Travel advisors are more than just order takers. But it can sometimes feel that way when working with cruise clients who might already know which ship and date they want. How do you ensure your clients remember you when booking a cruise that doesn't need a lot of work on your part?
Small, thoughtful gifts can be the wow factor your clients will remember for years to come. And tell their friends about!
Some travel advisors gift a bottle of wine or onboard credit, but these types of gifts don’t necessarily have that special touch that ends up being remembered.
“The general rule of my gifts is I try to make them personal,” Rhonda Day, owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Louisville, Kentucky told Travel Market Report. “I believe that shows that I really care and that I value their business!”
Small Price, Big Value
Even small gifts can make a big difference, Day said.
For instance, she has a client that she knows enjoys board games. Celebrity Cruises used to offer a backgammon set as an onboard gift, so she had one sent to them, and “they loved it!”
(Carnival offers a Carnival-themed Monopoly game for $39.95.)
For every Carnival cruise she books, she sends a small case of water to the stateroom. It only costs $4.95.
“Even though it’s small, it shows I’m thinking about them and gives me a chance to give a personalized message,” she said.
Richard Stieff, the owner of a Cruise Planners franchise in Florida, agrees. One of his signature gifts is green macaroons for clients on Norwegian Cruise Line ships. He includes a note encouraging them to “take a moment and enjoy a ‘sweet’ luxurious relaxing moment on their balcony.”
“Green is the signature color of Cruise Planners, so I use green to emphasize the agency,” he told Travel Market Report. “I do macaroons because they are unique… It signifies a touch of luxury and indulgence. The clients are usually excited to tell me how great they feel finding them and of course just how decadent they felt eating them.”
For families that have kids under 10 or so, Day said she looks at options for towels, stuffed animals, and the like.
Items that could fall into this category include a Stanley Bear from Princess Cruises ($24.95), a Grinch plush stuffed animal on Carnival ($17.95), or a Toy Beach Set ($17.99) on Royal Caribbean ships.
As Day points out, “If the kids are happy, the parents are happy!”
Honeymooners Are Perfect
For Carol Nunnery, a Dream Vacations franchise owner from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, honeymooners are a favorite type of client to give gifts to.
“I think honeymooners are the perfect demographic,” she said. “They refer their friends and they return for years to come!”
Nunnery said she evaluates the needs of each client and how she can best make an impact when thinking about what gift to give. She also wants to ensure her investment in the clients works for her.
“I love to give my honeymoon couples MR MRS Stainless Steel Cups,” she said. “I do not brand them with my logo as this is a gift and not ‘advertising.’ I do ask them to tag me when they are enjoying their favorite beverage. This drives them to social media and ends up plugging my business.”
While cruise lines do not offer MR and MRS options, they do offer similar products. Royal Caribbean has a Come Seek Water Bottle ($11.99) and Carnival has a Vacay Vibes Confetti Tumbler ($7.95).
But the same ask (tag us when you’re using) can be used for any number of gifts, like a beach towel, cheese plate, tote bag, or a celebratory cake.
Onboard Gift Ideas for Less than $50
How much to spend on a gift for a client can vary by client. For advisors with clients staying in suites, it might be worth splurging for dinner at a specialty restaurant or even paying for a shore excursion.
Cruise Planners franchise owner Ariel Chavez said she likes to have a bouquet of fresh flowers sent to her VIP clients sailing on luxury ships.
“Usually delivered on the first or second day of the cruise, so they can enjoy them the entire cruise,” she said. “I think it’s the gift I have received the most ‘thank-you’ notes for.”
On most cruise lines, fresh flowers cost closer to $100 than $50.
For advisors trying to get the most bang for their buck, here are a few onboard gift ideas that cost less than $50 per cabin. All can be easily ordered through the cruise lines and sent with a personalized note.
Celebration Cake ($14 on Carnival, $25.99 on Royal Caribbean): Most cruise lines offer a variety of celebration cakes for multiple occasions (birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, etc.) If you know your clients are celebrating something – even things like graduations, divorces, last cancer treatments – send them a cake to let them know you’re aware of their special day/occasion and are happy for them.
Photos (prices vary): There’s no better way to remember a vacation than with photos. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a Welcome Aboard Plus package ($39.99) that includes one light-up frame, two photo lanyards with charms, and one welcome aboard photo.
Luxury Slippers ($7.99 on Royal Caribbean, $13 on Celebrity): Have a honeymoon couple staying in an inside cabin because they can’t afford anything else yet? Give them a taste of the suite life with plush slippers and let them know great things await them in their future.
Cabin decorations (prices vary): Similar to the celebration cake, this option reminds people you’re thinking about them on their special day. It can also be great for first-time cruisers who are greeted by fabulous bon voyage decorations in their cabin. ($39.99 on Royal Caribbean, $42.95 on Carnival, $40.20 on NCL including a 6” cake).
Faster to the Fun ($49.95 on Carnival cruises out of Miami): No one likes lugging around their carry-on baggage when they first get on their ship. Advisors with clients sailing on Carnival out of Miami (or $39.95 in Los Angeles), can get them access to their rooms fast, so they can get the party started sooner.
Kid’s Backpack ($16.99 on Royal Caribbean, $24.95 on Carnival): What kid doesn’t love to show off his or her new accessory? Get them excited (and make their parents happy) with a backpack they can load all their necessities into for their next excursion.