Guest Post: One of our Best Assets – Travel Agents

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Adam: In addition to all the wonderful and talented employees that work onboard our ships and in our offices, we also rely on the community of professional travel agents to help guests plan a memorable vacation before they sail. This week, I’ve asked Vicki Freed,

Vicki Freed

Vicki Freed

senior vice president of Sales, Trade Support and Services, to discuss why we recommend travel agents and the important role that they play. Thank you Vicki!

One of my most memorable Royal Caribbean experiences was before I even worked here. It was on Freedom of the Seas, the newest ship around at the time, when my 11 year old son and I successfully finished riding the waves on the FlowRider – what an amazing experience! My son was in awe and kept telling me “Mom, this is the coolest ever!” I responded, “That’s good honey but don’t go around saying that, Mommy works for the competition.”

Well, I’ve now been working at Royal Caribbean a year and a half and I have to agree with my son….Royal Caribbean is the coolest thing ever!

I’m thrilled that Adam invited me to write a guest blog on one of the topics that our company is very passionate about – our partnership with the travel agent community. As Adam mentioned in one of his previous postings, I’ve been in the cruise industry for 29 years – and one constant over all of these years is the important role that travel agents play in the cruise industry and in the vacation planning process for our guests.

With thousands upon thousands of travel options, amenities, sites, destinations and deals available to consumers – we rely on travel agents to help communicate the story of our brand, the experience we offer and to cut through all of the clutter in the marketplace. The consumer relies on travel agents to guide them toward the vacation choice that is perfect for their needs. Often travelers purchase a vacation package without full knowledge of the product, the destination or the package details and do-it-yourself vacation planning many a time ends in disappointment.

That’s why I highly recommend the use of a travel agent. They are industry experts. Their job is to whisk their clients away on the vacation of their dreams. And they do so because they, themselves, love traveling. They enjoy providing vacation memories to their clients – and a happy customer is a returning customer.

I think of travel agents as vacation counselors, who meet and get to know their customers personally. They take the time to learn about their clients’ individual interests. You know how hard it is for two people to want the same thing – much less a whole family or a large group – and it is up to great travel agent partners like ours to analyze the needs and desires of their clients and create a wonderful vacation experience based on mutual needs, budgets, styles and variety.

We work very closely with our travel partners to ensure they are up to speed on all things Royal Caribbean. In fact, we have a sales team of nearly 600 people around the world whose sole responsibility is to work with travel agents to ensure they have the tools, resources and knowledge they need to represent our brand in the consumer marketplace.

I very much appreciate everything that travel agents bring to the industry; their zest for world travel and the inspiration it brings to consumers. There will always be an important role for travel agents, no matter what changes technology and commerce may bring. I believe their service to our industry, and to the enjoyment of guests, makes them one of the most important assets we have.

Thank you travel agents everywhere, keep up the great work!

  • Ryan P

    Vicki, thanks for the insight! I would love to know which ‘costs’ more: (1) If I book through a travel agent, or (2) if I book myself online/phone.

    A travel agent makes a commission, but takes over all the management of a booking for me. If I book myself, RCCL won’t pay commission, but must now pay the salaries/wages of the phone/web customer reps.

    I’ve always wondered which method is more ‘profitable’ to RCCL.

    Looking forward to seeing more posts from you in the future!

    – Ryan

  • Bob D.

    We have not used a travel agent for the last 4 cruises we made and found the process of booking on-line using RCCL’s web site just as easy and actually less complicated for our simple booking requirements. This self booking has even included air travel arrangements, including getting good seats, using your “custom air” which so far have turned out just fine. We have also booked twice on board which was convenient as cabin selection seems to be more available there than on-line and your Loyalty Ambassadors are tops. Kudos to RCCL for maintaining an efficient on-line booking and reservation tracking system. I have no complaints so far. A note of interest here is that one of the minor considerations I take in not using a travel agent is to give RCCL as much of the cruise fare without having to share a percentage with a travel agency. Adam, isn’t that what you would call passionately “loyal to Royal.” And we sold our RCCL stocks years ago. I know…. you also need the travel agents to advertise for you although the ones we have used in the past, without naming agencies, seem to push other cruise lines more than Royal which actually turned us off that agency at some point.

  • Mary Watson

    As a Diamond Plus Members we were wondering if we will get the chance to go on a Special Cruise for Oasis of the Seas give by RCL for our Loyality and Stockholders (with no more special perks)?

    Will Galveston.Tx. ever get a ship based year round ? You are giving the competition carte blanche in that port.

    We have enjoyed cruising out of Galveston on RCL and Celebrity ships we sincerely hope that we can continue to do so

  • Gail hATTEN

    We have booked a cruise on Freedom of the Seas for October 18th. We live in Columbus, Ohio. We noticed that the air fare that Royal Caribbean charges is soooooooooooooooooooo high and wonder why that is. I have always booked our air fare with RC, but paying $519 round trip for one person is a little bit much. We are in the process as of right now of booking through another airline and flying down a day ahead of time and staying in Orlando. Will Royal Caribbean pick us up in Orlando at the hotel or do we have to make our own arrangements to get to the ship. Please, please tell me again why the air fare is so high. We await your response.

  • Susie Q

    I agree with many cruisers about the best sales reps are the passed cruisers! Since Royal Carribbean and Celebrity are the same company, I would love it if we just have one membership – all credits goes to one account and I can cruise with both, don’t have to worry about losing those credits.
    We have tried many other cruise company but we love RCCL the best! We understand the need for cutting the cost – please let go of midnight buffet – who need to eat more? Also who need to have bedsheet and towels changed every single day? I am sure there are fussy people around – as standard, every 3 days and by request should be plenty. This will cut down the wear and tear of lines and save the water! I would love it if you can be more sensible to air temp – too cold! Lastly, I would love it if you would develop 2 weeks cruise from Los Angeles, CA to Guam, then to different ports of Japan! I will bet that will be the seller!

