Be Realistic With Clients; Tell It Like It Is

by Ming Tappin

Bon Voyage, but.... always discuss the not-so-glamorous realities that clients might face on a cruise.

Big ships can mean line ups, be sure to add "patience" to the packing list.

Rough seas could cause missed ports. Be prepared and make the best out of it. 

Tendering can be tedious and can be affected by bad weather. 

Best case scenario: a river cruise by ship - but advise clients on possible disruptions due to water levels.

Every mode of travel has its potential downside, cruising is without exception. So often, when we are in sales mode, we only mention the positives - the food, service, destinations and emotional experiences. We seldom discuss the not-so-glamorous - seasickness, bad weather, crowds, etc. Worried about potentially losing the sale, sometimes we sweep them under the rug or dismiss them as improbabilities. My advice: don't shun the negatives and always tell the truth. Not doing so could lead to repercussions, lost clients and a bad rep.

The seasickness question usually comes up naturally, especially if your clients are new cruisers, or have experienced it before. It's important to always acknowledge the concern, and offer the remedies. Seasickness affects everyone differently; the size of the vessel, location of the cabin and even the flattest of seas cannot guarantee any reprieve if someone is extremely sensitive. Your job is to make no promises and deliver good advice. 

With global warming and changing weather patterns, the weather should also be in your discussion when selling cruises. Between hurricanes, flooding and drought, cruises can be adversely affected and, we can't exactly ask Mother Nature to cooperate. You don't mean to scare your clients, but advise them of the potential inconveniences such as missed ports, itinerary changes or cancelled excursions due to bad weather.

Today's cruise ships are getting larger and more amenity-filled. However, these benefits also come with strings attached - large ships mean crowds, lineups and the need to pre-reserve shows and activities. Ships with multiple dining venues offer variety, but most come with additional charges. Nickel and diming continues to be prevalent onboard mass market ships. Clients need to be prepared to either cave into the hardsell, develop a strong sense of resistance - or agree on a happy medium. 

We don't often realize, but tendering is another reality which sometimes can be unpleasant. Off-loading 4,000 pax onto 150 person boats takes a while and I have seen it test many a guest's patience. In addition, tendering cannot take place in rough seas, and elderly or mobile-challenged clients may not be able to go ashore if the Captain deems the tendering process to be unsafe for them. Although missing a port is a huge disappointment for clients, the consolation is that the decision is always in favour of the safety of the guests. Be sure to give your clients the heads up if their itinerary has tendering ports.

When discussing river cruises, talk about the potential water level issues, and the possibility of the cruise turning partially or wholly into a bus tour. It shouldn't be the 1st thing you talk about, but it should be a part of your conversation when you go over the logistics. It is of course not the intention of any river cruise line to turn a cruise into a bus tour, but should it happen, clients will not be blindsided if they are aware.

Lastly, the recent terrorist activities have severely undermined the travellers confidence. Although no one can predict upcoming events, cruise lines are in constant contact with national security agencies for the latest updates. I heard it best explained by a cruise BDM: a cruise ship costs about $1B to build; a cruise line is not going to jeopardize its hardware, as well as the safety of its crew and guests' by travelling to a place that is unsafe. And best of all, cruise ships can change itineraries quickly to avoid danger.

Our clients come to us for our knowledge and advice. So, in addition to selling the good of cruising, take it a bit further and be upfront about the bad and the ugly. No matter what happens, if the client is educated well in advance, he is able to anticipate the issues, instead of being caught by surprise and being greatly disappointed. Being honest upfront shows that you care about your client's overall enjoyment, and not just trying to make a sale - and this goes a long way in further strengthening your relationship.

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of

(will not be published)