If your first-time cruise clients enjoy the finer things in life, introduce them to one of the luxury operators for a high-end experience at sea.
Cruise luxury is not easy to define. To some, it means personalised pampering, gourmet cuisine and butler services, to others it is the intimacy of a smaller vessel, excellent on-board lecturers and fresh flowers delivered daily to the cabin.
For those who have never before opted to sail at ‘luxury’ level, a whole new experience awaits. What’s more, trading up a notch can be surprisingly affordable for new-to-cruise travellers seeking a special holiday.
But where to look for the ‘luxury experience’? Although some ships do not quite fall into this bracket they may contain elements of such – Cunard for example, offers top class accommodation in their Princess and Queens Grills Suites and MSC Yacht Club, the ‘ship within a ship’ where guests enjoy private yacht facilities while having access to services available to all.
‘Modern luxury’ brand Celebrity Cruises is introducing a new ship to the fleet in 2018. Chairman /CEO Richard Fain waxes lyrical about Celebrity Edge, saying it will ‘establish a new baseline for cruise ships.’ The new two bedroom, two bathroom suites with spacious soaking tubs on the veranda and dual walk-through showers are a luxury selling point.
Top of the range
The market’s upscale sector is reshaping new-to-cruise customers’ perceptions. Operators, where spacious cabins, butler service, gourmet cuisine and a world-class drinks selection are par for the course, include Hapag-Lloyd, Seabourn, SeaDream and Silversea. Silversea’s Silver Muse, which the company claims offers more dining options than any other ultra-luxury ship – eight venues including a Relais & Chateaux® restaurant – enhances small-ship intimacy with spacious all-suite accommodation.
Lisa McAuley, Silversea managing director, UK & Ireland comments, “Silversea’s renowned butler service is offered to every guest. Trained by The Guild of Professional English Butlers, Silversea’s butlers take care of every detail. Offering one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios at sea, guests receive exceptional service from the moment they step onboard.”
Crystal, another top-drawer player, has unveiled plans for Symphony and Serenity’s dry dock transformations. In what the company calls the ‘Evolution of Crystal Luxury,’ the multi-million-dollar investment will see both ships reimagined to new standards of luxury, including the conversion of a number of staterooms into penthouse accommodation, effectively reducing guest capacities – Symphony to 848 and Serenity to 980.
Preparing for its inaugural West Indies season this autumn, Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises is enticing agents with its ‘Sell 3/ Sail Free’ incentive. Agents selling three suites on select November, December 2017 and all 2018 Crystal Esprit voyages between now and 23 December 2017 earn a complimentary sailing for themselves and guest onboard any 2018 Crystal Esprit voyage.
Following delivery in spring 2018, Seabourn Ovation will spend most of her maiden season cruising northern European waters. The ship will offer a series of seven-day Baltic and Scandinavian cruises and 14-day Norwegian Fjords and British Isles voyages.
Lynn Narraway, MD Seabourn UK & Ireland comments, “We work with agent partners to help them promote Seabourn to their luxury travellers who haven’t yet cruised, the key focus on lifestyle and destinations. We believe that all our travel partners have the opportunity to offer a concierge service
to really get to know their clients, and to have the confidence to sell Seabourn as the ideal alternative to a land-based ultra-luxury boutique hotel.”
Complimentary nights on board
Simone Clark, senior vice president global supply, Iglu Cruise, comments, “For ultra-luxury cruising, the likes of Crystal, Silversea and Regent are all-inclusive at its best, with every line offering a unique experience, from expeditions to fine dining. For example, Cunard offers the best in traditional luxury, Oceania is renowned for having the finest cuisine at sea and Azamara offer off-the-beaten-track itineraries and events.”
Speaking of Azamara, besides giving passengers the chance to visit evergreen destinations including Amsterdam and Copenhagen, those sailing on the 12-night Baltic & World Cup voyage next June 2018 can attend a World Cup match at Zenit Stadium in St Petersburg.
Sail African rivers or round the world
With today’s deluxe cruise offerings, clients can enjoy the same service and facilities as a first-class hotel. The cherry on top is that they are transported in style to destinations around the world.
Among ‘luxury’ river ships, CroisiEurope’s RV African Dream launches in South Africa this December to ply the Chobe and Zambezi rivers. The eight-crew vessel will accommodate 16 guests on three-night cruise-safaris, followed by stays at the CroisiEurope-owned Cascades Lodge.
Agents can sample this itinerary by selling three cabins or booking six guests on the vessel between now and 15 December 2017. Those who qualify will be entered into a draw to win a place.
Several booking categories for Regent Seven Seas Mariner’s 2020 world voyage are already waitlisted. The 131-night cruise costs from £55,089 pp for a deluxe veranda suite. The 700-passenger, all-suite, all-balcony ship with staff-to-guest ratio of 1 to 1.5, will re-emerge in April 2018 with new furnishings and public areas after a bow-to-stern refurbishment. Added incentives include free roundtrip business class airfares on European voyages for those booking penthouse suites and above.
1 Determine whether clients will find a genuine luxury experience by looking at crew-to-passenger ratios. Luxury brands are more equal than mass market cruise lines.
2 Complete training programmes available from luxury cruise lines.
3 Suggest a luxury cruise for new to- cruise clients celebrating special occasions such as anniversaries or birthdays.
4 Small or mid-sized ships are more likely to provide attention to detail and may access smaller ports, which the large ocean vessels cannot.
5 For those who dislike not knowing what the final cruise price will be after gratuities, drinks and so on are added to the bill, emphasise the perks that all-inclusive luxury cruises offer such as shore excursions, tips and laundry.