Agents can help bust myths and show there’s a cruise for everyone, says Alison Earnshaw, UK MD World Travel Holdings

When I first took my husband on a cruise he was a ‘non-believer’.

It took a lot of persuading to get him on his first, a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.

He had many of the misconceptions about cruise we continue to hear today, but by the end he was converted.

I started working in cruise 15 years ago and new-to-cruise was as much of a buzz phrase then as it is now, but the figures tell us we haven’t cracked it and made cruising mainstream yet, as still only 4% of the overseas holiday market from the UK is cruise, according to Clia.

It’s more critical than ever that we introduce more customers to our sector as many lines have huge capacity increases driven by new ships, more capacity in Europe and more ex‑UK product for longer seasons.

As well as well-known international brands such as Ritz-Carlton and Virgin Voyages entering the market, we’ve also seen river lines such as Scenic and Viking Cruises branching out into ocean cruising and, vice versa, Crystal Cruises introducing luxury river product.

Highlight what’s included

Cruise line campaigns and promotions offering more inclusivity should help the trade collectively improve the penetration of cruise.

Celebrity Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises, NCL and Royal Caribbean are all offering drinks-inclusive offers this wave season, as well as savings in many cases. Free onboard credit is another popular message, available with Cunard, Holland America Line, NCL and P&O Cruises, enabling customers to budget and spend nothing (or very close to nothing) on board. That can be used to appeal to those looking to cruise on a budget.

It’s always more inclusive at the luxury end of the market, so adding extra value is key here. Free internet packages are a strong favourite and are currently available with Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn.

Promote the benefits

But my belief is that we still need to do more collectively to attract more holidaymakers to cruise.

Agents are crucial to this. We can be truly independent and talk about our own experiences and, supported by Clia, which does an excellent job providing training, specialist events, fam trip programmes and unique online resources, really become cruise experts.

But there’s much more myth-busting to be done to counter views that cruise can inaccurately be seen as ‘expensive’, ‘full of old people’ or forces you to sit with people you don’t know.

We also need to sell the benefits. For new-to-cruisers, these might be that you can go off the beaten track and do your own thing (you don’t have to take a bus tour on shore), or that more cruise lines are offering adventurous excursions such as diving with sharks, jeep tours and zipline expeditions.

What else do we need to do? We need to make it as simple as possible for the customer. That means no complicated campaigns and exclusions, less cruise jargon and making sure we sell the right cruise to the right customer.

I genuinely believe there is a cruise for everyone – and convincing my husband proves the point.