Galapagos // © 2010 eWaterways
If big-ship cruising is becoming old hat with clients, perhaps some of the world’s smaller waterways could be an enticing new option for exploration and, when it comes to finding information on this type of niche travel, Ewaterways, a U.K.-based online specialist that assists small-ship operators with reaching cruisers around the globe is a good place to turn.
At this year’s Cruise3sixty conference, Ewaterways held two well-attended training seminars to inform agents about the intricacies of small-ship cruising and to explain how agents can benefit, especially when it comes to commissions, by using a company such as Ewaterways.
“Ewaterways is a tool for agents,” said Soren Langelund, COO of Ewaterways. “It’s a one-stop shop for niche cruises.”
Small-ship cruise destinations for Ewaterways span the globe, from the most some of the most exotic destinations in Asia to the most frequented waterways in Europe. The company is continuously growing and is always receiving requests from new operators.
“Product control is extremely important to us,” said Langelund.
Once ships are approved, they are also re-inspected on a yearly basis. Ships also most be reapproved if they change an itinerary.
Ewaterways has now vetted more than 1,300 ships for agents in terms of health, safety, food and beverage service. Ships that meet the company’s high standards can then become a part of its online database. All ships carry less than 300 passengers, and some carry less than 10, offering a truly intimate cruising experience.
In order to ensure that clients are completely satisfied, Ewaterways works only with agents and also works closely, but not exclusively, with several consortia.
“We are a tool for everybody in the industry,” said Langelund. “We are not exclusive to anybody.”
In order to assist agents, the company provides weekly newsletters with the latest specials. These newsletters can then be forwarded to clients.
Ewaterways also hosts monthly Webinars on destinations and products and can do customized, themed Webinars for a specific agency.
One of the biggest benefits Ewaterways offers to agents is a more favorable commission structure than booking with individual operators on their own.
“We are a merchant and feed the commission back to the agent,” said Langelund. “The benefit of that is that agents’ commissions get lumped together, and they receive overrides.”
Another benefit is price parity, which Ewaterways also guarantees.
“We are creating a win-win situation, here,” said Langelund. “It’s a win for suppliers, a win for agents and a win for passengers. But, we are also a guarantor against anything happening that small-ship operators could never do on their own.
In his seminars at Cruise3sixty, Langelund addressed the ins and outs of selling exotic destinations, as well as a variety of concerns that clients unfamiliar with small-ship cruising may have, including the size of the ships and the possibility of inclimate weather.
“We don’t sail in bad weather,” he said. “The ship may stay in port or change the itinerary for the benefit of the clients.”
He added that, because the ships are so small, there is a lot more flexibility in the itinerary.
“The beauty is that these ships can go straight into small ports,” he said. “It’s a completely different experience.”
Of course, this kind of cruising does come at a price, but even that has a wide range, with cruises selling for as much as $20,000 for a week, but also some at $400 a week.
“The price all depends on the destination,” said Langelund.
“The ship is the experience on a big-ship cruise experience,” he added. “On a small ship, it is all about the destination.”
When asked what the company’s top destinations were, Langelund said that, due to an increase in press coverage, the Galapagos Islands were huge during the past year, but he also mentioned that cruising to Antarctica is also popular, since small-ship cruising is one of the best ways to get there.