Before we give you some tips on how to sell luxury cruises, let’s start with why this is the market you need to move into.
A compelling fact is that the rich are getting richer and they’re looking for ways to spend their money. While higher interest rates might have left many people struggling to pay their mortgages or rent with little left over for holidays, the wealthy are seeing their investments and savings grow, so they’ve got more disposable income.
“While the wealthy used to spend their money on luxury goods, today they want luxury experiences,” said Silversea President and CEO Barbara Muckermann, “yet of the $170 billion spent on luxury travel, only $2 billion is spent on cruises, so there is huge room for growth.”
So, how do you sell a luxury cruise? Here are the expert’s top tips:
Sell the destination, not the ship
“Think of a luxury cruise like a luxury base camp,” said Barbara Muckermann. “For example, you can go to Galapagos and have a private chef prepare you a meal in luxury onboard.”
One of the beauties of selling a luxury cruise is that you can sell a destination without needing to worry about finding a hotel room. “You try to get a five-star hotel in Venice right now, compare the price and you’ll find that cruise for £1,999 for seven nights, including excursions, is better value for money,” said Uniworld Head of UK Sales Angela Sloan. “People want value for money, but they also want the best experience possible.”
Smaller vessels can still get into amazing destinations like Venice that are no longer accessible to the largest cruise ships. “You can have morning coffee on your balcony looking at St Mark’s Basiclica,” said SeaDream Yacht Club UK Sales Director Natalie Read.
Some luxury vessels don’t even need a port to access destinations, they use zodiacs (inflatable boats) to carry passengers instead. These are also used for excursions, such as whale watching or travelling through mangroves in the Caribbean.
Use expedition cruises to hook your clients
One of the best ways to entice non-cruisers on to a ship is to sell them an expedition cruise, such as to the Antarctic, said Silversea’s Barbara Muckermann. “If they want to go to Antarctica they need to go on a ship.”
Many expedition cruises don’t have fixed itineraries so clients can choose what to do each day, which, for many, is the ultimate luxury experience.
And the great news for agents is that you don’t need to sell a lot of this type of cruise to make a decent chunk of commission. “Expedition cruises are great for those agents who know their clients really well, who know when they’re celebrating a milestone birthday, an anniversary, what’s on their travel bucket list.,” said Holland America and Seabourn Marketing Manager Carly Perkins.
Don’t be afraid to suggest something new
If a client is looking for a safari or a tour, why not suggest a luxury cruise? “People might not have thought of taking a yacht in the Caribbean, but they might love it,” said SeaDream UK Head of Sales Natalie Read.
Think of a ship as a luxury hotel
One of the world’s newest ships, Explora I, feels very much like a boutique hotel, having taken inspiration from luxury chains such as Belmond. and the quality and standards of luxury cruise lines are just as high. Many have collaborations with Michelin or celebrity chefs, such as Cunard which has hired La Gavroche patron Michel Roux Jnr to design its onboard pub menu.
Don’t sell only on price
“Don’t be scared to promote the more expensive voyages, they are often the most popular,” said SeaDream Yacht Club’s Natalie Dream. “And remind your customer that everything is included in the cost of the cruise, so no hidden surprises.”
“Agents often want to sell at a discount, but what is selling best are our high-end products.”
“The initial price might scare people, but you need to explain all that’s included,” said Ponant Business Development Manager Daniel Giles.
Explora Journeys MD Antonio Paradiso admitted the price of a luxury cruise might seem steep, but agents need to explain the value for money. “When it comes to selling luxury cruises, you need to spend some time with the client detailing everything they are getting in the price, such as excursions, drinks, wifi. On Explora we have nine dining venues and all but one of the restaurants are included in the price.”
“People aren’t worried about price, but they do want value for money,” added Windstar Head of UK Sales Augustus Lonsdale.
Think of charters
Many luxury ships are available to charter, you just need to suggest this an option to your high net-worth clients, say cruise lines.
“There are a lot of people in the market for full charters,” added Ponant’s Danny Giles. Meanwhile SeaDream’s Natalie Read said the line secured no fewer than 10 in just a few weeks. “If you put them out there, they will sell,” she insisted.
Agents who want to ‘play at Pied Piper’ can increase their margins by taking a whole charter themselves and putting together their own cruises, hosting the experience too, said Seabourn’s Carly Perkins.
Debunk some myths
Clients might have an old-fashioned view of cruising, they might not be aware of the facilities on more luxurious ships, such as spas and pools, or they might think that they’re formal and stuffy, which is rarely the case. A spokesperson for luxury line Cunard said: “ It’s true that on some evenings aboard our ships there is a formal dress code, we also have plenty of more casual dining options available for guests.
“We can deliver bacon butties direct to guests’ staterooms for breakfast in bed each morning, if that’s what is requested. What’s more, our ships are home to an eclectic mix of onboard activities, from live music and theatre performances to cookery classes and wine tastings.”
Use social media
Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok are perfect for promoting luxury cruises, with short videos that bring the cruises to life. Cruise lines have lots of assets you can use – until you become an expert and begin creating your own, bespoke content!
To find luxury cruise lines, check out Travel Gossip’s cruise directory.