The Cruise Shop/Viking Travel Service — A change of chairs | Travel Research Online


The Cruise Shop/Viking Travel Service — A change of chairs

Much has happened since my last post–some of it good, some of it bad; but all of it’s been anything but boring!

First off, the bad. We just lost a beloved employee to retirement.  While we are all “stars” in our own right, she was invaluable, and her expertise and vast first-hand experience of various destinations around the globe was without peer.  Let it be known she could never be replaced; however, a “replacement” was necessary.

Enter yours truly, who gladly accepted the offer to step up to the plate and do my part – albeit with mixed feelings.  If you recall, my 32-year background is predominantly in Leisure Travel; however, for the past 6, I have focused nearly entirely on being a cruise specialist – to the point I am on the verge of achieving my ECC (CLIA’s Elite Cruise Counselor) certification.

To say I feel a little guilty for “abandoning ship” (pardon the pun) is putting it mildly; I’ve put so much time, work, and effort into marketing myself exclusively as a Cruise Specialist!

Now for the good news.  I’m discovering that I can still have the best of both worlds!  After 6 years of immersing myself with cruises, I’m realizing that nothing can really ever take that away from me–I am still Linda Furlan, MCC – Cruise Specialist. Cruises can and will remain my niche specialty.  But something has to be said for diversification and flexibility—especially when you consider the tough economic times.  After being somewhat out of the packaged travel and leisure loop these past six years, it feels great to get re-acquainted with the wholesalers, products, destinations – and even clients.  As a matter of fact, it’s downright exhilarating!

Regardless of what “genre” of leisure travel I book, the bottom line is I love making people’s travel dreams come true.

We have seen a significant jump in our leisure business across the board and it re-emphasizes what many recent studies are now saying–Americans love to travel and don’t stay home for very long, and that a professional travel planner is still very much in demand!

Repeat business is no doubt our bread and butter; but lately, the new referral business has taken off. In our case, soft advertising via our monthly e-zine is really helping get the phones ringing; and social media channels like facebook and twitter are gaining interest, as well. Just from re-connecting with old friends and classmates on facebook, I’ve personally closed thousands of dollars in sales, with the potential of a few different group bookings. Speaking of groups, our group department has enjoyed great success with church groups, banks, and retirement communities.

These have been our successes. Perhaps there is a “pied piper” in your midst?  What are you seeing in your business? Please leave a comment. Until next time, here’s wishing all of us continued success!

Linda Furlan is a career Travel Consultant with over 30 years experience as a front-line, brick-and-mortar agent.  She is a MCC Cruise Specialist employed by Ensemble-affiliated Viking Travel Service/The Cruise Shop (  in Naperville, IL – celebrating their 40th Year in business in 2011.  From Corporate to Groups to Leisure to middle-management, she’s seen and done it all – but becoming a niche specialist in her favorite genre – Cruising – has been the most fulfilling.  Linda also recently combined her passions for travel, writing, and photography by starting her own Travel Blog .  She can be reached at or by phone at (630) 357-7447.

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