From Cultural Immersion to Value Received
Talk to travel pros about the sellable value and cultural rewards of a cruise experience and you get varying perspectives. Not surprisingly, considering the particular expertise, it may start with services rendered. “The best value a client receives,” says Kelley Austin, a Cruise Planners franchise owner, “is the personal attention they get from working with me as their travel agent.”
Cruise Planners franchise owner Linda Hilson points to a river cruise as a smart buy, “because all meals are included plus excursions are included on most lines. Clients may pay a little more up front, but they don’t need to buy wine with dinner as an add-on. They also get cultural tours in multiple countries with a knowledgeable guide.”
Then there’s the view of the cultural bounty to be had right on board. Cruise Planners franchise owner Rick Carlson cites his recent Avalon journey on the Rhine River. “It was complete with local string quartets, phenomenal dancers, and wiener schnitzel. We experienced Germany right on the ship.”
River explorations such as Carlson’s rank high when it comes to cultural immersion. But seagoing vessels of assorted sizes, styles, and persuasions are also in the mix.
“Most people expect dramatic scenery in Northern Europe, with visions of fjords dancing in their heads from the moment they book their trip,” says Steve Simao, Windstar’s v.p. of sales, “but once on board they’re just as enthralled with the region’s unique culture. From visits to operative mountain farms in Norway to afternoons exploring Estonian folklore, with music accompanied by local schnapps and pickled pumpkin, we’ve made it a priority for our guests to touch and taste the culture for themselves.” Some shore excursions designed for touching and tasting: making Gouda cheese to take home at a cheese-making workshop in the Netherlands; a visit to a summer mountain farm in Norway; a sushi quest by boat in Iceland with sampling of the catch hauled in by the captain.
From Hurtigruten comes new East Coast itineraries, wrapping up big cities and small towns, with stops and visits from Newfoundland to Acadia National Park. “Expedition cruising is one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry,” notes Gordon Dirker, the line’s managing director for North America, “and we are building multiple cutting-edge ships over the next couple of years. Travel agents should take advantage of expert sales teams and webinars, and become certified in the many self-training courses available. By doing so, they have the potential to earn commission checks with a ‘comma.’”
At UnCruise Adventures, says CEO Dan Blanchard, “we understand the value of being fully immersed, which is why we incorporate one-of-a-kind experiences and interactions with locals into our itineraries.” Among passenger favorites are savoring plantain rounds and fried fish with the Embera tribe in Panama and learning the art of “talk story” in Hawaii.
Adventurous clients can cross the Antarctica Circle via Ponant, which will offer 25 sailings to Antarctica in 2018 and 2019, operating four expedition ships in the region. “From discoveries created by nature to educating oneself on ‘the end of the earth’, each sailing is designed to completely transform lives,” promises Navin Sawhney, the line’s CEO of the Americas.
Something new on the legendary Rhine in 2018 is Uniworld’s Jewish Heritage program, showcasing Jewish communities and history along with the thriving picture of today’s Germany. Clients will find mix-and-match excursion options that take in both museums and lighter themes. Notes Ellen Bettridge, the company’s president and CEO, “There is no better way to discover the unique culture of a people than along its waterways. Throughout history, rivers have linked communities, sustaining them economically and often spiritually.”
AmaWaterways is similarly reaching out with 10 departures in 2018 designated Sailings with a Latin Touch. “In addition to a daily selection of included tours conducted in English, guests can join one excursion each day led by a Spanish-speaking guide,” says Alex L. Pinelo, director, Latin America sales. “There will also be a cruise manager fluent in both English and Spanish, as well as onboard menus in Spanish. I would encourage those interested to visit our Travel Agent Portal to hear how we are doing everything we can to make sure our guests from all over the world feel right at home.”
Clients with a compelling taste for luxury? Tell them about Silversea’s Couture Collection set to debut in 2018. Spokesman Brad Ball points out that the new offering “takes guests to the world’s most remote destinations, with pre- and post-cruise extensions that are unconventional and unexpected. It’s the perfect hybrid of land, sea, and cultural adventures. This is how experiential travel was meant to be.”
When it comes to value, Adolfo Perez, Carnival’s v.p. of trade sales and marketing, talks about onboard amenities added over time. “From culinary like Guy’s Burger to entertainment like Hasbro, plus the massive WaterWorks aqua parks and the Seuss-a-Palooza Parade—all are offered at no charge, enhancing the value of the cruise experience. All of these options represent an investment of millions of dollars and provide travel agents with wonderful selling points for marketing us to their clients.”
“Part of the value of a Disney vacation is that Disney thinks of all the details for everyone in the family,” says Claire Bilby, senior v.p., sales and services. “There’s Broadway-caliber entertainment, like the new “Beauty and the Beast” show, themed deck parties, and dining for every taste. Young cruisers enjoy kids’ clubs while adults unwind in their own exclusive spaces. And our private island, Castaway Cay, is fun for everyone. All these things, and so much more, are included in the price of the cruise.”
From Viking comes a new program that will allow your clients to fly overseas once and enjoy two different sailings. Says Richard Marnell, senior v.p. of marketing, “Our new Ocean & River Voyages gives travelers the opportunity to experience both of our cruise products with only one international flight, saving them time and money. It provides a destination-focused voyage that marries the river and the sea in one seamless experience.”
Saving travel dollars, in fact, has to be high on the popularity list of any client. Suggest they take a look at Holland America. “We continue to bring back our View and Verandah promotion each year because guests appreciate added premiums like upgrades and a credit to spend on board,” mentions Orlando Ashford, the line’s president. “We’re extending the offer well into 2019 so that those who like to plan early have incentives to book now and take advantage of the benefits.” Depending on cruise length and stateroom category, clients can receive onboard spending money up to $400 per stateroom and $500 per suite, along with savings on excursions booked by March 15.
Crystal’s Carmen Roig, senior v.p. of marketing & sales, urges the line’s travel partners to “highlight complimentary features such as unlimited WiFi and Michelin-inspired dining, and leverage Crystal Clear Choices, which allows clients a choice of one of three additional amenities on select voyages.” Included in the incentives trio are cruise fare savings, an air credit, and a shipboard credit of up to $600 pp.
Avalon Waterways: avalonwaterways.com
Carnival Cruise Line: carnival.com
Crystal Cruises: crystalcruises.com
Disney Cruise Line: disneycruise.disney.go.com
Holland America Line: hollandamerica.com
Silversea Cruises: silversea.com
UnCruise Adventures: uncruise.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: uniworld.com
Viking Cruises: viking.com
Windstar Cruises: windstarcruises.com