The term “over the holidays” often conjures images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, fireworks, champagne, and crazy cruise fares. The two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day are the two busiest, thus most expensive, times for cruising. But those aren’t the only holidays that people plan their vacations around. Of course there’s Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day and Labor Day are holiday weekends that bookend the busy summer season. Even this past 4th of July weekend is a perfect example.
Independence Day this year landed on a Tuesday. Many people took Monday off and created a nice four day weekend. Cruise itineraries encompassing that weekend were sold out weeks ago. So imagine my surprise when a client called me on Monday, June 26th wanting to waitlist for a five night cruise departing that Saturday, July 1st. I obliged, calling the cruise line and having them create a waitlisted booking for my clients. Then every day I called in to check on the status of the sailing; have any staterooms become available? All along I had my clients prepared for the inevitable land vacation. But they were optimistic. This couple is always overly optimistic. Hand them lemon rinds and they’ll still figure out how to make lemonade.
June 30th arrives and they’re still waitlisted, supposedly now at the very top of the list. However, there still aren’t any available staterooms. July 1st rolls around and they leave home pre-dawn for the seven hour drive to Mobile, Alabama. I kept checking with the cruise line, and still no stateroom availability. I really never expected anything to open up, but I was doing my due diligence for my clients. Then 2:30 PM rolls around, half an hour before check in for the cruise is shut down, and I make the final call. I expected to hear “no room at the inn,” and instead I hear “would they prefer an interior or ocean view room?” At that point my clients were literally sitting outside of the gates at the port waiting to hear from me.
I learned a lesson – never assume that last minute holiday bookings can’t happen. Fortunately these clients are not ones that tend to try last minute bookings (heck, they currently have a 2019 cruise deposited with me right now). So I don’t have to be too concerned that they’ll make a habit of this. They did learn one lesson themselves as well; last minute bookings do come at a price (compared to the price if they’d booked this 12 to 18 months ago).
I definitely would recommend talking to your clients in advance about holiday bookings. Now would be a great time to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas sailings; it’s even a good time to consider talking about sailings for next 4th of July. But if a client comes to you wanting to waitlist on a sold out cruise, don’t assume it won’t work out. I ignored my pessimism and am getting a commission check because I did.
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.