Cruise advisors have long known that getting out there and sailing on different cruise lines helps them sell more cruises. Having personal experience makes recommending the right cruise line and ship for each client easier.
But taking those cruise experiences one step further with ship reviews, either written or in video format, is even more powerful when it comes to building your business.
“Cruising on various cruise lines and cruise ships helps my business,” says Alisa Myatt, owner of EECC Travels, which has a YouTube channel with more than 89.7 thousand subscribers. “It is what feeds my travel agency.”
Sharon Asmus, owner of Sharon at Sea, a group cruise specialist, agrees. Her videos are a “fun and informative way to assist my clients with their cruise vacation, as well as beneficial in bringing in new clients.”
Karen Quinn-Panzer, a Dream Vacations franchise owner in Milford, Connecticut, agrees as well. She publishes her reviews in a local newspaper as a regular columnist. “Writing ship reviews helps grow my business by positioning me as a travel expert with ‘insider’ information.”
Consumers Want Expert Reviews
According to a recent survey of 5,400 CruiseCritic.com readers, 41.7% said that online expert reviews are moderately influential when it comes to making a cruise booking decision. Nearly 38% said a recommendation from a travel advisor was also moderately influential. (Eighteen percent said travel advisor recommendations are very influential!)
Put the two together, and you've got a potent combination.
But why? And, how can you make doing expert cruise reviews work for you?
Build Trust, Establish Expertise
The old adage, people buy from people they know, like, and trust remains as true today as ever. Providing current and potential clients with expert reviews, based on your first-hand experience is a great way for travel advisors to build the know, like, and trust factor.
“If a client is considering a specific ship or cruise line, I share my experience. This helps them to decide if it is right for them and it may help close a sale plus reinforce my expertise,” says Lori Foster, owner of a San Clemente, California Dream Vacations franchise.
The know, like, and trust factor can even be great enough to start an agency from scratch, like EECC Travels’ Myatt did when her cruise video channel started bringing in requests from viewers who wanted her to book their cruise.
“I started as a cruise vlogger and morphed into a travel agent,” she tells Travel Market Report. “I established myself as a ‘cruise expert’ through the vlogs and this made viewers become clients.”
Providing expert reviews does more than show off your expertise, Asmus says. It also lets people get to know you. And from there it’s easier to build trust.
“Many travel agents work from home now and clients rarely get to meet them,” she says. “With people being able to see your face on camera, it helps them instill trust in you and makes them feel more secure in booking a cruise or any type of travel with you. You aren’t just a voice over the phone, they feel like they know you.”
Highlighting your own experiences on a particular ship also builds interest among your clients in that ship. If they see you having a great time eating in the restaurants and shooting down the waterslides, there’s a good chance they’ll want to do the same thing.
“I book all cruises, but I do see that I tend to get more bookings on the ships that I have sailed on and reviewed,” Myatt says.
Foster says she sees a similar jump in interest. In addition to her journal-like blog posts in which she documents each voyage, she also puts up Instagram stories of every day she’s at sea. “There are many inquiries about the ship and the cruise line while I am traveling. Not all turn into bookings for the specific ship, but definitely for that cruise line.”
Reading about or seeing the differences between ships can also help clients make decisions, Asmus adds.
“Planning a cruise can be very stressful if you don’t know what you’re looking for, especially for new cruisers,” she tells TMR. “Being able to share ship reviews with my clients is very helpful for them in making a difficult decision on what type of accommodations they are looking at for their family.”
Written Vs Video
Both written reviews and video reviews (or vlogs) can boost your business. Both give your clients a real look at the cruise experience on that particular ship and show off your expertise.
What you choose to do often has more to do with your own personality than anything else. Not everyone likes to be in front of the camera.
“I feel more comfortable writing reviews than videotaping,” says Quinn-Panzer, adding that she believes written reviews are easier for prospective clients looking for specific information.
But Quinn-Panzer also makes use of Dream Vacations’ “deep well of video reviews,” which she says support her written reviews.
Asmus and Myatt prefer video reviews. Both say it gives clients a better idea of what their potential vacation will look like.
“I have done both and for me, a vlog is a better fit,” Myatt says. “A video does so much more than photos do.”
Asmus agrees. “People tend to enjoy seeing what they will experience on a cruise,” she tells TMR. “I have written many ship reviews in the past and although many people have read them and I enjoy writing them, times have changed and vlogging ship reviews are what people seem to be looking for. People want to see what they are getting.”
Interested in getting your feet wet with ship reviews but not sure where to start? Particularly, if you want to try video reviews?
Myatt recommends starting by simply recording everything. “Record every experience you have as a TA. It does not have to be as in-depth as what we do. Short walk-throughs of resorts/hotels/cruise ships are all searched for on YouTube.”
Quinn-Panzer offers similar advice, whether you’re writing a review or recording it. “Talk about what’s important to you, what impressed you, because it’s probably important to your prospective customer as well.”
If you’re planning on trying video reviews, practice talking to the camera, Myatt adds. “This can be weird for some people. Don’t let people looking at you funny bother you! Once you get past this, it is easy to create new content.”
Creating vlogs doesn’t have to take a long time. They don’t need to be fancy. Nor does each video have to be long. A two-minute, narrated walkthrough of your cabin is more than enough. Same with a stroll around the pool deck or explaining the formal night menu.
Asmus’ main piece of advice is to provide a variety of content. “Not only show common areas around the ship but also a variety of cabin categories and include some of the small details as well as answering common questions that you receive.”
Whether you’re writing about the cruise experience and showing photos or you’re vlogging, people appreciate the time travel advisors take to share their knowledge and expertise.
“Taking the time to assist your clients by sharing good advice will help you keep life-long clients that will continue to recommend you to their friends and family and keep your business growing,” Asmus says.