Eight Questions You Need to Ask Before Recommending a Cruise | Travel Research Online

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Eight Questions You Need to Ask Before Recommending a Cruise

If a potential client asks you to recommend a cruise, the worst thing you can do is start rattling off cruise lines and destinations. Unless you know them very well, before you jump in with suggestions, engage them in a conversation in which you weave in the following questions. These will help qualify them as potential cruisers and help you to guide them to the best choices.

About how many days do you want to be gone on the entire vacation?

  1. One week or less
  2. 2-4 weeks
  3. A month or more

Answer A suggests your prospective client shouldn’t consider a cruise. Allowing two days at the front for air travel and one day to get home, your client will only have four days to spend aboard the ship. Answer B is ideal because it includes about 90% of cruises. Answer C is easily arranged with ’round the world’ cruises, back-to-back cruises, and lots of days spent in other destinations.

Who will be traveling with you?

  1. Partner
  2. Family members and friends
  3. I’m going solo

Answer A invites you to probe about the partner’s travel likes and dislikes. Answer B suggests you get details on numbers, gender, and ages. Answer C invites a discussion over what the client hopes to get from the trip.

How many evenings would you rather spend docked or anchored in a port?

  1. All
  2. Most
  3. Less than half

Answer A suggests you can’t go wrong offering river cruises. Answer B means “destination-intensive” cruises with one or more overnight stays. Answer C indicates repositioning cruises from one continent to another, or cruises that cover thousands of miles.

What three cities are the highest on your bucket list? Why?

  1. City/Reason
  2. City/Reason
  3. City/Reason

In this question, the names of the cities aren’t nearly as important as the reasons for selecting them. You can choose cruises close to most cities on a significant body of water; the reasons will suggest other choices that may be even more pleasing. Also, don’t rely on a client’s knowledge of geography. They may be unaware that the distance between Sydney and Perth is about the same as between New York City and Los Angeles.

Would you rather be on a ship that reminds you of Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, or San Diego? Why?

  1. Top choice/Reason
  2. Last choice/Reason

This question is a gentle way of probing whether your client would be happiest on a large resort ship (Las Vegas) with events occurring at all hours of day and night; a ship that oozes luxury and personal service (Beverly Hills) and charges, accordingly; or a vessel that falls in-between these extremes (San Diego) such as those of Oceania, Azamara, or Holland-America.

When dining on the ship, would you usually prefer to eat in the main dining room, a small specialty restaurant, an extensive buffet, or a franchise restaurant? Why?

  1. Top choice/Reason
  2. Last choice/Reason

Dining is a central selling point of every cruise. Every cruise ship has at least one main dining room. They try to provide good service with some dishes that guests can’t prepare at home, or in most local restaurants such as beef Wellington. The small ships try to serve dishes as soon as they are ready (a la minute), and they often offer more exotic choices. The elaborate buffets and franchise restaurants are the trademarks of the large resort ships.

Again, be sure to listen for the reason people give for their choices. For my wife and myself, free unlimited caviar is one of the reasons we favor Seabourn over many other luxury cruise brands. Still, I realize “fish eggs” are something that many other cruisers would rather not eat.

When in a port you’ve never been to before, would you usually choose to go on a tour bus that visits the top sites, visit only the places that interest you on a smaller tour or with a private guide, or spend the day exploring the port on your own using public transportation? Why?

  1. Top choice/Reason
  2. Last choice/Reason

There are no right or wrong answers to this question. These choices are typically available to cruisers on all the cruise brands. Again, listen for the reasons. You may learn that one or more clients are physically challenged or distrustful to go on their own where everyone doesn’t speak English. Or, you may learn about their interests, such as scuba, photography, or hiking, which are best pursued in small groups or with a private guide. This permits you to focus on destinations where these interests can be easily pursued.

If you decided to go in early or stay after the cruise at one of the destinations you mentioned, would you probably opt to stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, a small upscale Relais et Chateaux property, a Marriott, or a large, all-inclusive resort? Why?

  1. Top choice/Reason
  2. Last choice/Reason

Again, this question tries to determine for which level of luxury your and service your client aspires for this trip. No matter if your client has never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton or Relais et Chateaux before—do they want to visit one on this vacation?

Also, this is good to double-check the cruise lines you’re going to recommend. A potential Relais et Chateaux client would probably only travel on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian to please grandchildren; on the other hand, they would probably revel on Ponant, Seabourn, Silversea, or Regent.

In the securities industry, these questions are part of a “Know Your Customer” protocol that the companies require. You can weave all these questions into a 10-minute brief conversation that precedes you providing any specific recommendations. This will increase your closing rate and lead to more referrals since the clients know that you have a good idea of what they want from their forthcoming cruise.


Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. 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 steve@cruisesandcameras.com.

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