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Does size matter?

I suspect that most travel agents become uncomfortable when the topic “does size matter,” comes up, especially in mixed company…. with non-travel agents. But, with the number of big ships that have been coming out lately, I think it is time for travel agents to become more comfortable with this controversial subject.

Let me start out by acknowledging that big ships probably should not be offered to your small ship clients. But, there is nothing wrong with letting them know what’s new in the cruise industry. Just maybe some of the new big ship features might interest them if they are looking for something new—maybe a special occasion or a family reunion. For that reason, let’s take a look at some new features that just might appeal to some of your open minded clients.

Oasis of the Seas: Bigger can matter, especially for those people who get excited when telling others they have cruised on the biggest cruise ship ever built. At 220,000 gross tons, Royal Caribbean will likely lay claim to the biggest ship at sea for the foreseeable future. And remember, you should always point out that the cruise lines use the extra space wisely, so that the 5,400 passengers are spread out while enjoying the many new venues onboard.

This is especially true with the Oasis, which has different “neighborhoods” which offer something for everyone. This ship has to be one of your recommendations to clients looking for a family cruise. By adding a zip-line and having two Flo Riders, two rock climbing walls, ice skating and other sports related activities, it has an appeal across all generations. Any truly active client on your list will be very happy on this big ship.

Be sure to mention a few of the unique venues onboard the Oasis. Families with kids (of all ages) will love the Boardwalk–a mini-Coney Island, complete with a real carousel, cotton candy and a new Seafood Shack to go with the popular Johnny Rockets. The Entertainment Zone and the much wider Royal Promenade have a lot to offer. While onboard, we enjoyed the Central Park neighborhood the best, especially Vintages, a great wine bar, the Italian-influenced Giovanni’s Table and perhaps the best restaurant at sea, the 150 Central Park. My biggest tip on dining would be to make reservations before sailing, as it almost always sold out.

Carnival Dream: Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship is only 130,000 tons and carries only 3,646 passengers. And it, too, offers a lot of space to spread folks out around the ship. Yes, Carnival still has the youngest median age, but it does appeal to us older folks, especially if we are itching to treat our family to their first cruise.

With one of the most extensive children’s programs at sea and 20,000 sf of kids’ space, you won’t be overrun by the little ones. They have also have family cabins for five with two bathrooms! And, for those wanting to relax in the sun, Carnival has added the very relaxing Serenity area–a two level, adults only, outdoor retreat at the rear of the ship.

Other great features to mention are the Ocean Plaza with indoor and outdoor seating, the 23,750 sf Fitness and Health Spa and our favorite venue, the Comedy Club with six shows every night, including a late night adults only performance. Carnival definitely has the “FUN,” and a very high repeat business that should make you comfortable offering Carnival much more than you probably do.

Norwegian Epic: I know many of you still haven’t fully embraced NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, but when discussing bigger, it is time to also think NCL. The brand new Epic is 153,000 tons and can carry 4,200 passengers. But, with 18 decks, things are spread out so well that there never seems like there are that many people onboard.

For those that like to have choice in dining, this ship is for you! How does 20 dining venues sound to you? These include 14 specialty restaurants and enough traditional dining options to quiet the old timers who haven’t fully bought into the freestyle concept. For me, I have found them all worth the service fee and I think many of your clients will as well.

The Epic will certainly appeal to your clients who enjoy Las Vegas; both with the great selection of dining options and now with true Las Vegas style entertainment–The Blue Man Group and a Cirque Dreams and Dinner, which offers a combination alternative restaurant and show for only $15 to $20 per person. And for another first, the Epic has the first Ice Bar at sea complete with the bar, the seats and even the glasses all made out of ice!

For the more active clients, NCL has added two more bowling lanes, so now there are six total lanes! For those of you who might not be able to rock climb on one of the two rock climbing walls, the Epic offers another industry first—a rappelling wall. After all, it is much easier to come down than to climb up.

Single travelers can now avoid those hard to explain single supplements with the Epic’s 128 studio cabins (they can also sleep two). While the cabins are only 100 square-feet, they share a common lounge or social area, where they can meet other single travelers. For those of you who have wanted to try and put together your own singles cruise, this could be a money maker.

But, I think that the best kept secrets at sea, are the Epic’s 60 Courtyard Suites and the 46, 506 sf Courtyard Villas. They share a common area, complete with a private pool, two whirlpools, sauna,  sun deck, fitness area, concierge lounge and a very cool private indoor/outdoor dining area and bar. Your upscale clients can also spurge by selecting one of the eight Deluxe Owners Suites, with 852 sf and floor to ceiling windows.

Yes, Bigger Can Be Better

While I’m sure I haven’t convinced everyone that bigger can be better, I hope I have given you food for thought. If you sincerely want to expand your cruise business, take a good hard look at these new monsters and offer them to your clients—I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.

Have you sold a lot of these larger ships? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 17 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million.  Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LNormanCTC@aol.com

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