Chapter 14: Setting sail.
Approximately two weeks before departure, the cruise line sends the
travel agency the cruise document packet. Most clients are quite anxious to receive this packet as it is the first physical evidence that they are really going on a cruise. As part of the counselor's service to the client, the counselor should explain embarkation procedures to first-time cruisers. Another potential source of anxiety is debarkation and the professional travel counselor should fully explain this procedure to his client. The last step in the sales process is counselor follow-up. During this step, the counselor solidifies the counselor-client relationship and receives valuable product feedback.
At the conclusion of this chapter, you should be able to:
* identify what is included in a cruise document packet and why checking for accuracy is critical.
* explain what cruise clients encounter at the beginning of a cruise.
* describe the procedures at the end of a cruise.
* understand why counselor follow-up is important.
* know where to obtain information about ferry service worldwide.
* have a general understanding of freighter travel.
bon voyage gift
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Two to three weeks before sailing, the cruise line sends a packet of cruise documents to your agency. These packets can include: cruise ticket, air tickets (when air/sea), baggage tags, debarkation forms, general information, cruise tips, vouchers for transfers, and bon voyage gift order forms.
Some travel agencies send bon voyage gifts to their cruise clients. Generally, the cost of this gift is absorbed by the agency, not the individual travel counselor. Even though the agency pays for the gift, the travel counselor's name appears on the accompanying card. A bottle of wine makes a nice gift and you can direct that it be waiting in the client's cabin or served during dinner. Other bon voyage gifts are hors d'oeuvre trays, flower arrangements, fruit baskets, and money in the client's account for onboard purchases.
Many travel counselors rule out flowers and fruit as bon voyage gifts. If the flowers are still fresh at the end of the cruise, U.S. Customs laws prohibit the passenger from bringing them home. Several cruise lines provide, at no charge, fresh fruit in each cabin, making a bon voyage fruit basket redundant. The bon voyage form should be removed by the travel counselor from the client's packet, even if a gift is not sent.
Each packet contains debarkation forms for each port of call. The passenger is to complete this form and give it to the purser before going ashore at a port of call. The debarkation forms help the government of the port monitor incoming visitors: their nationality, method of entry, and so on. For a reproduction of a debarkation form for the Bahamas see Figure 14-1.
When you receive the client's cruise packet, you should examine everything and make sure the information is accurate. A client sailing on June 9 with a cruise ticket for June 2 would not be amused! You must be prepared to explain each item in the packet to your client, should he ask.
Once the information has been verified, you are ready to contact your client and advise him of the packet's arrival. Most cruise passengers want to come in to your office to pick up the packet. In this situation, take a few minutes to review the contents of the packet with your client. It is much easier to explain the packet's contents in person. This time is also a good opportunity for you to remind the client of any documentation (e.g., passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate) required for the cruise.
Some clients request that you mail the packet to them. Do this with caution! The packet contains the cruise and airline tickets, which can be liquidated for cash. Most travel agencies recommend that documents be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested. In this way, should the packet become lost, it can be traced by the certification number. You also have a record of who received the packet as well as when it was received.
[FIGURE 14-1 OMITTED]
cruise documents A packet sent to the travel agency by the cruise line that contains the passenger's cruise ticket, baggage tags, itinerary, information on ports of call, cruise tips, and possibly airline tickets. bon voyage gift A gift given by a travel counselor or other person to a cruise passenger.
Most cruise vacations begin with the passenger flying into the port city. What happens next? First, the passenger must claim his luggage. Near the baggage claim area of the airport, there is usually a cruise line representative holding a placard announcing the cruise line. The passenger should take his luggage to the representative. There may be several buses or vans outside the airport, and the representative advises the passenger which one to board. Baggage is usually taken to the pier in luggage trucks and is then delivered to the passenger's cabin. How does the cruise line know which baggage goes with which cabin? Remember the baggage tags that were part of the passenger's cruise packet? These tags identify the ship, sailing date, passenger's name, and cabin number.
Once at the pier, the passenger checks in. This procedure involves showing the cruise ticket to the cruise line agent on duty. If the passenger was on a TBA status, the actual cabin number is given to the passenger at this time. Meal times and table assignments may also be made at this time. On some cruises, however, the meal time and table assignments are indicated on a card in the passenger's cabin.
