By now, we have heard of the tragedy that befell the Costa Concordia over the weekend off the coast of Italy. At the time of this writing, The Sun was reporting that at least six of the 4,000 on board were dead. In recent memory, there has not been a commercial cruise line accident of this magnitude since the RMS Titanic sank in 1912. Obviously, passengers are going to be concerned about cruise ship safety. Likely you may see some cancellations; and as a travel professional, it is your job to answer their questions. To help ease you through what looks to be a significant black mark on the cruising industry, in what is typically the busiest time of the year, for cruise bookings, I offer these three tips.
- Do NOT ensure their safety. The first question a client will ask is, “Am I safe on a cruise ship?” Do NOT go into a sales pitch about how safe cruise ships are; one just sank. The Concordia was built in 2006 so she has all of the modern safety features of other ships. Accidents can happen, but as an agent, if you tell a client they will be safe, you may be opening yourself up to liability. Keep in mind the ship sank.
- Allow the client to make his or her own decision. Ultimately, as a professional, your position is to guide the client. NOT to make their decisions. Certainly you can discuss the safety record of the various ships and lines. Certainly you can (and should) point them toward online resources for them to research on their own at their own pace.
- Do NOT discredit the client’s ultimate decision. Every client has a choice. They chose to work with you to plan a trip. They have the choice to not do business with you. Respect the decision. If they cancel a cruise, discuss an alternative trip—all inclusives, or a drive or rail vacation.
No doubt Carnival Corporation will be going through a PR nightmare in the coming weeks and there will be thousands (or more) very concerned guests. As agents of the Carnival brands, it is time for us as an industry to step up and be a partner. When Carnival comes out with an industry policy concerning cancellations on the Concordia, other Costa ships, or any of their other brands, we need to know it and convey it with accuracy to our clients. Keep in mind, that out top priority should be our clients—not our commissions and not our allegiance to a particular supplier.
The days ahead will likely be challenging for the cruise industry. As an industry, it is time to step up to the plate.