With the advent of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, increased testing, and new health and safety measures, the tide has turned, and cruise ships are now considered a safe travel bubble as cruisers set sail again. With the CDC clearing cruise lines to sail from US waters, travel agents are seeing an uptick in cruise bookings. Cruise veterans and first-timers are looking to vacation again but want trips where they can closely manage the size and space of the vacation spot. As we see the rising travel demand and shifting travel preferences, agents are poised to be the best resource for travelers turning to cruises for a “COVID-safe” experience at sea.
Travel bubble at sea
As people navigate their first vacation since the pandemic, many are considering travel bubbles. Bubble travel has become a key trend for neighboring countries, hotels, and more remote islands, such as the Maldives, as a way to travel from Point A to Point B without a quarantine mandate or to vacation with a limited amount of people. Cruise ships fall into this category as they operate at lower capacity, incorporate mandatory health checks, and require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination and/or COVID-19 test to sail. As cruise lines around the world have already implemented public health mandates and now those ships sailing from US waters, they are essentially creating a safe bubble around the cruise experience.
Travelers are even going the extra mile to charter cruise ships for an extra tight “bubble”. With Amadeus Cruise Portal, travel agents can arrange a group or charter with the cruise lines directly and then book it using the Amadeus platform. For travelers who want to splurge on smaller river cruise vessels, agents can find and book the likes of Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, and Avalon Waterways in Amadeus Cruise Portal.
From booking to onboarding tech
Having access to robust content and a booking platform to search, book and manage reservations will play an increasing role in ensuring travel advisors are best equipped to help cruisers have their long-awaited cruise experience. For example, with Amadeus Cruise Portal, agents can compare up to six different cruise lines on one page and email them to customers.
With many travelers making up for 2020, agents may find their customers willing to upgrade their cabin. Amadeus Cruise Portal has an accessible upsell feature where agents can upgrade a cabin and also see the cost for the cabin or per person, per night to upgrade. Fully integrated with our flagship booking platform Amadeus Selling Platform Connect, agents can even create a single PNR and add other products to it. And as the situation remains fluid, travel agencies will always have access in real-time to the new and exciting itineraries from cruise lines, the latest pricing and cancellation policies, updates, and a host of multimedia options to both inspire and reassure travelers.
Technology not only plays a role in efficient booking, but it also gives those onboard the cruise bubble control over their space. For example, MSC Cruises have recently introduced the first-ever humanoid robotic bartender at sea. And Princess Cruises passengers can use its Ocean Now app to order food, drink, and a selection of other products and receive them in a different location, away from other passengers or shopping areas. Cruises have made inroads to advance health and safety protocols and reduce touch center environments while still maintaining form and function.
These tech integrations demonstrate how service on cruises is evolving while still focusing on personal attention and building relationships. And it starts with the agent at the inspiration and booking phase. Now more than ever, technology and human expertise will be critical as consumers navigate searching for and booking their vacation. Travel advisors are in a prime position to provide insight and access to information to prepare travelers for a safe experience at sea.