With two new ‘game-changer’ ships on order, Saga is looking to travel agents to quadruple their sales, writes Jane Archer at the Spirit of Discovery ceremony
Agents will play a vital role in the sales mix for Saga Cruises as the company more than doubles capacity with the launch of two new ships.
Speaking at the keel-laying for the first vessel, Spirit of Discovery, Saga Travel chief executive officer Robin Shaw said he wanted agents to contribute almost a third of its cruise business, up from six per cent now.
“With more capacity coming we need more agents’ support to raise awareness of the brand and attract first-time cruisers. We have six people on the road talking to the trade. This is a big growth area for us.”
To show its commitment to the trade, all agents attending Clia’s May cruise convention in Southampton were promised a place on board Spirit of Discovery.
“Our challenge is that the agents selling us are not our customers so they must see the ship,” said head of trade sales Iain Powell. Passengers have to be aged 50 or over to travel with Saga.
Shaw described the ships as game-changers that bring Saga Cruises into the 21st century. “They will still be Saga with the same personal service, but a better experience for customers and more commercially sustainable for us as a company. It’s a win-win on all fronts.”
The design of Spirit of Discovery, launching July 2019 and to be followed in 2020 by Spirit of Adventure, has been based on past and potential customers’ feedback.
Each has capacity for 999 passengers, a choice of speciality dining venues and all-balcony accommodation. Cabins will be equipped with kettles and USB ports, furnished in different coloured throws and headboards, and have individual, and simple, air-conditioning. They will also have proper theatres, allowing Saga to up its game there.
Saga Cruises’ existing ships, Saga Pearl II and Saga Sapphire, hold 450 and 700 passengers respectively. Pearl leaves the fleet in April 2019, 10 weeks before Discovery enters service, so crew can be moved across (around 250 more will also be recruited for the new ship). Sapphire will bow out in June 2020 after a 33-night Grand Finale sailing.
Shaw said: “Customers have been concerned about 999 passengers but the ships will be spacious.” As now, fares will include all speciality dining and tips, and drinks with lunch and dinner will also be included.
A specially-minted coin was placed beneath the first of the 54 blocks that will go into building Spirit of Discovery during a keel-laying ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The ship will be floated out in about eight months and transit the River Ems to the North Sea in May 2019.