‘Agents tend to have their heads around mainstream cruising now and that’s great, but the next frontier is to get into the nitty gritty of small ship operations around the world,’ says Cruise World’s Joe O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan sees particular potential for this sector in the USA, especially with the increased airlift coming on stream and the off-putting expense that can come with ‘build-your-own’ itineraries.
‘When the dollar is not so good cruising is an even better proposition. So much is already included in the price and the agent gets commission on everything.’
O’Sullivan points to operators such as AQV (formerly American Queen Voyages) that operates not only on the Upper Mississippi (easily accessible from the gateway of Chicago), and Lower Mississippi (Houston), but also the Snake and Columbia Rivers (San Francisco and Vancouver).
He says expedition and luxury cruising to Alaska is gaining big traction here with lines such as Silversea, Seabourn and UnCruise to name just a few.
‘Alaska is huge, so there are so many other options to suit particular clients.’
He says agents should also be thinking of coastal cruising on the East Coast, taking advantage of flights in New York.
He says most agents would not even consider suggesting a cruise on the Great Lakes, Ohio River or Cumberland River but these are areas that would appeal to many clients.
‘Many of these small ship cruises offer pre and post as well as excursions. Agents don’t really need to know a lot about the areas they cruise in – they just need to make a phone call.’
O’Sullivan’s comments as Cruise Month is about to move into its third week.
‘These cruises tend to be high-end product, so they are expensive. That means more commission and happier clients. We tend to make the mistake that people are happy if they don’t pay much – but if you have the right client they would rather spend the money for a quality experience.’