What is Expedia CruiseShipCenters?
Fast-growing cruise franchise is one North America’s leading sellers of cruises
Expedia CruiseShipCenters is a travel agency franchise that specializes in cruises and has 220 retail locations open or under development. Our sales have grown an average of 20% a year since we began franchising more than 29 years ago. While the Internet eliminated many other retail travel businesses, we have flourished.
In fact, two decades of consistent growth attracted Expedia®, Inc. to invest in our franchise system. They knew that cruise vacations were more complex to book than other travel products being sold through their other online subsidiaries like Expedia.com, Hotwire, and Hotels.com. They also knew that cruisers felt more comfortable booking with a trusted professional; a cruise specialist who could help guide the way. So In 2007, Expedia, Inc. formed a partnership with CruiseShipCenters to tap into our network of brick-and-mortar locations and our travel agents who could offer personal service to cruise customers.
“So many storefront travel agencies from when we were kids have gone away,” says Jennifer White, who owns an Expedia CruiseShipCenters cruise franchise location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her husband, Kevin. “Shopping for travel online isn’t very fun. It’s choice overload and option overload, and a lot of people don’t have time to sift through it all — especially if they are looking for something that is tailored to them. Our customer service is a big advantage.”
Cruise franchise customers have varying needs
While booking travel online can be stressful for any type of trip, it’s especially daunting for cruise vacationers. Hotel rooms, planes and rental cars are fairly cookie-cutter, so customers know what to expect — especially when traveling in North America. They are fairly comfortable booking trips online.
Cruises are different. First, they’re generally more expensive trips. The average cruise guest spends more than $2,000 on their vacation. Second, it’s a vacation! People want to have fun, enjoy experiences, and create memories. They like being able to speak to an experienced travel agent who is willing to take the time to learn their preferences and steer them toward the best travel options. Third, while you’re unlikely to notice much difference between flying on a commercial jetliner built in 1992 and a plane built in 2013, you’ll notice an incredible difference between cruise ships from those same years. In the case of a cruise line that has 20-year-old ships in its fleet, the difference between the newest and the oldest cruise ships can feel like the difference between a creaky 20-year-old computer and whatever device you’re reading this on today. At the same time, a kid-friendly cruise perfect for a young family may be inappropriate for a newlywed couple celebrating their honeymoon, and a cruise that’s perfect for retirees or partiers might be a nightmare cruise for a group of twenty-somethings looking to party.
Customers want to know what they are getting. Picking the best cruise ship and planning the right itinerary can head off potential problems and disappointments and transform a nice vacation into an extraordinary vacation.
Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ CruiseDesk® software platform, corporate support, marketing resources, and continuous training enable franchisees and their teams to provide incredible deals and customer service, says Brenna Maurer, who owns two locations in Las Vegas with her husband, Dan.
“We are really able to give concierge service with Expedia pricing,” Brenna says. “Those in the corporate office in Vancouver believe that if you touch a customer’s heart and understand their dreams enough to make them happen, the money will follow. A call center or an online booking service can never do that.”
Award-winning cruise franchise system
Expedia CruiseShipCenters is based in Vancouver and is the dominant travel agency in Canada. We were inducted into the Canadian Franchise Association Hall of Fame in 2010 and have been named a Top 50 franchise by Franchise Business Review and a top franchise opportunity by Entrepreneur magazine. Our cruise franchises are now in the early stages of a huge expansion throughout the United States, with plans to add 300 locations in the next 5 years. Our corporate staff currently consists of 100+ people who work together to secure promotional deals from cruise lines, build marketing campaigns and materials, and continuously develop new programs that will help franchise partners boost their profitability.
“So much sets them apart: the strength of their technology, their commitment to their franchisees, the open-minded culture,” says Joyce Ripka, a former CPA who owns an Expedia CruiseShipCenters location in Brossard, Quebec. “Their door is always open for us to make recommendations. We get a lot of support from our fellow franchise partners, as well. The support team in Vancouver keeps us well-informed and are really willing to help us grow our business.”