There is Nothing Noteworthy About Selling Bare Cruise Bookings | Travel Research Online


There is Nothing Noteworthy About Selling Bare Cruise Bookings

Let’s face it. Cruises are now commodity products. Everyone sells the same ships and itineraries for similar prices. So how do you stand out from all the others selling the same cruise—maybe for a few dollars less?

Try focusing on things you can add to the cruise package.

My wife and I are approaching 50 cruises in 25 years. When we look back and identify our most memorable voyages, many of them are trips in which we spent several nights before the cruise engaged in activities that weren’t included in the cruise’s advertising materials or list of excursions.

Consider Embarkation and Disembarkation Dates and Places

On a Crystal Cruises Baltic cruise, we were scheduled to leave Stockholm when an International Tall Ships Race was scheduled to begin. The idea was to have the ship leave the harbor surrounded by all these sailing vessels, some of which had been in service for more than 50 years. The crew was mostly sea cadets from naval academies all over the world.

No one told us that the three days and nights before the race were the site of one of Europe’s largest parties, with more than a million sailing enthusiasts and racers enjoying themselves nonstop. Despite the number of people, the atmosphere was mellow, with everyone friendly, with no violence or stupid behavior, and lots of invites to tour their nation’s Tall Ship.

Luckily, we arrived in Stockholm three days early, and it only took a few minutes to find the Tall Ships Festival activities on the Internet. We learned that the events were mostly free and open to all.  But neither our travel advisor nor the ship’s itinerary made us aware of them. That leads to the first suggestion:

Before you suggest a cruise to a prospective client, learn what’s going on in the departure port immediately before sailing and at the final stop the day the cruise ends. This may affect your clients’ departure and return reservations and lead to hotel stays that pay additional commissions. It will also assure your clients that they are being well taken of.

Consider Your Clients’ Passions & Hopes for the Cruise

In early discussions, try to learn what your clients hope to get from their vacation. One of the most satisfying sales I ever made was to a family of four that wanted to experience trout fishing on their Alaskan cruise. Once I learned this, I booked them into a fishing camp after the cruise, cemented my relationship, and gave them memories that would last forever.

Photography, scuba diving, golf, fly fishing, and attending live entertainment events ashore can result in a lifetime of memories that clients may long remember after the cruise details have faded.

These activities are easily uncovered using Google and magazines dedicated to these subjects. As an avid travel photographer going on a Viking cruise to Australia in March, I found more than ten pages of Google listings by merely typing in “Photo Tours Near Sidney” since this is our embarkation port. I’m also exploring other companies that offer photo tours in Sidney by using the ads in Outdoor Photographer magazine. More than 30 companies place these ads in a typical issue.

A couple traveling with us wants to spend a few days at a beach resort in Bali, where the cruise ends. You can believe my research will extend far beyond Viking’s offerings. Within a week, I’ll inform them of what I feel to be the most promising opportunities to experience one of Bali’s famed beach resort properties.

Don’t Insist on Additional Commissions

On two repositioning cruises starting in Japan, we enjoyed the services of a “Goodwill Tour Guide” from a national volunteer organization that pairs individuals or small families of visitors to Japan with retired business executives or college students who want to practice their English and foster international understanding. They don’t charge a fee, except that the guests are permitted to pick up the cost of lunch and public transportation. They also don’t allow a commission to be charged for their services. They enforce this by insisting that someone on tour makes the reservation.

On our first cruise departure from Osaka, our Goodwill Tour Guide showed us Osaka and Tokyo on foot, by subway, and by taxi. He was a retired executive from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries who had lived in Chicago for part of his career and viewed his guide services as a way of repaying the hospitality he had experienced while working outside Japan.

He arranged for us to visit a “sumo stable” to view a closed-practice session where the 250-450+ pound wrestlers worked out and then showered in the street, since many couldn’t fit into a standard shower stall. During the 90-minute practice, we had to remain quiet and kneel on the floor outside the circular ring, defined by small white stones. Afterward, we mixed with the wrestlers, took photos, and spoke with them freely. To this day, the photos I took on this excursion are some of the images I treasure the most of the 20,000+ shots I’ve taken while traveling.

Visiting a sumo stable is not an everyday activity. It has strict etiquette that must be followed, and I’ve never seen it included in a ship’s excursion offerings. The same goes for Tokyo’s subway systems: There are six subway lines, and—at least at first—they are best navigated with a local who is aware of their complexities and etiquette. For instance, unlike most other public transportation, speaking above a whisper is frowned upon. On the other hand, if you accidentally leave your wallet on a restaurant table in a vast station (as I did), it will likely remain untouched if you return 30 minutes later to get it.

When you book a cruise to Japan, make your clients aware of the Goodwill Tour Guide organization. It will immeasurably increase their enjoyment and understanding and encourage referrals and repeat visits.

Partner With Others

If you don’t want to do the pre-cruise research yourself, take a page from the cruise line playbook by combining forces with a well-known land tour agency and see what they suggest for your (soon-to-be) clients. Tours By Locals is an invaluable resource. They permit you to register with them as a travel agent and earn commissions on your bookings.

The advantage of Tours By Locals over the cruise line excursion desk or most other local travel agencies is that they enable you to ask questions of the guides you are considering recommending to your guests. You can gain detailed information about any aspects of the tour that concern you or them. Also, they typically charge less than the local travel organizations in partnership with your travel coop networks, such as Signature or Virtuoso, since their overhead is minimal.


Above all, add more value to your cruise line recommendations by adding SOMETHING in addition to recommending the best stateroom or beverage package. Go beyond what your competitors will likely do by recommending features your clients can add to their 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

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