Mastering Sales Of The Intangibles On Deluxe Cruises
Appeal to the senses and sentiments; talk about the goose-bump moments.

by Ming Tappin

Presenting: my dinner. High staff to guest ratio ensures personal attention to detail.  

Deluxe cruising offers elevated culinary experience with dining choice and meticulous presentation that tastes as good as it looks!

From our daily perch at the coffee bar: complimentary inclusions take the nickle & diming out of the equation.

Small ship experience ups the game in customer satisfaction in many ways.

I am fresh off my 1st Oceania Cruise and had a wonderful experience. After my 10 days onboard, I clearly understand why premium deluxe and luxury cruising has so much appeal and how great it would be for agencies to focus more on this market.  

The small ship size, coupled with high crew to guest ratio is immediately noticed. There was rarely a line for anything onboard. Even at the busiest dining times, service was fast and efficient. Staff addressed us by name and remembered our preferences. All specialty dining was complimentary and invariably topnotch. Having specialty coffee, soda and bottled water included meant one less thing to sign for.

Oceania is known for their cuisine and we were thoroughly impressed by the freshness of the ingredients, variety of international fare, gorgeous presentation and flavourful combinations. This was one thing I had high expectations for, and they did not disappoint.

As I reflected on the food quality, service levels, staff to guest ratio and attention to detail that are hallmarks of premium deluxe and luxury brands, I realize these are all intangible qualities - something you can't quantify or hold in your hand. Yet it has the biggest impact on customer satisfaction as it plays upon the emotional and pleasure centres of the brain. Clients are drawn to these cruises because they can count on an amazing experience that makes them feel great. 

So, if the intangible is what gets clients wanting upscale cruises, then selling the intangible is a skill travel agents should master. It can be intimidating at first, as the goal is to convince clients to invest more money for an emotional return. And paying for something they cannot hold onto is always a difficult concept to grasp. But once you have mastered the skill of persuading clients to appreciate the value, you will close the sale.

Experiencing the brand is certainly the 1st step to success. After my cruise, I can now speak with confidence and communicate clearly on the value of a premium deluxe brand. The next step is to take the focus off the price and talk about the intangibles. Get your clients excited about the quality of the experiences they will have by playing up elements like personable service, superior cuisine, included amenities - but not just facts and figures - emphasize the enjoyment and satisfaction they will gain from these elements. Appeal to their senses and sentiments, talk about the goose-bump moments. Aim to sell the experience.

Lastly, don't always assume that higher end cruises are unaffordable. The retail per diem on my cruise was less than USD 265 pp, including roundtrip airfare from Canada, 10 nights in a verandah, unlimited internet, prepaid gratuities, the aforementioned specialty dining and beverages -- and a USD 350pp shipboard credit. Thanks to all of the inclusions, I disembarked without a bill, and who doesn't like that! When you add up all the pluses, there should be no objections; and once your clients return, they will likely want to be repeat. I know I definitely will!

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 37 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of

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