Tapping into Selling Luxury Travel Cruising

By Cindy Bertram

Today people have diverse “Bucket Lists.” Whether it’s achieving a certain lifestyle, traveling, and going to specific spots and destinations around the world, “Bucket Lists” are things people want to do before they die — things very special to them. Ask someone, “What’s on your bucket list?” and most of the time traveling to a certain destination is on the list. Peoples’ “Bucket Lists” and the experiential side of traveling correlate.  It also ties in well with luxury travel cruising, which continues to grow. What are good ways to tap into selling luxury travel cruising today? 

Keeping up on Trends in Luxury Cruising

As luxury cruising continues to grow and expand, we’re also seeing new trends. One is a new part of luxury cruise programs, including “personal healing” — rejuvenation. Guests like to recharge themselves both mentally as well as physically, and this is where luxury cruise lines have created special programs. It’s also about the ultimate in special pampering — specialty spas and tranquil enclaves. Immersive experiences for guests to have while off the ship are another part of luxury cruising.

Transitioning into luxury cruising

One of the very first clients I was able to transition into sailing on a luxury cruise line came up rather unexpectedly.  This couple was well travelled, owned a successful business, and were avid cruisers. Then the cruise industry began to expand, with cruise lines building larger ships. My clients were a bit apprehensive, because the cruise line they enjoyed sailing on the most began building larger ships. They were worried the personal touches and ambience they enjoyed might disappear. 

We sat down to talk, covering more of what they were seeking, from destinations and itineraries to the size of the ship.  I was able to find a terrific itinerary on a luxury cruise line that had the size of the ship they wanted to sail on. I booked this cruise for them and when they returned, they were quite ecstatic about their wonderful experience. From that point on, they only sailed on that luxury cruise line. 

Insights — Chris Austin, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Sales, Seabourn

As Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Sales at Seabourn, Chris Austin, knows the luxury cruise market well. His insights on that part of the industry, along with suggestions for travel agents to tap into that area, and grow it, by gaining and building new clients are key things we covered in our recent discussion.

Expansion of Luxury Cruising and “Ultra-Luxury”

Chris and I had a chance to talk about the expansion of luxury cruising, along with “Ultra-Luxury,” something Seabourn is well known for. I asked Chris, “What is the best way to describe “Ultra-Luxury” and what you provide guests who sail on Seabourn?”

First Chris explained, “The luxury travel market has several key pillars that are timeless and differentiates the market from other luxury products. Today, ultra-luxury is all about acquiring unique, bespoke, curated experiences that improve quality of life — the experience of beauty, knowledge, and humanity at their deepest and most inspiring across our extraordinary world. Foundationally, some things are constant.”

Then he mentioned that today’s luxury client continues to expect the finest in service, quality of accommodations, food and beverage. Chris brought up three key areas that Seabourn offers and focuses on for their guests — authentic experiences, traveling to unique destinations, and personalized service. His key points:

Authentic experiences. We are seeing more luxury travelers placing a greater emphasis on the level of authentic experience they can have at destinations around the world. At Seabourn, we have developed a number of programs, such as Ventures by Seabourn, Seabourn Journeys (pre- and post-cruise experiential land extensions), and our UNESCO partnership, that are all designed to help fulfill some of these desires to be immersed in the world like never before. 

Traveling to unique destinations. The destination itself has never been more important to today’s traveler, and Seabourn delivers destinations and experiences better than anyone else. For example, Seabourn’s voyages are carefully curated to feature a proper mix of smaller hidden gems and well-known destinations.

Personalized service. This is the heart of ultra-luxury travel because receiving personalized service can turn a great travel experience into an amazing one.  At Seabourn, our exceptional service is renowned. Many of our guests would say that our onboard staff is where we shine the brightest. Our team creates what we call “Seabourn Moments,” delivering attentive personalized service and anticipating our guests’ needs before they even ask. 

Wellness and Rejuvenation — Hot Interest Areas for Luxury Travelers

Chris and I then talked more about hot trends when it comes to luxury travelers, what he’s seeing, along with insights and what Seabourn provides onboard. 

Chris explained, “Wellness is one of the hottest interest areas for luxury travelers right now. Wellness is more than just a dedicated space with modern equipment, and it’s more than just a personal trainer on staff. The future of wellness is being reimagined - becoming broader to touch on mind as well as body. I believe part of the reason is the overarching shift from luxury goods to authentic experiences that are truly enriching, helping us mentally and physically rejuvenate ourselves.”

We then talked a bit more about the holistic wellness program Seabourn has, created by Dr. Andrew Weil.  

Chris provided more details, and said, “The launch of the Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil program deepens the already wellness-focused Seabourn spa program that offers a wide range of body massages, facials, fitness and beauty treatments. Many of our guests take an interest in living a healthy lifestyle and they would like to continue that focus while they travel. Partnering with Dr. Weil became natural for us because he is such a renowned expert in the field of integrative medicine allowing us to create a first-of-its-kind wellness experience at sea that meets these preferences for today’s traveler.  This partnership gives us an opportunity to offer programs that expand the variety of options that allows a traveler to relax, rejuvenate and stay healthy while onboard a Seabourn ship. This program is currently available on all of our ships and will also be on the new Seabourn Ovation when the ship is launched.”

Suggestions on how to move into selling luxury cruises

For travel agents who might not have sold many luxury cruises, I asked Chris what tips and suggestions he would have for agents who want to expand their sales in this particular market. 

