Travel advisors applaud the great cruise giveaway

ABOARD THE CELEBRITY APEX — It may not be unique — but it sure is smart. 

Following the pattern of the year at industry conferences, both Holland America Line and Carnival awarded free cruises to attendees at the DreamVacations/CruiseOne/Cruises Inc. conference onboard the Celebrity Apex on Sunday. 

Then Celebrity offered up 1,000 free staterooms to travel advisors enrolled in CLIA certification who make a Celebrity booking, following the lead of Royal Caribbean, which began the trend by offering free cruises to more than 4,500 travel advisors who joined or renewed with ASTA. 

And Viking director of national accounts Matthew Zion offered up the seven remaining staterooms on its Christmas Markets cruise next month, plus one free cruise to any local arts-based organization.

  • Related: MSC invites military veterans at CruiseWorld to ship inaugural

There are lots of opportunities for travel advisors to sail and to tell the stories and post the photos that sell cruises.

“We need everyone to get the story out that this is the safest place on earth, to give people the confidence to go,” Celebrity senior vice president of sales and trade support Dondra Ritzenthaler said at a media lunch in the French-themed Le Grand Bistro. “We need you to explain how safe it is but also to not lose sight of the fact that it’s still an amazing vacation.”

Holland America Line vice president of North America sales Michelle Sutter said she sailed on the Rotterdam with 56 agents, many of whom said they had never sailed HAL before.

“This is a unique period of time when we have the inventory. It’s a great opportunity to allow travel advisors to share the experience of the HAL of today,” she told Travel Weekly. 

And while some travel advisors said they just wish they had the time to take advantage of all of them, most were planning to at least try one or two.

“I’m really excited,” said CruiseOne vacation specialist Connie Ng. “Every year they give a couple of free cruises, but they’ve never given one to everyone.” 

And while she is too busy with her own business to take them all, she surely will try out one or two ships she has not sailed before. 

Related: Royal Caribbean awards free cruise to every advisor at Travel Leaders conference

New franchisee David Johnson, owner of Travel Yetis by Dream Vacations, already has taken eight cruises in an attempt to learn the product that now is his business. And he relishes the opportunity to try a couple more.

“From a business standpoint, it seems really smart on the part of the cruise lines,” he said. “Let’s get the trade on the ships and show them how amazing these ships are. It’s how we learn the product. It allows me to say to my clients, ‘I was just on that ship and it was brilliant.'”

And there’s nothing quite like the human touch of interacting with the staff to inspire you, Johnson added. 

“Last night at dinner, our waiter told us about his experience when the ships stopped sailing and they were stuck onboard. I can tell that story to my customers to show that not only is the service outstanding, but the staff is so grateful to be back, to be around other people, to have you onboard — and it just shows.”

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