Stephen Tucker is the President of All Leisure Group, North America, parent company of Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic, and Hebridean Island Cruises. Based in the Fort Lauderdale office, he reports to Andrew Dufty, the Group Marketing Director. Tucker, a certified travel counselor, is involved in all operations at the Fort Lauderdale office, including day to day liaison with travel agents, sales and marketing activities, and staff management.
Before joining All Leisure Group in February of 2013, his extensive cruise industry background started in 1981 and included vice president positions at Silversea and Orient Lines, as well as field sales positions with Holland America Lines and Premier Cruise Lines, and both field sales and charter and incentive experience at Dolphin Cruise Line and Majesty Cruise Line.
Travel Research Online: What has been your most memorable travel experience?
Stephen Tucker: My most memorable travel experience was my honeymoon 25 years ago when my wife and I took a one-week cruise to Egypt, Israel, and Turkey followed by a week on the island of Santorini, Greece, where we stayed in a “cave-villa”, which was basically a room actually excavated from Oia’s cliff face and overlooking the volcanic bay known as the “Caldera”. Santorini is also the only place I know of that has a white sand, red sand, and black sand beach all on one island.
TRO: How did that influence your understanding or appreciation of travel?
ST: It gave me the full appreciation of the convenience of a cruise ship to take you to such diverse cultures as Egypt, Israel and Turkey in the short span of a week. To be able to see the Pyramids of Giza and the catacombs of Alexandria in Egypt, the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and the Roman theatre and marble streets of Ephesus all in a week, followed by a relaxing week in Santorini complete with candlelit dinners accompanied with local Santorini wines was a truly incredible and unforgettable experience. In addition, it also taught me to pack as light as you can when you travel, because hauling luggage up and down the steep stairwells of Santorini was no easy task!
TRO: What first inspired you to work in the travel industry?
ST:: My inspiration to get involved in the travel industry began with my passion for photography. I wanted to travel around the world so I could take photographs of the many things to see in this beautiful world we live in, and my career in the cruise industry has definitely enabled me to accomplish this.
TRO: Can you describe the small cruise ship experience for us?
ST: We have three brands, and each brand has one ship. While it is true that the ships are small (one is 50 passengers, one is 350 passengers, and the third is 540 passengers), the truly important element is not so much that the ships are small, but more importantly is that we are focused on discovery cruising, which is about combining the chance to relax at sea on small ships, enjoy stylish onboard amenities and hospitality, with the opportunity to discover the world’s great sites and cultures in the company of experts. Although none of our ships offer casinos, all of them do offer expert lecturers who provide educational background on the history, geography, and sociology of the global destinations that we visit. We also have partnerships with three premier UK Organizations: the National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society, and the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). These three partnerships provide our guests exclusive access to speakers, castles, events, and other opportunities not available to other cruise lines.
Voyages of Discovery offers cruise vacations aboard the 1990-built, 540-passenger Voyager to lesser known ports accompanied by experts who will enrich your guests’ cruise experience with in-depth insight into the local history, culture, geography and wildlife. The Voyager underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2012 and entered service for Voyages of Discovery in December of 2012, replacing the original flagship. The Voyager has a choice of three restaurants for dinner, all of them open seating, all are available without any additional charge and one of them offers an outdoor dining option. Itineraries range from the Mediterranean, to the Red Sea, Arabia, the Far East (including Japan), Europe, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and Africa.
Swan Hellenic, established in 1954, also represents excellent value for money, with so much included in your cruise aboard the 350-passenger Minerva with tailor-made itineraries to fascinating ports of call combined with evenings in port and overnight stays. What sets us apart is Swan Hellenic’s unique, meticulously planned, integrated program of included shore excursions, and a stimulating program of Guest Speaker talks combined with a dedicated Swan Hellenic on board team to ensure that each day of your cruise lives up to expectations. In addition to shore excursions, fares include all gratuities on board and ashore as well as all port taxes. The Minerva was extensively refurbished in 2012 with the addition of a new lounge, promenade, and 32 balconied suites. All bathrooms were also renovated as well. The Minerva’s itineraries take her to five continents and over 184 ports, including Arabia, the Far East, the Mediterranean, a series of roundtrip UK cruises out of Portsmouth, and South America.
Hebridean Island Cruises is an exclusive luxury brand where we pamper 50 guests on board the Hebridean Princess. Hebridean Princess is only in service for nine months each year (March through November) and for the remaining three months each year she undergoes extensive maintenance and refurbishment to keep her in tip-top and immaculate condition. Hebridean Princess is an all-inclusive product with all gratuities, shore excursions, and spirits included. We even have our own blend of scotch whisky! Most famous for our charters with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (she is our most famous repeat guest having chartered the ship twice, including for her 80th birthday), this ship typically spends the majority of her season cruising the Scottish Isles, although we also touch Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. In 2014 we will offer three new Norway cruises sailing from Bergen in addition to our normal Scottish Isle cruises. The best endorsement for this ship is from the fact that 98% of our guests would recommend the Hebridean Princess to others, and 96% would consider cruising with us again.
