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One of Our goals at TravelAge West is to help our readers become more successful travel agents by providing advice and guidance. This issue’s cover story, “Winning the Cruise Game,” is an effort to do just that by asking successful agents and industry experts what makes a great cruise seller. The story has a lot of top-notch advice, but one quote in particular stands out for me.
“There are at least 75 million people who could cruise in terms of time and money, but haven’t,” said Bob Dickinson, former president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines and now a consultant to Carnival Corp. “That’s the target. The repeat market is already sold. Non-cruisers don’t know how good cruising is.”
One of the reasons this resonated with me is because I’ve personally had several conversations this summer with non-cruisers who told me some of the reasons why they have not booked a cruise. For the most part — despite how good a job the cruise industry does in getting mainstream exposure for its product — many non-cruisers can’t seem to get beyond the image of cruising from “The Love Boat” era. Despite never taking a cruise, they are convinced it is a) boring, b) not upscale and c) generally uncomfortable.
Those of us who have cruised might find it hard to imagine any of those descriptions applying to a modern cruise ship.
One argument I had in particular this summer was about the food on cruise ships. The non-cruiser insisted that the food was of poor quality on all ships. When I told him that, in fact, there’s a food revolution taking place at sea these days — with dozens of celebrity chefs opening restaurants — he simply did not believe me. How can Nobu, for instance, have a restaurant on a cruise ship? Preposterous.
As travel agents go after the 75 million non-cruisers, it’s important for them to be armed with information that counters these cruising misconceptions. As big a boost as “The Love Boat” was in the early days of the cruise industry, we must move the public way beyond that perception once and for all, and readjust the image of cruising in order to bring a whole new generation of travelers onboard.