The key to finding the right cruise is to ask the right questions. So we asked two of  Australia’s leading experts what clients want to know – and what wisdom they are dispensing.

Experts at Cruise1st and Travel Associates say cruisers are more savvy and come in with many more questions than ever before. But the BIG FOUR are asked repeatedly. And the answers are certainly interesting.

Cruisers want to know everything about their ship

Just knowing which facilities are available is no longer enough. “Cruisers are finding out things like what the age of the ship is, when it last refurbished, the demographics, what activities are found on board and the destinations they are cruising to,” says Elizabeta Krstevski, Sales & Operations Manager at Cruise1st.

Kathy Pavlidis at luxury cruise specialist Travel Associates has also found that more cruisers are asking about shore excursions. “They are asking about the experiences that the different destinations offer, the best way to book and when to book. This can include Segway tours or even arranging for a private independent tour,” says Ms Pavlidis.

Brand Loyalty

The travel agents are also finding that cruisers are asking for the parent companies the different ships and cruise lines come under, as they are loyal to the brands they are familiar with. Lines like Celebrity and Azamara Cruises fall under the Royal Caribbean International umbrella and, “if they are Princess cruisers for example, they are more likely to stay within the Carnival Corporation brands like Holland America Line, Cunard and Seabourn when they are looking for new lines to try,” says Ms Krstevski.

How to get the best value

Everyone loves a good bargain and would not turn down an opportunity to maximise their cruise experience.

At Cruise1st, Australian passenger are looking for cruises with more “added value” and more “inclusive pricing”. This includes things like drinks packages, shore excursions and more. Contemporary lines like Norwegian Cruise Lines regularly offer drinks packages as one of the inclusive options but other lines like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises also run offers for their drink packages from time to time.

Meanwhile Ms Pavlidis at Travel Associates often advises her clients to pre-plan and pre-pay as much of their trip as they can in Australian dollars to get a good rate and avoid any surprise in the total bill at the end of the holiday. Clients even approach her to plan their next trip even before they have started their upcoming cruise.

“Many clients take advantage of the discount they get when they book their future cruise while they are on board. They usually already have in mind where they would like to go in the next year or two so they can plan ahead and book the itineraries in advance,” says Ms Pavlidis.

Expedition cruising is hot

With so many new expedition ships debuting in the next few years, cruisers are also making plans to go on expedition cruises. “Many of the cruisers that are interested in expedition cruising are seasoned cruisers that want to explore new destinations. They are less focused on the price but rather a real in-depth experience and the touch and feel of the places that they visit,” says Ms Krstevski.

“They ask about things like how intimate a ship is, what are the exclusive experiences and they are also interested in longer stays at destinations.”

Ms Pavlidis is also finding increased interest in expedition cruising among repeat cruisers. “They see expedition cruising as a bucket-list item and are attracted to the idea of venturing into new itineraries after completing the major ones like Alaska, South Pacific and the Mediterranean,” says Ms Pavlidis. “The popular itineraries include sailings to the Arctic, Antarctic, Galapagos and even the Kimberleys.

“Many of the new expedition ships are luxury ships but besides that, clients are well educated and also ask whether it is a new or old ship, the year it was made, whether it is sustainable to the environment and the reputation of the line.”