Ready for a cruise? Travel agent offers pro tips
This story appeared in the October 2016 issue of Vegas Inc.
Christine Brown, cruise sales manager for Expedia CruiseShipCenters, recently won the Rising Star award, presented by the Cruise Lines International Association. She beat out travel agents from all over the cruise industry for the recognition. “Winning this award speaks first and foremost to my passion for travel, but also to my relationships with my clients,” she said, adding that developing close relationships with clients enables her to “get to the heart of what they want to see and do in the world.”
What are the benefits of having a travel agent?
There’s a misconception that travel agents are just human booking engines, when really the role holds so much more than just securing the itinerary. The true value of travel agents is thinking of them as personal travel concierges — someone who is at all times an advocate for their client.
Some people are comfortable booking online, and that’s OK. For many travelers, though, a trip is a huge investment and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A travel agent can navigate the intricate ins and outs and tailor to specific wants and needs of the client.
Where do you see Expedia CruiseShipCenters going in the next five years?
The two Las Vegas locations will focus on getting the brand name out there in the community, letting people know the value and expertise we bring as travel consultants affiliated with a big brand. We are constantly recruiting more agents to our team and growing our client base. There may even be another Las Vegas location at some point to help navigate spectacular vacation experiences for travelers in the area.
How has the travel industry changed over the past 10 years?
Cruising is becoming more and more popular, and the individual cruise lines are building more and more new ships to meet demand. Data from CLIA say the industry has grown 68 percent in the past 10 years, which is incredible. I read that every shipyard in the world is in use right now, so the industry literally cannot grow any faster.
Cruising as a vacation offers tremendous value in that meals, entertainment and your accommodations are built into the base cruise fare. It allows people to plan one trip that visits multiple places in a reasonable amount of time, while only unpacking once.
What is the most valuable advice you have for first-time cruisers?
There are so many tips, but here are a few to keep in mind:
- Let your agent know your vacation expectations. What do you think your cruise will be like, look like, where it will go. This will help them match you with the right cruise line and itinerary.
- On the day of embarkation, pack a carry-on with cruise boarding passes, passports, any prescription medications, a change of clothes and bathing suit.
- Take time to explore the ship when you first get on and closely plan your days with the nightly newsletter placed in your stateroom (bring a highlighter to mark it).
- You don’t have to dress up, or bring a tux or formal wear. Cruise lines are doing away with their “formal nights” and replacing them with casual elegance or country club casual.
- When the ship is in port, there are some great deals that can be found at the onboard spa.
- Insure your trip. A vacation can be a big investment. Protect it from medical issues, delays, interruptions, etc.
Where is your favorite place to visit? What place is still on your bucket list?
So far, my favorite trip has been Australia: Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef. You can’t go wrong when you visit iconic places, famous beaches and a natural wonder of the world. I also love Paris. I’ve always been obsessed with everything about it — the art, architecture, food and fashion.
For a long time, my No. 1 bucket-list vacation was Vietnam and Cambodia. After that I’m eyeing the Galápagos, Maldives, Seychelles, Iceland and more of Asia.
Whom do you admire?
My parents have always been an inspiration to me. They always taught me that if there was the opportunity to do something unique or travel somewhere new, to jump at the chance.
Walt Disney had a vision and made it come to life. Not only does his company tell stories like no other, but the level of service and how Disney treats clients is second to none. I am always studying Disney’s best practices.
Marie Forleo is an inspiring female entrepreneur. Ever since her “Everything is Figureoutable” speech on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday, I’ve been following what she teaches, her thoughts, ideas and lessons, and incorporating them into my daily routine. Her words have really changed me as a businesswoman.
What is something that people might not know about you?
When I was younger, I was an active artist, and I often made paintings of the places where I had traveled. The coolest thing was when someone looking at my painting had been to that place. The feeling was really awesome, knowing I could transport someone back to a special time and place.
I think my artistic background has played a key role in me being an agent. Travel can be a super creative thing and requires a lot of planning. It’s my outlet and my art.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Fortunately I’ve had no end to talented business coaches and mentors who have imparted wonderful advice to me. The most memorable piece of advice I’ve received is: “Organize yourself and your business the right way; allocate times during your day and week for certain tasks.”
In a world where everyone has their phone on 24/7, I choose to unplug even if it’s for a short amount of time, and make sure to block time off during my day for myself. This allows me to breathe, de-stress, clear my head and shift my energy to carry me through the rest of my day.
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