It seems to be the month for cruises at my agency! Among them are two group cruises, as a matter of fact. My agency generally focuses on destination weddings and romantic honeymoons; but I decided to expand my business to include cruises, which seems to be a very popular aspect of travel for all age groups. Cruises are like resorts on sea; they’re exciting and relaxing. If you are a foodie, then you are in culinary heaven as the dining options are unlimited. While I thought there would be a lot of similarities between land vacations, there are some headaches and challenges as well!
Some things that I’ve learned so far: keep your clients informed. I decided to keep my group clients in the loop as far as important cruise information such as port info, pre- and post hotels, ship info, online check-in, beverage packages, and so on. That puts the information in a central place where everyone can get updates as needed since everyone has different needs.
With that being said, I discovered a website called Groupspaces. This site allows you to build a website for your specific group and allows your clients to keep in touch with what’s going on from the time that they book until they board the ship. As the agent, I have to maintain the site by putting information on the site every month. One reason that I do this is because not everyone in the group checks emails regularly, and important information can get lost because they are sitting unopened in someone’s inbox. This site allows them to view info on their own, and at their leisure.
That’s the good stuff. Now for the challenges. Let’s start with group payments. Some cruise lines don’t allow passengers to make their own payments. The agent has to apply each passenger’s payment and maintain the entire accounting process. It is important to be conscious of final payment dates so all accounts are fully paid and not subject to penalties or cancellations.
This is a cumbersome task as I am quickly finding out. Another challenge is every time there is a promotion with the cruise line, our clients call me to see if they can switch their category to take advantage of the current promotion. In reality, that sounds easier than it really is. The entire individual booking has to be cancelled and rebooked if it’s not the same room category. That can be a lot of work, and I’m still trying to find a better way to handle this. And of course, last but not least, another disadvantage is the media. We all know how the media can turn something small into something big. The challenges that I am facing with this as we speak are phone calls from clients in fear of unknown storms that they may encounter, or the fear of catching a virus while aboard the ship. Although this is out of our control, clients still call us. We soothe the client, calm their nerves, but at the same time we have to be honest about the facts. It may mean losing the sale, but in the long run, our clients appreciate our honesty and our expertise.
With all of that being said, I really am starting to enjoy booking group cruises. Passengers can experience the best of both worlds. Cruise lines cater to travelers of all ages, with plenty of ship features and activities for all to enjoy. And most of all, your group is contained in one place! So if you have ever been thinking about booking a group cruise, and you love a challenge, book a group Cruise. Do you have any tips for a newbie?
See you next time!
Monique Gramby is a Romance Travel and Cruise Expert with White Sand Travel in the Atlanta market. Her passion for people and planning led to a career in helping people make their travel dreams into realities. You can learn more about White Sand Travel and Monique www.whitesandtravel.net