Cruising Supplier Your Travel Agency

Interview: Royal Caribbean Supports Travel Professionals

Interview By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC, Co-Founder – Travel Professional NEWS®

Interviewing: Vicki Freed, CTC, Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service – Royal Caribbean International


While on board Royal Caribbean’s beautiful newly “Amplified” Navigator of the Seas recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service for Royal Caribbean International. I have known Vicki for more than 20-years and have always enjoyed our time together. She has and is always advocating support of Travel Professionals, something the two of us have always had in common. She oversees the Royal Caribbean sales force, the largest sales team in the cruise industry as well as overseeing Royal Caribbean International’s Trade Support and Service Division.


Needless to say, she is a very busy lady, so I was thrilled to have some time to sit with her and ask her a few questions and get her thoughts on some personal challenges that many agents share with us.


Vicki, Royal Caribbean has a wonderful reputation in the travel community and has such a supportive commitment to Travel Professionals. Can you share with us why you feel that bond is so strong?

It has always been in our DNA at Royal to support the travel advisors. We realize the value that they bring to Royal Caribbean. We are not the low priced leader and we are not the easiest product to sell. I’d like to say that we are, but we are not. We are complex because of the way we build ships. You have to articulate to the consumer what our value proposition is all about at Royal.


We have entertainment across four different stages, in the air, in the theater, on the ice rinks and on the Oasis Class in the AquaTheater. We have far more dining options on this ship than a guest could enjoy in the 3 or 4 day cruise time frame. The choices really are endless.


When you start to explain to a consumer what Royal Caribbean is all about it takes someone who is a value interpreter and someone who can articulate all that we have to offer on our ships. We believe in the travel advisors and travel professionals and they are so very important to us.


When approaching their BDM or Sales Representative for Royal Caribbean how should a Travel Professional prepare themselves and their presentation to most likely result in a mutually beneficial relationship?

If they have questions ask us. The number one question from travel advisors is that they have passion and want to be successful but don’t have enough clients.


Our BDMS want to help you prosper and build your clientele. They are experts and helping agents find ways to increase their sales. For example, let’s say an agent wants to grow their group business but they do not really know where to start. We can help and we know that by helping and getting them started, we will earn their loyalty and have a great continuing relationship together. Hopefully they in turn will remember who brought them to the party. We are out there visiting agents all the time. Our BDMS call on everyone. We call on home based and love to meet travel professionals at a local coffee shop and help and enable them to grow their cruise business with us.


Additionally, is there an optimum time of year to approach Royal Caribbean for maximum partnering success?

We will give an agent as much time as they need. We are available 365 days a year and 24/7. Our sales people are paid to be there year-around and we want to always be available to the travel professional.


Educating Travel Professionals on growing and prospering has always been a key element in our focus here at Travel Professional NEWS. What do you feel is the most effective way for Travel Professionals to learn all they can about Royal Caribbean?

I guess the answer would be it depends on how that agent likes to learn. Everybody prefers to learn and gain education in different ways. For some it is important to have that face-to-face time yet others prefer to learn on their own. If they like an online learning environment, we have that available through Royal Caribbean University. Another agent may prefer to have more focused learning opportunities and our webinars are a great place to get that information. There are focused webinars on selling groups, getting more clients and so many different specialized topics. We will accommodate our travel advisors with however they want to learn about Royal Caribbean.


Another great option to learn is through our Caribbean done Royally events. These are something we have been doing lately and we are getting a great response from the travel community, especially those that are home based agents. These events are a grassroots presentation and usually a dinner presentation in cities and towns throughout the country. We will continue with these into the fall and into 2020.


Many of our readers operate their agency from home and are often challenged with managing a growing business working from home and keeping a life balance with family. How do you balance your amazingly successful professional life with your family and do you have any suggestions for our reader?

I cannot say it is not hard nor a challenge as it is. I don’t believe there is really a life work balance. You have to prioritize and you need learn to put your phone down. I don’t sleep next to my phone. It is in the other room and turned off. No matter what, we need our down time.


An example of getting down time and prioritizing time with family is our new Perfect Day at CocoCay. It is a great way to bring back the family time. You cannot be in the wave pool with a device in your hand. If we at Royal Caribbean can enable more families to have that quality time together where they laugh and play with one another without being straddled with a phone in hand, then we have accomplished our goal.


I think we all have to realize we cannot do it all. You have to do the best you can and you have to know a ball will drop here or there but that is ok.


How can Travel Professionals make themselves more attractive to Royal Caribbean?

Sell more Royal Caribbean or at least raise your hand and show us you have the desire to sell our cruise line. It does not happen overnight. If you are new in the business or are just getting your momentum going, talk to us and we will help you along the way. We can help you produce in a way you want to produce. Not everyone has the same level of motivation and depending on what your business goals are, we will wrap ourselves around your goals.


Over your years you have probably met literally millions of agents. You are such a friend and advocate for agents and it is so appreciated. Certainly there are standout agents that have really impressed you one way or another. Can you share a couple examples?

I book my own personal vacations through different travel advisors. I look for the agent that is an expert that I just know will provide me with the vacation I am hoping for. I recently took my family to Africa and I worked with an agent that I knew would have the attention to detail and the knowledge to make this vacation special for me and my family and she did that and more.


The agents I hold in high regard are the ones that give more than you expected. They have great follow-up and they surprise and delight you. They exceed your expectations. They are good listeners that can find those little nuggets or little clues that will help you become more relevant to your customers.


Vicki, I cannot thank you enough for your time today and for sharing your thoughts with our readers. It has truly been a pleasure for me.

Thank you for this opportunity Joanie.