The passenger is now ready to go onboard. In the movies, bon voyage parties are shown with friends and relatives celebrating the passenger's departure. In real life, most cruise lines do not allow non-passengers onboard the ship. This policy is a security measure necessitated by the fact that we live in times of terrorism.
On completion of a cruise, most lines have a standard debarkation procedure. Each passenger is assigned a debarkation time, usually indicated by colored tags. This is to avoid having all passengers attempting to leave the ship at once.
When the ship arrives at her home port the ship and crew members must clear customs (providing, of course, that the ship sailed into international waters). Customs officials board the ship for this procedure. Once the ship and crew have been cleared, it is the passengers' turn.
Some cities have customs offices at the port, others do not. In cities where there is a permanent customs office, passengers take their carry-on bags to the office for processing. In cities that do not have a port customs office, customs officials set up a temporary office, usually in the largest public room of the ship. Passengers and carry-on bags are processed in this temporary customs office.
U.S. citizens who have been out of the United States for more than 48 hours are allowed to return with duty-free (import tax-free) purchases totalling $400. When travel is to the U.S. Virgin Islands, $1,200 is allowed. Passengers to other Caribbean islands have a duty-free allowance of $600. If the passenger has been out of the United States less than 48 hours, the allowance is $100. A U.S. citizen is given this allowance once in a 30-day period.
Certain items are forbidden by the U.S. customs laws. Forbidden items are called contraband. As mentioned earlier, plant material is not allowed because insects and disease-causing bacteria and fungi may be present on organic products. For the same reason, fruits and vegetables are not allowed to be brought back into the United States.
On cruises throughout the Caribbean, passengers may purchase turtle shell products and Cuban cigars, both of which are contraband, but for different reasons. Turtle shell and all turtle products are forbidden because the turtle is on the endangered species list. Cuban cigars--and any other products of Cuba--cannot be brought into the United States because there are no diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.
Other examples of contraband include: animals (without special licenses), certain ceramic tableware manufactured abroad with a high lead content, drugs and drug paraphernalia, medicines not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), firearms and ammunition, food products, and any animal or animal product on the endangered species list.
A very helpful booklet you can provide your client with is "Know Before You Go," published by the U.S. Customs Office. This booklet is free by writing for Publication #512, Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Washington, DC 20041. "Know Before You Go" contains information on duty-free allowances, restricted items, the percent of duty on excess purchases, and other helpful hints.
Another method of accessing "Know Before You Go" is on the Internet. The Web site is <http://customs.treas.gov/travl/know.htm>. This site is arranged by listing the publication's table of contents, each item with its own link. Remember that any or all of this publication can be printed and given to the client.
customs A department of the U.S. Treasury, or other country's government, that is responsible for monitoring incoming passengers, baggage, cargo, and freight. duty-free Import tax free. contraband Any item that cannot be legally imported into a country. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) A federal agency that regulates food and drugs entering or leaving the United States.
Even though your client has returned home from his cruise, your job as travel counselor is not quite finished. A follow-up letter or phone call to your client is a very important step in the sales process and accomplishes two vital purposes.
A phone call or letter from you indicates to the client that you care about more than just making a sale. This step is essential in making and keeping the loyalty of the client. Most cruises are unqualified success stories, and it is very pleasant to hear the client rave about the product you supplied. The follow-up gives the travel counselor an opportunity to receive a pat on the back from the client, and everyone needs that occasionally.
However, if the client experienced problems, avoidable or not, the follow-up letter or phone call brings them to your attention. It is far better that the client relate a problem to you instead of to 10 friends and relatives.
The type of problem dictates your course of action. Don't drop the ball now! If the problem was a simple mishap that no one could control, sympathizing with the client may be all that is needed to soothe ruffled feathers. On the other hand, a problem of some severity that could have been avoided should be addressed. A letter to the cruise line, clearly identifying the problem and perhaps requesting compensation, may be in order.
Travel counselors who accurately represent the cruise, make the sale, and also demonstrate that they care about the outcome are the heroes of this industry. Clients are ready, willing, and able to recommend this type of counselor to family, friends, and business associates.
OTHER TYPES OF SEA TRAVEL
Although not in the same class as cruises, ferry crossings are made by hundreds of thousands of passengers every year. In many areas of the world, the only way to get from here to there is by ferry. As a travel counselor, why not include this service in your product line?
