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It’s that time of year again when travelers are starting to think about the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and a river cruise is a prime way to celebrate annually. Lines from AmaWaterways to Vantage Travel are gearing up with everything from Oktoberfest to voyages centered around Christmas markets, and travel agents should be doing the same to promote them.
Certainly, these are very popular sailings on their own, but how professionals keep recurring sailings fresh with their clients is important as well. We asked two Cruise Planners franchise owners for their take.
“I keep traditions alive by appealing to the universal need for families to be together during the holidays,” said Gloryvette Lichtman, a Folsom, Calif.-based franchise owner. “The strong desire to be together, plus the love of Christmas, sets the stage for Christmas markets river cruises.”
As Lichtman points out, being together with those you love never gets old. Keeping that in mind, her approach is to market group travel for special-interest sailings.
“Families and friends get excited about being together, and then I stay excited when working with them,” she said.
I keep traditions alive by appealing to the universal need for families to be together during the holidays.
Participatory international experiences that she considers the most memorable for her clients include “learning how to make a strudel, listening to local musicians, picking out ornaments for the river cruise Christmas tree and other ‘hands-on’ activities.”
Meanwhile, Jay Paul, a franchise owner based in Ventura, Calif., predominantly sells domestic routes onboard American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company. His niche is ideal for mature explorers who do not have children at home and no longer wish to fly as far as Europe.
But that doesn’t stop them from cruising locally.
“New Orleans is the highlight of many of the holiday river cruises as there’s a lot going on, from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s,” Paul said. “Holiday traditions are alive onboard. You have your big turkey feast and lots of decorations throughout the ship. Even though these aren’t the traditional Christmas markets cruises of Europe, there are still lots of holiday festivities, and the places visited are all decorated.”
He adds that they are particularly well-suited to older singles, given the large quantities who board to connect and share the holidays with others.
“These clients come back happy and loving the trip, thus turning into repeat clients,” Paul said. “So, we’re able to put them on a different itinerary the next year, maybe even at a different time of year when the ships are sailing different itineraries. That helps keep things interesting.”
Regardless of where the cruises sail, Lichtman believes it’s crucial to experience the itineraries firsthand.
“I can provide very personal commentary and insight,” she said. “This keeps things fresh and inspires clients to feel like they are getting ‘the inside scoop.’”
As for Paul, his approach is more direct.
“I market these trips to high-end, well-traveled clients who have been everywhere and maybe even cruised the American waterways before, but are looking for a different itinerary and are not as interested in an ocean cruise,” he said.