In this new series of articles, we profile the winners of the 2018 Cruise Stars Awards. To kick things off, it’s the turn of John Ferguson, travel consultant at Thorne Travel in Kilwinning, Scotland.
How did you feel about winning not one but three Cruise Stars awards?
To be honest, I didn’t expect to win any of the awards that I was up for, due to the fierce competition. I was happy just to be a finalist and attend the fantastic event on the day, but to go and win three awards felt like such a great achievement, it left me stunned and totally amazed.
What do you think were the main factors that contributed to your wins?
Definitely my passion for cruising first and foremost; if I wasn’t passionate about cruising, I wouldn’t be as excited about explaining to customers how fantastic a holiday it is. Experiencing the products and doing the training that is available for cruise agents gives you the passion to sell the brands.
What tips can you pass on to other travel agents to help them be successful?
Get the customer the cruise that is going to fit with what they want to experience on board and in the ports of call. Don’t just sell them a cruise because it’s a good price and you have an allocation. Don’t send a customer on something that you wouldn’t go on yourself and, if you get the opportunity, try to experience a cruise.
What has been your best experience in selling cruise holidays so far?
There was a family who used to book the same land holiday every year. I suggested to them that they try a cruise for a change, but they said they could never afford to go on one. So I priced up a 10-night, all-inclusive sailing departing from Southampton that was within their budget.
As I showed them all the fantastic facilities on board and everything that was included in the package, I started to see the magic and excitement appear in their eyes. Since they booked that cruise two years ago, cruising has become their new family holiday and they have been on three more cruises so far, each to a different destination.
What innovations would you like to see from cruise line operators?
I think the biggest one would be fam trips for agents so they will be able to sell the holiday more confidently. I think they should start offering special rates for travel agents, as this will encourage more of them to book for their own personal holidays and go on more ship visits.
What’s your dream destination?
Because I love cruising so much, I managed to get to my dream destination in May last year and sail from Hong Kong to Japan. This was the trip of a lifetime and I would highly recommend it, as Japan is such a beautiful country. Another dream destination of mine would be the Caribbean – that’s next on my list.
What on-board amenity do you enjoy the most?
I always make a point of visiting every bar and restaurant on the ship, even if it’s just to have a look. I also like visiting the spa; I always book in for the final sea day for some relaxation.
I enjoy visiting the shops on board and picking up a bargain at sea, and I love lying by the pool with a nice refreshing drink, enjoying the spectacular views. I usually try to fit in a gym visit too, even if it’s just a quick walk round.