Column: Portrait of a Young Traveler

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC Vice president–Content/editorial director
Ruthanne Terrero, vice president content / editorial director

Flying back from Istanbul the other day, I was seated next to a guy in his mid-30s I’d say. He slept for most of the 11-hour flight, but as we were landing he started chatting. Turned out he’d been on a cruise that disembarked in Istanbul, on one of the largest ships that had been following my luxury Windstar Star Breeze yacht around Greece and Turkey all week.

I tried not to show I was quizzing him, but I found out the following facts. This was his second cruise this year. He’d been on one in February but slept through the first half of it so he didn’t remember much. I didn’t ask.

As for this most recent itinerary, he complained about schlepping his luggage from the port of Rome (Civitavecchia) to get to public transportation but then admitted he had the choice of taking the cruise line’s transfer for $80, but found that to be a ridiculously overpriced option. In Rome, he took a half-day tour of the Coliseum that he’d booked online through Viator; he loved the guide, the small size of the group and that he got “priority access” to the ground floor, where the gladiators actually did their thing. I looked online and estimate that that tour cost him about $93.50.

In Athens, he said, it had been tough to find a bar that took credit cards, but other than that didn’t see any signs of the financial issues the city has been having. While there, he debated whether to spend 16 euros on a drink at a bar when he could pay 7.50 euros for the same drink on his ship, but then shrugged and said he’d paid the higher price to get the experience. In Istanbul, he’d forgone the ship’s tour and taken a city tour bus on his own that brought him to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. I figure that cost him $34. He also took public transportation in Istanbul and was exhilarated when he spoke of getting help from a group of college students who guided him to a bus stop when the train he was on abruptly stopped running and all riders had to disembark.

Bottom line? This traveler appeared to be fiercely independent and adamant about exploring local hotspots on his own. Even though he clearly had the means to travel, he was unwilling to pay what he perceived as stepped-up fees for services he could access on his own. He was, however, extremely willing to pay what he considers “extra” for opportunities that provided him with what he viewed as an enhanced experience. And although completely unwilling to shuffle along in large groups with his fellow shipmates, he clearly saw the value and convenience of cruising from one exotic port to another at the height of the summer season.

And so you have a potential client who likes a turnkey product (the cruise) in a hot destination, who is willing to pay for those services he values. Imagine the world you could open up to him by providing him with an even more in-depth experience on land, giving him the chance to get up really close with locals he can relate to. Just remember to set him free at certain times so he retains that sense of independence and gets that buzz when he gets a little lost in the crowd, but then finds himself again. That’s traveling on the edge.