The Caribbean and Bahamas are the default itineraries for most first time and infrequent cruisers departing from the US. There is a variety in the ports of call to ensure that clients don’t have to continually repeat the same ports every time they sail; but that only lasts for so long. When your clients’ have done a half dozen or more cruises in the Caribbean, and their criteria becomes “new ports we haven’t been to before,” your challenge is to move them away from the Caribbean.
Cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas is definitely convenient. Embarkation ports are easy to fly to, and relatively inexpensive compared to international airfare. In many cases, heartier clients are willing to drive up to 14 hours to get to a port in order to bypass paying for airfare and dealing with the less-than-friendly TSA process. However, when they decide that St. Thomas falls into the “been there, done that” category and they have no desire to go back, what do you do? You can sell the ship as the destination, but that usually wears thin quickly as well.
When clients are ready to spread their wings and expand their horizons, it is our responsibility as their travel consultants to guide them. The next few destinations that we can offer up that don’t require leaving the continent include Alaska, New England, and Canada. We’re still dealing with domestic airfare for the most part, and in some cases clients can still drive to the embarkation ports. As consultants, however, we need to prepare and qualify these Caribbean-experienced clients. The first thing they’ll notice immediately is that both of these destinations price higher than their typical Caribbean cruises. After they get pass that sticker shock, they’ll notice the higher cost of excursions – flight-seeing over a glacier in Alaska can be five times what they’re used to paying for the same excursion in the Caribbean. Both destinations also lend themselves to cruise tours, combining a land tour component before or after the cruise. It is our job to show them the benefits of doing a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary that they’ll be unlikely to repeat.
Once a client has branched out and experienced Alaska, New England, and Canada, more than likely they’ll be receptive to exploring and cruising off-continent. The world then becomes their oyster. The next stop? Usually it will be Northern Europe or the Mediterranean. Both of these destinations have multiple ports of call, so a client may repeat them to get to as many ports as possible over time. When you combine the airfare and cruise costs, often the total won’t surpass the air and cruise costs that they paid for Alaskan and New England. The airfare will probably be higher, but often we can find good values in cruise fares, making the total costs palatable to most clients. After exhausting the European continent, you can guide them towards South America, Asia, and even world cruises.
Another opportunity that we can offer clients is to educate them on the benefits of booking early. Many Caribbean cruises are booked closer in, partially because of the price points. When clients start booking higher priced itineraries, they need to consider booking further out to take advantage of the best pricing available. It also gives them the chance to set up payment plans that lets them pay off the cruise over time and not in a large final payment lump sum. A little pre-planning can go a long way in helping them afford those cruises that they thought were unattainable.
Are your clients starting to get tired of the same old Caribbean cruise itineraries? What tips can you share about moving them out of the Caribbean? Let’s discuss it below.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.