BASED IN: WHITBY, ON
YEARS AS A TRAVEL ADVISOR: 12 YEARS
How and why did you get into the travel industry?
I was fortunate to retire early from Bell (I was a telephone operator) and had time to travel again; a new centre was opening so the timing just all worked.
What do you enjoy about cruising?
So many things! It’s such an easy way to see the world – it’s hassle-free with as much or as little assistance as you want. And, meeting people from different countries just proves how much in common we really have.
Tell us about your first cruise.
It was for our fifteenth anniversary with two other couples, who were also celebrating the milestone. It was the first “big trip” without kids and we took more than a year to plan – with several dinner parties and all sorts of get-togethers to get six people to pick one spot. Since we couldn’t totally agree, a cruise seemed to be the best option. Fifteen years later, we still talk about how much fun we all had together and independently. We’ve all become cruisers, as have our children. The next cruise was a March Break cruise, which became an annual tradition for seven years, with the group growing to 44 people.
Why do you enjoy selling cruises?
There is an itinerary or ship for everyone! It’s a fantastic way to “shop” for destinations you may want to revisit; it facilitates multiple destination choices when more than one person is travelling. When planning travel, one person ends up taking care of everything (and typically, it is a female). But cruises get everyone involved in a vacation: kids can enjoy themselves independently as well as with the entire family. Each person can take part in the activities they want to take part in, and still come together for meals. The service is over the top, right down to having your serviette placed on your lap if you wish. Plus, there are so many options – both in-destination as well as on board – and, of the several hundred cruises I’ve planned with clients, I’ve never had anyone come back saying they didn’t enjoy themselves.
How many times have you cruised?
Fifty-four ocean cruises and one river cruise.
What sets Celebrity Cruises apart from other product on the market?
Celebrity’s standard “Go Big, Better, Best” program makes it easy to discuss, and clients understand both the concept and the value. Sometimes, itineraries with other lines are similar (if not the same) but when that’s the case, the value-add that Celebrity offers puts them first every time.
What do your clients enjoy about Celebrity?
The attention to detail and innovation is a key selling point with Celebrity; before Edge, the Solstice Class had innovations that other lines simply didn’t such as bigger bathrooms, shower doors (rather than curtains), cupboards and drawers in the bathroom so things stay put, and one of my favourites, the low bar in the shower to make shaving easy (right ladies!?). On the dining, being gluten free myself, I appreciate their leadership in identifying GF, vegetarian and lactose-free items. The Cirquesque Shows were another first on Celebrity, along with more intimate entertainment venues that allow for more opportunity to discover. I have had several 40 cabin-plus groups on Celebrity and they certainly know how to handle all of the details, both before the sailing and then with a dedicated resource on board so that everything goes off without a hitch.
What is the next Celebrity experience on your “to do” list and what are you looking forward to for this particular trip?
I am fortunate to be going on one of the pre-inaugural sailings of Celebrity Edge. I got to see some of the prototypes at the Miami campus two years ago and participate in a virtual reality tour of the ship, which were both very informative opportunities; seeing the various iterations of the design process. To be on the Edge seeing how that entire process became the actual vessel will be a fabulous experience, for sure. I am particularly excited to see the Magic Carpet, Eden (with its transformation), the Infinity staterooms and the food, of course! I am grateful to be in this remarkable industry.
How do you qualify a client a Celebrity cruise?
Asking mindful questions that require some thought, such as: What is your favourite dining /entertainment experience? What are the top three most important elements do you look for in a vacation?
What advice do you have for other travel advisors looking to grow their cruise sales?
Listening to understand where clients are in their vacation interest is key; in a way, it’s like interviewing your clients so you can paint them a picture of what they’re looking for. Sometimes people don’t know the specifics of what they want until they hear it played back to them. Whenever you hear about an activity (sports, fine arts, crafts or any common interest), be sure to ask more about it; you may have a ready-made group as cruise lines have conference and activity facilities for any of that. I’ve seen quilters, dog breeders, companies, bikers and more in groups onboard ships.