Kallie Biggs is the Travel Agent Market Manager for American Cruise Lines with extensive experience in marketing, sales, and business development over a range of travel and hospitality-focused industries. During her career, she held several onboard positions for a variety of cruise lines and also worked at Europe Express, gaining valuable experience as part of the sales and marketing team. Kallie served as a Contributing Board Member for the Young Travel Professionals of Seattle with the title of Communications and Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Western Washington University, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Washington.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Kallie Briggs (KB): Like most in the business, I started a career in the industry because I liked to travel, but stayed because I fell in love with the comradery and community aspect of the industry.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at American Cruise Lines.
KB: From the creation of educational programs, to assisting with group sales and coordinating tradeshows, there is never a dull moment. I keep the industry informed about all the exciting developments at American Cruise Lines and help agents understand how we are redefining the river cruise experience in the United States. With the introduction of new ships and itineraries, we have expanded US cruising so much in recent years that we are constantly working to improve the ways we support our agent community, including providing marketing materials and assets on our Travel Agent Portal, and by hosting informative webinars. My primary goal is to help agents grow their business and increase their earnings.
TRO: As Travel Market Manager, how do you and your team work with travel professionals to provide the best experiences for their clients while on an American Cruise?
KB: American Cruise Lines has been continuously recognized for providing superb service to guests and travel agents before, during, and after a cruise. Our small ship model lends itself to highly personalized service, giving travel agents the opportunity to cater to each of their clients’ special requests or needs. In order to do this, our cruise specialists are available 7-days a week to answer questions and make individual arrangements.
Once a client boards the ship, our onboard staff makes the American Cruise Lines difference clear. Our small ships offer intimate, elegant atmospheres that are specifically designed with our guests’ experience in mind. All of our vessels are designed and built for overnight cruising which we feel offers a superior experience to that of a converted ship. With us, guests do not have to deal with the issues or concerns that arise from outdated vessels with obsolete technology. Travel agents can feel confident we will offer their clients the best cruise experiences across the United States.
TRO: What can a passenger expect when they first board one of American Cruise Lines ships for their voyage?
KB: Many guests are immediately struck by the level of personalized service our staff delivers and by the elegance of our ships. We have been able to maintain one of the highest repeat rates in the industry because of our welcoming and comfortable environments. That begins the moment passengers board the ship, or even earlier on the Mississippi or Columbia itineraries, as all cruises in those regions include a pre-night hotel package.
TRO: European river boats have the appearance of smaller ocean-going vessels. Can you tell us about American Cruise Line’s fleet and how their appearance are tailored for the American market?
KB: We actually have a fleet of 8 ships. This includes 4 authentic paddlewheelers and 4 small coastal cruisers. Each ship is designed and built for the region it sails.
On the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers, there is a history of traveling these scenic waters on authentic paddlewheelers, so it seemed suitable to recreate this nostalgic experience, while upgrading the technology and making the accommodations more spacious and luxurious than previously available. They might look historic, but they are brand new ships and feature all the comforts of a modern European riverboat. This is an important distinction between American Cruise Lines and the other paddlewheelers on the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers.
Our cruises to Alaska, Puget Sound, New England, Maine, and the Southeast require vessels that can easily navigate the smaller waterways and dock right in the heart of the quaint towns we visit. All four small coastal cruisers in our fleet have a passenger capacity of only 100-163 guests, but still offer the spacious staterooms, elegant dining, relaxed atmospheres, and customized programs on and off board.
TRO: Tell us about some of your theme cruise offerings.
KB: Theme cruises are a great opportunity to cater to each of your clients’ particular interests and are statistically more likely to create repeat clientele and referrals. As the largest U.S. cruise company, American Cruise Lines offers a variety of special theme cruises to the most desirable destinations across the United States. From food and wine, to history and music, we have 26 different theme cruise options that bring out the distinct flavor and culture of the regions we visit.
TRO: With the holiday season fast approaching, what specials or seasonal cruises is American Cruise Lines offering to cruisers?
KB: Whether spending quality time with family or trying to escape the holiday get together, we offer a fun and unique way to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s on the Lower Mississippi River, or on the smooth and protected waterways of the Southeast. These cruises include many exciting holiday-themed activities, including culinary demonstrations, themed Galas, and captivating shore excursions.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
KB: The Lower Mississippi is my favorite destination that we offer. This is a beautiful region with a ton of history and amazing food, and the included excursions are some of my favorites. But what I really love is that we travel in small groups to all points of interest, offering guests a unique perspective, and never overwhelming the ports of call we visit. Both ships that cruise these itineraries are brand new, launched in 2016 and 2015, feature the latest navigation technologies, and have a maximum capacity of only 185 passengers.
TRO: What is on the horizon for American Cruise Lines in the upcoming year?
KB: American Cruise Lines is now the largest U.S. cruise company and has been receiving increased recognition for excellence in small ship cruising. By continually designing and building brand new ships, we lead the way on the American waterways with cruises that are competitive with those of European riverboats.
We have been doing this for 30 years, but I feel the general public is just starting to get to know us. So, that being said, we plan to keep offering the high standard of service, gourmet cuisine, spacious amenities, and all the other hallmarks of American Cruise Lines, and we plan to keep building new ships. We have two new vessels under construction right now, and plan to continue to retire our vessels as they age. One thing we really feel strongly about at American Cruise Lines is that our guests deserve to cruise America’s most popular rivers and coastal passages in comfort and style. That is why we are committed to continually expanding and improving our fleet and offerings.
For more information on Kallie and American Cruise Lines, visit them online at www.americancruiselines.com.