Veteran cruise executive Mitch Schlesinger, who handles sales development for Voyages to Antiquity, the new cruise line being launched next May by Orient Lines founder Gerry Herrod, sat down recently with TravelAge West
to discuss agent commissions and brand distinction.
The new line focuses on Mediterranean itineraries that trace the “cradle of civilization” cultures (Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, Byzantine, etc.), calling at many destinations that larger ships can’t reach.
Product value is reflected in the inclusive pricing, with shore excursions, gratuities for stateroom and restaurant staff, house wine at dinner and special shore events like a private evening in the Doge’s Palace in Venice included.
“It is critical that agents clearly delineate for potential guests just how significant this value truly is,” Schlesinger added. “Guests’ out-of-pocket expenses can be as much as $1,500 per person for such experiences. Plus, with air add-ons available from free to $199, a deluxe outside stateroom at around $6,500 per person is an extraordinary price for such an in-depth experience.”
Potential earnings for agents are equally impressive, since cruise fares include all these areas and are therefore commissionable.
“At a base commission of 10 percent, earnings range from $700 to $2,500 per cabin with potential to earn more with commission overrides. As a small brand with limited consumer marketing budgets, our intent is to have virtually 100 percent of our bookings sourced through them,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger stressed the combination of true expedition experiences and creature comforts, which falls in line with what agents say is ideal on expedition cruises. He added that the company’s ship, Aegean I, will be completely renovated for a new capacity 380 passengers compared to its current 570, with open seating in the main restaurant and terrace. Eighty-two new staterooms will be sized at 200 square feet or more, and the quality, Schlesinger said, will be on a par with premium cruise products.
Gerry Herrod’s impeccable background is an important advantage, Schlesinger added. Bringing with him a number of people he’s known for decades, he comes originally from the land side, giving him an intimate understanding of how to handle ground operations and land experiences.
“There is an enormous difference between a destination cruise specialist and a cruise line that takes guests to foreign ports,” Schlesinger stated.
Next year, the company will offer nine itineraries with 16 departures well suited to group business, including organizations with an affinity for history and antiquities, adventure travel, archaeology, art, museum associations, religious organizations and more. In addition, experienced travelers of all ages seeking strong cultural immersion are excellent prospects.
“We’ve heard from dozens of agents who are in contact with past Marco Polo guests and have received a warm response,” Schlesinger said. “It is extremely rewarding to receive so much positive feedback from agents based on the wonderful experiences we provided for their clients for so many years at Orient Lines.”
Brochures can currently be requested at email@example.com. Agent registration, E-brochures and more will be launched soon.
“I want agents with specific group opportunities to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org,” Schlesinger added.