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Best Habits for Success

October 15, 2012 By: Susan Young Travel Agent


Oceania Cruises Owners Suite
At times, you might get a steal for clients—such as upgrading from an Oceania Cruises Penthouse Suite to an Owners Suite (pictured), for example—when a passenger in the higher category cancels.


Agents likely have heard of the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, so we thought it would be fun to look at what a trio of agency personnel say are the top attributes that spur them to success in the workplace. 

Top Tips From a Trio 

Christy Jourdan, travel advisor, Ships and Trips Travel, Sacramento, CA, says one of her most effective habits for success day by day is to “study—take advantage of all the educational opportunities offered by cruise lines.” 

Second, she believes it’s critically important for agents to listen every day to keep on top of client desires: “Listen to what [your] clients are asking for and for what they aren’t saying. Matching clients with the right product is key.”

And third, Jourdan always “hands out business cards two or three at a time.” Each day she also asks for referrals and sends out handwritten “thank you” cards to those valued clients that do make referrals.


Christy Jourdan
Christy Jourdan stresses the need to study and take advantage of all the educational opportunities offered by cruise lines.


Ralph Iantosca, owner and founder of GoGirl.Travel, says changing conditions in the cruise-selling marketplace have necessitated his agency’s luxury focus. “With the recent drop in fares, and considering how much time you spend with that client, it doesn’t make financial sense to sell anything except the luxury cruises,” Iantosca stresses. Each day he works to upgrade clients from one segment to another. 

First, “I dive into the destinations and the full itinerary of the voyage with clients to see what special, and what new and unique experiences I can help them discover,” Iantosca says. He asks clients about their destination/bucket list of what places they really want to visit. 

Learn More to Earn More

Among the top tips gleaned from talking with these experts is to “take advantage of all the educational opportunities offered by cruise lines.” Toward that end, a number of lines offer specialist courses at Travel Agent University. In addition to gaining in-depth sales knowledge on these cruise products, you will be eligible for added benefits, such as bonus commissions, CLIA credits toward ACC and MCC accreditation, and line-branded gift items, as well as a downloadable diploma you can display to show clients your specialist status.

Crystal Cruises has followed up its successful “A Perfect Choice” program with two specialized programs, “Europe 2013,” filled with product information and selling tips for its Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Canary Islands and trans-Atlantic voyages, and “Crystal Cruises Goes All Inclusive,” a short course designed to further enhance your knowledge and help you sell Crystal Cruises.

The “Regent Seven Seas Cruises University” course covers onboard and destination experiences, luxury selling tips and more, while the line’s “Premium Cruise Line Comparison Module” includes how to upgrade clients from a premium to a luxury cruise and other sales advice.

The “Oceania Cruises Expert” course focuses on the line’s unique “upper premium” niche, its fleet of mid-size ships and the destinations they visit, plus a lesson on how to take advantages of Oceania’s tools for agents.

“Ships n’Shores-New Wave Cruising Downunder” focuses on One Unpack Experiences and other cruise-related adventures for Australia- and New Zealand-bound clients.

And launching this fall will be a program dedicated to selling river cruises in general as well as an “AmaWaterways Specialist” course.

-David K. Moseder


Second, he focuses on selling suites and luxury. Iantosca says right now many cruise lines have advantageous pricing on the big suites. And given that many clients would love to upgrade, that presents trade opportunity. For example, “when a client on Oceania is in the penthouse level, and a passenger in a higher category decides to cancel, you can get a steal for them when the line wants to sell the last-minute larger suite,” Iantosca notes. 

He says that a high-end suite usually doesn’t go back on the market at full fare and “those in the penthouse level are always offered the deal first—so ask your customers if they are interested should an opportunity like that becomes available.” Iantosca says cruise lines created these high-end accommodations for a reason—demand—and if he doesn’t book those, then someone else will. Be proactive.

Finally, Iantosca says he keeps his client list always up-to-date so he always has easy access to get in touch with clients when someone hasn’t yet booked: “So many luxury cruise lines offer private sales or campaigns that it’s best to train your customers that you, the agent, will advise the right time to place the deposit if they are wanting extra value and are flexible.” 

Mike Schad, director of marketing for Go Travel, a national travel agency in Longwood, FL, with clients throughout the U.S., says his firm’s agents focus on these habits to improve effectiveness and revenue flow.

Ralph Iantosca
Ralph Iantosca works with clients to see “what new and unique experiences I can help them discover.”


First, “we call past clients on a daily basis,” he says, noting that “it’s essential to keep yourself relevant and in the customers’ eyes.” In addition, Schad says agents must take the time to listen to what customers want in a vacation. Listening is crucial. “We don’t believe in being order takers,” he says. 

And lastly, “we believe in doing the right thing for the customers, no matter what the situation,” Schad stresses. 

Fostering Great Habits 

What do you or your agents do on a daily basis to be highly effective as cruise sellers? Here are some other ideas suggested to us by agents and agency owners. 

Mike Schad
Mike Schad says agents must take the time to listen to what customers want in a vacation. “We don’t believe in being order takers,” he adds.

Start Early: Begin your workday a bit early every day, before the doors open or the phones start ringing. Clean out your inbox. Respond promptly to customers who have e-mailed or sent social messages overnight. Update your database segment list. Review your business plan and adapt as needed. Write down new marketing ideas. Look for weekly training opportunities. Be ready to hit the ground running with a proactive attitude by the time the business opens. 

Write Down a Must-Do List: If you are juggling a million projects, which most agents are, write down the things you MUST do today and strive to do most of them in the morning when you’re fresh. Crossing off action items provides a sense of accomplishment and motivation to do the next.

Create Social and Mainstream Media Buzz: Even if you’re only able to devote a half hour each morning or evening to social media, be consistent. Put out good advice, tips, and links to travel stories of interest. Ask reporters who use social media what they’re working on right now for print, online or social communications stories. Offer to become an expert source they can quote. Then, respond promptly to their requests for comments on issues. 

Call 10 before 10 a.m.: Make 10 calls before 10 a.m. Say hello to customers. Wish them a happy birthday or anniversary. Thank customers for their business. Talk to clients about specials. Ask them about vacation plans. Touch base and suggest a possible family reunion cruise. Listen to what’s going on in their world. Ask them how they liked the trip that they just returned from. Invite them to an agency event or coffee at a local restaurant. Ask for a referral. 

Network With Other Area Businesses: Call an organization or another leisure business in your area and ask them to brainstorm on a joint promotional project. Explore how you can help each other. Call two or three business contacts you just met this past week and offer to help with their personal or business travel needs. Talk to an agency partner in another locale about creative ideas to increase revenue. Pick up the phone and make that “personal touch” phone call. 

Ask for Help: Cruise lines pay business development managers to help travel agencies bring in more revenue to the line, so use those existing resources. When was the last time you picked up the phone, called your reps and just asked for new marketing ideas, sales tips or help with a problem, project or training? Now is the time.

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About the Author

Susan Young
A veteran of 100-plus cruises, Susan J. Young, is senior contributing editor for cruises – covering ocean, river and niche cruises for Travel Agent and

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By Susan Young | October 15, 2012
Revealing the top workplace attributes of effective cruise sellers.