Travel Weekly’s Cruise Club at the Carnival Freedom launch – 15 Mar 2007

When it comes to selling cruise, there is nothing more important than knowing the product, and ship visits are considered to be vital.

This year will see a plethora of new ships starting with cruiselines and each gives agents the chance to see what the cruiseline has to offer first hand.

The first of these took place in Venice at the beginning of this month and Travel Weekly’s Cruise Club members, who we are watching as they strive to go their cruise business throughout 2007, were invited to see for themselves the new 3,100-passenger Carnival Freedom, the latest ‘fun ship’ in the world’s largest operator’s fleet.

Travel Weekly Cruise Club members Andy Winstanley, Rob Jones, Julie Winters, Andrew For and Alan HaynesAmericas4u director Andrew Winstanley said: “For me this trip is just about getting a feel for the ship, so I can tell people what to expect and about the facilities.

“After visits, we feed back to our staff with with ship information and photos, which we also put on our intranet.

“More of our customers now are phoning up and saying they want to go on a particular ship on a certain date, but want to know what can do on board.”

Thomas Cook agent from the firm’s Wulfrun Square branch in Wolverhampton Julie Winters said the information she gathered on the trip will be used to create a training presentation for the nine colleagues who also sell cruise in the shop.

She said: “I will get the sales material together and take our consultants through the brochure using our own in house system, followed by a question and answer session.

“I have seen mainly P&O Cruise ships before so my experience is quite limited, however, my sales are quite high. Once you’ve been on a ship you get the feel of the general layout. Carnival’s not one of our biggest sellers but that’s why we’re here to see what they’ve got to offer.”

Future Travel homeworker Andrew Fox said seeing the ship did help address some misperceptions he had about the Carnival brand.

“I’ve always believed in seeing the product is the best way to sell it. Without that you’ve no idea what you’re talking about.

“As a homeworker you have a stronger sense of what you want to sell, whereas when I was in the shop you get everything thrown at you. Now I can say I’m just going to specialise in four or five markets, so it’s great to be able to come on board and see it.”

Ultimate Destinations managing director Alan Haynes has only previously been on Cunard’s QE2 as a customer.

“The cruise market is about making sure you’re putting round pegs in round holes,” he said.”I came on Carnival with an open mind and I’ve been pretty well impressed. It is quite lavish but it’s a different feel the QE2. This is all part of the learning curve and I’ve got more visits lined up.”

Top tips for ship visits

  • Take a digital camera, pictures will help you remember the ship and can be used to train colleagues and show to customers.
  • Do a ship tour so you have a good idea of the general layout. See the full range of cabins. 
  • Pick up any material you can find, such as menus, information on spa and gym facilities and even a copy of the ship’s newsletter.
  • Investigate the claims the operator makes about the ship. If it says it is suitable for children and has facilities for disabled customers, check for yourself.
  • If you have a website create a web page on the ship using your pictures and your own review. That will help to optimise the site so people searching for information on the ship will come to you.
  • Don’t forget the people invited on ship inaugurals are usually not customers so what you see during the event is not likely to be how the ship feels on an actual cruise.
  • Finally, immerse yourself in all the ship has to offer. Watch the shows, try out the restaurants, use the pools, gym and spa if you are able to, make use of the bar facilities and check out the customer service levels.

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