Chris said, “Selling ultra-luxury cruises is all about service and making yourself an expert. Selling luxury and selling long haul is a sweet spot for all travel professionals regardless of size. I would also add that all travel professionals have the opportunity to sell luxury even if they do not have a strong affluent client base. How? By tapping into the aspirational travel market and proposing that the celebration of life events, such as key birthdays and anniversaries, are celebrated by taking a vacation, such as on an ultra-luxury cruise on Seabourn. Travel professionals should become part of their client’s journey when they are booking a holiday. Once they are at that stage, they will know when they want to book, where they want to go – they will be part of their calendar.” 


Then Chris covered another important area about focusing. He explained, “In addition, travel professionals should focus on one or two brands and become experts on those brands by embracing the training resources that are available. Understanding the unique features of a brand and sharing with their clients is key.  For example, at Seabourn we offer an incredibly rich onboard adventures program called Ventures by Seabourn whereby we augment our onboard staff with a veteran expedition team of naturalists, scientists, photographers, and other experts to enhance and broaden guest destination experiences. And of course, with my luxury hospitality background, I would also recommend travel professionals focus on adding pre and post land experiences in the finest hotels and resorts around the world to again increase their client experience and their own profits.”

Chris then said, “Here are some other suggestions for travel professionals to succeed in the luxury cruise market, and in particular, to boost their sales with Seabourn.” 

We have developed an expert series of “Why Seabourn” assets for our travel professional partners that focus on various regions around the world and why travelers should visit those destinations on a Seabourn cruise. Examples include: Why Seabourn Alaska, Why Seabourn Caribbean. I suggest travel professionals reach out to clients and use the reasons listed in each asset. They can cut and paste them into an email, identify 10 potential clients and then write to them saying, “I’ve done my research and I know you would love the experience of taking a vacation in Alaska. Here are the reasons why.” 

A luxury client wants an expert who is flexible and knows how to get those business-class flights and change their arrangements if they need to.

Successful agents understand the value of all-inclusive cruises versus other more costly options (examples —  5 star hotels, land options)

Know your client — match the right person to the right product 

Work consistently with their business development managers, who have a wealth of information and tools and trainings that will help to develop their sales.

Reach out to a small number of potential and past clients and send them a small gift that gives a taste of the Seabourn experience. This is a great example of creating a unique way of contacting the guest, often tying it to a special occasion or event.

Take a look at your own clientele and look for interests that might drive them to Seabourn. Examples include cross promotion with a spa, art event, wine tasting, etc. 

“For Seabourn,” Chris explained, “our focus is finding those channels where the potential luxury traveler resides. Today, especially for the ultra-luxury segment, there is still great value in face-to-face interaction, both in terms of generating interest in our brand, all the way through the transaction and even into post-cruise follow-up. The personal touch is key for our agent-guest interactions.”

Questions to ask 

I then asked Chris what might be a few good questions to ask a potential client to see if they fit luxury cruising.  Chris said, “Get to know what your clients like, what turns them on, what type of product they generally choose. Explore the type of holiday a non-cruiser normally takes and how their requirements can be matched to a luxury cruise. Those who rent large villas — maybe with staff, or those who consistently book up-scale hotels/resorts (and these are usually not all-inclusive) or those who just generally value exclusivity, calm, quality and like-minded people around them.”  

Chris expanded, saying, “Understanding the needs of the traveler, from their interests, what destinations they want to visit, what is their ideal vacation, as well as realizing one person’s luxury is not necessarily another’s, what their personal tastes are, along with personalization, and customized services are other key things.”

Where to find potential luxury clients

One of the challenges sometimes travel agents deal with is expanding their client base. And in the case of luxury, I asked Chris, “Where can travel agents find potential luxury clients?”

Chris mentioned, “There are many opportunities for travel professionals to find potential luxury cruise clients, from the first-time cruiser who normally go on land vacations to experienced cruisers who have sailed only on premium cruise lines. The guest demographic on luxury can be varied – retired, singles, busy professionals, and multi-generational groups (although children’s facilities can be more limited – or even-non-existent). As stated before, get to know your clients’ interests and what type of vacation they generally take. Explore the type of holiday a non-cruiser normally takes and how their requirements can be matched to a luxury cruise. Identify other luxury consumer brands or products and establish mutually beneficial relationships.”

Then he said, “Focus on your ‘luxury land lover’ clients who have taken a resort vacation in the past few years. Identify why they chose the resort — was it the star rating, the celebrity chef, the spa, the beach, etc. Once you know, you can present their next vacation on Seabourn aligning to the driver they selected the resort by. If it is spa, speak about how you have identified a vacation that not only has a world renowned spa but a Spa & Wellness Program curated by Dr. Andrew Weil.” He also mentioned that it’s important to get the conversation started and paint the picture — just don’t say “I’m going to book you on a cruise.”

Chris’ thoughts about millennials

In our discussion I mentioned that part of the growing luxury and ultra-luxury cruising market is millennials and Chris provided insights. He said, “We are seeing more millionaire millennials than ever before. But I want to stress that ultra-luxury travel isn’t defined by age; it’s a lifestyle. Luxury is timeless. As stated previously, I recommend identifying and aligning with other luxury consumer brands to reach a new audience. If you want to tap more into the millennial set, reach out to a luxury brand that has demographic that fits this set. And just as you would do with any other luxury client, get to know them better, find out what their interests are and curate a vacation experience that meets their needs, interests and preferences.”

Some takeaways

The insights Chris Austin shares along with ways to grow the luxury cruising part of your business really get back into key things — asking questions, getting a pulse on peoples’ interests, their wants and desires, along with how luxury varies depending on the person. Our expertise creating the best travel cruising experience that is extraordinary, not ordinary ties in perfectly when selling luxury.