The Art of Cruise Upselling: Top Tips From Avoya Travel's Tammie Richie

Royal Loft Suite Royal Caribbean International Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Editorial Use Only
Agents can increase guest satisfaction and the vacation experience by explaining the benefits and perks of a pampering suite. Here a butler takes the guests' bags up to the bedroom loft in an Oasis-class vessel's Royal Loft Suite.

Guests who book a cruise suite, rather than an inside, oceanview or balcony stateroom may have higher guest satisfaction for their cruise vacation. After all, they'll enjoy more space, more luxurious "digs" and, above all, exclusive amenities and perks other guests don't have.

Agents too can benefit as guests return highly satisfied. Once they've sailed in a cruise suite, they'll likely want to book one the next cruise. Plus, the agent reaps the added commission benefit. 

Mastering the Art 

But when it comes to "the art of upselling," Tammie Richie, senior director of Avoya Mastermind, Avoya Travel, says it's still important to truly take into consideration the needs versus the desires of a client. As with any type of sale, upselling to a pampering suite is "something you do with someone, not to someone." 

"While there are not too many people who would not love to experience a suite, there are those that, even when presented with an offer they should not refuse, find that they must," says Tammie. "Therein lies the art."

So where do agents start? First, develop a trusting relationship with the client. Richie advocates spending the time needed to understand their needs, desires and motivations. Then clients will know that their agent has their best interests at heart.

Most important? "Never devalue the clients' first room selection," says Richie. "If a guest has booked the lowest category, avoid any temptation to point out that it isn’t much to get excited about."

Rather, she says agents should present an upgrade as an opportunity. "Everyone wants to feel special once in awhile and, if an upgrade is presented as an opportunity to experience something few others have, you should find that many guests respond," Richie explains. 

Look for the motivating factor or opportunity. Will this cruise be the client's first? Will the client celebrate a special birthday or 50th anniversary onboard? 

Ask if they've dreamed about experiencing a suite, having a butler, private hot tub on their balcony, or exclusive dining?

Richie says it's up to the agent to know the benefits of the suite and ask effective qualifying questions to help the guest uncover the need/desire. That's paramount. 

Presenting the Upgrade

Once the client's needs and desires have been uncovered, here are some tips Richie suggests for presenting the upgrade option:

First, demonstrate the value received. Experiencing a suite is often a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Definitely, paint the picture to help sell the experience. Don't just roll out a laundry list of what's included. Use visual language, such as: 

  • "Can you imagine how surprised your wife will be when she opens the door and sees her private suite."
  • “Imagine the romantic dinners you could enjoy on your private balcony as you listen to the sound of the ocean drifting by”
  • “As a suite guest, you will [often] have unlimited access to specialty dining and an exclusive pool area”
  • “Your butler will make sure your experience is something memories are made of."

Break Down into a Daily Cost

Look at the difference between a balcony stateroom, for example, and a suite. Break that down to a daily cost -- such as $50 or $100 more a day, for example.  

Whatever the difference, the daily cost break-down sounds like a much better and doable situation than by showing the price differential only for the full week. 

Dealing With Price Sensitivities 

If the client is price sensitive and balks -- even after you've made your best artistic flare of painting a gorgeous picture of how great the suite experience is -- what's next?  

It's simple, says Richie: "Allow them to book the category with which they are comfortable. They need to know and feel you have their best interest at heart."

Then wait a couple of days and call them back with language like this: "I’ve got great news for you and boy is your spouse going to think you’re a hero.” Tell them that for so many dollars more, you still are able to move them into that suite.

If originally you booked the balcony stateroom at $3,200, and the suite was $4,200, explain that for only so much more per day for the cruise, you can upgrade them to the fabulous suite discussed. 

They may have initially said "no" because they just weren't sure. It was uncharted territory for their comfort zone. But maybe now they've thought about it and actually have had qualms about not taking the leap.

Remember too that "in their mind, the $3,200 is already gone," says Richie, adding that: "All they hear is 'For $1,000 we can have a suite…woohoo." So they may tell you to book it, given the second opportunity to do so. 

If you do take this approach, though, "it is important to be very aware of your vendor’s change policies" before talking to the client, stresses Richie.

She also advocates creating urgency by setting an expiration time: “I can get this for you however, the offer expires at 5 p.m. EST today or until inventory is gone.”

Think Upgrade, Not Refund

Sometimes, the price the client paid for their initial cruise drops. Instead of seeking a refund for the difference, another option is to request an upgrade. That way the client can get something more than they were anticipating.

It gets them into a suite and once they savor the perks and pampering, they may never return for anything but a suite booking. 

Upselling is an art. "In summary, get to know your client, understand their buying style, discover what is important to them," says Richie. "Know what type of experience they want to have, what have they always dreamed of when it comes to a cruise experience and let them know that you can make it happen." 

Remember to sell the experience and listen to what is being said and what isn’t. "More often than not, you won’t need to sell them on the upgraded suite," says Richie. "You will simply need to 'listen them into buying.'”

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