Ferries differ from cruises in a very important way: a cruise is usually sold as a vacation; a ferry is sold solely as a means of transportation. Throughout the world, ferries transport people, cargo, automobiles, and even livestock. Ferries come in all sizes and levels of luxury, from the size of a small cruise ship all the way down to a rowboat.
Most ferry service is short distance; however, some are overnight and passengers can purchase sleeping accommodations at an additional charge. A common ferry crossing for U.S. travelers is from England in the United Kingdom to the Continent and from the United Kingdom to Ireland.
Several ferry reference sources are available to travel counselors, but three seem to be used most often. Cook's Continental Timetable contains schedules and information for ferries operating in Europe and the western part of Russia. Cook's Overseas Timetable covers the rest of the world. The ABC Shipping Guide and the Official Airline Guide Worldwide Cruise & Shipline Guide both contain ferry schedules and ferry maps throughout the world.
Europeans especially are required to queue up (get in line) for everything, including ferry tickets. Because many ferries can be reserved and prepaid in the United States, it makes sense to offer this service to your client so she can avoid the lines. Each reference source includes a list of ferry companies that have offices in the United States, including phone numbers. Some ferry companies pay travel counselors a commission, others do not. When dealing with companies that do not pay a commission, your manager will advise you if the fare is to be marked up to the client.
Important Industry Web Sites
Ferry and Freighter Web Sites
Ferry Companies on the Web: http://www.ferrytravel.de
Freighter Travel: http://travltips.com/index.html
Freighter World: http://www.freighterworld.com
Internet Guide to Freighter Travel: http://www.maxho.com/~frman/mainmenu.html
Routes International (ferries): http://routesinternational.com/ships.htm
Worldwide Ferry Guide: http://www.ex.ac.uk/~mspunter/ifg/>
Travel by Freighter
Throughout the world, there are ships the primary function of which is to transport cargo from place to place. At times, these same ships may also decide to carry passengers during a specific voyage. To many passengers, freighter travel conjures images of a rusty tub of a vessel, unsavory characters as crew, and exotic ports of call. This fantasy contains only one valid concept: exotic ports of call. The freighters of today are generally modern ships with stabilizers, air conditioning, modest but adequate quarters, plentiful but rather plain cuisine, and interesting conversation with crew members.
Travel on a freighter can be most enjoyable as long as the passenger is prepared for the style of travel. The extravagant entertainment found on most cruise ships is not a part of life on a freighter. There probably won't be a swimming pool, nor is there abundant deck space on a freighter. There will be no scheduled activities during the cruise, and shore excursions must be planned by each passenger. A freighter does not offer shore excursions.
Heavily loaded cargo ships travel very low in the water, making for a smooth voyage. This, of course, helps eliminate motion sickness. It's a good thing, too, because freighters do not have a physician on board to call. Some crew members are usually trained in first aid, but that is the extent of the medical attention passengers can expect. For this reason, many freighter companies do not accept passengers over a certain age and may require a health certificate from accepted passengers.
Passengers must accept the fact that their presence on the vessel is second to that of the cargo. Therefore, ports of call are few and far between and are not scheduled for the passengers' benefit. Some freighter trips may have only three or four ports of call during a 60-day voyage. Although freighters operate on a set schedule, certain conditions and situations may drastically alter schedules and the timing of the ports of call.
Because freighters have so few passenger cabins, they are usually booked months--or in some cases years--in advance. Most freighter companies do not pay travel counselors a commission. Therefore, if you want to earn any profit for the service you are providing, you have to mark up the cost to your client.
Clearly, freighter travel is not for everyone, but the client with a good deal of time, the right attitude, and no set schedule may be the perfect candidate for a leisurely and romantic voyage on a freighter.
What Would You Do? Your clients are sailing in three weeks and the cruise documents have just arrived. Air transportation was booked through the cruise line and the tickets are in the document packet. The only problem is that the flights are departing from Kansas City instead of St. Louis (where your clients live). 1. Do you call your clients and explain that they must fly from Kansas City instead of St. Louis? 2. Do you book and sell separate air travel from St. Louis and try to get a refund on the other tickets? 3. Do you contact the cruise line and see if they can remedy the problem?
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|Title Annotation:||SECTION IV: Selling the Cruise Experience|
|Publication:||A Guide to Becoming a Travel Professional|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 13: Cruise pricing and selling.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 15: Practical advice for international travelers.|