Lately it seems that clients are becoming more conflicted about their itinerary choices in the Caribbean. The conflict is whether or not to pick an itinerary with more ports of call, or less. Your typical 7-night itinerary out of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas typically call on 3, maybe 4 ports at the most. That then leaves 2 to 3 full days at sea. In order to have a more port-intensive itinerary in the Caribbean, it requires flying to Puerto Rico for the major cruise lines. For smaller cruise lines, like Windstar Cruises, you can sail out of St Maarten, Barbados, and Aruba.
It may be an easier decision when advising a client who is well traveled and has already visited quite a few Caribbean ports. They will be more open to suggestions of different cruise lines, departure ports, and itineraries. But what about the new-to-cruising client? I just had one call the other day: they have never cruised before, but they knew they wanted a 7-night Caribbean cruise. They weren’t convinced that they wanted a lot of days at sea, but were clueless on what ship or itinerary to settle on. When they called me, they were leaning towards a port-intensive cruise out of Puerto Rico.
That is where we can shine and show our value to new clients, especially those that may have never worked with a travel agent in the past. A lot of agents think they are qualifying their clients by getting names, dates of birth, and basic demographic information about each passenger. But we really should take it much further. With a client that’s never cruised before, we should delve into their hobbies, favorite sports and activities, what types of vacations they’ve taken in the past, what they like to see, where their interests lie, etc.
With the clients I recently talked to that had never cruised before, I found out that they like a lot of activity, such as hiking, but are not really interested in water sports. She had a particular interest in history. When I mentioned being able to take shore excursions to Mayan ruins on Western Caribbean itineraries, she was excited. The ultimate decision was on a traditional 7-night Western Caribbean cruise, instead of the more port-intensive Southern Caribbean cruise out of Puerto Rico. Adventure, hiking, and history beat out beaches, island tours, and snorkeling. We also talked about what was available to do onboard ships during those days at sea. Some ships offer bowling, rock wall climbing, surf simulators, miniature golf, etc. They were satisfied that they wouldn’t be bored to tears on their days at sea.
Next time a client asks about ports of call versus number of days at sea, really take the time to delve into what they want out of their cruise. What do they want to see or do? What ports match up best with their interests or hobbies? Take the time to really sell them on your value as an advisor.
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.