The luxury-cruise pitch: Spinning client scenarios into vacation gold

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FORT LAUDERDALE -- Luxury cruising can make for a fitting vacation, but it can be a challenge to pair clients with a product and a destination that is right for them. That was the heart of the discussion at the Pitch Perfect: Luxury panel at CruiseWorld here.

Sales executives from five cruise lines offered their pitches for why their line is the best fit for a series of client scenarios offered by moderators Adam Duckworth, president and founder of Fort Lauderdale-based Travelmation, and Angela Hughes, chief visionary officer for Trips and Ships Luxury Travel in Winter Garden, Fla.

Scenario 1: The couple

Specifically ... An active, retired couple who has done a safari in Kenya and wants something more intimate than adventurous this time. They are concerned that an expedition might be too strenuous and the waters too rough.

"Did anybody ever consider expedition cruising in our own backyard in the Great Lakes of North America?" said Darren Dolan, director of business development for Viking. Staying close to home eliminates the fear factor of crossing the Drake Passage to sail into the southern polar region while still providing "a continuation of that expedition experience," he said.

Steve Smotrys, vice president of global sales and trade relations for Seabourn, said he thought this couple would be great for an expedition cruise in the Arctic region. "This is really safari at sea," he said. "They're going to see walruses, they're going to see polar bears, they're going to seek all kinds of wildlife there." Seabourn has just released its first expedition ship this summer with a second to be delivered next year.

Scenic Luxury Cruises and Emerald Cruises' regional sales director Andy Fuentes said he understands that some people are nervous about the Drake Passage. That's why he suggests flying guests over the passage to St. George's Island and picking guests up for a cruise there.

Scenario 2: Girls' getaway

Specifically ... A group of women between 50 and 60 years old who want to travel in style but are afraid the luxury and river cruise lines might seem a bit stuffy.

They would feel at home on Windstar, said Dianna Rom, that line's senior director of sales. She said 17% of Windstar's business is single travelers, "and it's because we're small." She called the line comfortable, social and inclusive, in part because of "how we get the crew to really make sure that those guests are taken care of."

Scenario 3: The graduates

Specifically .... A family of five with three 20-something graduates wants to travel to Asia for the next holiday season. They're looking for an option that provides them with luxury but will also keep their adult children engaged.

The pitch: Shawn Tubman, senior vice president of sales for Regent Seven Seas, pitched a 12-day sailing through Hong Kong over Thanksgiving, with stops in China, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. He said he can attest that Regent is a fit for this family, because he has sailed it with his own children in their late 20s and early 30s. "You can do everything that your heart desires," he said. "The kids want to do adventure tours, and the parents want to do exploring and history and so forth, they can do all that, too."

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