For cruise selling travel agents, ship inspections are a key method of gaining valuable knowledge. But with such little time onboard, how do you make the most of your ship tour?
Travel Market Report spoke to a number of cruise-selling travel agents to find out their top tips for getting the most out of every second of a cruise ship tour.
Ship inspections for travel agents provide an excellent overview of what any given ship has to offer, from cabin types to restaurants, top deck attractions, and more. But remembering every detail isn’t easy. Make it easy on yourself and take pictures so you can refer to them later.
To make sorting through them easier take a picture of the cabin number before you walk in. “This will help you remember which cabin your pictures are from,” Rhonda Day, owner of a Kentucky-based Dream Vacations travel agency, told Travel Market Report.
Even better? Share pics with your clients, said Carl Bruno, owner of an Oklahoma-based Cruise Planners franchise.
Send them to clients you know are interested in the ship. Share them on social media. Showing your clients that you’re actively touring ships is a great way of reinforcing your cruise expertise.
Look for the Little Things that Make a Difference
As you’re touring the ship, and the cabins, in particular, keep an eye out for anything that might impact the experience your clients have. Is the cabin located across from a crew door that might make a lot of noise in the morning? Are the beds facing forward or aft?
“My advice is to take notice of the ship’s features that can help you sell the ship to your clients,” Bruno said.
Bill Schneider, owner of a Florida-based Dream Vacations franchise said he looks for obstructions that might make a cabin undesirable.
He also pays close attention to accessible cabins.
“The best advice I have is to focus on the cabin types and layout. I specifically like to look at the accessible stateroom layouts so that I can give my clients that need accessible cabins a clear picture of the layout.”
In cabins, Day said she pays particular attention to the size and style of the bathroom and whether showers have curtains or doors. Throughout the ship tour, she looks to see how clean public spaces are, whether there are lots of areas to sit and relax in, what the food options in the buffet look like, how big – and crowded – the pools are, and what specialty restaurant offerings are available. She also makes it a point to find out what the guest-to-staff ratio is.
“Whatever ship they are seeing, study that ship beforehand online,” said Day.
Look at what restaurants are onboard, write down the room types, and browse the activities. This way, you’ll have an idea of what you’ll be seeing, giving you a chance to formulate any questions you might want to ask.
Being prepared also gives you the opportunity to check out the things you know are most important to your clients rather than what the cruise line wants to show you. While there’s often overlap between the two, knowing what you want to see can help you make the most of any free time you have to explore the ship on your own. Especially if there’s a specific cabin type you’d like to see that’s not on the official inspection list.
“I suggest that the agent who is going to do the tour pulls a copy of the deck plans to check out some of the unique cabins that may not necessarily be on the tour and try to go by to see those ‘hidden gems’ to be able to recommend for clients,” said Becky Smith, owner of Becky’s Travel Biz, Inc., a TRAVELSAVERS agency.
Even if you just pop your head in while the room steward is cleaning the room, you’ll at least get an idea of what the cabin category looks like.
When touring a ship, always remember that you’re a guest onboard. And, those other travel advisors are trying to make the most of their ship tour, too.
“My biggest piece of advice for agents doing ship inspections for the first time is respect,” said Julie Schear, owner of a Florida-based Cruise Planners franchise. “Respect for the ship and respect for the other agents on the ship inspection. Too often I see agents sit on furniture in the staterooms or congregate in staterooms or areas where other agents are trying to take photos. I try to take my photos quickly and get out of the way. Conversations can be had in the dining room or hallways.”
Schear also said she leaves a tip in the dining room if a sit-down meal is provided by the line.
“Most ship inspections include a served lunch, and often those servers have given up time off to serve the agents. It's a good practice to leave a few dollars on the table when you leave.”