There is a long-held belief by cruise lines they will get more sales by treating travel agents to free boozy lunches. They reckon the public (potential cruisers) only want a nosey with no intention of booking and, as a result, either gives no places or very limted ones. So who is going to get them more trade? Let’s have a look.
Travel agents, as we know, are in the business to sell holidays- ALL holidays. A cruising virgin can pop into their local one to make enquiries where they will be given several choices or the agent may not know something they suggest (as I discovered when I enquired about Celebrity Equinox). Said virgin could then decide it’s not for them and walk out, sale lost.
Same cruising virgin could get an invitation for a ship visit (or see one online), pay (or not, depending on the cruise line), have a look around then go to the forementioned travel agent to book immeditely. Sale gained. They could also show their photos to friends or put it online and is seen by people who quite fancy it too. Another sale gained.
I have done visits with the line and Ocean Liner Society. My first three were Arcadia (October 2005), Black Watch (December 2005) and Queen Mary 2 (September 2006). After visiting all three I wanted to go but sometimes circumstances (or better deals) delay that. So I finally cruised on Arcadia in May 2010, Black Watch in December 2010 and will be sailing on Queen Mary 2 in October 2011. May have taken a few years but got there in the end.
MSC recently invited members of their Facebook page to a visit Opera in Southampton and will be doing another for July. Fred Olsen now have a list of dates and ports on their website. Carnival UK (P&O, Cunard) ONLY send invitations to people who have never cruised with them. Doesn’t that defeat the object when there’s a brand new ship? They may say they don’t want to go and won’t book. Yet if they had the opportunity to look around, they may change their mind. Kerching – another sale gained! I found that in January when I helped the late journalist, Steve Read film the six ships. After not particularly liking Queen Victoria internally, I hadn’t been keen to go anywhere near Queen Elizabeth. But the hour we spent on there was a revelation and I liked her. One of these days I’ll book something. Took 5 years for QM2 so it may be as long for that but I’ll go. Meanwhile I have been told Holland America Line don’t allow the public to visit if they’ve been already. Another stupid policy. What if said potential cruiser hated whateverdam (size, decor, etc) but then went onto another and fell in love?
So who is really the most beneficial to cruise lines in terms of sales? Having had experience of travel agents on visits who were only there for the freebies and still knew nothing of what they’d just walked around, I would have to say the public. It may take a while but a visit sparks their interest, they’re there because they want to be not because they’re ordered to and they talk about it with friends which can only be a good thing. My agents never talk about a particular ship without grabbing a brochure then show you pictures unless they have actually done a cruise. Not the same as telling you about it from their own experiences. I suppose at the end of the day the cruise lines don’t care as long as they make money but the PR teams during the visit giving latest offer info to agents could just as easily be selling them to the public.