ASC credits agents with Sea of Cortes bookings spurt

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SEATTLE -- Travel agents are warming up to American Safari Cruises' new Sea of Cortes itineraries, attracted by the firm's reputation for delivering a quality, upscale product and its inclusive commission policy, according to Capt. Dan Blanchard, president.

Blanchard said bookings "are starting to pick up" for the Mexico cruises, which begin in November, with a spurt of business recorded in late August.

"Agents are receiving our product well because we're all-inclusive, so their commissions are based on the whole package, not just the cost of the cabin," he said.

American Safari's Sea of Cortes itineraries will offer a range of recreational activities, including sea kayaking. For example, in traditional yacht charters, the agent earns a commission on the base cost of chartering the vessel, but nothing on the cost of the crew, food and fuel. American Safari's charter prices include all those elements.

In an effort to promote the product, the company mailed an estimated 25,000 brochures detailing the new sailings to travel agents.

American Safari will operate two yachts on separate itineraries in the Sea of Cortes.

The 120-foot, 21-passenger Safari Quest will sail between the colonial city of La Paz and the coastal town of Loreto.

The 105-foot, 12-passenger Safari Spirit will cruise roundtrip from La Paz on full-yacht charters.

Blanchard said the company decided last year to offer cruises in Mexico in response to customer demand.

"Our guests have asked for additional destinations where they can experience yacht cruising," he said.

"They've been telling us they're hooked on the close-up, intimate experience of cruising on a yacht and that they want to do it again, but in a different venue," Blanchard said. "The onus is on us to keep expanding our destinations to give them what they want."

Carolyn Penny, an agent at Fort Worth, Texas-based Sanders Travel, said American Safari is ideal for the client who is "looking to experience a destination up close without the typical group atmosphere of a larger ship."

For the agent, "the company's high-quality product almost ensures that you'll get a satisfied client who will become a repeat customer," she said.

Pioneers of yacht cruising in Alaska, American Safari operates from May to September in southeast Alaska and the Inside Passage.

In October, November and April, the company operates cruises on the Napa and Petaluma rivers in California's wine region.

As with its Alaska and California itineraries, the company said its Mexico product will offer clients the advantage of stopping in ports that would normally be off-limits to even the small cruise ships.

The Safari Quest and Safari Spirit will travel only by day, anchoring each evening in protected waters.

Clients will be able to use the yachts' watercraft and water-sports equipment to kayak, windsurf, snorkel and water ski.

In addition, there will be nature hikes and stops at small villages along the way for shopping or exploring.

Safari Quest cruises start at $3,695 per person, double. Full-yacht charters aboard the Safari Spirit start at $59,995.

For details or reservations, call (888) 862-8881 or e-mail [email protected].

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