  • Mark Blackman

    My wife and our friends are all loyal RCI passengers. We are trying to book a Hawaii cruise next fall having taken a few others on Carnival and Celebrity. You have never done more than a few repositioning cruises too early (April and September) We like to cruise late October. Despite having most of your schedule posted, you have no Hawaii cruises at all after April 2010. Are you giving up the route or are you planning something new? We would love to take a Hawaii Cruise near November for my 50th birthday but it is getting close to when we need to make decisions to accomodate all of our busy schedules.

    P.S. Although I was not thrilled with the change in the benefits for the concierge lounge (We are only a cruise or two away from Diamond Plus, I truly appreciate your company’s efforts to try to find a suitable replacement for a benefit we have truly enjoyed over the last few years. Thanks.

  • linda

    Don’t listen to the person who wants their towels changed every 3 days, that is disgusting.

  • Allen

    In the spirit of several of the comments posted above. I would suggest either eliminating travel agents entirely or restricting their use to consolidators who are only brought in after the time final payment is due for a particuliar trip if the Hot Deals system you are now using does not completely fill the ship. That will keep more of the revenue from each cabin in the Company’s hands where it belongs. I would also suggest you make all open cabins show on the company web site. The notes now displayed tell us to call for more information or other open cabins requiring the company to incur the additional time and cost of a company employee to get the same revenue.

  • Bill Delaney

    We just returned from a 9 night Bermuda and Caribbean cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. I had a great time but left with a few thoughts and concerns.

    #1 There appeared to be a higher than usual amount of rust on salt air exposed surfaces than I observed on any of our prior cruises with RC. This was our second on this ship and 4th cruise with RC and found the rust to be an unnecessary distraction.

    #2 After talking to various table couples I found that cruisers that worked with travel agents usually received OBC and discounts that were not received by couples that worked directly with RC reservation agents. I will be writing to V.P.-Sales Vicki Freed about this inconsistent treatment. The average difference seemed to be $100.00 OC per stateroom and $150.00 per stateroom discount; actual cabin charge the exact same. $250 is nothing to sneeze at.

    #3 RC has changed from carefree distribution of pool towels to a “show your SeaPass” and “charged $20.00 is not returned” policy. The towels are much nicer and as a result probably got stolen. The problem is that various ship guests were taking towels off deck chairs; some to open up “reserved” chairs and others to compensate for their towel being taken. After a sudden rain shower the RC deck attendants were picking up soaked towels that were discarded as people ran for cover and I have to wonder how each handled the $20.00 charge.

    #4 As this was our 4th cruise on RC in as many years, and the second on the 9 day B. & C out of Bayonne, NJ, many of the nightly shows were duplicates. We had already seen at least 2 of the performers, had already heard the same questions on the game shows, and swear that the parades were the same with only changes in costume. RC needs to change things up and stay fresh.

    #5 My wife missed the chocolates on the pillow that we saw in prior years.

    #6 Many at the two tables we used (one at original 8:30 seating and one at 6:00 seating we changed to) commented on the decline in overall meal selection. More vegetarian (good), more ethnic (good), but less in quality main course options. All missed the “surf -n-turf” but were ok with the lobster and shrimp replacement. BTW, each nigh we were there the shrimp cocktail was pretty tasteless.

    #6 We had a bit of trouble arrange a Galley Tour this trip as compared to prior kitchen tours in the past. My wife teaches cooking and appreciates this small but interesting tour. This cruise it was like pulling teeth to get the tour acknowledge (“normally for Diamond members only”) and to get the main desk to look into our getting involved. All of the women at our table ended up taking the tour and enjoying it. To be completely honest, one past tour was part of a onboard fundraiser that I thought was a great idea.

    #7 Each cruise I feel that there should be a tour of the mechanical aspects of the ship. The ship is a small city and seeing how the ship utilities function would be a great tour and could also be a fundraiser of moneymaker.

    Overall, good trip. Minor complaints but I think that we will continue with RC each year (or every other year) while utilizing other vacation options (other cruise lines and all inclusive resorts) throughout the year.

    Bill Delaney

  • Mike N

    It’s great to see so many wonderful posts about RC. I wish I could say that my experience with RC was so perfect. First time RC experience and I do not believe that I will go through with the actual purchase. I was told a veterans discount would apply to my honeymoon trip to the Panama Canal. Now, 3 days before final payment is due, I am told “sorry that is not the case Too bad and we suggest you cancel the trip if you do not want to pay the $500 difference.”

    Very displeased with this response and would like to know why I cannot get someone high enough up in the company to respond to me and talk to me about this.


  • http://Hotmail Kenny Kute

    I am currently on a RC cruise and not a very happy cruiser.

    Having gone on 8 cruises before (5 on RC), I suggest that RC consider retiring Soverein of the Seas.

    It shows signs of rust an disrepair. The I.T. personel are unreponsive to major problems that have been ongoing since day one. My Sea Pass card has been replaced multiple times only to worsen and halt my ability to make purchases, enter my room, open my safe, access the internet services etc.

    Most people onboard are complaining of the same problem. The Pursers Desk is short in their explaination of the problem, only to tell us “We’ve done all we can do as humanly possible”.

    Once the internet system was finally set up, we informed that Skype or any other phone internet system is not allowed on the RC system. Right now I am setting next to a Frenchman doing exactly that on his laptop.

    I believe RC has put their lowest of quality help on their lowest of quality ships!!