Last weekend saw the return of the CLIA Awards, celebrating the best cruise agents in Australia and New Zealand.
Robyn Sinfield, who has been in the industry for the last three decades was named this year’s Cruise Champion. And with all that knowledge under her belt, we sit down and talk to her about the up-and-coming trends she sees for ocean and river cruising for the next 12 months.
What are the most popular destinations?
There is a destination for any cruise client, be it rivers, oceans or expeditions– there is such a big range of vessels globally there is something for everyone and that is where the CLIA-accredited cruise consultant comes into play – we know who to put on what vessel.
Whether it’s a first traveller to cruise who asks the question will I be bored, and we offer the Mediterranean with a port every day and they come home and say , wow, we could have done with some days at sea or a past well-travelled cruiser who looks for the itineraries with loads of sea day – a vast choice across all budgets and styles.
What do you see the new up-and-coming itineraries for clients?
Well-travelled clients are looking for new ports – they are often enabled by the small ships that cruise the globe, the lesser known ports of Europe as an example – Sicily-Siracusa, Croatia – Opajija, Albania – Sarande, Turkey-Dikili, just to name a few.
The rivers of the USA are a big hit, and Vietnam and Cambodia are back in vogue as the flying is much shorter for a great three-week experience. The river in Europe that’s hot is the Douro. Beautiful new ships are being launched, like Explora Journeys, small ships, personal and intuitive to the cruisers’ needs.
What is the new trend you are seeing for future bookings?
Clients post Covid are looking for small to mid-size ships with more space, onboard delivery and ship amenities and service levels keep surpassing expectations, so ships are looking for innovative ways to entice new to cruise and repeat clients.
Less and less it’s about the price but the experience and the opportunity to engage in unique touring options, delving deeper into the culture and the community. Sustainability is a big issue today that wasn’t just five years ago, with ships like Hurtigruten leading the way
Clients are booking much further out and have multiple bookings in the pipeline, eg one for 2023, two for 2024, and one for 2025 is not uncommon for the same clients. Families are travelling multi-generational, just an example, a family of 16 chartering a vessel in the Galapagos for their own unique one week away.
What is the best time to get a cruise deal?
It’s not so much about the DEAL, it’s often the value add that entices a cruiser – that could be free and include laundry on a longer voyage. It could be an onboard credit spend, allowing the cruiser to use this as they wish onboard, it could be towards an alcohol package, a massage, or a shore excursion. Again, value is something people are looking for.
Ships fill from the top suites to cabins down – and new build ships don’t offer inside cabins/staterooms. Clients are moving away from this style of choice. In our local area the Wave Season, which is November – March, traditionally each year. And during CLIA Cruise Month, which is September, tends to have the optimum savings and offers but there is plenty of choices year-round. As specialist cruise advisors trained by CLIA especially those with master’s training, we know what is on offer, what is exceptional value, what is hot and sometimes, what is not!
What’s been your favourite cruise over the last 18 months?
It’s hard to pick a favourite since the borders opened to cruise one year ago, in that time I have sailed on big and small, Coral Princess, Azamara Pursuit, Oceania Riviera, Le Commandant Charcot, Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Queen Elizabeth, Windstar’s Star Breeze. But I think the best was because of the itinerary, 25 nights from Lisbon to Capetown down the West Coast of Africa on Regent Seven Seas Voyager. It was a fabulous itinerary with exceptional all-inclusive service and amenities.
What future cruises do you have coming up?
My future 2023 cruises are Seabourn Encore thru the Suez Canal to Athens, Azamara Pursuit from Athens to Istanbul, the christening of Oceania’s Vista from Rome return. The launch/christening of Explora Journeys in July followed by Viking’s new ocean-going vessel Saturn from Bergen to New York and then Viking River’s new vessel in Indochine. You can see why I think the best holiday is one ‘where you just add water’, any style, any part of the world as I get close to ticking off nearly 900 nights at sea in my travel and cruise career of almost 40 years.