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Pandemic or not, the cruise travel experience keeps getting better. Here are ways cruise lines are aiming to enhance clients’ cruise vacations, straight from the annual Cruise Planners Forum.
Flexibility“Flexibility is one of the major decisions today when booking a cruise,” said Michelle Lardizabal, senior vice president and commercial sales officer at MSC Cruises USA.
Most cruise lines are now offering something to this effect, but MSC’s Total CruiseFlex program specifically lets customers move their booking to any ship and any sail date up to 48 hours prior to the voyage.
Shorter SailingsAt least to start, shorter sailings not exceeding a week will likely be required to appease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the bulk of 2021, but that could prove to be a good thing. Three- and four-night voyages offer a fine sampling of cruise travel for those new to the segment and provide others “ample chance to experience what cruising will be like in the new norm,” Lardizabal said.
Private IslandsWith safety in mind, all short-form sailings from MSC are scheduled to call on the line’s new Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve private island from morning to evening, with some itineraries even overnighting there.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief sales officer, Katina Athanasiou, shared that the brand’s controlled environment at Great Stirrup Cay will act “as an extension of the [health and safety] bubble that we plan to create on the ship.”
A particular benefit of both MSC’s Ocean Cay and Royal Caribbean International’s Perfect Day at CocoCay experience is that the ships can conveniently dock right at the destinations. Vicki Freed, senior vice preisdent, sales and trade support and service at Royal Caribbean, shared how this replaces the need for tendering ashore, which makes it easier to facilitate physical distancing.
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Pick Up the PhoneUntil travelers can sail again, Freed recommends the “four before 12” strategy, which involves calling four people before noon for “no reason other than to connect.” According to Freed, business will eventually result from the correspondence.
Viking’s vice president of sales and national accounts, Michele Saegesser, believes the same, indicating that if agents are not in touch with their clients, they may lose them.
“The most important tool that’s so underused is your phone,” Saegesser said. “Be personal; be with them,” either by phone or Zoom.
Plan Closer to HomeAnother tip that several cruise line executives — including Adolfo Perez, senior vice president of global sales and trade marketing for Carnival Cruise Line — shared is strategizing local homeports to avoid the need to fly.
Norwegian’s Athanasiou presented a detailed map of the line’s eastern and southern U.S. embarkation ports and Caribbean port cities to emphasize this very convenience.
Upselling PotentialDon’t forget those clients who are “graduating to more luxury products,” said Michelle Sutter, senior director of national accounts and field sales at Holland America Line.
Flexibility is one of the major decisions today when booking a cruise.
There are always opportunities to upsell customers into suites and pre- and post-cruise packages, as well as land and sea combinations, as Holland America plans to return to Alaska in 2021.
Return Timeline and CollateralAs cruise lines wait for CDC’s green light, the current million-dollar question is when exactly cruising will return to operations in North America.
“Our plan has always been to start as soon as we safely can,” said Carnival’s Perez, and it’s looking to be sooner rather than later.
He added that “more concrete” collateral describing specific health protocols and client logistics is on its way “as soon as we have it ready.” His advice in the meantime is to “educate them on the things you are aware of.”
Communication with CDC is a “work in progress,” said John Chernesky, senior vice president, sales and trade marketing at Princess Cruises, who added that there is “still more to come.”