If some of your clients love cruises, they may have promised themselves that – if they got through the COVID crisis unscathed – they’ll find some new places to visit. Here’s how you can help them fulfill these promises. Suggest some new places to explore and provide them with enough information to turn their dreams into reality.
Where Should They Visit?
With 15 great cruising grounds to cover, it needs two articles to describe them all. Here are the first seven regions. We’ll describe the remaining eight next week.
- North Atlantic (Nova Scotia, Iceland, Great Britain)
- Baltic (Sweden, Netherlands, USSR)
- Mid-Atlantic (France, Portugal, Spain)
- Western Mediterranean (France, Spain, Italy)
- Eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Croatia)
- Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore)
Encouraging clients to “spread their wings” makes good business sense. Since they may be unfamiliar with some of these areas, they’ll look to you for guidance. This makes them much less likely to seek bargains from mass-market discounters, and helps you transition your business to charging nonrefundable consulting fees when you work with a client. If you’re going to help them navigate the shoals of vaccine passports, visas, local health conditions, shifting regulations, and tourist attractions that are reopening, nonrefundable hourly fees are a must.
After suggesting seven top cruising areas, we’ll recommend strategies for providing clients with the information they need.
North Atlantic (Nova Scotia, Iceland, Great Britain)
The North Atlantic is where cruising began. Millions of our ancestors came over on cruise lines, including Cunard and P&O that are still around, which carried both immigrants and wealthy passengers. The route from Southampton or Cork to Halifax and New York City is still trendy. If your clients do this cruise in reverse, it’s the gateway for them to enjoy other destinations in Europe. Most North Atlantic cruises now include a day or more in Iceland, with activities that can be as tame or wild as your clients want. From soaking in the Blue Lagoon to expeditions on glaciers using Snow Cats, Iceland has it all. Ireland is the darling of soon-to-be retirees with its low taxes and affordable housing; and those of any age who can work remotely from anywhere with speedy internet connections. Encourage your clients to explore opportunities to establish homes in Europe as an alternative to relocating to Florida or Arizona.
Baltic (Sweden, Netherlands, USSR)
Baltic cruises are great for those who like to collect passport stamps. On a typical two-week cruise, guests may visit Sweden, Netherlands, USSR, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Estonia, and Norway. More importantly, Baltic cruises provide an insight into people’s lives that are very different than those in the United States. On a per-capita basis, several of these nation’s citizens are better educated and wealthier than typical Americans. Many also speak at least three or four languages. This can be a rude awakening for some Americans. In St. Petersburg, where most cruises dock for 2-3 days, the Russians will not permit Americans to leave the ship without an official tourist guide or a costly visa; and most people are not nearly as well off as the tourists. However, the museums, palaces, and jewelry of the Czars make St. Petersburg unforgettable. The Old Town of Stockholm is another exciting stop, but Amsterdam’s marijuana “coffee houses” don’t have product that rival pot shops in Colorado or California. Tallinn, the port in Estonia, is considered one of the best-wired cities anywhere; and Helsinki, the port city in Finland, sells East European caviar right where the ships dock, which is inexpensive, high quality, and not available in many other places.
Mid-Atlantic (Spain, Portugal, France)
To those who have not traveled this route, it is sure to be an eye-opener. The combination of castles, scenery, and small specialized museums are memorable. Also, dollar-for-dollar, the restaurants are better than in any American city. Many of these voyages start in Barcelona, where the combination of Gaudi architecture, Picasso art, roast lamb, and pork, makes the city unforgettable. Try to book a cruise that overnights in Bordeaux, since a day in this port is not enough time to visit properties such as Chateaux Margaux, where the same family has been getting top prices for their wines since the 16th century. Ditch the ship to have lunch or dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant! Then it’s on to St. Malo and its famous French castle that guards the entrance to the English Channel. These voyages usually end in Southampton, about an hour away from London.
Western Mediterranean (France, Spain, Italy)
This itinerary typically also starts in Barcelona, heads north to several small ports along the French Riviera, visits Monaco and the Italian Riviera, and concludes in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. Visiting Cannes, St. Tropez, Nice, and Monte Carlo are usually the highlights of the trip. With smart scheduling, you can schedule your clients’ visits to coincide with fashion or screen award weeks on the French Riviera, or with the Monaco Grand Prix. Sometimes a port visit is made to Amalfi, the home of the liquor, Limoncello. A small ship with fewer than 600 guests is the best way for your clients to pretend that they’re coming ashore from one of the multimillion-dollar yachts in the harbor.
Eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Croatia)
The highlight of this trip occurs if your clients start their cruise in Venice. While hotels are costly, your clients will blame you if you don’t set aside several days to explore this city. Venice is entirely walkable, but suggest they sometimes take Vaporetto (water taxis) to get around. Your clients will head south from Venice and make several stops in Croatia, the most exciting being Dubrovnik where they can walk the vast walls that once defended the city. Your clients will then sail to several Greek islands, all of which have great ambiance and food. Be sure they try the grilled octopus and the whole fish baked in a brick made of salt. If you leave the ship in Piraeus, the port of Athens, try to schedule a day trip to the island of Aegina, which is only 40-minutes from Piraeus by hydrofoil. Even better, engage for your clients one of the yachts in the harbor to explore a few of the Saronic that are less than a day’s sail from Piraeus. The yacht cruise often beats visiting Athens, especially during the hot Athenian summers. It’s less expensive and a lot more fun.
Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore)
Cruises to Southeast Asia often include port calls in Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam; and also visits to Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, and China. Many travel advisors considered Southeast Asia a “must” for their clients. The cities of Singapore and Shanghai are among the most advanced in the world. They seemingly have solved most of the problems in getting more than 6 million people in Singapore, and 24 million in Shanghai, to live close to one another with minimal strife. Vietnam has rebuilt itself in the last 50 years since the war, and is now among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Halong Bay in Vietnam is a travel photographer’s dream come true. Also, the 280mph magnetic levitation trains in Singapore signals that the future is here.
Next week, we’ll briefly explore cruises to:
- Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji)
- Northern Pacific (Japan, Siberia, Alaska)
- Western Pacific (Alaska, Canada, Hawaii)
- South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile)
- Western Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico)
- Eastern Caribbean (British Virgin Islands, Cuba, St. Maarten)
- Remote Regions (Antarctica, Canadian Northwest Passage, Galapagos)
Discuss these possibilities with clients who are seeking new cruising experiences. It takes about the same amount of time to travel from Los Angeles to Asia as to travel from Los Angeles to Europe. Also, when you look at similar accommodations and dining opportunities, Asian destinations are less expensive and often provide better service than those in Europe.
If you haven’t been to some of these places, don’t hesitate to involve destination specialists from your travel network to do some of the detailed planning. A 16-day cruise on a luxury line can quickly generate $3000-$4000 per couple in commissions for cruise fares, flights, hotels, travel insurance, and excursions. Rather than lose these sales to more knowledgeable advisors, it may be better to pay around $300 to a specialist who will develop a detailed itinerary for you to present to your clients and research any issues that arise. These consulting advisors should be willing to work anonymously without knowing your clients’ names, how many guests will be traveling, or sharing commissions. You should make all the bookings.
Given the time and experience it takes to become familiar with a cruising region, the practice of referring cases to destination specialists should become as standard in the travel industry as in medicine. It’s a team approach from which everyone benefits. If you would like me to explore this idea further, just let me know.
Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. He writes a weekly column, Point-to-Point, for Travel Research Online (TRO) that’s read by more than 80,000 travel advisors and industry leaders. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.