Travel agents can learn about American Cruise Lines products through online videos hosted by historian Todd Weber. // © 2015 American Cruise Lines
Feature image (above): Passengers on the Queen of the West's March 28 departure will enjoy excursions in Portland, Ore. // © 2015 Thinkstock
American Cruise Lines is celebrating a milestone in the Pacific Northwest. To mark its fifth year on the Columbia and Snake rivers with the paddlewheeler Queen of the West, the company has scheduled a set of extra treats for guests on the first 2015 cruise. In addition, the line is looking ahead to double its capacity in the region with a new 175-passenger vessel in 2016.
Guests on the March 28 departure of Queen of the West will receive a complimentary pre-cruise package, which features a bonus night onboard with added events and tours, including a private tour of Pittock Mansion, celebrating its 100-year anniversary, followed by a special reception hosted by the executive director.
They will also visit the colorful Portland Saturday Market in Portland, Ore., one of the largest open-air markets in the U.S. Guests will be welcomed onboard with champagne, live music and another musical performance in the evening.
Susan Shultz, director of sales, noted that during its years of operation, American broke the roundtrip Portland pattern for weeklong cruises. By setting up one-way itineraries between Portland and Clarkston, Wash., the line was able to offer a much richer experience to guests, which has become standard on the rivers.
“It took time for people to get it, but there’s daylight cruising through some of the most beautiful countryside, more time in the ports and no backtracking,” she said. “Now, everyone has followed us.”
Today, American is offering more than twice the number of cruises it scheduled in 2010.
“We know the demand is there,” Shultz said. “We’ve had full ships for five years, and now we are seeing more international visitors from Europe and Australia who are interested in the Lewis and Clark theme.”
She noted that Todd Weber, historian and living history presenter, is offering webinars for agents, and there is a new video on the Columbia and Snake rivers available on the company’s website.
Shultz anticipates that travel agents will use the company’s theme cruises to generate consumer interest and target special-interest groups.
“There are so many opportunities with alumni groups, history groups and family groups,” she said. “We just sold a full ship charter on American Glory for a milestone birthday. Our new agent portal has full information on selling groups, as well as customizable support material — everything the agents could need. And if they have questions, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Shultz advised agents to be sure to ask clients for names of family and friends.
“That’s the gold mine,” she added. “Our repeat passenger rate is incredible, but if agents are afraid to ask for referrals, they are really missing something.”