TORONTO — If anyone would know which of Avalon’s river cruises are the best ones, it would be Cruise Director Hendrik Jan Dadema, who recently visited the new Toronto office of Globus family of brands.
During a meet and greet with media, Jan Dadema picked the two-week Rhine river cruise, which also sails along the Moselle, as his favourite itinerary.
“The Moselle is one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe and yet hardly anyone knows it,” he says.
Jan Dadema also praised lower Danube sailings with possible extensions in Turkey and Bucharest. While Western Europe itineraries sail through “civilized areas”, in contrast those that sail through Eastern Europe and especially down to the Black Sea highlight more rugged, riveting landscapes.
Avalon’s best-selling cruise, however, is the one-week Rhine River Cruise, followed by Amsterdam-Budapest (or vice versa) sailings. The point is, of course, that Avalon offers a wide breadth of itineraries to suit all needs and interests.
“After speaking to colleagues and captains from other cruise companies, I firmly believe that Avalon is the best out there,” he adds. To back his claim, Jan Dadema points to the age of Avalon’s fleet (Avalon currently boasts the youngest fleet in the industry), its unique ‘Suite Ships’, which essentially transform staterooms into one giant, open-air balcony, and the company’s impressive 98% customer satisfaction rating. In fact, last year when many of Europe’s rivers were flooded, Avalon was one of the few companies to offer clients a full cash refund.
Despite the very obvious reasons why travel agents should book with Avalon, Jan Dadema is more than willing to provide them with a few helpful selling tips. For one thing, he suggests targeting travellers in retirement age, since most of Avalon’s clientele are 45-plus, affluent and well travelled. Secondly, get clients in a day or two early to allow them some time to refresh and explore at their leisure.
“Passengers who arrive on the ship straight from the airport are so jet-lagged that they don’t enjoy themselves for the first couple days of the cruise,” he says.
Thirdly, Jan Dadema recommends upselling from a three-day cruise to a seven- or 10-day itinerary, since the biggest complaint among passengers, he says, is “not being able to stay longer.”
More helpful tips and selling tools can be found with Avalon’s Specialist Program, which was recently enhanced following its debut a couple of years ago. Now featuring four modules, the program takes about two hours to complete (at the agent’s own pace) and includes information on how to sell the product and the different kinds of itineraries, including special theme cruises.
Popular themes include wine, gourmet, Jewish heritage, golf (new for 2014), historical WWI and WWII, and even a special opera cruise featuring three opera singers onboard (coming 2015).
Agents must score 90% or higher to become certified as a specialist. Upon successful completion and after making three bookings, agents can sail for free (companions sail at agent rate). Agents will also receive a specialist logo, five CLIA credits, and four CITC CEU credits. Over 300 agents completed the program last year.
Avalon is currently accepting bookings for its 2015 season. For more information visit agentlingo.ca.