Sailing on an NCL ship for the first time has helped Catherine Lorne increase cruise sales to her typically high-value clients. She told Samantha Mayling how she became a convert.
Q. What was your experience of cruising before the trip?
A. I had never cruised, so I wanted to visit the Bahamas on a cruise ship, to experience it like a customer, rather than a ship visit. Since the trip in November, my sales of cruises have gone up – a massive bonus. The trip was ideal for my market, and I could see from the experiences in Travel Weekly that it would not be just a typical fam trip. The only other fam I’d been on was to Jamaica. I’ve been to Orlando and Miami, but never to the Bahamas. The other agents on the Cover Stars trip were lovely and we are still in touch – some of them went to the Travel Weekly Globe Travel Awards and put their pictures on our Facebook group.
Q. Had you flown with British Airways before?
A. It was my first time. I loved the service. We flew out in economy and back in premium, which was a bonus. I now feel more comfortable selling it.
Q. What did you do in Miami?
A. We got a taxi to the Dolphin outlet mall for an evening of pre-Christmas shopping. I had been to South Beach before and it was much busier there –
it was quieter and more tranquil where our hotel was. We stayed at Eden Roc Miami Beach, which Gold Medal had arranged. I would go back there in a heartbeat. Our balconies were stunning, with breathtaking ocean views. My room was bigger than my flat, and we were given cheese and fruit, which was a great little detail.
Q. What did you think about Norwegian Sky?
A. At first sight, it looked phenomenal. It is a well-maintained ship. Embarkation went smoothly, and the stewards were fantastic. We all had cabins with balconies. I woke up at 5am and sat out on the balcony, watching the ship sail into port. The balcony experience was amazing, even at night time, when I gazed at the stars. Everyone had a good time at the sail-away party on the first night – we enjoyed watching the South Beach skyline at sunset. About 75% of the passengers were Americans, who were on board for Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations.
Q. Did you enjoy the food and entertainment?
A. I can be a fussy eater but the steak was the best I’ve ever had. You couldn’t fault the service or the food. The speciality dining package was really worth it. The buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch was never too crowded – there was no queuing. There was always a restaurant open, all day or all night. The entertainment team catered for all ages and everyone joined in. There was a mini disco by the pool. We went to the casino one evening, and also watched a comedian, who had the whole room in fits of laughter.
Q. What was the ship’s itinerary?
A. On the four-night cruise, we visited Nassau, Grand Bahama Island and Great Stirrup Cay – Norwegian’s private island. I had my photoshoot on Great Stirrup Cay, before the swimming-with-pigs experience. We could feed and play with the pigs – it costs $100, but is well worth the money. When I put pictures of the pigs on social media, people could not believe it and said they’d always wanted to do that. I’ve since made bookings that include the experience. On Great Stirrup Cay, the food and drink were included – and it was brought to us by a waiter, which was a nice touch. We also went to Freeport, on Grand Bahama, for an excursion and relaxed on the beautiful beach. In Nassau, we went shopping and had a private half-day history and culture tour. But the overall highlight of the trip was realising that I do like cruises – especially having a cabin with a balcony.
Catherine on… The Travel Company Edinburgh and her career
I started as a Thomas Cook rep aged 17 and have worked in the industry for 14 years now. After five years I moved back to work for Barrhead Travel, and have been with The Travel Company Edinburgh for five years.
We are primarily a business travel agency; I’m the only one of 15 colleagues who sells leisure. We are office-based but flexible, so although we mainly deal with people over the phone or via email some come into the office or we visit them at home or work – we want them to be relaxed. I also promote a lot via social media.
About 90% of sales are upmarket in a high price bracket, but we do a lot of city breaks and holidays to Spain too. We get a lot of repeat bookers and recommendations.
I’m nominated for the in the honeymoon planner of the year at the Scottish Wedding Awards, which take place on February 23. One couple whose honeymoon I booked are now going on a similar trip to the Cover Stars experience – they booked it after seeing my pictures on Instagram! And I’m going on another cruise myself later this year.
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