Travel Agents & Caribbean Cruises
Specializing in Caribbean Cruises
Many travel agents choose to focus on cruises to the Caribbean. It remains one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and for many travelers from North America it is an easy, yet exotic vacation. Cruise prices continue to drop, so the industry is opening up to vacationers that otherwise haven't been able to visit the area. Because they are all-inclusive, Caribbean cruises are one of the most affordable ways to visit the region. For those travelers who are looking for a little more luxury, there are many options available as well.
If you choose to specialize in Caribbean cruises, its important that you understand the excursions available to your clients. Snorkeling is a popular excursion, but the quality of the reef and the types of organisms seen throughout the region can be variable. Make sure you understand which ports of call offer the best snorkeling or diving, and which are better destinations for cultural and beach experiences. Directing your clients toward the best and most appropriate excursions will help them feel informed and confident in your knowledge and advice. This will also keep them coming back to you again and again.
The Eastern Caribbean includes popular islands such as the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Maarten among others. The islands are generally closer together than they are in the Western Caribbean, so there are less "at sea" days during a cruise. There are also many great places for shopping or beach vacations around these islands. The islands are smaller in size and there are plenty of shore excursions that allow visitors to enjoy both beach and water oriented activities. If your clients are interested in scuba diving or snorkeling, then these are some of the best islands to visit. They also offer some of the most beautiful beaches, with stunning white sand and turquoise blue waters. Most cruises to this area leave from Florida and trips are usually about a week in length.
Western Caribbean destinations include ports in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Key West, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica or Belize among others. Because these destinations are more spread out, cruises usually have more days at sea. This allows cruisers some leisurely time to relax on the boat and take advantage of the activities available to them. The islands are larger or on mainlands in Belize or Costa Rica. This means that a lot of the excursions are land or culturally oriented. Jamaica is a beautiful mountainous destination that is fun to explore as well. Travelers who are interested in exploring Mayan Ruins, visiting rainforests, or experience unique cultures will be well rewarded in these areas.
There are also many water oriented excursions available as well. Grand Cayman is famous for its "stingray city." Snorkeling is available at most ports of call and scuba diving is a popular option for those who are certified. Most of these cruises leave from either Florida, Texas, or Louisiana.
Types of Cruise Companies
In addition to the different types of geography within the Caribbean, there are also many different types of cruise companies that operate throughout the region. Most companies take advantage of the close proximity to many major U.S. cities and offer affordably priced cruises that appeal to the masses. In particular, Carnival has taken over the niche market for short, budget cruises in the area. These cruises often appeal to a younger crowd who are interested in socializing and having a good time. Many of the vacationers are from towns within driving distance of the departure city, and only traveling a few hours to reach the port. There are exceptions to this rule though. Disney is probably the most famous company for family oriented cruises. They offer many different activities for children and the childcare facilities are among the best in the industry. If your client is looking for a family vacation and is traveling with small children, then Disney is the most obvious choice. If your client is headed on a romantic honeymoon, or simply wants to get away on a romantic vacation, then Princess, Norwegian or Celebrity are among the best options available. These companies attempt to maintain a high standard and pay close attention to the details that make a vacation both enjoyable and personalized.
As a travel agent, you must first ask the right questions of your client. Find out what they hope to get out of their vacation. Discuss their interests and their priorities and from there you can personalize a trip that perfectly meets their needs.
Travel Agent Training Opportunities
As a travel agent it is important to stay up to date on the technology, discounts, and programs available for travelers. Cruise lines offer some of the most extensive training and certification programs for agents. Because the Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, as a travel agent you should make a point of being informed of the latest policies. The best way to stay ahead of the learning curve is to take advantage of any training programs available, go to conferences that are relevant to your areas of expertise, and network with other agents in your area.
Clients will also ask if you have first hand experience with a cruise line or destination. It's important that you visit as many places, and experience as many ships as possible. This is also a fun part of being a travel agent, so you should take full advantage of any discount opportunities made available to you. Familiarization trips, or FAM Trips, are the most popular way for agents to experience a company at a reduced rate. Travel agents may be invited for an inspection visit, during which they can see the cabins, dining areas, and other amenities available to guests. Also, seminars at sea are a fun way to have a cruising experience, and combine it with learning opportunities. Learning sessions are spread throughout the trip, but agents also have free time available so they can experience the ship as their clients would.