Listen, listen and listen - don't assume you know what first-time cruisers want. Use the five Ws to analyse their needs.
- Where do they want to go? Narrow down their preferred destination and you can drill down into what is available and when
- When do they want to go? This can also affect availability and prices
- Why do they wish to take a cruise holiday? For example, is it for activities, rest or spa? Match the reason for a holiday to the opportunities and facilities on the ship
- What do they like to do on holiday? Make sure the activities and entertainment fit the bill
- Who will they be travelling with? Their companions will need to be entertained so make sure they too are accommodated
Don't be afraid to talk about money. Ask clients what their budget is, as this will be an immediate indication of where you should direct the search in terms of budget, mainstream, luxury or ultra-luxury operators.
Break down the cost of the cruise completely. If a client hasn't been on a cruise before, they may be unaware of what they get for their money. Tell them that all entertainment, activities, meals and, in some cases, drinks are included.
Make them aware that, if they were on a land-based holiday, they would be paying for extra activities, meals (if they are not going all-inclusive) and entertainment.
Don't forget to mention there's a new destination every day and yet they only need to pack and unpack a suitcase once.
Let them know about the dining options, whether it is freestyle (when and where you want), or more traditional arrangements such as two-sittings for dinner (in this case, let them know that the entertainment schedule is repeated so that the second- sitting diners don't miss out).
Some clients don't like to dress up for dinner, so it's important to check the arrangements they feel comfortable with and steer them towards more relaxed cruising options if more appropriate.
Clients who haven't cruised before normally have questions about seasickness. All modern ships are now built with stabilisers. However, if your client is concerned, then it pays to consider the larger ship option with cabins on a lower deck and in the middle of the ship.
If your clients have children, there is so much for them to do. Ask what ages their children are and outline the suitable options, especially as many cruiselines now offer all-day childcare and activities.
Make sure all the cabin grades available are discussed. Find out what your clients are interested in and then explain what would be included if they took the next grade up. For example, for an extra £10 a day they could be sitting on their own private balcony with their partner as the ship is docking in Venice.
Remember: if you are trying to sell cruise, your agency needs to look as though it is expert at selling cruise. Consider creating a cruise area within the shop. Look the part, be professional, smart and knowledgeable. If you don't know the difference between operators you will get caught out. Know your product.
Agents should join a cruise club that offers special levels of commission, ongoing support and training. Cruise clubs can organise conference calls with members, product training and visits to individual agencies.
- Dedicated cruise page on Travel Weekly
- Cruise Lines: Jane Archer's cruise blog for Travel Weekly
- Previous How To articles on Travel Weekly
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