Marilyn Conroy is the Executive Vice President of David Morris International, a company that offers an array of sales, marketing, and operational services to cruise lines and tour operators. She emigrated from England to start a 20 year career with Cunard in the Hotel division before eventually joining David Morris to form David Morris International. DMI’s successful history, dedicated and experienced staff, and knowledge of the market are just a few of the reasons they have been chosen by Saga Cruises to aid their launch into the North American market. To learn more about Marilyn, DMI, and Saga Cruises continue reading the short interview below.
Travel Research Online (TRO): You came to the United States from England, and started a career with Cunard in the Hotel division covering London and the Caribbean spanning 20 years. How has that experience helped you in your current position of Executive Vice President for David Morris International? Is there anything particular (advice, strategy, etc.) that you have carried from your time at Cunard to DMI?
Marilyn Conroy (MC): When I joined Cunard Hotels, moving after two years to the shipping division, our mantra was to develop personal sales relationships founded on mutual trust with the agency distribution system. These days some companies, indeed most companies, take these relationships for granted. I guess I am old school, and my partner David Morris and our VP Business development Joe Proto feel the same way. I want to be able to pick up the phone and talk directly to our travel partners who trust us because we have always been respectful and fair to them. I believe that Agents know we would not recommend a company that we didn’t believe in.
TRO: Your career was working for three cruise lines directly, and then you formed David Morris International. What exactly does DMI do? What can you tell us about the company?
MC: David and I decided to launch our own company offering a variety of sales, marketing and operational services to cruise lines and tour operators. David and I each have over 30 years’ experience in the luxury travel market, so we know how to stimulate the sales for cruises lines of all sizes. We only handle products that we would want to travel on ourselves. Because of our relationships with the travel industry, we know how to best quickly target the agents most likely to sell a particular product. We also know how to develop new sources of business for our clients by working with our travel partners to develop special interest groups.
TRO: Saga offers a few programs, like the Solo Traveler Collection and Explore Ashore that are quite unique. What more can you tell us about these exciting offerings from Saga?
MC: Saga excels at meeting the needs of the solo traveler, and this will be a great selling tool for agents who work within this demographic. Currently it is difficult for agents to find the right product with no single supplement, which in many cases is 200%. The agents don’t need to wonder with Saga if for a particular sailing there is a reduced single supplement. Saga has over 100 dedicated solo staterooms on the new vessel all with verandahs. These dedicated staterooms can be found in all categories including a single suite.
I am also very excited with the uniqueness of the itineraries that Saga offers. Saga goes a step further to enhance your destination experience with a program we call Explore Ashore. Today we have a tendency to think “one size fits all” and develop a series of “standard” excursions. I am finding that is not true. With the Explore Ashore team onboard, you can craft unique experiences in ports of call based on your needs and desires. This could with a small group of like-minded travelers, or you can go bespoke. For example for those that are active, imagine dog sledding across the Arctic while in Tromso or golfing in Aalborg in Denmark.
TRO: What would you say is your absolute favorite part of working with Saga? What sets them apart from the other cruise companies you have worked for?
MC: DMI was asked to look at working with Saga about four years ago. David Morris and I went on an inspection trip of one of their vessels, as we would never represent any company we hadn’t experienced. We were very impressed with the quality of the core product, dining facilities and food were excellent, accommodations very nice, the ships were clean and well maintained, however they didn’t have any special unique selling features and we felt to launch in such a highly competitive market as North America would not be successful. They approached us again a few months ago and told us of their two new ships that frankly “had it all”: smaller capacity just 999 guests, and at 78,250 tons that’s a lot of passenger space for the number of guests. We believed their timing was perfect for us to enter the North American marketplace. So frankly, we were thrilled to accept the challenge of launching Saga in the USA. Saga is seeking a younger clientele, providing all the features that travelers desire today namely spacious cabins, all with balconies, gorgeous dining rooms combined with alternative restaurants (never a surcharge), state of the art spa, gym and pool, all in a boutique hotel environment with the finest cuisine, complimentary fine wines at lunch and dinner, gratuities included. They even bring you to the ship in a chauffeur driven car from the airport or pre Hotel – now that’s “classy.” They are a British company with a distinctly British ship; they are combining the tradition that used to be found on the “old Cunard Queens” with modern features in an unstructured environment. Namely, there are no “classes” of service but the British Tradition is there. At 4 p.m. sharp everyone can go for traditional afternoon tea, complete with scones and cucumber sandwiches!!!
TRO: What can we expect to see from Saga this upcoming year? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
MC: The exciting part is that Saga is now being marketed by David Morris International in North America, we will be making personal calls to top agents who are known to have a British American clientele and/or clients that have an affinity to anything British. Spirit of Discovery will deliver in July of 2019. Her forward bookings have been ahead of the curve, therefore, Saga has already exercised on the option to build a second vessel Spirit of Adventure. I am hoping to come back to you early Q1 of next year with more information on that initiative. In the meantime, we are reaching out to travel agents helping with marketing plans and presentations. Agents are excited and engaging Saga and the Spirit of Discovery.