TRO: Who are the passengers aboard your sailings? Can you describe the demographic?
ST: Our demographic is typically aged 55 plus, and we appeal to a guest looking for a more educational and experiential experience. We have no casinos on any of our ships, and our shore excursions do not take guests on shopping tours, but instead focus on the art, culture and history of the destinations we visit. The guest lecturers also escort our shore excursions, giving our guests unlimited access to them so that they can further enhance their knowledge. Travel agents will find these type of guests taking continuing education classes, within the academic community, are members of museums, and attend cultural events like the opera or symphony. Our guests enjoy classical or jazz music, and read publications like Smithsonian, Archaeology, or National Geographic. Our guests also have an interest in wildlife, ornithology, and gardening. In summary, even on a sunny day at sea instead of trying to save a lounge chair by the pool, our guests are typically inside trying to save a good seat in the lounge where our guest lecturers do their presentations!
TRO: All Discovery Cruising offers cruises to nearly every destination imaginable—across three brands — and the list of ports your ships reach stretches from the United Kingdom to southwest Asia. What is the best way for the travel professional to understand the product lines?
ST: Our website is the best place to get our most up-to-date information, but another great resource is our brochures. The brochures are available to view on line, or agents can order them on our website. We have four new brochures coming out at the end of this month, one for Swan Hellenic that goes through January of 2015, two for Voyages of Discovery (one that covers September 2013 to November of 2014, and one that covers November 2014 through March of 2015), and the Hebridean Island Cruises 2014 brochure.
TRO: What is All Discovery’s relationship with travel professionals?
ST: One of the primary reasons I was brought on board here was to strengthen our relationship with the travel trade here in the North American market. The travel professionals in North America have been crucial to my past success throughout my career, and I am counting on them to continue that support here. All Discovery Cruising has always worked with travel professionals, but since my arrival here earlier this year I have enhanced this relationship by creating a better group policy, establishing a preferred supplier status with over 100 travel agencies, and perhaps most importantly, paying commissions two weeks earlier than we used to.
TRO: What tools are available to assist travel professionals with training, marketing and sales?
ST: Probably the best training tool we have is our TRO webinar, which is available 24/7, and can be found here. As for marketing and sales tools, we actually work with travel professionals to create customized emails and direct mail pieces. To take advantage of this, travel agents can contact our sales department at 1-866-623-2689, ext.
TRO: Are there any new and exciting developments coming up for All Discovery Cruising?
ST: In August 1954, the first Swan Hellenic trip took 128 passengers and four classical history experts around the Greek islands. To commemorate that sailing, the line is offering its Diamond Anniversary 15-day Swan’s Hellenic Celebration itinerary on August 13, 2014 that closely replicates the route of that first cruise. The cruise includes overnights in Naples, Kusadasi, Mykonos and Athens.
Fares begin at $3,229 per person through 6/30/13. Guests can also mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings on a 13-day cruise that sails from London (Portsmouth) on June 4, 2014 and includes a visit to Ypres, France and the In Flanders Fields Museum, as well as a special service of remembrance on the June 6 anniversary date as the ship sails off the coast of the Normandy beaches. Guests will be accompanied on this sailing by an eminent military historian, who will provide insight into the battle sites. Fares begin at $2,944 per person through 6/30/13. In celebration of the new 2014/15 season, Swan Hellenic is offering an early booking offer of up to ten percent on the new itineraries (departing April 28 through December 19, 2014) for bookings made by June 30, 2013. In addition, those who book an oceanview or balcony stateroom by June 30, 2013 will receive an onboard bar/beverage credit bonus of up to $300 per stateroom.
For Voyages of Discovery, we have 19 new ports of call in 10 countries and tailor-made opportunities for adventure and exploration at such distinctive destinations as Antsiranana, Madagascar; Walvis Bay, Namibia; Sarande, Albania; Husavik, Iceland; Dubai, UAE; and Cebu, Philippines. The new program also features an opportunity to view the spectacular Northern Lights, (which sold out in 10 days) and our ever-popular Black Sea cruise on October 8, 2014 (fares from $2,849 per person through 6/30/13). Those who book any of the new itineraries (departing May 4, 2014 through March 16, 2015) by June 30, 2013 will receive an Early Booking savings of up to ten percent. In addition, those who book an oceanview or balcony stateroom by June 30, 2013 will receive an onboard credit bonus of up to $300 per stateroom.
Hebridean Island Cruises will return to Norway in 2014 for the first time in five years, with three cruises in Norway in addition to our normal Scottish Isles deployment. Hebridean Island Cruises will also extend its popular footloose walking programme to include Footloose in the Fjords, featuring a variety of walks in Balestrand, Laerdral, Fjaerland, as well as the unique opportunity to join a glacier walk in Sogndal.