Not sure which ship or itin­er­ary is for you? Ask the ex­perts

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM - MAL CHENU

So you’ve de­cided to take a cruise. Good for you. You’ll have a blast. So now what? What do you want from your cruise? Fine win­ing and din­ing? Top-drawer en­ter­tain­ment? Re­lax­ing spa treat­ments at sea? Ex­otic ports-of-call?

And how much are you pre­pared to spend? Where do you want to go?

What do you want to see and do? Big ship? Lit­tle ship? River cruise?

You can see how tricky it gets when you start drilling down on the specifics. That’s why God in­vented cruise agents.

Th­ese in­trepid souls have done the hard yards.

They’ve been on dozens of cruises. They’ve sam­pled the fare, tried the wa­ter­slides and ex­pe­ri­enced all of the shows.

They’ve walked the walls of Dubrovnik, gone swim­ming with the tur­tles in New Cale­do­nia and they’ve pho­tographed blue-footed boo­bies in the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands. Well, some­one had to do it. You can just be jealous of them like their friends must be or you can tap into their ex­per­tise.

Ac­cord­ing to Mar­ion Bun­nik, prod­uct di­rec­tor and joint owner of cruise and tour spe­cial­ist Bun­nik Tours, cruise agents should get to know their clients be­fore mak­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion.

“I would never just reach for a brochure,” she says.

“You don’t want an or­der taker, you want an ex­pert con­sul­tant who will do their best to meet your ex­pec­ta­tions,” she says.

“Of course we need to know who is go­ing, how many, whether it is a fam­ily cruise – that sort of thing.

“But most im­por­tantly, we need to know your in­ter­ests.

“What do you like to do, where do you want to go, what ex­cites you.”

Jean Sum­mers, di­rec­tor of sales at Clean Cruis­ing agrees.

“My big ques­tion is al­ways, Why are you cruis­ing?

“I want to know what sort of ho­tels and service lev­els you are used to,” says Sum­mers.

“I ask about pre­vi­ous hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ences, both good and bad.

“But ev­ery­thing comes back to the ‘Why?’ Is there a sig­nif­i­cant birth­day, do you want time in the sun, lots of ship time?

“What do you want to do on shore?”

Don’t be afraid to over­reach. You never know what the cruise agent might be able to do.

Part of their job is to man­age

ex­pec­ta­tions. Bun­nik says a good cruise agent will think out­side the square – or ship – and cre­ate a ful­some hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence. She says it is not un­usual for clients to end up book­ing a trip far dif­fer­ent to what they orig­i­nally had in mind.

“We do a lot of pre- and post-cruise tour­ing,” she says.

“For ex­am­ple, we can com­bine Croa­tia and the Baltic, the Arc­tic and Nor­way or Cen­tral and South Amer­ica. If some­one wants the best of South Amer­ica, we might ar­range is­land hop­ping in the Gala­pa­gos and a tour of Peru be­fore a cruise from San­ti­ago in Chile to Buenos Aires and Rio and a tour of Iguazu Falls.”

OK, so what if I said I like say, cy­cling, Asian food and arche­ol­ogy?

“Oh that’s no prob­lem,” Bun­nik says. “Viet­nam is beau­ti­ful for the cy­cling.

“You could tour Angkor Wat in Cam­bo­dia and cruise around South-East Asia.

“And maybe add a river cruise on the Mekong and see Laos as well.” So what about the cruise line? How do cruise agents match a client with a ship?

“Peo­ple may have a par­tic­u­lar cruise line or ship in mind,” says Bun­nik. “But if they are open to al­ter­na­tives, the choice of ship may de­pend on where they want to go and what they want on board.

“For ex­am­ple, Royal Caribbean is a good choice if you have chil­dren while cou­ples might pre­fer Hol­land Amer­ica Line, or Celebrity or Silversea Cruises. “It of­ten comes down to their bud­get as some lines are more ex­pen­sive than oth­ers.”

Sum­mers also be­lieves the choice of ship is crit­i­cal.

And it might not be on the high seas at all.

While larger cruise ships will suit those who want a big­ger, mul­ti­di­men­sional ex­pe­ri­ence with plenty to do, river cruises pro­vide a more in­ti­mate en­counter.

River cruises typ­i­cally host about 120-160 guests and don’t have the “theme park” at­trac­tions that lure fam­ily groups.

“River cruises tend to overnight more of­ten in port and this might suit peo­ple who want to dine out or ex­pe­ri­ence the night-life shore-side,” Sum­mers says. “A new Uni­world river cruise prod­uct called U is aimed at an up to 45-year-old mar­ket with no chil­dren.

“Th­ese ships will typ­i­cally leave port at two or three in the morn­ing so you can have a fun night in town, cruise through the night and ar­rive in the next port at around 10 the next morn­ing.

“We’re also very con­fi­dent putting peo­ple on APT cruises. They de­liver on prom­ises and we know our clients are go­ing to have a fan­tas­tic time.”

Sum­mers also stresses the im­por­tance of tak­ing out travel in­sur­ance and says she has seen tragic con­se­quences be­cause of in­ad­e­quate cover.

“Travel in­sur­ance should be at the very top of peo­ple’s check­list and or­gan­ised be­fore they pay for any­thing else,” she says.

“Re­search is cru­cial – you ab­so­lutely must know what you are cov­ered for.

“Cruise agents should know which poli­cies are suit­able.”


Agents can find the best cruise to suit your needs whether ad­ven­tur­ous or scenic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.