Save Or Splurge?
Points To Ponder When Booking A Cruise

by Ming Tappin

A cruise is a well-deserved vacation everyone looks forward to - don't skimp on the details.

A suite is the ultimate splurge - with plush accommodations like these, you will want to stay in your cabin a little longer!

Specialty restaurants onboard transform the everyday dinner to a night of extraordinary cuisine.

Let your clients escape to a world of  pampering service and they are sure to return for more.

In the next few columns I would like to share some thoughts with you on several common topics of discussion when it comes to booking cruises.  

The Cabin Conundrum

Your clients have chosen the ship, the itinerary, the date, and now it's time to choose the stateroom. What is your strategy in presenting the various options? When I quote a cruise, I only discuss balcony accommodations - especially to 1 st time cruisers. Start them there and they´ll never go for anything less. 

Yet, many pricing presentations start with an inside stateroom as it is the least expensive. The most popular logic, and therefore the reason why people choose an inside stateroom is that "I'm never in my cabin anyway". Truth is, if I am in a small windowless box with 4 solid walls, I wouldn't stay in there much either! But, if I had one with a floor-to-ceiling window and my own private deck where I can lounge in my robe over breakfast, read my book, or sip a cocktail while gazing out into the ocean, you bet I would spend a little more time there!

Selling accommodations goes beyond selling a bed and shower - once again, appeal to the intangibles - tranquility, fresh air, relaxation, private retreat - sell the emotional experience your client can derive from having a balcony. I have never met anyone who came back from a cruise with a balcony stateroom wishing they didn't have one. 

It is human nature to gravitate towards the lowest price when we are given options, so if you present an inside, oceanview and balcony pricing, guess what the client will choose? Their 1 st cruise also leaves a lasting impression on clients, as they have nothing to compare it to. If they sail in an inside cabin, they may decide that it is sufficient and it will be much tougher for you to upsell them in the future.

Of course, if the difference in cost is too great and is truly out of their budget, then by all means discuss lower accommodations, but at least offer an oceanview. And next time, move them into the balcony.

Specialty Dining Dilemma

Specialty restaurants are all the rage on ships these days. Just look at all the new builds and you will see celebrity chef partnerships, waterfront dining venues and very innovative menus. On mass market and premium lines, the cover charge ranges from USD 25 to USD 75 per person, more if it includes wine pairing.

The idea of specialty restaurants is an intimate dining experience in a small cosy setting, with exclusive menus not found in the main dining room. Each course is cooked to order, with some even created tableside. Service level is elevated, with about 3 to 4 staff looking after each table. So, is it worth the splurge?

One of the talking points about specialty dining has always been that it is for a special occasion, and if you have clients who are foodies and wine aficionados, then it's a no-brainer. But I think we need to broaden that approach, and suggest that clients try it "just because" - for all the above mentioned reasons. Most people enjoy the exclusive atmosphere and a chance to be showered with attentive service - another intangible that adds to their enjoyment of the cruise.

The value of these meals certainly supersedes the price paid, as a similar meal ashore at a comparable establishment will cost at least double. To help offset the expense, some ships offer a reduced rate for the 1 st night, and charge less for lunch. Ships with multiple specialty restaurants may also offer a discounted combo package. And some are offering complimentary specialty dining as a booking promotion. Encourage your clients to indulge one night. You might be surprised to find that they return for more.

Allow me to share my personal experience. Onboard my recent Oceania cruise, we booked La Reserve by Wine Spectator - a 7 course gourmet dinner paired with premium wines. The venue was only open to 12 couples, and the cost was USD 89 per person. With gratuities and after the tab got put through the wringer with our dreadful exchange rate, the dinner became CAD 150 per person. An expensive meal yes, but the experience was unforgettable. The attention to deal, impeccable service, exquisite courses and the social camaraderie shared with our table mates was priceless. And when I cruise on Oceania again, I will be sure to rebook La Reserve.

Bottom line is, your clients work very hard all year, and a cruise is their time to relax and deviate from their busy daily routine. People want to truly escape into a world outside of the norm, so don't skimp on talking about these experiences - offer spacious and plush accommodations, exclusive dining and pampering service that will spoil them. After all, isn't it what we would want for ourselves? Take good care of them, and your clients will return and take good care of you. 

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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