Oceania Cruises senior vice-president & MD EMEA Bernard Carter speaks exclusively to Cruise Trade News about the line’s new ship, Vista, and what agents need to know when it comes to selling a luxury product.
Can you tell us more about Vista, your new luxury cruise ship, sailing in 2023?
Vista will provide an evolution of what Oceania Cruises has been developing over the past 20 years. Oceania Cruises isn’t just a brand – it’s a story.
What we are doing with Vista is taking our story further. We know our customers always love something new and with Vista, we have taken the best of our existing fleet and added a bit more. For instance, the Grand Dining Room will have more cubby holes and private areas.
It takes the core elements to Oceania Cruises to a new level, and I am confident no one will be disappointed. They will be wowed by what this ship represents. This is a new era for Oceania Cruises – anyone who sells this ship will find it to be a great experience.
What’s new on board Vista?
We’re very excited about our new restaurants – Ember and Aquamar Kitchen. Ember will celebrate the best of American cuisine – for example, lovely beef ribs on polenta, while Ember will provide hearty comfort food and some American favourites like grilled swordfish and crab cakes.
The spa is also being purpose-built for Vista. It will run the breadth of the ship at the back and have a beautiful hydrotherapy pool.
We are also excited about the new staterooms – these will be slightly larger than the existing staterooms and will have a lovely style – very open and airy with natural and calming colours
So, once again cuisine is a key focus for you?
We have always been renowned for our culinary expertise. When we bought in the O-class ships we created new restaurants and new dining experiences.
Since the pandemic, people are taking longer cruises – often journeys of up to 180 nights – so they want their culinary experience to be as good or better than they have at home. Oceania Cruises is now competing with Michelin star restaurants.
How is Oceania Cruises supporting the trade?
We have our trade connect portal that offers a one-stop shop for Oceania marketing material.
We have an incentive programme where every booking agents make we give them points and those points can be used to buy vouchers. This is proving to be very popular.
In addition, we have also created a series of on-demand videos for travel agents. Anyone who works with us knows that we are a small but very personal company; it’s about relationship building. The webinars are on demand, which means agents can listen and learn in their own time. The big thing is about choice.
We are very much about interaction and are keen on building our smaller travel agent base. Being a small cruise line, we know what it is like not to be big.
There is a wealth of quality, talent and experience out there and we have dedicated team members who are looking after smaller companies. We have seen some real successes with those coming through the ranks and entering our upper ranks and tiers of performance.
What do agents need to know to sell Oceania Cruises?
We are always here to listen. Most of our staff have been with us from the beginning, which means quality and continuity.
We have a very good sales team led by Priti Mehta, and the team does a great job of helping agents. We know if an agent is booking with us for the first time, so the sales team will reach out to them and help them out. At the end of the day, agents just need to pick up the phone to us.
What tips can you give travel agents to help them sell Vista?
Get in fast. The demand we are seeing is incredible.
The best staterooms tend to go first, so if clients are interested, it’s important to get their pre-registration of interest sorted out fast. We have a full refundable deposit and our best price guarantee so there is no reason for guests not to put their money down to secure their cabin.
Have you been surprised by the bounce back in cruise?
Not really. It’s such a loyal industry and also the friendliest sector in travel. It might sound tacky, but we think of ourselves as the Oceania family, and cruising is a family too.
When we all get together – cruises lines, travel agents etc – we love catching up with each other. It’s like seeing your cousins again.