I love to cruise! In the past 10 years, I have been on 27 cruises across six different cruise lines. This was on nine different ships, though I have also toured eight other ships. What I have learned is that no two cruises are created equal. I mean that from a standpoint of itineraries and cruise lines alike.
I have some friends who are very happy with one cruise line and won’t venture onto another ship or line. I have others who used to feel that way and then tried another and were pleasantly surprised. The important thing is to keep an open mind and work with a travel agent that knows cruises.
When I started expanding my business to cover many different cruise lines, I heard from other agent that you don’t need to experience a destination to be able to sell it. I find that to be true, but with many limitations. I don’t think you can sell a vacation product without experiencing it first. I heard about a Hawaii expert who had never been to Hawaii. She was a top seller. I think you can learn a lot about a destination without going there with all the media available these days. However, recommending a specific resort or vacation package without knowing anything about the companies you are dealing with is another thing. I can’t just say “oh, it’s a XX brand resort, it must be good” and book my clients there. Of course after a long time working with a destination and having clients return with reports about their stays, you do develop a great knowledge of a product.
I took many classes offered by various cruise lines. I do feel that I have a good understanding of what each has to offer. However, I realized that a cruise ship is much different than a destination. Because a cruise ship moves from place to place, you need to learn about the itinerary destinations as well as learn about the cruise line and the ships in particular.
Take for example Disney Cruise Line. I have been on all four ships in various itineraries. I have been on the same itinerary with different ships. I have my preferences of which ship(s) I like best and which itineraries I like best, but I also recognize that not everyone is like me. I can ask the appropriate questions to the cruiser to get an idea of what they might like best.
If I only cruised on Disney though, I would have a harder time with different lines and how to recommend one to someone else. For instance, if you like to hang out by the pool and participate in the pool games/deck activities, certainly you don’t want to be on an Alaskan Cruise and probably not a Canada/New England cruise. If you aren’t big on touring on land, you may not be interested in a Mediterranean Cruise.
I also have found that by cruising on other lines, you learn more about the people who do the same. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “Disney? Those ships are loaded with kids!”. My response is always “there may be a lot of kids on board, but you don’t see them as much as you do on other ships”. That is so true! I found that many other ships have more limited adult only activities and less extensive of children’s programming so you end up seeing the children onboard much more often. The time of year and itinerary also make a difference for this as well. We are cruising on the Carnival Dream during the summer and I would have to say this is the most kids I have seen in a long time on a cruise ship.
I think the important thing to remember is that using a travel professional will help you make the right decision with a ship and itinerary that is right for you. One who has experienced the lines first hand also helps.