Unusual access to the inner circle at cruise lines, as well as
out-of-the-ordinary knowledge of ships -- these qualities are what
Dan and Choyce Chappelle, co-owners of The Cruise Shoppe of Austin,
Texas, said they use to lure new customers.
promotional materials all prominently feature the fact that both
worked on board Royal Caribbean ships for five years -- Choyce as
chief purser, Dan as second purser.
This experience "gave me the best education I could have to be
doing what we're doing now," said Dan. And that education does pay
off in getting and retaining clients. For example, there was the
time a potential incentive client, Dell Computer, was doing a site
inspection on a Royal Caribbean ship.
In search of the royal suite, the Royal Caribbean salesperson
leading the tour opened the door of an ordinary cabin instead.
Chappelle then took charge, leading the group straight to the royal
suite. "When [the Dell Computer rep] saw that we knew our way
around the ship, it was a done deal," said Chappelle.
The Cruise Shoppe sells other cruise lines besides Royal
Caribbean, though -- and again uses its knowledge of shipboard
protocol to aid clients. "I'll even call the sales department of
some cruise lines when the res agent will swear to me that what I
want [such as audiovisual service for incentive groups] can't be
done -- when I know it can be, since as a purser, I was the one who
was doing it before," said Chappelle.
The Cruise Shoppe's promotional message, though, has drawn rage
from agents around the country because it includes this line: "As
pursers, we noticed the majority of the passenger problems and
complaints were not the fault of the cruise line -- but that of the
Chappelle explained that when he was a purser, he found
passengers would say their agents had promised upgrades and
amenities that he couldn't deliver.
He conceded that agents have become more knowledgeable about the
cruise product. "They've had to, since they've been forced into
selling more cruises because of the airline caps."
Tips on ships
For the most efficient
and profitable cruise sales, specialize in just a couple of
different cruise lines -- five, tops. That's the advice Dan
Chappelle, co-owner of The Cruise Shoppe of Austin, Texas, would
Once you've made your choices, it's time to learn each of the
company's ships -- and Chappelle, a former purser for Royal
Caribbean, knows some ways to ease this task:You don't have to remember 20 different ships if you learn to
look for similarities among all the vessels in a fleet.
For example, most cruise lines build their ships in series or
"classes." For Royal Caribbean, there are the Sovereign, Vision and
new Eagle class ships.
Carnival is primarily the Fantasy class.
Most details of the deck plan are virtually the same on each
ship in the series; what changes is the decor.To keep cabin configurations straight, realize that while there
may be 20 different categories, these actually boil down to three
or four different cabin types, excluding the suites: standard
inside and outside rooms, and larger or deluxe oceanview rooms --
one without a balcony and one with a balcony.Cabin amenities such as hair dryers and safes also tend to be
the same for all ships within a series.
To pick up more hints, you could call Chappelle, who's
developing a consulting business to teach cruise sales techniques,
at (512) 328-7447, or e-mail him at [email protected].Appropriate Questions
the questions I cannot ask during an interview with a potential
While most agency managers understand there are limitations
regarding the questions they can ask relative to race, age, sex and
marital status, few realize that it doesn't end there. A variety of
questions that are considered "out of bounds" also could become
grounds for a future lawsuit based on discrimination in your hiring
Consider the following questions: Do you take prescription
medication? Can you remember how many days you were sick during the
past year? Are you now, or have you ever been, treated for drug
Which one is illegal to ask? All of them. And, unfortunately,
ignorance is not an excuse under the law. Innocently ask one of
these questions, and job candidates may have grounds to receive a
monetary settlement from you if they are not hired.
The best policy is to develop a standard set of interview
questions and stick to them. Be sure that any other employee who
does interviewing or hiring understands the laws and the exposure
your business has.
One of my employees wears clothes I think are too revealing. Can
I ask her not to wear them?
Absolutely. You are allowed to specify a dress code in your
agency as long as it reasonably accommodates religious attire and
doesn't discriminate among employees. For example, you can't insist
that women have a dress code but not men. However, you can have
minor differences between men's and women's dress codes (such as
women are allowed to wear earrings and men aren't).
The best way to handle this situation is to circulate a memo to
all employees, announcing the dress code and giving examples of
acceptable and unacceptable clothing.
Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the
newsletter, The Successful Worldspan Agent. Contact him at [email protected].