Booking direct with a cruise line or booking through a specialist cruise adviser is one subject that is certain to generate debate between seasoned cruisers.
I have been working in travel for almost 32 years, and solely within the cruise sector for over half of this time. I now find myself championing those “cruise specialists” – and I do not use this phrase lightly – who are at the very top of their game. Those people who make it their mission to share their passion and knowledge with their customers.
The industry is growing at an alarming rate of knots (pardon the pun), with the introduction of new ships, new destinations and in my opinion a real split in the types of cruise experience available. You only have to look at the interest cruising out of Cuba has generated, with Star Clippers and now Azamara making a move to homeport ships from this recently opened up destination.
You only have to look at the interest cruising out of Cuba has generated with Azamara making a move to homeport ships from this recently opened up destination
But, to make the most of these exciting opportunities, it is the Clia-accredited professionals who are more often than not best positioned to not only give sound advice, but most importantly, listen to a customers needs and ask relevant questions.
Travel professionals who take advantage of the training and onboard experiences afforded to them by Clia are people who are serious about their profession. They are people who are investing their time to learn about an industry that is evolving, an industry that offers the highest levels of customer service across the hotel sector worldwide.
In a recent address at the Clia conference in Southampton, I pointed out to the members how important it is to ask even the most basic question: “have you cruised before?”
Invariably people will not reveal that they are virgin cruisers. They can feel vulnerable and are scared of asking what they perceive to be silly questions, but there is no such thing and a Clia member will dispel any myths and offer comforting advice according to the need and not the deal.
I would urge all travel professionals who are serious about developing their cruise knowledge, to work with Clia because it is so important to understand that the destination is still the number one reason why people choose to cruise or choose a particular cruise holiday. Clia provides the destination training which opens up the opportunity to enhance a cruise with a land stay or tour.
So, to all agents selling cruise, make sure you know about every passenger you book and make sure you have a process to engage with them at key stages before travel and again on their return home.
To anyone who is thinking about a cruise for the first time, don’t be afraid of asking questions, in fact this is the best way to find out if the person you are calling really is interested in helping you. If they are not interested – phone someone else who will be because if you get it wrong, you may never cruise again. Get it right…..and you’ll be cruising for many years to come because you took good advice from a true “cruise specialist”.
Phil Nuttall is the managing director of the Travel Village Group