, 181 cruises will depart from the port this year, using four different ships.

Meanwhile, the Port of Houston opened Bayport Cruise Terminal in 2007. Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line inked deals last year to begin sailing from there.

Riyaz Momin, who owns a branch of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, says: “The best thing about partnering with a big brand like Expedia is the amount of technology you get.”

Princess began using one ship at the port in November, with a second set to come this November. Norwegian Cruise Lines will begin sailing from there with one ship in October.

According to cruise line association, some three-fourths of all cruises are booked through a travel agent. Expedia, the online travel site that also owns and, has about 170 franchised locations like Momin’s around the country.

“The best thing about partnering with a big brand like Expedia is the amount of technology you get,” Momin said. “Our office is virtually paperless because everything is done online.”

Momin said a $29,000 franchise fee bought him access to the technology and training at Expedia CruiseShipCenters’s corporate office in Vancouver, British Columbia. He credits his consultants, some of whom have 20 years of travel experience, with knowing the ins and outs of the travel

“These days there are so many families that want to travel together, but they have kids of different ages,” Momin said. “That’s especially where we can help, because we find out how many teens are going to be on a boat, for instance, or whether there are things for a toddler to do.”

For now, Momin hopes to add more consultants and embark on a few more trips himself this year. Given the choice, where would he go for a dream destination? “Antarctica,” Momin said. “I’d like to see places full of natural beauty before they’re all gone.”

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