Selling cruises based on food quality can be dicey. If you make the wrong recommendation to a client that’s a true “foodie”, you may lose their future business. So how do you counsel a client that is laser-focused on food? Besides carefully qualifying your client, you also need to set their expectations.
Food quality is not consistent, either on cruise ships or on land. They can receive a bad shipment that can affect the quality of the food served for the week. A chef can have a bad night. In other words, stuff can go wrong which affects food quality. I’ve had clients get off a cruise raving about the food on the cruise. However, other clients getting off the same exact cruise have complained that the food was sub-par. They were on the same ship at the same exact time, and their food experiences were diametrically opposed. Without grilling the clients, it’s hard to ascertain what happened. Did they order the same things? Did they eat in any of the specialty restaurants? But most importantly, what were their expectations before they boarded the ship?
When you qualify a client, and they like eating out at Applebee’s, they may be happy as clams with the food choices on a cruise ship. Or they could come back complaining that the menu options were “too stuffy,” or nothing that they liked so they felt like they were starving to death.
Then there are the clients that are foodies, thinking of themselves as semi-pro food critics. They go to a restaurant that’s received a Michelin three star rating (the best possible rating), and they find fault with it. Those are the clients that are near-impossible to please.
So what do we do? Set expectations. If you have personally been on the cruise ship (or at least sailed that cruise line) you can share personal experiences with your clients. For example, I love going to steakhouses around our area. So I’ll give clients a comparison of how the food on the ship might compare to one of our local steakhouses they’re familiar with. That gives them point of reference. I do always stress that the comparison is solely my opinion and based on my personal preferences, but I’ve found it has helped clients form a frame of reference.
I also started a collection of cruise line menus over my years of cruising. No, I’m not taking the menus off the cruise ships. But I do take pictures of every menu, each night of the cruise. I prefer taking pictures of a menu that they may have displayed outside of the dining room. However, the menus are not always displayed outside. So I have been “that” person taking pictures of the menu at the table in the main dining room and in specialty restaurants. And when the buffets aren’t busy, I will spin through quickly to snap a few pictures of the buffet options.
Being able to peruse menus before hand helps clients get a feel for what they’ll see once they’re onboard their cruise. Knowing ahead of time what to expect helps to quell complaints later.
What have you done to help foodies prepare for what they may experience on a cruise?
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.