How agents can up their cruise selling power

Rear view of young woman looking at sea. Female is standing at railing in cruise ship against sky. She is wearing white dress and sun hat.

Cruise is a booming business for Aussies, it’s a fact we all know.

And despite setbacks with Sydney’s ports in particular, and criticisms coming from even NCL exec Harry Sommer recently, it’s still something agents sell in spades.

Heck, Sommer told us 89 per cent of guests book through travel agents.

So Travel Market Report rounded up the best bits of advice to selling cruise even better, taking notes from cruise executives gathered at a recent Travel MarketPlace event.

Here are just a few of the ideas they discussed on a panel moderated by TMR’s Anne Marie Moebes.

Narrow your focus

Per TMR, more than 400 cruise ships came online in 2016 and another 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships will debut this year. There’s so many options for cruising, even the most experienced agents will struggle to keep up.

And that means for newbies, the range is overwhelming. So what to do?

“At the end of the day, people sell all kinds of different travel experiences and cruises are just one of those,” said Dana Gain, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Director of Sales for Canada.

The solution for most agents, particularly those new to the industry, is to start small, the panel suggested.

“We talk about a five-by-five focus – pick five suppliers with five products and put your focus on them,” said AmaWaterways Vice President of Strategic Alliances Brenda Kyllo.

That knowledge will give you a good base from which to grow your own database of cruise information.

Find those first-timers

We might have oodles of tips for first-time cruisers, but what about the agents selling them?

Sure repeat customers are the easiest to get, writes TMR, but the real opportunity lies in drawing in the first-time cruiser.

In a recent CLIA study, nearly half of the non-cruising population expressed interest in taking a cruise in the future. Another local study shared similar results.

“It’s a very special kind of customer that will say to you, ‘I’m ready to jump off that cliff and try to cruise,’” Gain said.

“It falls to you to ingratiate the phrase, ‘Have you ever considered a cruise?’”
And, as TMR stresses, don’t make the mistake of thinking new cruisers are interested only in the low end of the market.

“There was this concept about someone starting out with contemporary brands and moving up the chain,” said Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President of Sales Nikki Upshaw.

“What I would suggest to each one of you is that first-time cruisers start at every level.”

It’s a bit of match-making and asking lots of questions, but that’s what travellers want – an agent willing to go the extra mile for their perfect holiday.

“When someone is typically staying in a Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton-style resort, I would suggest that you mentioning a cruise brand commensurate to their general travel experience,” Upshaw said.

And hell, with Ritz-Carlton recently moving into the cruise industry, there’s never been more choice in all stages of the budget and experience spectrum.

Sell the destination, not the ship

While a ship can sometimes be what gets a client excited, more often what guests really want is “to be immersed in the destination,” said Jo Lynch, Viking River Cruise District Sales Manager for eastern Canada.

And while the typical cruise shore excursion satisfies a lot of guests, look for more intimate experiences that will offer a better guest experience – and better commissions to boot.

“They want hands-on experiences…and they don’t mind paying for them,” she said.  

And while the inside of the ship is a big drawcard, don’t forget what they spend most of their time onboard doing – looking out the window at what’s outside!

They look at a cruise as a tour vacation where they only have to unpack once, so TMR suggests that for such a customer, showcase lines that spend more time in port and less time at sea.

Think long term

“What’s important is the listening and understanding,” said Lisa Connell, Royal Caribbean International’s Director of Sales for Canada.

So don’t just stop with price, go beyond and find other ways to satisfy your customer’s overall holiday goals,

Just as you look at a five-year plan for your business, “do the same thing with your client,” she said.

Ask clients where they want to go and what their travel dreams and bucket lists are, and then planning accordingly. Even the most out-there travel dreams can be achieved with the right amount of planning, writes TMR.

Email the Travel Weekly team at

    Latest comments
    1. I’d love to visit Sydney via cruise someday. I’m interested to see the best destinations to visit in the city. Adding it on the bucket list. So far, I’ve checked off a river cruise on the Seine and Mekong. The Danube river cruise and Mississippi river cruise was equally interesting.

cruise travel agents

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