Last week we described the great cruising grounds of Europe and Southeast Asia. This week, we’ll describe some other cruise opportunities that your clients may consider, if you suggest them.
Oceania (Australia, New Zealand)
Australia has three fantastic cruising routes. The most popular cruise is Sydney-Melbourne-Hobart-South Island (New Zealand). Sydney is one of the world’s most popular destinations, and Hobart is great for hikers and foodies. Your clients will cross the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand glaciers, and sail up the South Island (of Harry Potter fame). It has wildlife refuges, mysterious caves, and small welcoming cities; and Auckland is a “must visit” for anyone who loves sailing. Book one of the retired America Cup yachts for a “practice racing experience” that will be one of the highlights of the cruise.
A second route goes from Perth, on Australia’s west coast, to Sydney. This cruise is about 3,000 miles long and your clients will remember every day. The white sand beaches are among the world’s best. The wines—dollar-for-dollar—are terrific bargains, and every port seems to have a wild animal park whose inhabitants are as friendly as the humans who care for them.
The third itinerary starts in Bali (Indonesia) and then goes to Cairns, Brisbane, and Sydney. Your clients will travel the length of the Great Barrier Reef (1400 miles) before getting to Brisbane and Sydney. Brisbane has a lifestyle that those in the United States envy for its wellness opportunities and, by the time your clients arrive in Sydney, many will try to learn how they can emigrate. Christmas is a great time to visit Sydney. Suggest that you clients take the ferry to the zoo and do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
Northern Pacific (Japan, Siberia, Alaska)
This cruise is best in April and May, when many ships reposition from Australia and Southeast Asia to head to Alaska for the summer. This cruise is reversed in the fall, after the Alaskan cruise season ends, but the cherry blossoms won’t be present.
Your clients will see cherry blossoms blooming all over Japan. The streets and parks are carpeted in white and pink cherry blossoms. The largest cherry blossom festival is in Aomori, a stop on many of these cruises. Two-million Japanese will enjoy the festival along with your clients. Also suggest that your clients enjoy a visit to a sumo stable in Tokyo to watch the 300-450-pound wrestler’s train; or go to a tuna auction at the Tokyo Fish Market, where a restaurant paid $1.8 million for a 608-pound bluefin tuna.
In Siberia, your clients will see many women wearing the latest fashions. Italian strollers are everywhere. Thanks to oil, natural gas and furs, Siberia is booming. Your clients may bring you back a sweatshirt that has a bare-chested Putin riding a bear with an AK-47 in his hands. We’ve never seen these in St. Petersburg, or anyone wearing one in the United States.
Then it’s on to Alaska, where your clients may stop at Dutch Harbor of Deadliest Catch fame. The cruise ends for some in Seward, but others will visit the ports of the Alaskan Panhandle and leave the ship in Seattle. The weather is usually fine except when crossing the Bering Sea, where 20–40-foot seas sometimes are seen. Guests who figure this is an excellent time to try out a specialty restaurant on the ship will be in for a shock. Usually, they are fully booked on stormy nights.
Many more people visit just the Alaskan Panhandle by ship that are one-way or roundtrips from Seattle. Many travel advisors combine a 7-10-night cruise with 4-day layover in a national park or salmon fishing lodge. The extended vacations are a great idea, especially when your booking include teens or newly-weds.
Patagonia (Argentina, Chile)
Patagonian cruises go from Bueno Aires to Santiago by way of Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, and the Drake Passage. Patagonia has beautiful glaciers and lots of penguins, but they also have—unlike Iceland and Norway—exciting cities such as Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Santiago. Visiting penguin colonies is also easier in Patagonia, where some of the wildlife refuges have boarding ramps for the ship’s tenders and paths that are easier to negotiate by seniors.
Bucket List Destinations (Antarctica, Galapagos Islands, Northwest Passage)
These cruises are ideal when your client’s startup has just gone public; or if one of your clients has just bought a new Tesla Plaid and wants to appease their traveling companion with a once-in-a-lifetime cruise.
In Antarctica, your clients can opt to travel on a luxury expedition ship with helicopters and mini submarines. The service and food will resemble those of a Relais et Chateaux in France, but the costs are stratospheric. The less expensive way to cruise Antarctica is on one of the older expedition ships; but the cramped accommodations, limited entertainment, and buffets at every meal may have the charm of a college dorm. This year, there is a new breed of luxury expedition ship that is more affordable.
The new Seabourn Venture carries 264 guests, all in balcony suites. The ship is equipped with 24 Zodiacs, 10 double sea kayaks, 2 six-passenger submarines, and an ice-strengthened hull. The Venture also provides the same luxury features that Seabourn’s larger ships offer. An 11-night roundtrip cruise from Buenos Aires to Antarctica, by way of Ushuaia and the Drake Passage, starts at $13,000 a person. This includes a night in a Buenos Aires hotel, taxes, transfers, gratuities, beverages, Internet, a Helly Hansen parka, and almost everything else including roundtrip air from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. The roundtrip air from the US to Buenos Aires is extra. While the cruise isn’t cheap, it’s a relative bargain compared to most of its uber-luxury competitors.
In the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), the new Celebrity Flora “mega-yacht,” houses 100 guests. It offers 14-day near-luxury cruises to the Galapagos, starting at about $16,000 a person. Compared to the other offerings available in the Galapagos, this too is a bargain. Twenty-nine of the 50 staterooms have actual balconies with space for chairs and a table outside the room. The rest are French balconies borrowed from river ships and the Celebrity Edge. French balconies have sliding floor-to-ceiling windows, but don’t have sufficient room to permit guests to lounge outside their cabins. For photography or enjoying the view from bed, this works out fine. The Flora also has a drop-down “garage door” at the ship’s stern, which permits guests to get in and out of Zodiacs and scuba gear more easily. Even the Seabourn Venture doesn’t have this important feature.
The Northwest Passage goes from Alaska to Greenland, through the Canadian Arctic. This cruise wasn’t possible until global warming became a reality. The only ships that have done it most years have ice breaker-rated hulls, or an icebreaker chartered to clear the way for the cruise ship. The challenges that this cruise poses are featured in this article from The New York Times. Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line that has a 100-year track record in carrying passengers, mail, and cargo to the Norwegian Arctic, has just re-invented itself by offering the world’s first Pole-to-Pole Expedition Cruise. In August 2022, the MS Roald Amundsen will start a 93-day cruise from Nome, Alaska, through the Canadian Northwest Passage to Greenland. Next she goes to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, South America, Antarctica, and Buenos Aires—all in one voyage! The fares start at $64,581 per person; which, for 93-days and at less than $700 a night, is a bargain if you have three months available for cruising. Hurtigruten doesn’t claim to offer luxury cruises. Instead, it offers premium cruises that are more modest and squarely aimed at cruising anywhere in safety.
The best way of becoming familiar with the cruise lines and destinations that interest you is by taking the cruise lines’ and tourism organizations’ online training that’s free to any travel advisor. You usually can become a Specialist by taking 3-5 online courses. You may also be required to visit the destination at least once before you’re certified, and then every three years to maintain specialist status.
Or, if you have clients who are sufficiently interested to give you a nonrefundable deposit for preparing a detailed plan and making the reservations, seek out a specialist who can assist you. The specialist should be willing to do this for an hourly fee that’s covered by your client’s deposit. The specialist needn’t know your clients’ identities, if you can describe their cruising histories, health, expectations, interests, and why they picked this destination. The commissions should go entirely to you. Refer to last week’s column to learn about other cruising areas in which your clients may be interested. Start with your host agency, organizations such as Signature or Virtuoso, to find the best specialists.
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.