Katie Brickell, assistant business development manager, Holland America Line and Seabourn, speaks to Katherine Lawrey about the benefits of working for two leading cruise brands
Working in Carnival’s contact Centre for a year was the best way for Katie to learn about the different brands in its stable, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Ocean Village and Seabourn.
“There was no online booking back then [in 2005] so you saw a sale through from the beginning to the end,” she recalls. “We were very busy and every call was different.”
She was seconded to the company’s training academy, helping with inductions and systems training for new starters. An understanding boss helped extend the secondment and gave Katie access to various training courses to do herself, so she would be ready when the right sales job came up.
That was an account coordinator role at Carnival UK – she was the youngest in the sales team when she joined. “For two years I supported the north. I went on visits with account managers and learnt so much about the commercial side and the agent world.”
A two-month stint onboard P&O Cruises’ Arcadia working in onboard sales gave her an appreciation of the cogs that turn behind the scenes on a cruise ship, but she confesses it wasn’t for her.
She was promoted to account manager in the west, but a desire to join family in London then took her in a different direction, and into roles at Associated Newspapers, selling classified adverts in the travel section, and Best At Travel, marketing Carnival UK products.
“I was homesick and wanted to move back to Southampton. I couldn’t work out what I was looking for in London, and I missed working for a cruise line.”
Her return to Southampton in January 2012 coincided with a job prospect at Holland America Line and Seabourn, which were relocating there from London.
“There were only two of us in the office for Holland America Line and Seabourn when I started so it was really exciting to be part of setting up the office. Then UK managing director Lynn Narraway and director of sales Wendy Lahmich came down, and now we’re 10 in the sales team and 30 in the call centre.”
Initially she supported the south and emerging accounts for both Holland America Line and Seabourn, in a business development representative role, which involved trade and consumer shows, webinars, providing campaign support to accounts, phone-based account management and sales support.
In the last 18 months, she has taken over tour operator relationships for Alaska, accounts in Ireland and both Thomson and Thomas Cook.
“It’s been a learning curve, seeing how each tour operator makes a different holiday from the same product, how they manage allocations and we manage our inventory to match.”
The most satisfying part has been building those relationships. “I like walking into a company and knowing everyone. I tend to work a couple of days a month out of clients’ offices. They have to trust you, and you have to understand their business, and that only happens by spending time together.”
Now that she has found her feet in the luxury sector, she sees a bright future in its business development side. “I’m so lucky to work for these two brands, Holland America Line is a premium brand that is evolving, so it’s always busy, and Seabourn is just unbelievable. So many wonderful things happen onboard that are the norm.”
She had her own taste of ‘Seabourn Moments’ when her boyfriend popped the question on their balcony while on a Seabourn cruise. “After he proposed, we went to the bar. We told one person, and five minutes later, trays of champagne were being handed out. We were given so much, roses every day, poems, champagne, spa treatments and gifts. Every day we were congratulated and our favourite drinks poured – we felt like VIPs.”
“My fiance doesn’t know it, but he really helped me with my presentations and product training by doing that!”